Know thyself: The imperfectionist’s guide to sorting your stuff

Did you know understanding your personal, unique style can help you determine “how” to organize your things and your home? Lisa Lawmaster Hess guides us through a step-by-step process on the ins and outs of how to finally get organized and stay organized in her book: “Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff.” This unique approach not only gives invaluable material advice, but each chapter starts with a Bible verse and ends in a beautiful prayer!

Where did you get your inspiration for writing this book?

There used to be a show on HGTV called “Mission: Organization” where a professional organizer came in and helped an individual or family turn a disorganized space into an organized one. There were several professional organizers on the show, and my favorites were the ones who worked with the families instead of just imposing what I call Type A Solutions on them.

Around this same time, or maybe a little after, I was changing offices at work, and I was less than thrilled about it, so I decided it was a lemons-to-lemonade opportunity. If I had to move (and I did), I figured I might as well make the new office a well-organized space (the old one definitely was NOT). I started reading about organization, but most of what I found stopped short of actually coming up with creative solutions, instead coming up with a lot of “here’s what you should do.” I thought back to “Mission: Organization” and started playing with creative ways to organize, and I started to get really excited. At some point, I decided to turn this into lessons for my students (at that time I was a school counselor in an elementary school building that housed grades 2-5)—after all, why should they have to wait until they were 40-something to discover this stuff? I came up with kid-friendly names for the styles and started running small groups and teaching lessons. After I retired, I brought the lessons to community education groups. So far, kids from 8 to 85 have played around with personal and organizational styles!

This book incorporates a lot of traditional organizing principles, but its focus is on building both organizational skills and personal confidence. So many people who struggle with organization feel beaten down—I saw this even in 10-year-olds! I want them to understand that they aren’t hopeless or broken. They just need to find the right organizational fit.

The acronym STYLE is genius! How did you come up with this/where did it come from?

I’ve used acronyms as a mnemonic since I was trying to learn history in high school, and I’ve seen them quite often in self-help books. When I was conceptualizing this idea, a publishing professional I spoke with suggested that the addition of an acronym would be a good idea, and STYLE was born! It stands for:

S – Start with successes
T – Take small steps
Y – Yes, it has a home
L – Let it go
E – Easy upkeep

I wanted to make organization approachable for people who’d lost confidence in their ability to organize, so things like Start with Successes and Take Small Steps were really important. So often, people who’ve struggled to get organized have also lost faith in themselves, and re-building confidence is the first step to believing we can get organized when we’ve spent a lifetime believing we can’t. Confidence also sparks motivation and creativity.

Have you found there is one personal and organizational style that is more dominant than the others? If so, why do you think this is?

That’s a really good question! I honestly don’t know. I’m not aware of a front-runner, although the “cram and jam” organizational style was common in my elementary school students, as was the “I love stuff” personal style. Both of these styles share a too-much-stuff-not-enough-space struggle.

What have you found to be the most beneficial thing about the organization process; and conversely, the most difficult?

The biggest challenge is the fact that organization is an ongoing process. Life isn’t static; we need to constantly adjust to the flow of things in and out of our homes, and that means that perfection isn’t really possible. The most beneficial thing to me personally about organizing by STYLE is the sense of empowerment (and confidence) I felt when I stopped thinking I had to organize like everyone else. It was incredibly liberating to realize that tools (like binders and file cabinets) should work in our service and not vice versa. If something doesn’t work for me, that’s okay. I just need to find a styles-based tool that does work.

If you could give your reader only one piece of advice, what would it be? What do you hope to be the biggest takeaway from the book?

Organization is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. When you work within your styles instead of trying to copy what works for someone else, you can create a system that works for you.

Find her book now at


@Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.