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The One To Zen Organizing Blog

Breathe in Calm, Breathe out Clutter

  • Writer's pictureJill Katz

The Solomon Paradox

There are some questions or statements that get thrown around quite a lot when you are a Professional Organizer.


One common question I hear:


“I am so nervous standing here looking at my clutter. Doesn’t all that clutter make you nervous?”


And my answer is always:


“No, because it’s not my clutter.”


The Solomon Paradox

Wise Owl

Enter the Solomon Paradox. The Solomon Paradox is a proven behavioral phenomenon in which people think more clearly about other people’s problems than their own. The origin comes from the story of King Solomon the King of Israel who was so wise that people would travel from all over the world to ask him the answer to their questions. However, King Solomon's wisdom was no help to himself. He made all kinds of personal mistakes from women to money to parenting.


So breaking it down:

King Solomon was wise

King Solomon could use his wisdom to help others

King Solomon could not apply his wisdom to his personal life – What a mess!



People think more clearly about other people’s problems than their own.


You and King Solomon

Bye Bye Ripped Jeans

So how does the Solomon Paradox translate to organizing? The average person can look at someone else’s closet and discern that the ripped college sweatshirt has seen its heyday. Take a picture if you must but say goodbye. Yet

have the owner of that closet look at the same sweatshirt and she sees “an old friend” and clarity goes out the window.




Breaking it down again:

You’re a reasonable person

You can use that reason to help colleagues, family and friends

You will have a much harder time applying the same reason to your personal life – So Unfair!


Making the Solomon Paradox Work For You

Fortunately, a recent study published in the Journal of Psychological Study reveals a way to reverse the Solomon Paradox. If you distance yourself from a given situation and look at it in third-person, you can tap into your peak reasoning ability.


Tricks of the Trade

Here are some organizing tricks that Professional Organizers often use. We:


  1. Take everything out of its usual space (e.g., all items off the bookshelf) so clients will eye their belongings from a new perspective

  2. Hold up an item of clothing because studies have shown that when a client touches his/her clothes they are more likely to keep them

  3. Place sentimental items in front of a client only as the last step of an organizing project because we know that clients need to strengthen their organizing muscle first by looking at less personal items.


Of course, hiring a professional organizer will help you with the Solomon Paradox since there is a third party there to talk you through your decision making (me tooting my own horn toot, toot!). But now that you know about the Solomon Paradox, you can use third person language when organizing, or recruit a friend to let you know when you and reason are parting ways.


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12 Comments


Julie Bestry
Julie Bestry
May 25, 2021

There's some serious truth-telling going on here! The cobbler's children go barefoot is the metaphor I often use, but the Solomon Paradox is so apt! I'm a professional organizer and am proud of the discernment I bring to client situations, but when I organize my own spaces, I am definitely a nester, anticipating negative emotions if I let certain things go. All three of those tricks you describe are spot-on, and all during the pandemic, I kept wishing I had someone else who could hold up the items in front of me so that I could make decisions as if they belonged to someone else. I even laughed at myself, because I often give clients the "take a photo, it'll last…

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
May 25, 2021
Replying to

Julie, your post made me laugh! I always say that I love looking through OTHER people's paper clutter but not my own! I also think each person (organizers included) have a category that is challenging for them to look at objectively. I know some people that can easily donate any item of clothing but when it comes to their books, it's a struggle. That's when getting someone objective in there comes in handy.

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Janet Gorman Schiesl
Janet Gorman Schiesl
May 24, 2021

I agree that having a third party, an organizer, in the room changes the dynamic when you are trying to making decisions. I love how that works. I feel like it just makes people stronger and more willing to make the hard decisions.

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
May 25, 2021
Replying to

Yes, Janet - I believe that organizers allow a person to look at their possessions with a fresher eye. Thanks for the insightful comment.


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Katherine Macey
Katherine Macey
May 24, 2021

Good stuff, here! Helping people take a step back from the emotions that come from their belongings is an essential step on the organization journey.

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
May 24, 2021
Replying to

Thanks Katherine!

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Linda Samuels
Linda Samuels
May 24, 2021

I love how you related the Solomon Paradox to organizing! And your workarounds for how to be our own best guides are terrific. The second one is the kinesthetic principle at play. I'm only doing virtual organizing now, but when I used to do in-person sessions, that was something I frequently experimented with certain clients that had stronger emotional attachments to their belongings. Removing the "touch" from their decision-making equation helped tremendously in allowing them to let go more easily.

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
May 24, 2021
Replying to

So true, Linda! I find the kinesthetic principle the most with those who are grieving a loved one.

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Mar 19, 2020

Samara, Wow! I bet your neighbors are making great use of those crafts right now. When you do your linen closet be sure to take everything out at first- every item needs to prove it's worth to make its way back in there!

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