March 13, 2017

Tips for Downsizing


The other day I heard birds chirping outside my window. Spring is coming! I don't know about you but we are excited for some warmer weather and all the fun that it brings. Alongside having lots of fun some of you may be planning on selling your home and downsizing, or in other words rightsizing! This can be a stressful time as there is lots to do but Room to Breathe is here to help curb the stress with some tips for downsizing!


Your move may be months away, but now is the perfect time to start getting ready. Dedicate a bit of time each day and go through closets, cupboards, and storage spaces. Tackle one box, drawer or closet at a time, and slowly chip away. Giving yourself lots of time will help prevent feeling burnt out or overwhelmed.

Start by editing areas that contain non-sentimental items. Closets, kitchens or bathrooms are a great place to begin - most people can tackle clothing or dishes fairly easily. Also, if you are downsizing from a house to a condo, be sure to spend time in the garage - snow shovels, lawn mower, ladders… you most likely won't need them after you move.

Whenever possible, reuse, sell or donate instead of throwing items out. As tempting and easy as it may be to toss old clothes or furnishings, consider the environment and do your best to find a home for everything. Also, second hand stores like Value Village or Goodwill repurpose your goods by selling them to people that may otherwise not be able to afford new items, and a portion of each of their sales is donated to deserving local charities. A win-win for everyone!

Now is the time to bring in reinforcements! Not only is it helpful to have a spare set of hands to assist with furniture lifting or moving boxes, it is great to have an objective second opinion when you can't decide whether to keep or get rid of something.

If you have family heirlooms or other special items that you no longer use but are holding onto in order to pass along to family or friends, consider gifting them now. Relish in the experience of getting to see someone you love enjoying something that means so much to you.

As a general rule, we abide by this perfect quote by William Morris- ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’

Room to Breathe has many years of experience helping Calgarians downsize and get organized. If you are feeling overwhelmed or need a hand at any point along the way, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

February 02, 2017

3 Easy-Win Projects to Tackle This Weekend!

For a lot of us, the word 'organize' can be a paralyzing one - instantly bringing up feelings of overwhelm and stress, leaving us unsure of where to even start (so often, we don't). We know that excess stuff in our homes contributes to our overall stress - when we have a lot of clutter, it distracts us and steals our attention.

The problem is, clutter typically accumulates over time. We don’t notice how much stuff we have until we hit some kind of breaking point. Sometimes it’s a major life event - a move, death, marriage or divorce, or significant change in our daily routine. Or sometimes it's more subtle - a desire to live more simply or wanting to feel less weighed down by possessions. Whatever the reason, we can move on free from the weight of objects that have outlived their usefulness.

The good news is we have 3 bite-sized projects to share that will get your organizing juices flowing, and perhaps even leave you feeling inspired to do more. Easy wins that will replace feelings of stress and overwhelm with ones of pride, accomplishment and overall lightness.

And the even better news? Our team here at Room to Breathe is ready to jump in should you find yourself with a bit more than you can handle on your own. Please reach out if there is anything we can help with!

Before we start, the one thing we like to emphasize with any organizing project is to try and focus on what you want to keep rather than what you want to get rid of. It's a simple switch in the way you approach your project, but coming from a place of excitement rather than dislike can have a huge impact on your end result.



Perhaps an obvious starting point, but spending some time focused on your closet can be the catalyst for many other projects. Not only does it feel good to lighten the load, it's a relatively straight forward project that most people can manage on their own. It also helps you hone your organizing skills, so when you move on to future projects, they become easier and quicker to work through.

Our suggestion is to pull everything (EVERYTHING!) out of your closet and drawers - anything that is clothing goes into one big pile. This perhaps sounds counter-intuitive as you are making a bigger mess than what you started with, but trust us, there is a reason.

