Tag Archives: sequential

Slobs: Are They Born or Made? And Can They Change?

by Kassandra Lamb

For Christmas this year, my brother gave my husband a day’s worth of help organizing his study. Now you might think that a strange gift, but it was on the hubster’s wish list.

As I’ve mentioned before, hubs is a random thinker. While being a random has its strengths, step-by-step planning and organization are not among them. Whether one is a random or sequential thinker seems to be innate, although I don’t think any definitive research has been done on this yet. (For more on randoms vs. sequentials see my post on the subject.)

Since where we land on the random-sequential continuum seems to be inherited, that means we probably have one or more parents who are like us. In my husband’s case, both of his parents were fairly random, if the level of neatness, or lack thereof, in their homes is an indicator (which it usually is).

The first time I visited my mother-in-law’s home, I thought, “Okay, this explains a lot.” Her house was clean from a hygienic standpoint, but it was far from neat.

So in my husband’s case, he got a double whammy of nature and nurture. Kind of stacked the deck against him.

Tom's study before the big clean-up

Hubs’ study before the Big Clean-up

So then the question becomes: can one unlearn early lessons, especially if nature is also working against you?

I lean much more toward sequential, as did both my parents. But as kids we had bedrooms on the second floor, and my mother rarely climbed the stairs to inspect our rooms. So because I could get away with it, I tended to be a slob.

This carried over into young adulthood. I wasn’t a total slob, but I was hardly neat either. I had a chair in the bedroom on which I flung my clothes at night. Eventually most of the clothing I owned would be on that chair (or it would fall over from the weight 😛 ).

So then I would be forced to sort through the stuff to either hang up what was still wearable or put things in the hamper. This would take at least a half hour to forty-five minutes to do. Of course, I put it off for as long as possible, which meant the chore was even bigger by the time I did it.

One day, it dawned on me that life would be easier if each evening, I either hung up my clothes or put them in the hamper right then. So I started doing that. Eventually I became neater in general, because I saw the value in cleaning up at the time rather than having a bigger chore to do later.

It wasn’t all that hard to break the habit of being a slob, because I’m a sequential thinker.

For randoms, learning to be neat is very, very hard. I can’t begin to tell you how many times my husband has vowed to “clean up my room.” He’d start out with good intentions, but after several days of effort and quite a few bags of trash and recyclables being removed, his study would look pretty much the same. Because what was left was still randomly scattered all over the place, including on the floor.

Thus the request for help on his wish list. My brother not only helped him get everything off the floor and in boxes, stacked neatly on book shelves, but he gave him some advice on how to keep it that way. Now the study looks like this:

The AFTER shot

His study now!

He really likes having a neat and orderly place to work, and he has vowed to keep it that way. It’s been a little over a month since the big re-organization and so far, so good. But neither he nor I are taking it for granted that this will last.

Why are we so pessimistic? Because old, ingrained behaviors are hard to change and there’s that whole nature thing working against him.

So what can couples do if they find themselves on opposite ends of the neatness-messiness spectrum? The slobby person may or may not be able to change their behaviors, but there are some things that can help keep the relationship stable.

First, we need to learn to not take it personally. My husband doesn’t leave his shoes in the middle of the floor to defy me or because he expects me to pick up after him. Indeed, I’m not even in his thoughts when he takes those shoes off and leaves them there.

Indeed, the SHOES aren’t even in his thoughts once they’re off his feet. That’s the problem! When he’s done with an object, it lands wherever he last used it.

On his side of things, he doesn’t take it personally when I remind him to pick up stuff or clean up his bathroom. He admits that he’s a slob and knows it’s not the ideal way to be.

Years ago, we hit on a great solution. We established slob zones. In each room in the house, there is one section that is his to slob up to his heart’s content–one corner of the dining room, his dresser in the bedroom, beside his chair in the family room, etc.

He still forgets sometimes and leaves things elsewhere, but the deal is that I only have to pitch the object into the nearest slob zone. I don’t have to think about what it is or where it belongs, and I certainly don’t have to take it to where it belongs and put it away.

So he leaves his shoes in the middle of the family room floor; I toss them on top of the pile next to his chair. He leaves his mail on the kitchen counter; I toss it in the pile of papers on his end of the breakfast bar.

Once we established the slob zones, we didn’t argue all that much anymore about his slobby ways. And through the years, he’s gotten better at keeping the slobbiness contained to those zones.

