Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Photo by Tericee, found on Flickr; licensed under Creative Commons.
I follow your blog and I love to read it. I also help others with decluttering problems. One problem I am asked frequently is, how can I tidy when the person I live with is messy? I was looking in your archives and you don’t have any articles covering that subject. I’m wondering if you have any great tips you’d love to share in a future blog post?
Here's my advice on the subject - assuming we're talking about a normal amount of clutter, not a hoarding situation:
1. Show respect for the other person. Do not get rid of any of that person's things without permission. And both people might watch the language they use, avoiding phrases like "your junk."
2. See where both people are in agreement. Peter Walsh says, "Imagine the life you want to live" - and then imagine how you want to use the spaces in your home to support that vision. Are both people aligned?
3. Make sure both parties understand that there are different ways to be organized, and understand that one person's approach may not work for the other. I've seen someone who prefers that everything be put away in drawers try to enforce that style with her "need everything out where I can see it" spouse - and it just doesn't work. But you can have things out and still be organized - and tidy!
On a related note: Some people may be naturally less tidy, but you can make things easier on them by making it as simple as possible to be organized and tidy. For example, provide hooks for hanging up clothes, rather than just hangers. Provide an "in box" right where the person normally dumps the incoming mail, not where you'd ideally want to place it. Get off junk mail lists, so there's less mail to deal with.
And for files that both partners use, make sure the file titles make sense to both parties - so they can both easily put things away, and find them. I saw a shared home office where one person filed the home insurance under the name of the insurance company - which was not something the other person would have ever thought to look under. Filing it under Insurance - Home made things much easier!
4. Perhaps both partners can have areas which are entirely under their control (as long as that doesn't pose any health hazard) - and then agree on some ground rules for the common areas.
5. I don't like to sound self-serving, but it really can help to bring in a professional organizer. Having an informed neutral third party involved can make a big difference.
I've worked with couples where if Person 1 asks Person 2 if we can get rid of an item - find it a new home - Person 2 will almost always say no. But if I ask the same question - worded a bit differently, probably - about 50% of the time I'll get a yes.
And of course, an organizer can come up with all those different approaches mentioned above, too.
6. For more on this topic, head over to Unclutterer, where Erin Rooney Doland has some good posts: