by Erin Doland
When I asked my friends and family for their decluttering dilemmas, I had responses varying from paperwork in the home office, to tackling Tupperware in the kitchen. One recurring challenge that really struck me however, was the problem of what to do if you are organized and your partner isn’t.
Being part of a mismatched couple is quite common. By “mismatched,” I mean couples where one of the people in the relationship is clean and organized and the other is messy and disorganized. This doesn’t necessarily cause a problem unless at least one of the two people has animosity about the difference. When considering moving in with someone (romantic or otherwise), a person’s level of tidiness and cleanliness should be part of the equation. Maybe this should also be part of pre-marriage counseling?
If you’re already in a living arrangement and are disappointed by your partner or roommate’s level of order, it may be time for a little chat. We all know that yelling and passive aggressive behavior doesn’t help. Taking the time to sit down and have a calm and sincere conversation with that person has a better chance of yielding results.
No nagging – Treating someone with disrespect is never a good option. Either the person honors what you say the first time you say it, or they don’t.
No bringing up the past – Set a time limit for how long after something happens that it can be discussed (like two weeks). If you don’t bring up the frustration within that time limit, you have to let it go. Also, if you’ve already discussed something, you don’t bring it up to rehash over and over again.
Discuss the real problem – If you’re upset that your partner repeatedly leaves their underpants on the bedroom floor, your frustration has very little to do with the underpants. You’re upset because you believe they do not care about the cleanliness level in the living space.
Sometimes, the person who is messier than the other doesn’t care if the house is tidy or clean. When this is the case, and if you’re the one who prefers a more orderly home, prepare to take on full responsibility for cleaning up after the other person. This may sound unfair, but think about the pent up resentment it will save.
Happily do the work because you’re the one who gets the sense of joy from an organized space. If that pair of underpants in the middle of the bedroom floor annoys you, just pick them up and put them in the laundry basket. The five seconds it will take you to move them are less than the time you will be angry with your partner if you don’t.
Develop a Plan – Put some systems in place to deal with the mess where it happens. For instance, I have introduced a “docking station” in my home; a small table for car keys, sunglasses, wallets, spare change, handbag etc to be dumped as soon as you come in the front door. My husband and I know exactly where our personal items are and it stops the age old questions and arguments over “where did you put the car keys/my glasses, why can’t I ever find any change for the paper?”
You just need to think about how you live and find solutions that meet your actual needs and those who live in the space with you.
Another great idea is to designate clean rooms or messy rooms in your home. The lounge room is usually a “public space” that visitors would see, so this means it must be free of clutter. Whereas visitors would rarely come into your office or bedroom so they can be a bit less stringent with a once-a-week cleanup.
Perhaps it’s time for a Third Party – Finally, if you’ve tried all of the previous options and nothing is working for you, try seeking outside help, such as a professional organizer or if the problem is more relationship based, maybe a couple’s counselor. It could be in the form of a cleaner twice a month. Let someone else handle the deep cleaning so that the light work is less of a burden and it gives you more time to enjoy together.