Sensory Preferences: Use Them to Finally Get Organized

Do you have a brain? 

Since the start of menopause, I can tell you that there are many days where I feel like mine vaporized with my youth.  Some moments I'm grappling to remember names, places I have been, or how to do complex tasks.  In fact, along with diminishing senses, many of my friends are also bemoaning that their powers of recall are withering so at least it is comforting to know I am not alone.  But one thing I do know is that when I approach my business or general tasks in a way that is synergistic with my natural inclinations, the process is fluid (unless technological glitches are involved, but that is a whole other blog and lots of wasted hours).  Our daily existence should not be an uphill battle if we can help it (I hope my computer is listening, it sure wasn't this morning).

My May blog focused on recognizing our dominant brain types and employing strategies to play upon those strengths.  This month, we will look at our sensory preferences and how to use those to guide our behaviors for silky smooth sailing.

Have you ever listened to a piece of discordant music?  The atonality is like nails on a chalk board.  Screeching pierces your ears while a tension may sear through your body especially if you are an auditory processor.  The same can be true when our environment, goals, tasks, and intentions are not hitting the correct notes within ourselves.  But how do you synchronize your personal symphony?  The first step is to click here on self-assessments.   Think of the results as your personal high performance user's manual.  Once you get clarity, you can operate to your best advantage.

Now that you have taken the assessments, what is your sensory preference?  You may have already known your results.  In fact, have you noticed how our sensory preferences creep into our vocabulary?   Do you say things like "I see what you mean,"  "I hear ya," or "I feel ya"?  These phrases occasionally provide cues as to whether you exhibit visual, auditory, or kinesthetic/tactile biases.  Suppose your assessment shows tie scores or you believe that you process equally across the board, according to Dr. Arlene Taylor*, author of the assessment used on this site,

“If two scores are tied, one of the scores likely represents your sensory preference, while the other represents skills you’ve developed in order to relate to someone significant in your life. If one of the tied scores is kinesthesia, consider the possibility that your innate preference is kinesthetic and that for some reason, you have increased skills in another sensory system.
If all scores are equal, you may have developed higher numbers of skills in other sensory systems due to lack of opportunity to use your own preference, a perceived necessity to relate to a specific person or environment, or because of being punished or shamed for your own preference. Use your scores as a starting  point for evaluating your sensory history. Try to uncover and identify factors that may have pushed you away from your sensory preference.”
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So what do we do with this information in order to invite change into your lifestyle and home?  Let's break it down.

Visual Processors

If you are not totally loving your home, start with these questions:  what does your home look like and what bothers you?  Do you feel overwhelmed or anxious the second you step over the threshold?  Is your path clogged with stuff?  Are your worktops and desktop so filled you have no useful space?  

Envision how you want it to look.   Although you are a visual processor you may not inherently possess the ability to creatively visualize, no worries, there are other resources at your disposal. 

  1. Get creative.
    What will it take to spawn the spaces you would like to see?  Set aside 1-2 hours to pop over to the library and flip through some interior design magazines or catch an episode or two of HGTV programs to stimulate design and layout juices. Set a timer so you don't lose yourself by getting too carried away.   Are design alterations within your budget?  If not, at least make some economical adjustments.  Breaking the bank will only add to your stress levels, so it is important to maintain perspective and be respectful of any financial limitations.  Without tapping your budget, you can make a big impact by clearing out and cleaning up.
     
  2. Next use logical placement for greater efficiency.
    Where are you likely to look for your glasses, your corkscrew, or your hammer?  Do you need the item within reach?  Which hand would you naturally grab with?  Is it close to where you would use it?  This hit home with me yesterday as I was rationalizing the placement of new bathtub fixtures:  the sprayer, temperature control, and faucet.  Whoever thought it would make a difference?  Yet as I sat in the tub in my garage with the plumber awaiting my decisions, I realized that I would not want the sprayer handle behind me or tangled around the other fixtures.  The best placement for the sprayer was nearly an arms length in front of me, with the temperature control next so I could make adjustments without sitting up, then the faucet, far enough away so that hot water does not scald me.  Whew, decisions made and the plumber was impressed with my rationale.  I was impressed that he took the time to ask, in fact, he just stopped by my office as I am typing to verify that I had not changed my mind before drilling the holes.
     
  3. Use attractive storage options.  This trick will entice you to put things away.  If you experience agita when you see piles of paper, then file them neatly out of sight or in clear plastic bins or labeled baskets so you find what you need asap.  No room for file cabinets or for another folder in the drawer?  Use available wall space.  The Smead Cascading Wall Organizer is ideal for visibly housing files, loose papers, and other reminders neatly.

Speaking of finding things especially when you are in a hurry to get out of the door:

  • Place anything you need to take when you leave the house with your keys or next to the exit door. 
     
  • Put your keys, purse, backpack on a key hook either near the door or on a wall in front of you when you enter your home so that you remember where they are. 
     
  • Charge your phone while it rests on or near your keys so that you remember to take it with you.

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Auditory Processors
 

What do you say about your house?  What do others in your family say?  If it sounds like "my house is driving me crazy,"  "I can never find what I need," "I cannot relax because there is just too much stuff," then something needs to change.  A home is a major investment, isn't it silly not to love it?

