I’m a ‘Butterfly’ and a ‘Bee’!

Generally, I don’t take personality quizzes seriously. So I watched “What’s your Organizing Style” from the Clutterbug channel mainly to amuse myself. But then, when I heard Cassandra Aarssen describing ‘Butterflies’ I thought, “that is me!”

I went to the website and took the quiz and the official result was that I was a ‘Bee’. At first I thought ‘this quiz is wrong, I’m totally a butterfly’ but after watching Cas’ videos about ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Bees’ I realized that I also have a lot in common with the ‘Bees’. Thus, I figure I am in between. The main distinction between ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Bees’ is that ‘Butterflies’ favor simple organization systems, whereas ‘Bees’ favor detailed organization systems. I think I favor organization systems which have a medium level of detail.

I am definitely not a Ladybug (like Cas) or a Cricket (like Laura) – Ladybugs and Crickets, y’all don’t make sense to me.

Like many Butterflies, I’ve gone through life believing I was a naturally messy person.

One reason I considered myself messy in Taiwan even though I did not have much stuff was that I stored a lot of the things I did have on the floor. I had lots of space available in drawers and cabinets, yet I still stored things on the floor. Did it make cleaning the floor less convenient? Yup. But since I did not actually have that many things, even with a large percentage of my things on the floor, I was always able to walk around or dance easily.

It was a revelation for me that I might have done that not because I am ‘naturally’ messy but because I favor visual organization. When my stuff was out on the floor, I could easily see all of it. I cannot easily see stuff in drawers and cabinets.

Dressers are not helpful to Butterflies. I figured out that dressers were usually not useful to me even before I saw or read any Clutterbug videos or read Real Life Organizing. There were two dressers which had been in my room for decades. During the KonMari process, I discovered that one of the dressers had two drawers which did not open (well, technically one of them could open partway with great effort). Why did I not know this before? BECAUSE I DID NOT USE DRESSERS. They were full of clothes which my mother gave me a long time ago and I never used, and I was never inclined to even look in the dressers, let alone clear them out so I could store things I actually use.

The broken dresser is out of the house; the functional dresser is now in my father’s room.

I did acquire a new stainless steel ‘dresser’ (though I’m not sure if that was its original purpose) with three drawers and put it in my closet. How am I dealing with such an opaque storage system as a butterfly/bee? Well, it works for me as a visual organizer because:

1) It’s small, and only has three drawers.
2) Every drawer is full of items I use frequently, so I see the contents of each drawer often.
3) At the bottom of each drawer I put a colorful illustration. When I take out / put back items, I get to peek at the illustrations at the bottom. This also subconsciously reminds me not to have more than one layer of stuff per drawer, because if there were multiple layers I would never see the illustrations. And it is fun to ‘sneak’ peaks at the illustrations as I do everyday tasks.

Cas recommends removing closet doors for butterflies. I am almost in that situation because my closet door won’t fully close anyway (even when it is completely empty – the problem is in the door, not the closet). My closet door is open by default. I even have discussed removing the closet door with my dad, and he came up with some good reasons to keep the closet door in place. Meanwhile, since the door is practically always open, I can see inside almost as well as if the door weren’t there.

However, one problem with many of Cas’ recommendations for visual organization (both ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Bees’) that involve hanging things on walls or pegboards or otherwise leaving loose objects in places above waist level. There is a problem with that.

I experienced the earthquake depicted in that video at a very young age, and I was exposed to a lot of earthquake education for children in the years following the quake, when the memories were fresh and everyone around me acted like major earthquakes were EVENTS THAT REALLY HAPPEN, not something hypothetical. We had earthquake drills in elementary school. And the one part of my life when I did not live in California, I was living in Taiwan, which has even more earthquakes than California (I think I have felt more earthquakes in the years I lived in Taiwan than in the decades I have lived in San Francisco). Many people in Taiwan remember the 921 earthquake (which happened on September 21, 1999), which has left a major cultural imprint – for example, the 921 earthquake is one of the pivotal events in the popular Taiwanese novel / film You Are the Apple of My Eye.

One element of earthquake safety is not having loose heavy and/or glass objects in high places. Having a painting on a wall is okay because a) many paintings aren’t heavy and b) paintings are not moved often, so having the painting secured in place is not inconvenient. But if it above waist level, heavier than a painting, and loose, and in my living space, I feel nervous around it. Thus, when I see the pictures of some of the organization systems Cas recommends for ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Bees’ and imagine them in my room, I feel uncomfortable. Maybe these systems are more earthquake-safe than I realize – I’m not an expert – but even if my judgement is off, the fact that they make me feel a bit nervous means that they are not for me.

In our home, all built-in cabinets have latches, which (if we use them) will prevent them from opening in an earthquake. When I moved into my place in Taoyuan, Taiwan, I did not like that there were high cabinets with no means of keeping them closed in an earthquake. I did store a few things in them anyways, but I never felt comfortable using those cabinets. (I don’t think this would have mattered to me if I were in, say, Wisconsin).

I am most sensitive about the room where I sleep because a) I spend the most time here and b) I’m often asleep or awake-yet-not-alert.

Right now, the only objects in my room which are stored above waist level are pictures on the wall. All of my electronics, including the computer I am using right now and the computer monitor I am looking at, are below waist level. I do have many things stored above waist level in my closet, which is okay. Even though my closet door is always open, it is still a much more contained space, and due to the angles, there is little risk that the objects there will fall more than a few feet away from the closet in an earthquake. Yes, I have shelves in my room which are about waist-high, and no, I haven’t secured them in the way this video recommends, but I feel that is okay because they are only waist-high.

This is not a criticism of Cas; she’s an organizer, not an earthquake safety specialist.

Anyway, back to my closet and all of the stuff in it.

Even though a lot of the stuff is not easily visible (even with the closet door open), I’m okay with that stuff being out of sight because I feel I have a good mental map of it. That is because a) the stuff is organized and b) there is not too much stuff and c) most of what I keep in the non-visible part of the closet is backpacking gear. After one gone on multiple backpacking/hiking trips with more or less the same gear, and frequented packed and unpacked the same things, one KNOWS the gear. It is easy to keep a mental map even if I don’t look at it for months.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I can keep my mental map of where stuff is by frequently updating it (like with the drawers) or because it is stuff I have used and mentally catalogued many times (backpacking gear), I’m okay with storing it out of sight, even though I am a ‘Butterfly/Bee’. And there are many advantages to storing stuff in my closet rather than out of my closet, even if it is not always visible.

My biggest takeaway from Cas and her videos/books is not how to organize as a Butterfly/Bee, but the idea that the way I organize/make mess is connected to my (visual) personality. Her notion of ‘clutter personalities’ prompted me to reflect more on why I do what I do. My spaces were previously messy not just simply I was a ‘messy’ person, but because I have my own way of managing physical objects which leads me to either being messy in particular ways or being organized in particular ways.

2 thoughts on “I’m a ‘Butterfly’ and a ‘Bee’!

  1. I’m also somewhere between a butterfly & a bee. Knowing that has really helped me. & I like “being organised in particular ways” 🙂

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