How about you? Is your significant other neater or messier than you are? How do you deal with it?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

How Random!

by Kassandra Lamb

How often we use this phrase! It’s come to mean that something is illogical. The word random also might be defined as scattered, something with no pattern, no rhyme or reason.

Rodin's The Thinker (photo by Andrew Horne, public domain, Wikimedia)

Rodin’s The Thinker (photo by Andrew Horne, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

But there truly is such a thing as a random thinker. This is one end of a continuum that is part of a theory developed by a dude named Anthony F. Gregorc, Ph.D. The other end is sequential.

(There is another continuum in his model of how humans think — concrete vs. abstract. More on that in another post.)

Sequentials tend to think in a linear fashion. They are very good at following step-by-step instructions, and they tend to be organized. What we think of as logical or analytical is essentially sequential thinking.

Random thinkers are more intuitive. While they tend to frustrate the bejesus out of sequentials, they have their shining moments. Often they are more creative and come up with novel solutions to problems.

They not only think outside the box, most of the time they can’t even find the box. To say they are messy is an understatement. Indeed, the quickest way to tell if someone is a random vs. a sequential is to look at their personal spaces–their desks, offices and bedrooms. Do these places look like a bomb just went off? If so, the person is probably a random thinker.

My study--not totally neat, but I know what is in each pile, and you can see the floor!

My study–not totally neat, but I know what is in each pile, and you can find the floor!

Now that doesn’t mean that sequentials are always stick-up-their-butts neatniks. But if you ask a sequential where something is, they can probably tell you which pile it’s in. If they say the don’t know, the item is truly lost.

With randoms, they almost always say they don’t know where it is. They have no conscious memory of where they put it, nor any “logical” organization to their piles of stuff. But they are indeed organized, in their own intuitive way.

My husband is a hardcore random. His study in our house is almost impossible to walk around in. There are papers and books piled everywhere, on all flat surfaces including the floor.

By contrast, my husband's random study.

By contrast, my husband’s random study. (Yes, that is a bottle of window cleaner on the floor; I’ve no idea why it’s there.)

If I ask him where some piece of paper is, he will tell me he has no clue. But then he will go looking and almost every time, he’ll come up with it within ten to twenty minutes. On some intuitive level, he knows where it is.

So why has random vs. sequential thinking been on my mind lately? Because I’ve been trying to figure out how these two thinking styles relate to two other phenomena. One is whether or not people finish what they start. That was actually the blog post I set out to write, then decided I needed to explore randomness first. So more on that subject in a couple weeks.

The other connection I’ve been pondering is with creativity. Theoretically randoms are more creative. But I’m very much a sequential thinker, and I’m a writer.

(By the way, this theory of random vs. sequential thinking has replaced the old right brain/left brain theory. The latter didn’t hold up well under scientific scrutiny. While certain intellectual functions tend to be centered in one hemisphere of the brain or the other, individuals do not seem to routinely have a more active right or left brain.)

a brain full of computer circuit boards

A sequential’s brain–just kidding 😉 (by Gengiskanhg CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Common)

But they do seem to fit into the patterns of random or sequential thinkers, or somewhere in between (keep in mind, this is a continuum).

Amongst writers, we also have a continuum of writing styles: plotters vs. pantsers. Plotters are very organized and plan out their story before they start to write. They do character sketches and outline the key plot points. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. A story idea occurs to them, and they just sit down and write.

I fall a little bit in between (a plantser?) but I lean much more toward pantsing than plotting. This is very strange to me since I am so hardcore sequential and organized in the rest of my life. But I find with writing, that if I plan a story too meticulously I lose interest before I’ve gotten it written. So I just sit down and write and see where that takes me.

My husband, on the other hand, realizes that some things need to be planned–teaching, for example. For his classes, he writes out a fairly detailed lesson plan. But because I am more naturally organized, I can get away with a fairly loose outline of what I want to cover when I teach a class.

So I’m curious about the relationship here between plotting/pantsing and random/sequential. I’d like to take a little informal survey.

Based on this limited description, do you think you are more random or sequential? And how do you approach the demands of your job, do you plan it carefully or wing it? Writers in particular, I’d love to hear how random vs. sequential thinking correlates with plotting vs. pantsing.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist and college professor turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )