How To Live With Your Messy & Disorganized Spouse

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How To Live With A Messy Spouse

Are you living with someone who is disorganized? Learning how to live with a messy spouse can be difficult.

Clutter or disorganized spaces are hard on most marriages and relationships. Since spaces are shared, it can cause serious tension.

It’s such a common dynamic that left unchecked, can be destructive when the individuals don’t recognize what’s really at play.

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Let’s look at some familiar situations to understand what’s going on behind disorganization and what you can do about it.

What's behind disorganization.

For starters, when living with disorganization becomes an issue, it’s a clear signal that the individuals have different preferences, values, and levels of tolerance.

If you were both wired the same way, you’d probably both approach your space similarly. Therefore, disorganization would be less likely to cause stress and tension. You could just live slobbily-ever-after.

Instead, it’s likely that you perceive things differently from your spouse or partner when it comes to how you arrange your space and prioritize your stuff.

In the Time & Space Style Inventory (TSSI), there are six different organizational preferences around your space and the physical items in it.

If you see your spouse as a slob, you may find that your preference is to lean more toward nothing being left out. You may prefer to tuck things away and clear your surfaces to feel calm. In a way, your style preference helps you manage tension.

Do cluttered surfaces and messy spaces cause you stress? If so, endeavoring to clear your surfaces may lead to a much calmer environment and a clear mind.

Perhaps tension arises because your significant other has a preference for having everything out. Maybe you’re wondering how leaving everything out is actually a “style,” but people with this preference prefer to leave things out as visual cues.

This helps them see what they have. Leaving an item in your path also reminds you to do something you may otherwise have forgotten. Therefore, they often feel it’s a waste of time to put things away if something is just going to be used again anyway.

It's possible to reconcile organization style clashes.

There are four more organizing preferences that can cause conflict with others. And it’s possible that style clashes cause real conflict when you live with others.

For instance, do you get rid of things easily? If you collect items that have been sitting around for a while to donate, in the face of your spouse who likes to hold onto things just in case, you may have a style clash. 

Is your spouse sentimental about items? Do physical items have memories, emotions, and personalities? Or maybe it’s you?

Regardless, sometimes spousal conflict is due to a style preference difference. So, just like you may prefer one ice cream flavor and your spouse prefers another, so can you have different organizing preferences.

The first step in creating solutions that will work for both of you and save your sanity is understanding each of your perspectives and preferences, starting with your own.

It’s easy to assume that your way of seeing things is “normal” and that your partner is just “disorganized.” Consider that your preferences are just that… preferences.

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There isn’t a right or wrong way of arranging space or assigning value or even tolerating disorder.

Keep in mind that style preferences are often rooted in your experiences. Additional conditions include your life stage, transitions, stress, skills gaps, and your upbringing.

For instance, if you grew up in a cluttered or chronically disorganized household, you may never have learned essential organizing skills. And if you have those gaps, it’s essential to start with a clean slate.

Although it’s rarely helpful to bring either of your parents into the conversation, learning more about your differences will help point to what is missing. When you know what is missing, you can implement mini-solutions to overcome conflict and release built-up tensions.

Understanding your mate's preferences. 

Once you can see your own preferences for what they are, the next step is to understand your partner’s preferences better. This can be more challenging and is a higher level of awareness.

To reach a compromise with your spouse, it’s important to quell any judgment. Judgment makes one of you right, and the other wrong. Judgment will shut down any creative options and can undermine any attempts to find peace in your current situation.

Have you tried organizing solutions that just didn’t work over the long run? Stashing items out of sight, whether they are yours or not, isn’t the same as creating an organized system.

Some attempts may even undermine your efforts altogether. Especially if you’re blindly copying solutions from magazines, or following aesthetic-only recommendations, some systems just won’t stick.

It’s essential to consider your partner’s needs and organizing preferences, or you’re destined to fail.

Organizing solutions that stick come from creatively implementing those style recommendations rooted in your preferences, and compromising just enough when you encounter a style clash.

Growing up, my parents were a living example of this situation. My dad wanted nothing left out and needed clear surfaces and spaces. My mom, on the other hand, preferred everything being out. Her piles and countertops would drive my dad crazy!

One of my favorite solutions in our house was the phone stand. Remember when phones were connected to a wall jack? Well, our phone was tethered to a small wall between the kitchen and eating room. And of course, back in the day, mom needed a phone stand to hold the phone books, notepads, and pens.

Since dad was so handy, he went straight to work. However, knowing my mom so well, he cleverly built the phone stand with a slanted surface. It was his creative way to help manage my mom’s everything out style.

A slanted surface meant she couldn’t stack stuff on it. If she ever did, items slid off and fell to the floor.

Instead, he built a cubby underneath the phone stand to hold the phone book, address book, pens, and notepads. His unique, original, slanted surface design guaranteed the area would remain clutter-free.

And voila! The compromise helped both of them. Mom got a functional phone stand containing all her necessary tools, and dad didn’t have to "see" or navigate her piles.

You can compromise and overcome disorganization.

Of course, disorganization is a huge problem for many couples. And compromise, while always an option, isn’t always practical for every area.

But there untold and creative ways to work with your personal approach to getting and staying organized. The goal is to create better flow in your space, and in your life.

My parents compromised and learned to live with each other’s style preferences. And perhaps as a result, I learned that living disorganized wasn’t ideal, and it could be fixed.

Disorganization causes stuck energy. It also tends to increase the tension in your space, and therefore, within relationships.

Instead, compromise is essential to living well together with different style preferences. Living with disorganization isn’t necessary.

Don’t let disorganization ruin your relationship! Help your slobby spouse by learning more about both of your style preferences.

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Cena Block works with ADHD entrepreneurs to turn ADHD blind spots into superpowers through coaching. To learn more about how she can help you, visit her website for a complimentary discovery call.

This article was originally published at Sane Spaces. Reprinted with permission from the author.