I was asked recently if I would write a blog for men on how to organize when you and your partner don’t agree. I will admit that I was a bit stumped at first as I was thinking,” how do men and women differ in how they organize?” After giving myself a good week to mull it over I realized that the reason I was having a hard time was that being organized has nothing to do with whether you are a man or a woman.
In my over 17 years of organizing, I have organized for men, women, and couples and the men and women are either organized or not. It is not a gender thing. I firmly believe that everyone can learn to get organized and stay that way. Yes, some people catch on better than others and some like doing it and some don’t. In my opinion, the most important thing when organizing a shared space, whether it be
with a spouse, child or roommate is compromise.
When starting with a client with a partner, I find that they sometimes feel guilty or judged because their partner says things like,” why can’t you just get organized it is not that hard”. If you are the one that seems to be more organized, you must understand that your partner may never get to the level you are, and it may seem like they just don’t care.
There are many reasons why some people have a hard time getting and staying organized, which could range from mental or physical health, attention disorders, traumas, unexpected life situations, etc. which I won’t get into here but just wanted to stress that it is important to know about the person in which you share space. This does not mean that they can not learn but with compassion and compromise it can work.
1. To compromise there must be a conversation. Take one area at a time. Sit down and discuss what it is you want that space to be and what it is that bothers you both. This is not meant to be an argument but a realization that you may both have different ideas of what you want the space to be. So, this is where the compromise comes in. Here is an example:
a. The space would be the family room.
b. Partner (P1) just wants to go into the family room but there is nowhere to sit as it is either the toys all over or Partner (P2) projects they are working on are taking up space.
c. P1 reacts by saying “I am sick of tripping over all the stuff, and I can’t even sit on my couch why can’t you just clean up it is not that hard”. P2 gets upset and says “there is no room for me to work on my projects and I am not giving them up and I need to be able
to be near the kids when they play”.
d. A compromise situation would be to discuss where else in the house can P1 do their projects? Start brainstorming. Is there a spare room or area of the basement that can be cleaned up and create a space that can be a project room and playroom? If that is not an option, what type of furniture, product, or shelving can be brought into that room to help create homes for the toys and projects so when not being used they can be put away easily and so the surfaces can be kept clear?
2. Determining who uses the room most often also makes a difference in compromising. If you are the one that uses the space the most, discuss with the other person what is it that is important to them in that space. Then you discuss how you can work in what is important to them with your wants. When they can use that space for their things, they really don’t have a problem with the rest of it. Here is an example:
a. The space is the garage:
b. P1 uses the garage for storage of tools, and sports equipment, and likes to work on cars. P2 just wants to have a space to put out the garbage and recycling and be able to find their gardening tools.
c. P2 doesn’t want to go to the front of the garage and climb over parts and equipment to put out the garbage and they can’t get to their gardening equipment as it is always mixed in with tools.
d. A compromise would be to set up an area by the door closest to the house that the garage and recycling can be placed easily and by the exit closest to the outside they use to go out to do gardening, this way their task is not only easy to access but also to put away. Again, if their needs are met the rest doesn’t matter.
In summary, when working together to organize a space it is very important to hear what the other person wants. If you are the partner that is good at organizing and seems to come up with most of the solutions, then teach the other. Let them know what your thought process is. Why do you think that is important to put that there? You may not always agree but if your partner understands why, it is important, they are most likely to help keep it organized. The same goes for the person whose organizing does not come so easily it is important to listen and learn from your partner instead of feeling judged.