Imagine adjusting the narrative to "I love my house," "it is a social gathering place because it feels so welcoming," "it is the place I choose to be after a crazy day," "I grab what I need and zip through my chores."  But how do you do that if you don't have the time or motivation to take the steps needed?

 Time Timer available at    timetimer.com     and    Amazon.com

Time Timer available at timetimer.com
 and Amazon.com

  1. Take a deep breath, determine what needs to be done and what is the #1 priority to make it happen.
     
  2. Break it down into the simplest pieces with dedicated spurts.
     
  3. Set a timer or alarm to let you know when to begin and end, say 15-20 minutes at a time. 
    You may choose to work longer if you are highly energized or have extended time. 
     
  4. Take breaks to hydrate, eat, and rest as needed. 
     
  5. Avoid black holes such as email and social media until you have reached the goal for the timeframe.

    If you are finding it difficult to get into the groove, try one of more of the following:
     
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  • Music--Play upbeat music and sing along to get pumped.  Select meditative, soothing music to calm down if you feel uneasy.
     
  • Distractions--Use tv, radio talk shows, or a favorite podcast series to help time pass quickly.  This also works well while you are exercising. 
     
  • Phone--If you have a headset, phone a relative or friend and talk to them while you work if the activity needs little concentration.  I often do this while dusting or dry mopping. 
     
  • Talk Show Method--If you find an action truly overwhelming, I recommend to clients (and I confess to doing this myself sometimes) something I call the "Talk Show Method."  Pretend you are teaching someone else by talking about what you are doing.  Trying a new recipe but you are intimidated by cooking?  Channel Rachel Ray and talk your way through the ingredient list and process.  "Place your mixing bowl on the table along with your measuring cups.  Find the flour, sugar, and vanilla extract and put them on your countertop.  Measure out 1/2 cup flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract, etc."  The bonus is when you teach others (even if you pretend), you reinforce the learning yourself.

As an auditory processor, if you are bothered by noises, use ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones, YouTube white noise or white noise machines, sound-proofing materials and decor (acoustical tiles, area rugs, artwork, and hedges or trees if you live near noisy neighbors or roads).


Kinesthetic/Tactile Processors

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How does your home make you feel?  Tense?  Overwhelmed? Uneasy?  Frustrated? 

Think about that wow sensation when you walk into a staged home or view a remodeled room on a HGTV episode.   Imagine creating that for yourself.

Let's get you in the right frame of mind.  Close your eyes, inhale deeply as you visualize pulling oxygen through your feet up the back of your legs, torso, neck and into your brain, then let it cascade back down your body as you exhale.  Do this at least 3 times slowly.  After you finish, check in on how you feel.  Are you experiencing a deep sense of relaxation?  If yes, wouldn't it be fabulous to feel this way every night when you kick your feet up or get ready for bed?  Consider what it might be like to walk in your entryway with tension-free shoulders. 

Kinesthetic folks are often in tune with their feelings and learn by hands-on experience.  Tactile uses the sense of touch.  If you are a kinesthetic processor:

  1.  Dive in and do it.  Don't waste time, money or space cluttering your home library with organizing books.  You learn by doing.  No big deal if you do it wrong.  There is no failure.  Think of it as an experiment (unless you are doing an expensive remodeling job, then work with a professional designer).
     
  2.  See how it feels.  Once you are done allow yourself to experience the change for a few weeks.  If the new system is not working for you after you give it some time, change it up until you like how it works, feels, or looks.  You are the captain of the ship, you steer the course or redirect when a storm is brewing until you feel comfortable with the end result.
     
  3.  Keep track.  Write or type reminders to reinforce the message or to stay on task.  When you finish each item, cross it off your list for a deep sense of gratification.


Before starting tasks:

 Energize, invigorate, or calm with essential oils.  Avoid scents or odors if you are sensitive.

Energize, invigorate, or calm with essential oils.  Avoid scents or odors if you are sensitive.

  • Wear and use pleasing fabrics and comfortable clothing.  If you are uncomfortable, you will be uninspired or worse, irritable.
  • Energize, invigorate, or calm with essential oils.  Avoid scents or odors if you are sensitive.
  • Set your thermostat to an agreeable temperature.  Too hot or cold will make you feel miserable.
  • Combine exercise with cleaning or clean during commercial breaks to accomplish multiple goals.
  • Avoid sympathetic reactions. Don't touch objects if making decisions to dispose are troublesome for you.  If you feel it, you won't release it.  Ask someone to assist by showing you items one by one or in groups.


Please keep in mind change takes time and patience, so don't give up too fast.  In fact, as we are undergoing a bathroom remodel, my husband and I have had to relocate everything from our bedroom and bathroom.  Getting used to the new placement of clothes, toiletries, paper products, and cleaning supplies has been a little challenging during the initial weeks.  Slowly I am adjusting to the new locations.  To make it easier, I tried to establish intuitive placement but in some cases items are stored where there was residual room.  Patience!

Do you need a hand interpreting your sensory preferences and how to apply them to make daily life easier?   If you simply cannot make the changes you desire please reach out for assistance.   Why waste another day seeing, hearing, or feeling out of sorts in your home? Contact ThePracticalSort.com.

*https://arlenetaylor.org/relationships/79-sensory-preference