Pulling everything out serves two purposes. First, it lets you see the volume of what you are actually dealing with. For some people, seeing a massive mound of textiles is enough to catapult them into being truly ruthless while they purge. The second benefit is it really forces you to go through each piece individually, one by one, and take a moment to ask yourself some questions:
  • Is the item in good repair? Meaning there are no holes, pilling or stains that might prevent you from wanting to wear it. If its in bad shape, toss it.
  • Does the item fit? Take a moment to actually try it on if you aren't sure. If it doesn't, please pass it along. Nothing makes you feel worse then opening your closet and seeing clothes that don't fit, but that you hope someday might. (And that's no way to start any day.) 
  • Have you worn the item in the last 6-12 months? If the answer is no, a good rule of thumb is that it's time to part ways.
  • Is the item your style? Think about your go-to outfits- the things that make you feel most comfortable and confident and that you come back to day after day. Does this item fall within that same look and feel? If not, consider passing it along.
  • Does this item make you feel good when you wear it? Try to put sentimental meaning aside for a moment and think- if you were going out right this minute and had to wear the item in your hand, would you feel good about it? If the answer is 'no' or 'ummm, maybe?' then again, time to pass it along. 
Once you have gone through each and every item, put back only what leaves you feeling truly happy. Try grouping like with like (IE: short sleeved shirts, long sleeved shirts, sweaters, cardigans, pants....) and find an order that makes sense for your life (if you wear a cardigan every day, perhaps that should be the first grouping in your closet).


Your closet is done, you are feeling good, and your decluttering skills are getting stronger with each passing moment. Onto books!

Despite maybe having a bookshelf or one central book storage location, most of us have books scattered all over the house- bedside tables, desks, on top of a dressers, forgotten about in book bags. Do a thorough walk through of your home and collect ALL the books from all over. Take each book off you book shelf and (again) make a big pile in the middle of your room. Go through each book one at a time and again, ask yourself a couple quick questions:
  • Have you actually read it? If not, do you truly believe you will read it? And if so, will you read it again?
  • Do you really LOVE it?
If the answer to any of these was no, then consider passing it along. And again, only keep what you truly love and has meaning for you.


Over the winter holidays, I did a little experiment. I got a big IKEA shopping bag and did an arm sweep of EVERYTHING under my bathroom sink. I placed the bag in my storage room, and any time I needed something from it, I went in to retrieve it. The bag is still in storage, and the thing that surprised me (or maybe it didn't) was that I only retrieved about a handful of things over the last couple of months.

All this to say, the storage spaces in our bathrooms become a dumping ground of samples, unused shampoos, lotions, soaps, travel things, and drugstore finds that seemed awesome at the time, but we have since moved on to something new.

Challenge yourself to really evaluate what you use day in and day out. Feel free to try my IKEA bag experiment, or take the time to do as we have above- pull EVERYTHING out, group like with like, and go through each item one by one. This time asking:
  • Do you love this product?
  • Do you use it regularly?
  • Is it expired?
Again, pairing down and donating/ tossing what no longer serves you. 

A couple final tips - make sure you take any items for donation, recycling or disposing of out of the house immediately after you have finished collecting them. Letting these items sit around or seeing them out of the corner of your eye is distracting and recipe for disaster. (We have all found ourselves second guessing the sweater we committed to parting ways with the day before...)

Also, remember that things that no longer fit or serve you, can be a real gift to someone else. Whether that's through donating items to a charity or thrift stores, or selling your items online or through consignment- sometimes realizing the joy your item can bring to someone else's life is an important part of letting go.

Lastly, be gentle with yourself. Being sentimentally attached to things is human nature (and really, a great gift in this human experience). Though it can make ruthlessly purging a challenge, working in stages is a good strategy to counter this. If you got rid of 2 big bags of stuff, but couldn't quite let go of that impractical shirt that never gets worn, but means something to you, that's OK! Don't fret the small stuff, and focus on how far you have come.

Blog post writen by Jessica Thorburn - Our Vancouver-based Marketing and Administration Superstar.

January 02, 2017

5 Ways to Do Less but Get More Done

Guest Blogged by Paula Blundell

With the cool air of winter slowing me down and the celebrations of solstice bringing me inside to warm up and gather with family and friends, I find that there’s no better time to reflect on what is important in my life and to prepare my mind for a new year ahead.

When I consider all the things out in the world pulling my attention away from what I really want to do, I see my long list errands to run, emails to return, and house chores to do. My focus on what is important in life can all too easily be plucked up and thrown aside by inner distractions as well - an upcoming event or vacation, a stressful situation that I can’t control or fix, or a decision weighing heavy on my mind. I can spend my limited day full of hours in thought gallivanting from worry to daydream, spinning around past conversations and trying to figure something out, all the while being too hard on myself. Multi-tasking and being busy have become second nature - and even a bullet point on my resume. I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to focus on one thing at a time and how to really be present in the moment. I realize that my thoughts are absorbed in either regrets of the past or the what-ifs of the future. They are either craving what I want or resisting what I fear.

