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Sunday, 16 January 2011

What are you supposed to do if you are organized and your partner isn't?

This situation is more common than not when it comes to relationships.  I get contacted all the time by people who feel that they are neat and organized and their spouse is just the opposite and they are at wits end.  Ying and Yang. 

Although I find that both parties tend to contribute in some way to the situation, there can be a lot of frustration when you are living with someone who is very disorganized and you are forced to live with it.  It has an overwhelming effect on the entire household and your relationship.

I want to help you if you feel you are a mismatched couples.  (I don't mean that you aren't meant for each other, but rather, you are in a situation where one is clean and organized and the other is messy and disorganized and, as a result, there tends to be animosity.)

If you’re already in a living arrangement and are disappointed by your partner/roommate’s level of order, you need to have a conversation. Yelling and passive aggressive behavior isn’t productive and damages the relationship. Having a calm, sincere, and respectful conversation has the possibility of yielding powerful results.

It is good to have ground rules for what to do when frustration takes hold. Here are some productive rules you might consider establishing:

No nagging.  This is a problem that effects both of you and nagging someone about it will not benefit either one of you.  Try to find a reasonable solution that works for both of you.  Create a plan.  

No backpacking. Set a time limit for how long after something happens that it is discussed (like one week).  If you don’t bring up the frustration within that time limit, you have to let it go. You can’t fester or stew on a frustration. Also, if you’ve already discussed something, you can’t bring it up again. The reason it’s called backpacking is because it’s like people carry around another person’s wrongs in a backpack and pull every wrong out of the bag when there is a disagreement. Backpacking isn't fair. 

Discuss the real problem. If you’re upset that your wife/husband/partner or roommate repeatedly leaves dirty dishes strewn about the living room, your frustration has very little to do with dirty dishes themselves. You’re upset because you believe they don’t care about the cleanliness level in the living space. So, talk about the real problem and use the dirty dishes as an example of how that lack of caring is being expressed and how it makes you feel.

May times, the person who is messier than the other doesn’t care one bit if his or her living arrangement is disorderly or orderly. When this is the case, and if you’re the one who prefers a more orderly home, prepare to possibly take on the full responsibility for cleaning up after the other person. Do it because you’re the one who gets the sense of joy from an organized space.

If a pair of shoes in the middle of the living room floor annoys you, just move the shoes to a location that doesn’t annoy you. The five seconds it will take you to move the shoes are less than the time you will be angry over the shoes if you don’t move them. 

Arrange that you will do this for them if they agree to do something for you that you dislike or don't care that much about.  This will make it feel more like you are sharing responsibilities and they are not just falling onto one person.  Everyone has their strong suits.

Perhaps the problem is that there aren’t any systems in place to deal with the mess where it happens. For instance, perhaps your husband stores his wallet in a valet in your bedroom. Perhaps you store your purse in a cube near the front door. He puts his wallet in his pocket first thing in the morning and takes it out at night before he goes to bed. You only grab your purse as you are entering and exiting the house.

If your purse was supposed to be stored in a valet in your bedroom, I can guarantee you that it would never be in the bedroom. It would be on the dining room table or living room floor or wherever you happened to have dropped it.

So, a storage cube near your front door is perhaps the best place for your purse because it’s a storage location that works for you. Think about how you live and find solutions that meet your actual needs.

If need be, designate "clean rooms" or "messy rooms" in your home. You can decide that all public spaces are "clean rooms". This would mean that the rooms visitors will see when they come into your house must be free of clutter at all times. (Generally this is the first floor of your home.)

Visitors rarely come upstairs to your second floor, so perhaps the rules can be less stringent.  Things can’t be dirty (no food or bug-enticing items), but if objects are left out of order in these spaces, it’s less of an issue. Schedule a once-a-week cleaning for these areas.  

Finally, if you’ve tried all of the previous options and nothing is working for you, try seeking outside help. This help can be in the form of a professional organizer or perhaps a couple’s counselor. You want to work with someone who isn’t a part of your relationship and can see it more broadly.

I don’t recommend using a friend or family member for this task.  I find that they tend to impose their own agenda (not out of a wanting to help, but, rather, from lack of professional knowledge and experience). Also,   how they want you to get organized is not the system that would work best for you. 

This situation must be dealt with a mutual agreement between the parties; agreeing that it is something that is important and needed.  Otherwise, the one party might feel resentment towards the whole process.

Professional help could also be in the form of a cleaning service coming into the house twice a month. However, most cleaning services will request that the clutter be eliminated so that they can do their job properly.  I get contacted many times before a cleaning service is hired.  I come in and help eliminate the clutter. After all, they can't clean the floor if they can't find it!  Letting someone else handle the deep cleaning will make the light housework is less of a burden.

If you’re a part of a Ying and Yang couple, what effective strategies have you employed? I would love to hear your thoughts and I’m sure that everyone would benefit from reading your positive results in the comments below.

If you are overwhelmed with the prospect of getting organized and are living in a "ying and yang" situation, don't hesitate to give me a call.  I can help you find the middle ground that will work best for both of you.

In the meantime, have a great week!

Posted by: Audrey Cupo AT 12:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Comments:
Hi I love the idea of the backpacking an you're totally right. That's not fair! Though am guilty of doing it myself, I will try not to now. Wendy Ager
Posted by Wendy Ager on 01/19/2011 - 11:38 AM
Wendy, awareness is the first step!
Posted by Audrey on 01/19/2011 - 11:51 AM

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