One question I get asked often by my students and clients is how do I get my partner on board with organizing? Many of us share our homes with someone who has a very different perspective on stuff. You may have opposing views on what is valuable and what being organized looks like. The fact is we all have different tolerances for clutter and your partner may simply not be as bothered by it as you are.
So how do you approach getting your home in order if you live with someone who has “clutter blindness”? Here are a few tips:
1. Have an honest talk about it - In almost all cases your partner truly cares about your happiness and well-being, and they are not intentionally doing things to drive you crazy. They don’t leave their stuff out to upset you, they just they don’t have a problem looking at it. Rather than nagging them, ask to sit down and have a discussion about it. Acknowledge that while it may not be a big deal to them the clutter in your home causes you distress. If you can articulate clearly how the state of your home makes you unhappy, they will better understand how important the issue is to you and be more open to change.
2. Focus on the benefits - When speaking with your partner about household clutter try to keep the discussion positive. Instead of judging them for hanging on to things, stress the positives that will come from lightening your collective load. Maybe you would like to clean off the dining room table so you can enjoy more family dinners together. Or maybe you both want to exercise more and getting rid of some things would make space for a home gym. Speaking about the benefits to you as a couple will be more effective than making it all about them getting rid of their junk.
3. Address your own issues - Often a client will complain to me about their partner’s clutter but they are just as big a contributor to the problem. It’s much easier to blame someone else than to acknowledge your own role in your disorganized home. If you are stuck in this mindset your conversations with your partner will likely lead to defensiveness and resistance.
If your home is a mess start with the things that belong to you. You don’t need to ask their permission to declutter your own clothing or paperwork or memorabilia. You will probably find that a great deal of progress can be made if you just focus on your own things. Which leads me to my next tip...
4. Lead by example - If you start working on your own issues with clutter you will allow your partner to see the benefits firsthand. Try clearing off that chair in the bedroom where you usually toss your clothes and start using it to sit and read, or get your hobby area in order so that you want to spend more time there. When they see you enjoying the clutter-free spaces in your home it can inspire them to want the same for themselves.
The reality is you cannot force someone to change their behavior. They need to reach a point where the positives of getting organized outweigh the negatives. By keeping your eye on your own paper you allow them to see how decluttering is improving your life, and that may be the push they need.
5. Continue the discussion - Expect that this issue will not be solved with a single conversation. As with any area where you differ, you will likely need to revisit it repeatedly to make progress. Try having regular check ins, and be open to communication. Set joint goals for the household, such as cleaning out the basement by a specific date, and schedule time to work on it together.
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Make it fab!