A recent post on lifehack.org, a site dedicated to tips and tricks to increase the productivity of everyday life, discusses the following myth.

Myth: Some people are born with an organizing gene or are natural organizers and others will never be organized.

Reality: Organized and productive people have a set of skills that lead to their being organized.

This myth might actually be plausible. A recent ABC Primetime special briefly looked at the psychological disorder called compulsive hoarding. While most of us don’t suffer from this affliction there does appear to be a neurological basis for the condition.

Dr. David Tolin is conducting a study to see which parts of a hoarder’s brain become active when they are faced with making decisions. She is hooked up to a brain-scan machine and asked to look at pieces of her mail and decide whether she wants them to be thrown out. She then must watch the mail get shredded.

At this point, two parts of a hoarder’s brain become active. The brain’s orbitofrontal cortex is involved in decision making and causes a hoarder to process this experience as a punishing one. At the same time, the hippocampus of a hoarder actively searches for memories about the object. The hoarder tries to remember the object: what it is and why they saved it in the first place. By contrast, people without hoarding problems just don’t think about the object that much.

In addition it appears that the hoarder’s brain uses a different organizing method. Most people when organizing a stack of papers, for example, will begin by sorting large from small, mail from pictures, and so forth; creating more organized sortable piles. The hoarder tends to organize in a three dimensional manner, seeing an object as 3 feet in and two feet up in a pile that would look quite disheveled to the casual observer.