Finding the Middle Ground

I often get the question, “How do I get my husband/wife/partner/roommate to be organized?”  Ahh…what a tricky situation.

This is something J and I have had to work through; we probably always will.  It started when I first moved into his house and has continued as our lives have changed: from me starting a job/quitting a job/starting a business to adding X-man to our family.  We have different organizational styles (I think about it all the time; he rarely thinks about it), and we have different views of what organized is.  And that’s okay.  We typically find a happy middle ground…or ground that is slightly tilted my way!

Parts of our home occasionally fall into disorganization due to our mis-matched organizing styles.  When this happens, I go to these techniques to get us back to our middle ground.

Learn the “Why”

Once I know why J is doing something, it makes it easier to accept.  He keeps a pile of infrequently used credit, gift, and membership cards on a shelf in our entryway.  It drives me crazy; they belong in his wallet or in our file cabinet.  It only stopped bothering me when I learned why he kept them there – his wallet is too small and he wants to look at them before he walks out the door.  It’s not the process I would follow, but there is a process (and the engineer in me loves a process), so I accept there will always be a pile of cards by my front door.

Full disclosure: This pile recently saved me when I left my wallet in J’s car and needed to go grocery shopping – I was very thankful to find J’s credit card in the pile. 🙂

Take Off The Clutter-Blocking Glasses

It’s way too easy to see the piles of stuff J leaves around the house, yet I have a hard time seeing the piles I leave around.  When I take off my “clutter-blocking glasses”, I realize I contribute to clutter in the house just as much (or more?!?!) as J.  This makes it harder to give him a hard time about his clutter piles. We are busy and things get cluttered from time to time – that’s life.

Pick Your Territory

J's bathroom vanity - not how I would organize much unused space!
J’s bathroom vanity – not how I would organize it…so much unused space!

I choose to not stress about the organization in the areas I don’t use and to focus on the areas that I use most often.  For example, J and I don’t share a bathroom (essential to avoiding battles over toothpaste tube etiquette), so I don’t get hung up on how his bathroom is organized.  It’s not my space.

The kitchen is my space though.  When I first moved into the house, I did a total re-org on the kitchen so that it could function with two people doing more than heating up a frozen pizza (only a slight exaggeration).  Because J didn’t care as much about how it was organized, he bought into the system.

Accept and Call a Truce

While not easy, sometimes I just have to accept certain things about J.  I accept that he will walk by the coat closet to put his coat on a chair, he will leave his shoes everywhere in the house, and he will pile up his clothes throughout the week and put them away on Sunday.  Would I do things differently?  For sure.  Do I do things he wouldn’t?  Absolutely.  We both try to accept it and move on.

As with all close-living situations, communication is key to finding the middle ground.  It’s hard to find solutions without talking about the organizational frustration.  This is a technique I use often – J may even say I take this one a little too far, but I think that’s crazy…who wouldn’t want to talk organizational for an hour on a Friday night?

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