There are many wonderful things about living with others, but dealing with their clutter is most certainly not one of them. Living with my husband (and before that roommates) has always been a special challenge during times of emotional stress.
You see, when I’m sailing through life, everything finds its way back to its place quickly because I put everything away as soon as I use it. However, when I’m feeling chaotic, you can’t see the bedroom floor and nothing goes back where it belongs. I nest using clothes and papers.
When I lived alone, it did not bother me. When I was feeling this way, I would just wade through the clothes to find the bed, knowing that I would get out of the funk and get things cleaned up sooner or later.
Now that I live with my husband in a tiny apartment, I can’t let the chaos take over too much.
We’re both human, though, and the chaos does hit, sometimes at the same time but usually at different moments (meaning one wants to clean while the other is in a nesting mode).
Living with others offers a challenge to staying organized because if one person is feeling chaotic, their clutter encourages others to let their own organizing slack off: “If his stuff is all over the place, why should I clean up mine?”
Say you are in a chaotic moment and your spouse/partner starts ranting at you about the mess you are leaving around. What would you do? In my case, my inner teenager comes out and I want to make the mess even worse just to get back at the unfair authority-figure ranting.
Let’s say however, that you are more mature than I am, and recognize the ranting is not an attack on your intrinsic goodness. Instead, you use it to move yourself out of the chaos, dealing with the physical side first and letting the emotional clutter clear itself out. How wonderful, no?
But what happens if it’s your companion(s) that let the clutter take over? How do you deal with it?
Here are three Definitely Don’t and three Possibly Do actions.
- Don’t nag. It will just bring out the inner teenager and they might rebel and do things on purpose just to annoy you.
- Don’t get judgmental. People in a negative state don’t need negative reinforcement. Besides, it’s not like you have never had moments of clutter, hmmm???
- You can re-order the place yourself, but don’t do it with a “how great am I?” nor with a martyr attitude. Do it because you want to or not at all. A superiority complex will only cause more problems in the end.
- Live with the chaos and hope that the person will snap out of it soon. After all, you go through chaotic periods too, I’m sure.
- Suggest an order the house day and make it a big fun event. Put on music, dress up in housekeeper outfits (or at least tie funny colored scarves on your head) and do a re-ordering.
- Re-order the place on your own and hope that the calm space will bring calm to the other person/people.
Now it’s your turn. How do you deal with the clutter in the home caused by multiple people experiencing the ups and downs of life at different rates.
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.