Do you live in a house with someone who isn’t very organized? I do. Does it make you want to pull a curtain in front of the clutter or figure out some option for adjoining lofts with a bridge in between? (I envision Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera and romanticize the whole idea.) Or maybe you live with someone who is incredibly organized but you feel like it stifles your creativity and you’re constantly being nagged about it?
You're not alone. It’s not uncommon for people who live together (whether that’s parents and kids, siblings, roommates, spouses, or a romantic partner) to have different styles when it comes to organizing. In fact, it’s pretty normal.
If you’re living with a differently-organized partner, here are some tips for striking a balance and keeping the peace.
1. Recognize there’s no right or wrong way
If you’re the partner who prefers things to be neat and orderly, clutter stresses you out. But how a space looks visually may not bother your partner at all. That doesn’t mean one of you is right and one of you is wrong. You’re just different in how you approach your space.
In this post, I’m going to refer to the “neat one” and “messy one” for simplicity in getting my point across, but there’s no judgment here. One’s not right and the other wrong—just different. Also, messy doesn’t always mean disorganized. Some people who are messy can find what they need pretty easily, but if they’re living with someone who prefers clear pathways and flat surfaces, it can still be a challenge. For the neat ones, there are SO MANY ways to be organized, it's possible that the way that works for you might not work for everyone else in the house.
2. Work toward compromise
Here’s one of the most important things to understand in this situation: You’re not going to “fix” either party. No one’s going to magically adopt the other person’s organizing style and instantly be on the same page.
Compromise is key. It’s a beautiful thing. After all, the only behavior you can change is your own. You can’t force the other person to adapt to your level, so stop trying. Figure out what compromise looks like for you and focus on that.
For some people, that means using zones. There are identified zones where the messy person can keep their stuff however they want it with no judgment or nagging. And then there are zones that are designated clutter-free zones, and all parties work to keep those areas clear.
3. Ask for help when needed
Sometimes differently-organized partners can hit an impasse where they’re struggling to compromise. In that case, asking for help from a professional organizer (a neutral third party) can work wonders in helping you recognize the differences and find a balance for your space.
Now, if you’re the messy one in a partnership, you may be a little apprehensive about what’s going to happen if a professional organizer comes into your home. Let me assure you, my goal is to work with you to design systems that work for you. If there are areas you want to leave untouched, that’s perfectly fine. I'm not going to make you throw anything away. I’m just here to help you find what works for you and get your space to good enough, not to perfect.
If you could use some help on finding a balance for two differently-organized partners, give me a call for a free phone consultation and I'll untangle that conflict one knot at a time.