Organizing for couples.
I’m often asked this question in classes and when I work one-on-one with people. I thought I’d share my experience and advice on what seems to be a common question. The question is: How do I get my spouse/partner/house mate to be more organized?
Hmmm. You’re nodding your head or smiling with recognition now. What an intriguing question.
As you know by now, I’m an organizer and productivity coach, not a counselor, a therapist, or another professional who would take a different tact with you. What I can offer is the organizer’s perspective, with thoughtful “coaching” questions for you to work together.
How many times have clients ended a session with: Boy, you’re a counselor and organizer, all rolled into one. I’m flattered, but take this advice as an organizer coach’s advice only [not therapy].
Organizing for couples: Where to start.
Organizing is sort of like finances with couples. As couples, we need to find where the other person on that spectrum of “spender” or “saver,” where money is concerned. With organizing, are you a “keeper” or a “tosser.” Is it easy to get rid of things once you feel they’ve outlived their usefulness to you? Or do you keep the object, knowing that a friend could make good use of it. Or you could make something else out of the working part of the object.
So have a discussion and figure out where you each land on that spectrum,just like at some point you had to have the spender/saver discussion. Making assumptions about someone else’s approach to organizing will lead to misunderstandings and judgments.
You may have to relax your standards. Don’t assume your partner sees your organization as the ideal. We’re all wired differently. People have different tolerance levels for how much stuff they can handle, whether it’s on the calendar or in their surroundings.
If you both need an organizing tune-up, start with yours first. Time and time again, I see that if one person gets going, the other person follows at some point. They realize how much more time they have for hobbies or each other — less stuff means less maintenance of said stuff.
Some people have designated “common” living areas, “my” own area, and “your” own area. Meaning that the common living areas you agree to keep to the standard you both agree on. But “my” area is mine, and I can have my hobby supplies organized however I want to with no judgements. Or your home office is your space; I don’t get to organize it or comment on it. Judgment free zone.
Assign household organizing responsibilities based on each person’s strengths. Who is more detailed? Who is more analytical? Who is more big picture? Who is more creative? Match these strengths with the organizing task at hand, whether it’s bill paying, reorganizing a space or figuring out a household filing system. Valuing each person’s strengths supports a useful and productive discussion. In time, you can educate each other on how you handle your primary responsibility, so you’re aware of what’s done, even if you’re not the one doing it.
I should mention here, too, that if one of you does have ADHD, you both need to understand its impact. There are books, web sites, and plenty of resources to help you both understand the impact, and particularly for the one who does not have ADHD to understand what it’s like to live and organize one’s life/time/stuff with ADHD. YOu can coach with me, separately or with both of you at times to facilitate understanding …. of course, I’d prefer you learn to advocate for yourself.
You’ll need to be understanding, creative, supportive in new ways so that your home or office is as organized as you both need it, in ways you both need it to be.
Organizing for couples – not an easy question to answer. But you already knew that; so, I hope these solutions are useful!