How do you sort?

Here’s a fundamental question that goes to one’s basic nature, preferences, and tempos: do you sort by sameness or difference?*

If you sort by sameness you like constancy, routines, familiarity. Change is hard for you. A preservationist at heart, you might crystallize around things, in fact, to avoid change. If you sort by difference, on the other hand, you like change and variety, quicker tempos. You move readily from topic to topic in conversation, work on a dozen pieces at once if you’re an artist. Flexibility is your hallmark. Your need for movement can make you impulsive and careless with things and people. Lots of projects left unfinished.

Understanding that this sorting difference is both critical and immutable can be a life-saver in a marriage.

My husband sorts by sameness, I by difference. We could not be more different about matters like how  often to re-arrange the furniture, how long to study maps on the ski slope, whether to chuck or save objects. And that’s the minor stuff. Viewing these differences as failures to accommodate one another or as character flaws guarantees struggle.

To blame someone for sorting differently from yourself is like getting mad at them for being tall or Chinese.

This week, prompted by (finally!) spending some time with Jude’s Feel Free class recordings (I generally read the posts, but the audios languish), I want to think about how sorting by change impacts my work and also to consciously practice her idea of treating ideas as questions rather than ways to solve a problem.

*Question posed in a lecture by Bill Harris, founder of Holosync

22 thoughts on “How do you sort?

    1. deemallon Post author

      It was a useful construct when it crossed my path years ago. Stayed with me. To me it’s mostly useful as a way to forge acceptance of others — esp since I already know (mostly) how I move through the world.

      Reply
  1. Deborah Lacativa

    Sorting. I drew a blank too, at first. If things, I do both almost simultaneously. Left hand for differents, right for sames. Size, color, texture…values get in the way of progress. As far as other things go, I’m big on the cost-benefits-returns logic, always being short on both time and or money. Furniture? I never had a creative clue, but Jim did and that was fine with me.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Your comment shows me that this is not a B&W proposition. Things maybe get one kind of approach, experiences, another.

      Reply
  2. Ginny

    Maybe because I’m an office worker, I always sort by like. And eliminate easy first, then tackle tough. I’m a good problem solver, but can’t spell a lick….

    In art and home, I think it’s the opposite and I’m all over the place with moving things around, compositions, furniture and mindset …. skitzo maybe? Two-sided brain ambidextrous ? I never considered any other way. Thanks for an intriguing post. Now I’m going to have to try the opposite. Like walking backwards. 🙂 my spouse doesn’t even sort socks! The %*}+#£~€ !

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Your comment makes clear that DESIGN is exempt. Our style of organizing tome and how we pool supplies and organize them may not be, but how could design be strictly one or the other and still be design? Thanks for making me think about this some more.

      Reply
  3. Joanne

    I do all that Marie Kondo sorting and folding but after a few weeks you can hardly tell. I don’t line my pencils up so the pointy end is facing the same way on all of them. My paints are in one place but in no order. My cloth is on some shelves in color order and the rest is on the floor. I don’t fit either category 100%. My husband puts his tools away neatly and his colored pencils but had never folded his laundry or matched his socks. I move furniture. I decorate. I don’t buy new furniture.

    Reply
  4. Nancy

    I thought about this post all day. I’m not 100% sure how I sort, or how he does…but it is different, that I know. Thanks for this perspective. xo

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Here’s a question: when it’s time to relax, do you want to go to a new restaurant or an old favorite? And for time off? A return to tried and true places of beauty or the yen to see somewhere new?

      Reply
  5. Michelle Slater

    Yes “To blame someone for sorting differently from yourself is like getting mad at them for being tall or Chinese.” So true. How can we possivly apply this to our current Administration? Can’t. As for sorting, it’s constant when I happen on a pile of things.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      I heard MSNBC commentator Eugene Robinson say this week that we are in a cold civil war and that we must choose sides. It was one of the most impassioned remarks I’ve ever heard from a news desk. There is absolutely blame to be apportioned. This is not a time for trying to see both sides. Or for shadow work for that matter. I cannot say how strongly I believe that it is not only okay but moral mandated that we denounce white supremacy and corruption in government.

      Reply
  6. Liz A

    A librarian by trade, I was very good at sorting … putting like with like, ordering them in such a way that they could be found by others. And I married a very organized person, The yin to my yang.

    Because the truth is, the other side of the library coin is “sorting by difference” … which is my innate tendency. In fact, your description of sorting by difference fits me to a tee (and yes, I just looked up the expression … randomly jumping off the train of one thought and onto another). The line “your need for movement can make you impulsive and careless with things and people” really hit the mark.

    And so, as many times as I (im)patiently put cloth and thread into some sort of order, the bits and shreds end up in a random disorder on whatever horizontal surface presents itself … sorted by difference, the better to be found … eventually.

    Reply
  7. Hazel

    (2nd attempt) When I sort, which isn’t often, it’s by sameness. Not even sure what it means to sort by difference? But mostly I live by piles that are tangles of all kinds of different things, but closest friends & K. are organized, which I appreciate & love (& that they like to drive).

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      I’m not the driver in this partnership, either. Phew! And just to say: it’s not just about how we organize things but also experiences. Do you like to return to the same spot year in and year out to vacation, for instance (sorting by sameness) or try out new places (sorting by difference)?

      Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Your comment got me thinking about how my sorting has changed over time, too. I am much more of a creature of routine (sorting by sameness) than I used to be.

      Reply

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