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Are You an Abstract or Concrete Thinker?

Womanthinking6When getting organized, people often express to me that they feel their clutter is necessary because "out of sight is out of mind."  Other people tell me they are compelled to put every item away and do not want to see it.  There are two ends of a continuum at play here that many people have not thought about:  Concrete vs. Abstract Thinking. I am not speaking in terms of learning progressions and other definitions of these terms– I am speaking about my own interpretation of these terms as it relates to getting organized.

Concrete Thinkers really need to see something to remember it.  If they can see it, it exists.  If they see it, they can remember something they need to do with it.  They need visual cues!  If you put a paper in a file folder that requires action, they need to have a reminder somewhere else to tell them it’s there.  Clutter is more comfortable to Concrete Thinkers because they know where things are and are reminded of them often.

Abstract Thinkers are easily able to imagine that the item that is put away is still there.  They are very comfortable with putting papers in file folders, and they can more easily file and find things in electronic document folders.  Time management is easier for them because the concept of abstract, linear time is comfortable and understandable.  Abstract Thinkers also often strongly dislike clutter and want things to be put away in containers and out of sight.  Flat surfaces need to be open and clear.

Again, this is on a continuum, so you may fall somewhere in between– and of course, there are many other factors involved.  But think about this for yourself today– are you more Concrete, or more Abstract?  Can this fact about how your brain works make you more comfortable with your current state of clutter and more forgiving and accepting of yourself?

Filed under: General



I grew up in a big household with too many children, dogs and cats. I can work anywhere, anytime and in any condition. Once I worked on a novel during a party. Another time I completed an animation for a friend on his computer during a party.
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