His-and-Hers Organizing: Can You Fix My Spouse?

Couple organizes at homePeople often joke with me as a professional organizer wondering if I can “fix” spouses and get them organized, but the truth is that I can’t. While I can certainly clear an area temporarily, I would not want to do it without someone’s permission. I also know that if a person doesn’t want to make changes to daily habits, the work will quickly become undone. Someone has to want to change and be ready before any kind of improvement program will work. (I can’t make someone’s husband go on a diet either!)

I often say that if I had the cure for this problem, I would surely be honored with some kind of monument! But if you have a clutter problem with your significant other, the true cure for it is old fashioned communication and compromise.

Discuss the issue with him or her and let your partner know why it causes you distress and how resolving it would impact you positively. Sometimes letting go is the answer, too.  If you can compromise, letting your spouse have certain “nag-free zones” of his or her own where clutter is tolerated, the common areas of the house can be brought to a higher standard with better cooperation.

Trading favors is always a good compromise. If she agrees to keep the bathroom straightened, he can agree to keep his desk cleared of piles. Usually once people start organizing, they usually gain momentum and motivation to carry the results into other areas, and it can become a team effort!

Here are a couple of “typical” husband and wife zones that are excellent projects to start:

HIS:  The “Pocket Dump” Area. Wrinkled receipts, crumpled wrappers, loose change, and random papers and cards are often a frustration in bathrooms, in closets, and on top of dressers. Work with your existing habits by accommodating the frequently appearing items with their own attractive containers to sort them out. A wooden valet set is an attractive option, and so are beautiful bowls and jars. Most of the time these items are strewn about only because they don’t have a definite home. The most important tool in this project? A trash can! So often this missing component is the answer for at least half of the mess.

HERS: Too Many Shoes, Not Enough Space. Shoes are a collection, and collections need to be properly curated. Organize your closet with shelving and shoe racks so that you get the maximum amount of appropriate storage for your collection. The floor is NOT a storage space! Don’t forget the back of the door for a quick solution. Many very effective products exist for doors that require little or no installation. Once you have established the maximum amount of shoe space, declare it “enough.” Pare down your collection to only shoes you love and wear often, and practice the “one in, one out” rule from now on. When you get a new pair of shoes, it’s time to choose an older pair to donate to Goodwill®.

Celebrate your organizing success with a champagne toast, and know that your clutter can become someone else’s treasure — and help someone in your own community find work. You can find your nearest donation center at http://locator.goodwill.org.