It's a common plight I hear over an over again- one person wants more than anything for their home to me more organized and their partner doesn't see the importance of it or is flat out against it. It can be a huge issue (or the manifestation of other issues), and it should be approached just like an other- with love, understanding, and compromise.
As you know, I am a professional organizer, and having a home filled with order and organization is my preferred state of living. Well, let me rephrase that, it is the only way I can function! I live however, with a partner who is naturally more messy, disorganized, and would be perfectly content with a home lacking organization or a high level of cleanliness.
So where do you even begin? How do you set up a framework for success? Here are a few tips that will help open up the lines of communication.
1. Mindset Shift
This issue should be approached with the mindset that change isn't going to happen overnight. If this has been an ongoing issue in your relationship, walls of resentment have been building and building and they aren't going to fall immediately or all at once. It is a process and should be treated as such.
2. Choose Your Timing
Bringing up the subject of organizing during a disagreement or a miscommunication is NOT the right time! Snide remarks, low blows, and nagging comments are all counterproductive. If this is a serious and important matter to you, discussing it at the right time is imparative. Both parties should be calm and comfortable and in the right frame of mind in order to be receptive to major changes in how your home is run. And I say both parties, because going into this conversation with an "it's my way or the highway" attitude isn't going to work. And you want it to work right?!
3. Making Each other Happy
At the core of every healthy relationship is the innate desire to make each other happy. If your partner can see that this is a major way to show their love, they may be more open to it! Everyone has a different way of feeling loved (your Love Language) but figuring out how to please your partner can actually be very difficult especially if they aren't vocal about it. Many people may even default to showing their partner love in the manner in which they themselves want to be loved. I know I am guilty of this! Remember that your partner can not read your mind and they may not think like you. Kindly explaining specific things that can be done to make you feel loved is very important. I know if I could do something more or different or better for my partner I would jump at the chance. A great date night activity is to set up a romantic evening or fun activity and talk about the ways you and your partner are successfully showing love. The conversation can then naturally flow into ways to do more!
4. Discuss Why It's Important to You
This is a great place to draw a comparison. Does your partner have something important to them that is sacred- a poker night, a morning run, a girls' night out, a yearly vacation alone? Discuss that getting organized is as important to you as that is to them. They don't have to understand it- but because they love you, they can respect it, honor it, and support it.
5. It Makes Life Easier
With great organizational systems in place, there will be less nagging and being told what to do. It could be that what your partner actually hates is constantly being told what to do. Discuss how if things are once and for all organized and the systems are followed, there will be no more berating or disdainful looks. No more frustration for either of you! Your partner may also gain personal satisfaction about being more helpful especially if they can see that making you happy is in their own best interest. Happy wife, happy life, right? (That goes both ways of course- happy partner, happy life!)
It comes down to recognizing that we all have things we can do for our partner on a daily basis that will impact it in a hugely wonderful way! Work together to figure out what those things are for each other. A great phrase to start with? Simply say to your partner "How can I help?"
6. You Aren't Trying to Change Their Personality
Getting organized isn't about changing who you are as a person, it's about changing your habits. Organization is a learned skill. If someone has never been exposed to it, it's going to feel weird, different, and uncomfortable! Go into conversations with your partner identifying this. Show them that you understand their point of view and where they are coming from.
7. Show your Appreciation
As silly as it sounds to you, your partner might not truly understand that putting their towel on a hook truly makes you happy! Every time I see my husband hang up his towel, I know this is a little note of love and respect just for me- it doesn't matter to him in the slightest if his towel is hung up, but he knows it makes me happy. I very much appreciate and respect this, and all the other little things I know he does just for me. He is particularly amazing in this department and it makes me feel so loved. I make sure to acknowledge these little things, show my appreciation, and also to reciprocate. We have both made it habit to do little things for each other and it makes a huge difference. Little efforts go a long way in relationships because what often seems small or inconsequential to you, may be life changing for your partner.
7. Allow for Personal Space
This a big one! Everyone needs a sense of ownership, so giving your partner areas in your home to keep however they want is vital for overall success. For example, my husband has an office that he keeps just the way he wants it. I don't clean it, I don't organize it, I don't usually even go in it! He also keeps his drawers just the way he wants them- underwear and socks (not matched) just thrown in a drawer. It works for him, so it works for me. Trying to alter his drawer habits would be a complete waste of time and energy for me and insulting and frustrating for him. The perfect system for organization is the one that will work best for the user. His drawers. His office. His choice. No negative comments from me. Find ways to respect your partner's voice and they will be more wiling to respect yours.
8. Discuss Expectations and Budget
I want my partner to feel comfortable in our home. His need to be able to live how he wants is just as important as my need to be able to live how I want. This is where compromise and balance come into play. I do my best to not need things to be perfect all the time and he does his best to put things away most of the time. We make a conscious effort to do this for each other. This is a conversation you need to have in order to reach an understating. You can't just think about or imagine or expect this to happen! Verbalization and discussions of expectations are a must. Discuss what types of things you want to keep and what you want to purge. Discuss your plan. Discuss responsibilities. Describe what you are envisioning. Be as specific as possible and come up with a plan together. Conversations about budget are important too. Organization doesn't have to cost a cent, but if you are planning on investing in hiring an organizer or purchasing organizing products, have a conversation prior. Getting input from your partner on these matters can make them more agreeable and feel less blindsided about it all.
9. Think About Why
If you take the time to think about the real reasons why your partner is being reluctant or disagreeable, you might be surprised. Often there are other issues at play and figuring those out and dealing with them first can start this discussion off in a better place.
Getting organized is life transforming. I truly hope that you and your partner will come to a resolution on this matter once and for all!
Clean Lines Organizing and Design