In an effort to react less to outside stimuli, and instead be more intentional with my thoughts and actions, I’ve incorporated a more conscious way of participating in my life. Living more mindfully results in deeper awareness, a new capability to take on what comes, and a still place to go to when I need answers and direction on what next good thing to say or do. Without initially realizing it, I’ve found these new skills have helped me do less but get more done!

Here are the 5 things I’ve discovered I can do to live more simply and get more accomplished:

1. Claim what is important
What if you prioritized just sitting and evaluating what was really important in your life? Then, what if you had the confidence, strength and courage to cut out anything that is not in alignment with your true self and contentment, while still meeting daily obligations and responsibilities that you felt good about? Finally, what if that practice helped you stop over-planning and over-promising to spend your energy on things that don’t benefit your wellbeing, and therefore opened you up to giving more to yourself and those around you? You won’t know unless you try. Try scheduling 30 minutes for this, and sit down with a pen and paper.

2. Recognize stalling tactics
Read this cartoon, have a laugh, and next time you catch yourself procrastinating in this way or that, or a combination of ways as it may be, gently pull yourself back to centre with the recognition that you are procrastinating - and more importantly, ask yourself why. Shout out to as the source for this image:
3. Say no if you want to
What will happen if you say no? What if you turned down an invitation to put yourself first? Have you ever found yourself accommodating someone else’s needs, only to later learn that what they asked of you wasn’t that important to them in the first place? Or even worse, to later learn that you assumed incorrectly that they even needed or wanted your help at all? When you are clear about what’s important to you it becomes much easier to decide whether to say yes or no. For example, if quality time spent with family and close friends are priority, then saying no to a client when your work schedule is already full is an easy choice. 
4. Build in time to decompress
Racing directly from an important work meeting to dinner with your husband or wife is not really solid ground for a romantic evening. Crossing off fifteen errands and then running back home to play with children doesn’t lead to focused quality time. Build in a few minutes to take a breath, integrate what you’ve just experience, then let it go. Then take another minute to think about what you are about to do so you can be fully present in the next event. Decompressing and setting an intention is a momentary practice that helps you find more joy in what you’re doing. Take it one step further with meditation. Meditating brings you into your body and being in your body brings you into present time.

5. Minimize stuff and create room to breathe
The sure way to freedom is to lighten your load. Stuff not only takes up physical space but takes up your energy and attention and therefore mental space. Taking on one desk, one closet, or one room at a time in your home or office will give you a sense of accomplishment and lightness. Transform your desk covered in papers, mail and gadgets to a desk with nothing but a computer and notepad. Remember that technological clutter is a thing too – try turning off notifications of incoming texts and emails to reduce distracting you from being fully present in the moment. One area of your home that makes the biggest impact for the least input is your bedroom - especially if lack of sleep is an issue. Creating a serene space, promoting relaxation and even romance, is a room free of laundry, television/laptop, paperwork, exercise machines and children’s toys. If you find yourself needing a hand to hold or simply an objective outside perspective on how to streamline your home, be sure to contact Room to Breathe for a complimentary in-home consultation. During an informal tour of space, a professional organizer will ask you all the right questions and together you will create a plan that fits your specific needs and lifestyle.

October 23, 2016

Report to the Command Center!


In a few houses now I’ve seen a station that the homeowner calls their “command center”. This is typically a household with kids or lots going on or both! Most houses have what we call “the hub”, which is the spot in the house with the calendars and schedules and here the mail, keys and phones are set down. Most often this is in the kitchen close to all of the action.
The “command center” that I am talking about it a spot like the hub but a bit more intense... in a good way! The things included can be a calendar, chore list, schedules, kids bins (for things to go back to school), grocery list, charging station, mail collection, weekly meal plan, return items bin, library return bin, receipt drop, and on hand pens, pencils, paper and scissors. This is where the family comes together in planning, organization and team work!

Check out our new Pinterest page with some great ideas for your “command center” and make sure to get other family members involved!

