Category Archives: couples

Home Organizing for Couples

Work with your sweetie to get your home organized

Work with your sweetie to get your home organized

In our work with couples we have found that often they have different organizing styles, for example, one might be “the keeper” the other might be “the minimalist.”  It is our belief that couples come together to learn something from their partners.

We have put together a top ten-list of ways that couples can work together to have their house better organized, easier to navigate and set up with systems that make the household run smoothly for everyone.

1. Identify each partner’s strengths and weaknesses. While focusing on the positive, keep focused on your own particular problem areas. It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of focusing what your partner can do to change.  Most of the time, both members of the team each have their own challenges.

2.  Make a list of the roles each of you play in the household.  Who is in charge of purchasing food?  Who buys the clothes for the kids or for each other?  Who cleans the kitchen?  Who keeps up the yard or front area?  Who is in charge of the information?  Is one of you the family archivist?  It’s important to value the different roles that each of you play.   The keeper of the family is often the one who is the heart of the family; and the minimalist will help keep stuff from taking over the house

3. Establish ground rules for what is acceptable behavior towards each other (i.e. no name calling, asking instead of accusing, etc., staying focused on your part of the problem)

4. Come to an agreement about doing the project together.  Don’t let one person take over the whole project…unless the partner is totally unwilling to participate…then the willing partner needs to start with their own space and their own stuff first.  This often inspires a recalcitrant partner to take care of their stuff…especially if they aren’t nagged about it.

5. Reframe the problem in financial terms.  Identify the cost of keeping the clutter.  Given their rent or mortgage, figure out the square footage that the clutter takes up, what are you paying to keep the stuff?  $2,000 per month for rent for 1,000 square feet of living space.  $2.00 per square foot.  Clutter takes up one 10 X 15 foot room.  That is 150 square feet times $2 per square foot = $300 per month which works out to $3,600 per year.  It gets easier to figure if you have a storage unit that is used to house items that you don’t need at home…The costs for a storage unit at $100 a month can really rack up.  It’s common for folks to have units for 5 years or more…is the stuff you’re storing in there really worth the $6,000 you’ve paid to hold it?

6. If one of you is resistant, try this game:  Pretend you are going to be traveling for 6 months.  Then, set aside what you would need if they were going to be away for that long, pack up what is left, put it in off-site storage for 3 months.  Notice what it feels like to live with less.  Notice what you miss, if anything.

7. Decluttering may upset the balance of the relationship.  Be gentle with each other.  You may also consider counseling to deal with the emotions and feelings that are bound to come up in the process of extensive decluttering.

8. If you as a couple cannot reach consensus on decisions, it is sometimes helpful to divvy up areas of the home.  One person gets to decide on the family room – the other gets the kitchen.

9. If your space allows for both — it’s better to share a bedroom than a home office.

10. Keep it light — decluttering almost always opens the door to a better sex life.

This article was co-written with Deborah Silberberg of www.ShipShape.com

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Filed under Bedroom, couples, Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Perspective, Strategies

4 Cornerstones of a Successful Senior Move

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Have you thought about moving but feel paralyzed at the prospect of how to go about dealing with everything involved? You’re not alone! Moving can be an extremely overwhelming project. A good way to approach the task is to think of it in 4 areas.

What To Do With All Your Stuff?

  • The sooner you start paring down belongings – whether you’re moving or not – the better.
  • It can be easier to think about your possessions from the perspective of what you want to keep rather than what you want to get rid of.
  • Start with low-hanging fruit…it is way easier to purge accumulated office supplies than the decades long backlog of photos.
  • If you’re stuck, enlist the help of friends or family (only if they will be non-judgmental), or enlist a professional organizer or senior move manager. These can be found at net, NAPO-SFBA.org, and NASMM.org.

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Deciding Where To Live

  • Work with a Placement Specialist – ideally someone local, not a general internet service. Placement services are free because they are compensated by the living facilities. Local professionals really know the features and culture of all the available options and will work to find the right fit for your personality and needs.
  • Choosing a home or retirement community is as much about the outside life you’ll have there as the place itself. Do you want/need to stay near your current doctors, family, friends, and familiar areas? How will moving impact your social circle and support network?
  • There are many different options for downsizing – including staying at home! Sometimes the best choice will be plan for support services so you can age in place at home.
  • Start looking before you’re ready to move. It can take awhile to make a decision about where will be the right fit…it’s much better to do the legwork and take your time about this major decision than feel pressured or rushed if something happens and you have to move quickly.

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Manage Your Emotions

  • Moving can be one of life’s most stressful events; expect to feel a range of emotions both positive and negative.
  • Don’t go it alone! Create and rely on a support network – friends, family, hired professionals to share the tremendous workload and stress of the move.
  • Be aware that feelings about a move can come in different stages and layers.
  • Having conversations early on with your adult children (or parents) about moving can bring clarity and more ease when the actual move happens.
  • Document your desires around long term and emergency care in writing to ensure your wishes are honored if you aren’t able to advocate for yourself.
  • The move doesn’t end on moving day – adjusting to your new space and life can take time and support.

Selling Your House

  • There are real estate professionals that specialize in working with seniors. Look for the designation: SRES – Senior Real Estate Specialist.
  • There are different financing options available to help make a move happen. Consult a reputable mortgage broker or realtor to discuss options.
  • Work with a realtor who really knows your area and takes all the specifics of your situation into account when making the plan for how best to sell .
  • Staging matters – Most buyers have the easiest time picturing their life in your home when the home is staged rather than filled with your things.
  • Work with a realtor who partners or can refer to a professional organizer or senior move manager to help you downsize.

