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