September 17, 2016

Back to School is here. Be ready with a homework station for your kids!

Yes sometimes we think kids will do homework in the office or in their rooms but most of the time they want to be near you and near the action at home. This most often is the kitchen or dining room. Set up a station here with all the supplies they need so it makes homework time efficient and easy to keep tidy.  The supplies will vary with the age of your kids but some suggestions are: scissors, glue, pens and pencils, pencil crayons, etc. This can be done as a fun DIY activity with you kids so they know where things are and are happy to use it and hopefully keep it tidy. Check out our “Homework Station” Pinterest board for ideas.

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August 14, 2016

Outdoor Party Planning Checklist

Guest Blogged by Paula Blundell

August is here and Room to Breathe is squelching any excuse you’ve made to put off entertaining guests at your own backyard affair. In the case you’re already everyone’s favorite party event planner, tuck this list away for your next get together in the fresh air.

Party invitation – Consider including dining time, what to bring, what to wear and what will happen in case of rain. Give your guests an idea of the vibe (musical instruments and children welcome?) so they can come prepared.

Notify the neighbours – Invite them to join you or give them notice of any potential noise, crowd or parking concern.

Table(s) and chairs – Prepare with enough seating.  Bring dining chairs, stools and ottomans outside.  Picnic blankets, cushions, tree stumps, and even a hammock make for a casual atmosphere. Renting folding chairs is a surprisingly inexpensive option.

Tableware - Placemats, napkins and/or tablecloths. Plates/bowls, cutlery and drinking glasses. Mason jars are a quick way to increase capacity if that’s your style. Serving plates, bowls, utensils and trays.

Lighting - Candles, torches, lamps, string lights or patio lanterns make for ambient lighting.

D├ęcor – Add a pop of summer colour with paper lanterns, place settings and outdoor cushions. Add a taste of rustic DIY or classy elegance with menu signs and fresh flowers.

Music – Plan ahead with a 5 hour playlist. Choose upbeat music and consider directing speakers against the side of a house for a more even soundscape.

Consider temperature – Shade hot sun with patio umbrellas, and offer handheld fans or cold compressed cloths in icy water.  Have warm blankets, shawls and portable heaters on hand for cooler nights.

Mosquito repellent – Remove any standing water by emptying the kiddie pool and bird bath, plug in a few fans, light citronella candles or offer guests natural and healthy fly repellent lotion.

Entertain children with beach balls, bubbles and games. Bocce ball for big kids too.

Take care of waste - Receptacles for compost, recycling and waste to landfill could ease post-party clean up time.

Food – Whether a buffet, plated meal, tapas or potluck, create thoughtful ingredient cards for those who may have food preferences. Mesh covers are handy to protect food and beverages. Don’t forget the condiments!

Drink - Cooler, ice bucket, ice, tongs, bar towel and damp cloth for cleaning up spills. Corkscrew and bottle opener. A blender if blending drinks and a power source and extension cord if needed. Water is a must-have under the hot summer sun.

Recruit help – From pre or post party clean up to serving guests, you’ll always be grateful for thinking ahead and enrolling a professional, friend, family member or teen’s paid or voluntold hand.

June 11, 2016

Get Geared Up and Gone!

As we kick off summer my husband and I get out to the mountains more and more. As a professional organizer I sometimes wish we only liked one hobby so we only have to buy gear for one hobby and always know what we were doing on the weekends…

Nahhh that would make things too simple! Instead in the winter we downhill ski, back country ski, cross country ski, snowshoe, winter back country camp and my husband occasionally ice climbs. In the summer we hike, backpack, canoe, rock climb, mountaineer, scramble, mountain bike, road bike and car camp.

This leads to a lot of gear! And that leads me to our “Gear Closet”. We live in a condo without storage in the garage, so the closet in our spare room/ office is our gear closet. As a professional organizer I take pride organizing and setting it up so we can grab and go. It took a bit of switching around and containerizing but we have it now! (At least until we decide to start another hobby!).

Room to Breathe organizes using Julie Morgenstern’s S.P.A.C.E. method.

Sort: Sort all your gear by activity first and then by season.

Purge: If there is gear that you no longer use or that needs to be thrown out for safety reasons, now is the time to do so.