Intimidating as it is, getting started on any of these items is the best way to start! Pick something that feels relatively easy to get the ball rolling. Every step you take brings you closer to the end goal!

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Filed under couples, Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, Moving, Seniors

Couples and Clutter: Conquering Stonewalling

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Here’s more on the topic of helping couples manage clutter in a shared space using the wisdom of relationship researcher, John Gottman. This time we explore stonewalling and its antidote.

The other 3 culprits we’ve looked at are criticism, contempt, and defensiveness. Stonewalling happens when a person gets so overwhelmed – flooded – by the negativity of an interaction that they shut down. Rather than continue to confront the situation, they disengage completely- becoming unreachable.

Stonewalling is a reaction to escalating negativity. Stonewalling includes not making eye contact, not responding verbally or physically; giving someone the cold shoulder. The shutting down and turning away is a natural protective response to feeling flooded.

Example: Messy Bedroom

Partner 1: You never put your clothes away. I’m so sick of having to walk around your stuff all the time. Why do you have to be so messy all the time? (Criticism)

Partner 2: “I’m not the one who leaves my shoes all over the place. You’re always blaming me for everything” (Defensiveness)

Partner 1: “I can’t believe I’m married to someone who lives like this. You’ve been a mess ever since I met you! What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you get it together?” (Contempt)

Partner 2: Turns away, picks up their laptop and starts doing some project even as Partner 1 continues to try and talk to them. Everything about their body language says, “I don’t hear you and I’m not listening to you.” (Stonewalling)

Antidotes: Timeouts and Self-Soothing Activities

It is important to remove oneself from the interaction, take a timeout and do some self care in order to calm the flooding response. It helps for the overwhelmed person to state, “I’m overwhelmed, I need a timeout.” Take a walk, listening to music, going into a quiet room – anything that lets your body reset and allow you to come back to the interaction with a calmer perspective.

The combination and interplay of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling are destructive to genuine communication and problem solving. Building awareness of these patterns can lead to healthy interactions and…eventually, to harmoniously organized homes.

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Filed under couples, Decluttering, Perspective

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Defensiveness

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Here’s more on the topic of helping couples manage clutter in a shared space using the wisdom of relationship researcher, John Gottman. This time we explore defensiveness and its antidote.

In our post about criticism, we addressed how blaming inhibits a couple’s communication and ability to work together to create a home that supports them both. Next up was contempt, which takes criticism to the next level. Defensiveness is the third common behavior, which sabotages relationships.

When one is faced with criticism and/or contempt, defensiveness is a natural reaction but rarely works to resolve the issues being discussed. More often, defensiveness escalates the conflict because it is actually a form of blaming.

Here’s an Example:

One person likes to park their car in the garage. The other person is working on a project and because of the weather, is staging the items in the parking spot.

Partner 1:

You left your stuff all over the garage and I can’t pull the car in! You’re such a slob.

Partner 2:

Well if I had some space in the house to work, this wouldn’t be an issue! Can’t I do anything without you harping at me?

Note that Partner 1 is launching into the exchange with criticism and contempt, and Partner 2 immediately responds with defensiveness and adds some criticism for good measure.

Antidote:

Partner 1:

I tried to park the car in the garage today and found it blocked up. I was frustrated because I had to park outside in the rain.

Partner 2:

I’m sorry, I forgot that you would be coming home before I cleared it out. I could have let you know that I might not have been finished before you got home.

The antidote for defensiveness is taking responsibility for your own actions. Resist the urge to blame outside forces or your partner and think about what you can own yourself. What set you up for the miscommunication? What do you want to apologize for?

Here are some ways to communicate that sidestep defensiveness:

  • I’ve been overwhelmed lately and I’m sorry that I was so negative
  • I’ve not asked for what I needed and I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you
  • I’ve been overly critical lately and I’m sorry I was really grumpy

Defensiveness, criticism and contempt rarely show up alone, often they work together as a tag team, dragging down the good intentions of having a productive conversation. Next up we explore the final culprit which interferes with creating a comfortable and organized home, stonewalling.

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Filed under couples, Decluttering, organizing, Perspective

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Contempt

marble-couple

Here’s more on the topic of helping couples manage clutter in a shared space using the wisdom of relationship researcher, John Gottman. This time we explore contempt and its antidote.

In our post about criticism, we addressed how blaming inhibits a couple’s communication and ability to work together to create a home that supports them both. Contempt takes criticism to the next level.

Contempt is poisonous. It is so threatening to communication because it comes from a position of superiority. It displays disgust. Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts.

If your goal is to get someone to change their behavior, you’re not going to get very far by putting them down.

EXAMPLE: Misplaced Items

Contemptuous Approach

Partner A: Where’s the packing tape? It’s supposed to be in the kitchen drawer!

Partner B: I left it in the office where I was using it.

Partner A: That’s so stupid, why did you put it there?! It belongs in the kitchen! You really like to make my life miserable (said with a sneer), don’t you?

The antidote is to describe your own feelings and needs. Actively use positive affirmations, building a culture of appreciation and respect. If you find yourself tearing down your partner in response to some transgression, stop yourself and consider how to turn that around.

Collaborative Approach

Partner A: I can’t find the packing tape in the kitchen drawer where we keep it, do you know where it is?

Partner B: I left it in the office where I was using it.

Partner A: It’s most convenient for me to find the packing tape in the kitchen. Would it be helpful to get a second roll of tape and keep it in the office where it would be more convenient for you to put it away? (said in a genuine tone of voice without irony)


Your desire to make your home functional and organized is legitimate. Modifying your approach may be more effective to get your needs met … and to meet the needs of your partner at the same time. Next up…Defensiveness.

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Filed under couples, Decluttering, home organizing, Perspective