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We all have them. That one drawer — or area — that accumulates odds and ends.

So, what does that say about us? I just went and looked at mine. It’s located in the kitchen — second drawer down on a wall of cabinets.

It’s actually not a total junk drawer. There are three dividers. The right divider contains scotch tape, scissors and a stapler. I actually find myself reaching for these quite often.

The left side has two dividers that definitely qualify as junk containers. A random check today reveals the following contents:

  • Plastic ties for garbage bags
  • Rubber bands
  • Spare keys and keychains
  • A bottle of Liquid Paper (White Out)
  • Two tape measures
  • Three flashlights
  • A small screwdriver
  • A socket wrench
  • Pencils
  • Staples
  • A fire starter stick
  • Ant killer
  • Matches
  • Old toothbrushes for cleaning

Clearly, some of these items are duplicated in toolboxes and office areas elsewhere in our home. Yet, they show up in this easily accessible spot in the kitchen.

The way we’re wired

I ran across some research from author and business consultant Don Johnson that uses a similar example of kitchen drawers to shed light on how we process information. As humans, the way we’re “wired” dictates to a great extent how we look at things. Johnson shares a personal example that illustrates the concept.

“A few years ago, when I was dating the woman who’s now my wife, I cooked dinner in her home and was looking for a knife to chop vegetables,” Johnson said. “She said to try the top drawer near the stove. When I opened it, I found a knife all right — along with a hammer, screwdrivers, a tape measure, a chunk of string, a small tube of glue and lots of other stuff.

“Her house was tidy; everything arranged just so — the plants, the artwork, all the little touches,” Johnson continued. “Every day she made the bed, pillows arranged symmetrically. But when I opened the cabinets looking for a can of tomatoes — same thing. Everything all over the place, as if she had just dumped the bag of groceries on the shelf.

“Her outer environment was immaculate,” Johnson said. “Her inner environment was random, though — and very different from mine.”

How we look at the world

You may be familiar with personality theory which drills down into our psychological preferences — and how we perceive the world. You may have even taken part in a personality test such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or DISC assessment profile.

According to Jungian personality theory — based on the work by noted psychologist Carl Jung — the way we function in the world results from three psychological preferences:

  • The way we orient ourselves in the world and how we gain energy — introversion and extroversion
  • How we make decisions — thinking and feeling
  • How we take in and process information — sensation and intuition

It’s the last one — sensation and intuition — that can explain the junk drawer. “When we take in and process information using sensation,” Johnson explained, “we use our senses and focus on the here and now. When we process information using intuition, we take it in more imaginatively — focused on the future and what could be.”

You may find yourself leaning in one direction or the other. Or in the middle. Here’s a chart that shows both sides.

Sensation/Intuition continuum

Sensing Intuition

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Specific Global

Present-oriented Future-oriented

Realistic Imaginative

Consistent Unpredictable

Down-to-earth Blue Sky

Practical Conceptual

Precise General

Factual Abstract

Step-by-Step Spontaneous

Applying these concepts, Johnson realized some things about his wife. “I soon learned that she’s ruled by intuition,” he said. “How stuff looks in drawers and cabinets is simply not of interest to her. For me, it’s pretty different — I’m very sensing. I organize my junk drawer with small boxes holding various bits and pieces. If they get out of line, they get a tune up.

“I tried organizing my wife’s cabinets one day,” Johnson continued. “I bought some small baskets … even labeled the shelves to provide further clarity. I stood back, admiring my handiwork. A week or two later, those cabinets were a mess. All my labeling tape fell off, too. And I just gave up.”

A balancing act

Our world needs both intuitive and sensing attributes. Intuition is seen in visionaries who push the envelope — and open up to possibilities of what could be, while Sensing is more systematic — employing practical steps to carry through. Intuitives need to be grounded, and Sensing types often need to have their horizons expanded.

Intuition and sensation — showing up

Intuition and sensation show up in different ways in our lives, as Johnson explains in the following analysis:

  • Intuition: Doesn’t care which way the toilet paper sits in the holder. Sensation: Has a strong opinion about it.
  • Intuition: Gets dressed to go out, not that concerned if things match. Sensation: Everything matches.
  • Intuition: Follows a recipe once; after that he or she may wing it. Sensation: Follows the recipe exactly.
  • Intuition: To-do lists are kept mentally. Sensation: Has to-do lists and checks things off. If something gets done and is not on the list, will write it in and check it off. (How many of you are busted on this one?)

While we behave differently because we’re wired differently, it’s important to note that personality characteristics are tendencies — and not carved in stone. They’re the instinctual way we behave. That doesn’t mean we can’t make changes and behave differently. It’s just not our first orientation.

“Our preferences are like an invisible, silent guidance system operating below the surface and influencing what we think, say and do,” explained Johnson. “The next time you’re about to flip out — or think someone is a jerk because they’re doing something that makes no sense to you — realize their preferences are probably quite different from yours.”

Just remember the junk drawer personality test.

©2021 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org. For information on her books, go to www.lindaarnold.org or Amazon.com.

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