Assign a Home: Maybe you have a whole garage of space to custom set up for your gear and activities or maybe you’re like us and have a closet of space, either way you should set up zones for each activity and each item should have a home in the correct zone. If every item has a home then it should be easy to maintain and you will be able to find what you need every time, speeding up the time it takes to get geared up and gone!

Containerize: Snag some bins as required, peg boards, hooks, etc to give each item an easy to access home. For very little used items place them in a bin with a label and stick them in the harder to reach areas.

Equalize: As an organizer I love this part as it is the final touches on the job. Equalizing essentially means making it easy to maintain. Labels are key here so you and everyone who uses the area know where things belong. As well, my husband and I have placed a few lists in our gear closet. In our daytrip bin we have a list of other items that we need to bring. For example we need to bring our headlamps that are in our personal bins. Also you can include some activity gear lists. Hang a canoe trip gear list on the door so you can do a final check through on your way out.

Organizing can feel overwhelming at times but encourage yourself in knowing that once your set up properly it will be easily maintainable. This will help save you lots of time, stress and energy. You will then be able to be out doing what you enjoy more!

Check out our Gear Closet Board on Pinterest for a few ideas.

March 28, 2016

Simplify in Six Steps: How to Purge & Declutter Your Home

Simplify in six steps!  This post narrows in on how to successfully purge and declutter your home and is filled with organizing tips to create order in any space:

February 01, 2016

Labeling Inspiration

Do labels have to be crafty and beautiful to be effective?  No way - but if you spend a little time on the details, the end result will not only be more appreciated but will probably last longer too!

From handwritten decorative hanging tags and chalkboard stickers to label maker tape and computer print outs, check out our latest "Label Inspiration" Pinterest board here for your next label making session.

Follow Room to Breathe on Pinterest for more professional organizing tips and ideas for your home in Calgary.

May 07, 2015

How Home Buyers and Sellers Benefit from Hiring a Professional Organizer

Room to Breathe has prepared many a home for sale in Calgary and have assisted numerous families with unpacking and settling in to a new home.  By transforming your house into a neat packaged product, a professional organizer can improve your chances of attaining a quick sale.  Before listing your house on the market in Calgary, a professional organizer can help you:

February 04, 2015

Minimalism - not as scary as it sounds

Written by Jenna Nibourg, owner of Tiger Lily Interiors and leader of Calgary's Minimalist Group.

I love hearing more and more people talk about minimalism lately. It is something that I have been striving for the last year and it has really made a huge difference in my life. When minimalism comes up in conversation while organizing someone’s home, our client will often comment or give the idea that they think it is way out of their reach so they won’t even try. I think this is because an image comes to mind of a person living in a tiny home owning less then 100 items… But this image is not very accurate for the majority of people simplifying their life.

June 06, 2014

5 Easy Ways to Cool Your Spring Fever!

Guest blogged by Jessica Thorburn of Paper Bluejay and we agree with everything she has to say!  Thanks Jess!

It always happens this time of year- spring peeks in on us and we get the undeniable urge to tidy, purge, reorganize and breath new life into our stale-from-winter spaces. Today we wanted to share 5 simple but productive projects to help tame that urge and get your home ready and organized for the sunshine soaked days ahead.

So pour yourself a glass of lemonade, and get inspired!

1. Flip-flop Your Closets

November 28, 2013

Kid's Toy Storage Labels

Ever wondered if there was a way to make clean up time fun and easy for you and the kids?  This professional home organizer in Calgary knows how.  First you must get organized by sorting all the toys and/or craft supplies into appropriate bins or drawers or cupboards.  Then the key is to add labels. Labels make maintaining an organized space easy.

April 20, 2013

neato jewelry storage

talk about creative.  check out these rustic reuse ideas for your jewels.  who knew a rake, a grater and a muffin tin could be so useful in the boudoir?!

June 05, 2012

Keepsakes - What to Hold onto & How to Store

Special greeting cards, your child's first pair of booties, award certificates, a wedding favor from a best friends wedding, photos from high school, old love letters, gifted china or trinkets passed down to you from a loved one no longer with us. All these are various items that may be taking up prime real estate space throughout your home that you do not use regularly or wish to see on display. These keepsakes, memorabilia, nostalgia, or treasures, no matter how you label them, fit into one group and can be sorted and stored together neatly in one place.

