Organizing Disagreements

Have you ever had disagreements with your partner about the level of organization (or lack thereof) in your household?  I’m guessing you have.  We all have different expectations for how tidy our home should be. These expectations can be a result of the environment in which we were raised – was it cluttered or tidy? And a result of our personal organizing style and level of tolerance for a cluttered space.

I met with a couple who upsized from a modest home to a very large home.  They assumed that doing that would somehow solve the issues they were having with a cluttered environment.  You guessed it, nothing has changed. They just have more space to spread their belongings around which has made things worse instead of better because there are too many places to shove things for “later”.  And they most certainly have disagreements about the level of tidiness in their home.

In the spring of 2015 I took a course on how to communicate better with your partner around organizational issues. The course was more specifically geared towards a situation where one partner has ADHD, but many of the observations and techniques can be applied to couples who disagree about the level of clutter in their house and who is responsible.

First of all, we need to understand that just because mum or dad’s job is running the household that doesn’t mean he or she is naturally good at it and knows how to keep a house with several busy children organized.  The inability to organize a home can be a result of several factors, one of them being distractibility, which causes one to take an indirect route to accomplish a task and therefore it takes longer.  If you have difficulty planning and poor time management skills that can also make household management tricky.  Many people have difficulty putting things in sequence or simply forget to do things altogether.  If the lack of organizing skills is a problem, this can cause huge frustration both for the person struggling with keeping the house in order and the partner who works outside the home.  

The first thing to remember, if you are the one working outside the home, is that you need to encourage your partner to get some help just as you would an employee at work.  If you are the one responsible for managing the home, trying harder won’t solve the problem. You have to get systems and processes in place in order to be successful at staying tidy and organized. Like any other job, if there is something you are not good at, you need to get some training from someone who is good at it.  

Here are a few strategies for couples:

1. Have weekly coordination meetings with your partner.

2. Set goals and come to an agreement as to how things will be set up.  

3. Work towards creating a balance of power in the relationship rather than accusing whoever is in charge of the household of doing a bad job.  

4. Next, take 15 or 20 minutes every morning to discuss with your partner what to do that day.

Developing a positive support system will go a long way to creating a harmonious home environment. If you are both finding that you still can’t come to a solution with these techniques, get some help from a counsellor or therapist and hire a professional organizer to work with you.  What is it that all the experts say? Realizing you have a problem and need help is one of the first steps to success. 

How have you overcome disagreements around organizing in your home?

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