We thought moving in together would be fun. Then I saw his closet.
Are you and your spouse’s organization styles driving you both nuts? We’ve all been there. You go to throw something away and he freaks out, asking “What’s in those bags? I hope you’re not getting rid of anything important!”
The reason you both can’t seem to agree on what to do with all that extra stuff may be due to your different “clutter personality” types. Organizing and de-cluttering can often create conflict in your marriage, so it’s important to recognize which type you and your spouse are so you can work out a way to make you both happy (and your house clean!)
I’ll never forget early in our marriage, I was emptying our home of boxes, and I tossed a ton of magazines that I thought were unimportant––but when my husband came home he was upset to find out that I threw out his stuff.
Growing up in a divorced home where I shuttled back and forth between houses, I learned not to grow too attached to any physical object.
My husband on the other hand, was a sentimentalist. When we first moved into our home, his parents gladly gave us many boxes filled with his possessions that had been taking up space in their storage closet.
But what we learned from our first organization conflict was that while in a marriage, we often feel like we are “one” with our spouse--forgetting that “we” are made up of two individuals with unique stories and preferences. This phenomenon is called symbiosis. “Why don’t you love ice cream, it’s so delicious!” “I cannot believe that you don’t like pizza. Who doesn’t like pizza?” We get so close to someone that we just can’t believe they don’t like the same things that we do.
In our case, instead of letting this come between us, we learned to be more compassionate and curious about how each other works. My husband showed compassion for the adult child of divorce that I was, and I became curious about his sentimental nature. We were able to cross the bridge into each other’s worlds, and learned to speak one another’s “language”.
Take a look at the four “clutter personality” types below and figure out how you can bridge the gap and work out a way to keep you both organized and happy:
1. The Sentimentalist
What they think: “Oh, the little darling. Isn’t that cute? I saved every drawing each of my children made from preschool up through college.” The Sentimentalist wants to make sure all their memories are stored for safekeeping––and that usually means storing tons of boxes filled with photos, souvenirs, and sometimes things that are completely useless.
How you can deal: Help them to become more selective with the mementos they choose to save. Select the very best photos or trip souvenirs, then take a picture of the rest. Remember, memories are intangible––you will remember that trip to Hawaii, but you don’t need to save the napkin.
2. The Hoarder
What they think: “I might need this someday”. If there are cabinets stuffed with egg cartons and margarine tubs––you (or your spouse) may have hoarding tendencies. Hoarding sometimes comes from feeling like you may not have the resources to buy what you need later on, so these feelings translate into a house full of duplicate items.
How you can deal: Remind them that they can always get what they need if and when they need it. These days there are plenty of resources to find what you need––yard sales, antique shops, the library. You’ll be able to replace the item, so (gently) encourage them take the plunge and dump the extras.
3. The Procrastinator (and Perfectionist)
What they think: “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Procrastinators and perfectionists often go together. A Perfectionist wants to do everything perfectly, so if you haven’t thought of the perfect organizing system yet, then it’s hard to get started without getting overwhelmed.
How you can deal: Start by organizing the first 20% of the clutter together, right away. Make sure you let them know that you need to start SOMETIME, so you might as well start today. Once they get going, they’ll take over and finish the job.
4. The Rebel
What they think: “I don’t want to and you can’t make me!” It’s our parent’s fault right? We had to tidy up all of our lives so now as adults––we don’t need to take orders anymore.
How you deal: Make sure that your spouse understands that you value them and their decisions, but also remind them that it’s important you both work together to make your household run smoothly. No one likes to do everything on their own, but if you make your concerns known, they’re bound to make the decision on their own to help you out.
Like any issue in a marriage, organizing can be a huge source of conflict, but if you both put in the effort to recognize and appreciate your different “clutter personality” types, you’ll be better equipped to take on your home’s organizational challenges together.
This article was originally published at Marriage Restoration Project . Reprinted with permission from the author.