If you have chosen to hold onto these items and are still not ready to part with them, it is not a terrible thing. As a professional organizer in Calgary, we are often saying "Be easy on yourself".  Getting organized does not always have to be about purging. You may feel that you want to keep, what some may consider, a large amount of nostalgia.  That is okay if:

1. you have adequate space in your home to store it
2. the items bring you positive memories (not negative ones)
3. the quantity of each item is reasonable (keep the best representative sample)
4. you've really stopped to ask yourself why you are keeping each item, and your answer is one that serves you today (not for a no longer helpful reason of the past)

Try taking a big picture look at your home, and the stuff in it, from a whole systems view. Reducing the quantity of items you own can be looked at from a larger perspective.  If you keep a little extra in one category, then you'll have to let go of a little extra in another.  Everyone usually has something of a collection, and one collection is alright.

Now, when you're ready to do another 'edit' of your treasured possessions, try starting with these categories first. Knowing that it can be emotionally draining work to go through piece by piece, dealing with whole categories at a time will give you the confidence of accomplishment from the start.  Grouping items this way may make purging a little easier:

1. memories of others like wedding favors from a friend's wedding
2. short term saves like greeting cards
3. free stuff like conference swag
4. oversize items like sports trophies and school projects
5. negative memories like journals or love letters (even a wedding dress) from a failed relationship
6. inherited mementos like grandma's china
7. souvenirs that do not age well like crumbling dried flowers

Finally, for how and where to store your keepsakes - create and label a special box for each family member.  Try a clear plastic tote for this purpose, so you can easily see what's inside.  However if you have no need for stealthy protection from dust or the potential of a flood or you'd just prefer something more aesthetically pleasing, try storing these items in a decorative cardboard box, wooden crate, wicker basket with a lid or even a vintage suitcase or trunk.

March 18, 2012

What is the shelf life of dried herbs & spices?

Have you ever wondered "how long do spices last?"  As spice jars are not often stamped with a best before date, here's a handy guide to help you determine freshness and flavor.

Herbs 1-2 years
Seasoning Blends 1-3 years
Ground Spices 2-3 years
Whole Spices up to 4 years
(whole peppercorn, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks as well as particularly potent whole spices such as cloves, cumin and cardamom can stand the test of time)
Seeds 4 years
Extracts 4 years

If you aren't sure how long a jar of dried herbs or spices has been in your cupboard, try testing the colour or aroma. The colour of your spices should be vibrant, so if the colour has faded, chances are the flavor has to. Now pop open the lid and have a sniff, or try rubbing or crushing the spice in your hand.  If the aroma is weak and flavor is not apparent, it is time to replace. Keep in mind that herbs and spices do not spoil, they simply lose their strength. So if a ground spice has some fragrance left, but less than you think it should, just use more in your recipe.  Then you'll run out faster and have a reason to procure a new batch.

Finally, storage plays a role in maintaining potency, so be sure to store in an airtight container in a cool dry place.  Try not to store jars near the heat of the stove, close to the humidity of a dishwasher, in the bright sun or in the freezer where condensation can be an issue. Similarly, try not to shake spices out of the jar directly above your pot on the stove, as that's a sneaky way to let unwanted steam in.

February 27, 2012

ribbon storage ideas

crafty much?  even if you have a small collection of ribbon for gift wrapping or scrap booking, this storage idea is so easy to create and so fun to use.  i can't help it, organized things excite me.

you can find a pant hanger at most local housewares stores and as for that plastic bin, you'll find 4 different sizes in the storage container aisle of, yes i'm about to say it, Wal-mart.  However if you prefer to keep plastic out of your home and choose to support local businesses, you could use a decorative cardboard storage box or wooden storage bin and drill holes in the side.  An even better alternative, ribbon would weave so nicely through a wicker basket.

January 22, 2012

organizing for your brain type

(click 'read more' to learn the 4 types).  'organizing for your brain type: finding your own solution to managing time, paper and stuff' is a fabulous organizing book by Lanna Nakone.  thank goodness I read this book early on in my organizing career.  a game changer for sure.

there is no one right way to be organized.  just as every person is unique and individual, so is how they function.  how then could everyone be satisfied, work productively and feel good in the same space?  they can't.  and that's why I love this book so much.  click 'read more' below to find out your organizing brain type.