Do you live with a chronic clutter bug? Is their mess driving you nuts? Have you had it with all the stuff on every surface and the closets overflowing? Or maybe you are on the other side and your partner constantly nags you to clean up the mess, pick up after yourself, or unpack those boxes in the basement from when you moved 3 years ago. Have you ever considered bringing in a professional organizer to give you the tools for a happier existence together?
I am no marriage counselor, but I am very happily married, and we will celebrate our tenth anniversary next month. I'm grateful my husband and I are both very organized, tidy people. But, I've also been in a lot of homes where the relationship is strained because the partners are not aligned in this area.
Why Clutter Can Challenge Even the Best Relationships
It is vital to understand that some behavior traits are innate, making them as unchangeable as our DNA. Someone who is bothered by clutter cannot just stop being bothered by it any more than a messy person can conjure up annoyance at their own mess. Therefore, when people with opposing ideas of what constitutes a comfortable environment live under the same roof, challenges arise.
Why does clutter bother some people so much? Well, an untidy home can cause progressive psychological unrest for them. It builds from a distraction, moves along to frustration, strips away their sense of control, and finally ends up in anger and blame.
It's important to note that those on the opposite side of the coin can experience the same cascade of emotions when the home is perfectly tidy. When someone is visual by nature, having things neatly tucked away can be a major a stressor. That "mess" is how they keep things accessible and easy to find.
Differences in how a couple keeps their shared environment can slowly chip away at the relationship.
The Emotional Toll of Clutter
Distraction - Clutter, disorder or signs of unfinished work can steal a person's focus away what they want or need to be doing. They can't just ignore it. Imagine trying to work from home and not being able to work to the best of your ability because of the tangible chaos in the environment.
Frustration - When a space cannot be used as intended or items cannot be easily found when needed, there is often a ripple effect. You may be late to work or school, clothes may not be clean, money spent on an inaccessible room may be wasted, food may expire, someone could get injured, and time could be lost searching for things. As these things happen on a daily basis, frustration tends to build.
Loss of Control - A person who needs a tidy home is typically a person who needs a certain level of control which extends to their physical environment. If someone is constantly taking that control away by leaving a pile of clothes in the middle of the floor, it can feel like a personal attack.
Anger and Blame - If someone's home is in chronic disarray, it can change the way people relate to each other, and not in a good way. The differences in personality types can easily turn into a situation where anger and blame are the unfortunate result.
What Can Be Done About It
Like I said, you can't really change a person's nature. So, peaceful coexistence with someone on the opposite side of the messiness spectrum requires some extra work.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood. - Be open to your partner's personality type and struggles (such as ADHD, OCD, childhood trauma, individual stress levels, etc.). And, be open to compromise.
Discuss the benefits of clearing the clutter. - Recognizing that you are coming from different perspectives, focus on how a tidy home will benefit the relationship, not on how one of you must be right and the other one must be wrong.
Sharing in the Benefits of an Organized Home
Believe it or not, even the most ardent mess maker can learn to appreciate a tidy home. While they may never be bothered by a mess, hopefully the appreciation for what comes with order will make it worth getting on board. And, if some things need to stay visible rather than put away, there are creative ways to do that so that everyone gets what they need.
Having an organizational system that is functional for everyone in the household can dramatically enhance your marriage. Beyond creating a clean and safe space, it's a way that everyone can truly feel at home. The benefits may ultimately be therapeutic.
Closeness -Tackling and completing an organizing project together, with or without professional help, will give you a sense of mutual achievement. You will feel supported by each other and can bask in the glow of your organized space together. You'll learn more about each other's needs in the process and, if all goes well, be closer than ever.
Cooperative Housekeeping - When everything has a designated home, your partner (and children for that matter) can help keep your space in order. If everyone understands where an item belongs and why, it curbs the tendency to just drop it "wherever." It takes time to consistently use a new skill, so be patient. Ultimately, everyone in your family will benefit from the newfound peace and order.
New Experiences - If your home is organized and you aren't so preoccupied with it anymore, who knows what all that open physical and mental space may lead to. Maybe something more romantic than clutter? Maybe even something you didn't expect?
What Would You Do for Your Valentine?
Despite what matchmaking questionnaires may have you to believe, anyone CAN live with a person who is messier (or tidier) than themself. They just need the right tools and the right motivation.
If clutter is a struggle that you'd like to kick out of your relationship dynamic, we would love to turn irritation into inspiration. Element of Fun Organizing can help you get your home more organized so you have a happier Valentine's Day (or any day) with your partner, spouse, or beloved. Give us a call!