By BIS Contributor Jenny Fowler


One issue that might not immediately come to mind when you decide to get organized is how it could affect your relationships.


Getting used to a new organizational system can be a bit uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re organizing a household for more than one person. The best way to succeed is to get everyone involved and try to get everyone on the same page. This can be tricky. The truth is we each have our own agenda and so do our loved ones. So how do we address this when it comes to the question of organizing? I frequently hear clients say, “If it were up to me, we’d just throw it all out.” Of course, they’re usually talking about someone else’s stuff they’d like to get rid of. For example, I’ve had clients whose spouses have packed their garages with boxes of inherited treasures, passed down from their parents. This usually includes something along the lines of a highly sentimental stack of old MCI bills or a collection of commemorative shot glasses. Or how about your 8-year-old’s wonderfully multi-colored, yet tiny, rainbow loom bands that seem to find their way into every nook and cranny of your house? And yet despite these irritations, I’m sure the people in your life might have a thing or two to say about your vast array of designer lipstick tubes. My point here is that as much as we might want to, we don’t get to decide what’s important to someone else.

So what do you do when your loved one’s possessions are driving you batty? Let’s talk a little bit about meeting in the middle. Chances are even if everyone in your home enthusiastically jumps onboard with the idea of getting organized, the end result is going to be different for everyone. Even if we’re talking about two naturally organized people living in the same home, it’s going to be different for each person.  So what do you do? You meet in the middle. You want your teenage daughter to keep her room clean; she wants to be able to see every article of clothing she has at the same time and apparently the only way to do that is to cover every surface of her room with them. So what does middle look like? Maybe it’s agreeing that once a week she will hang up or neatly fold all of her clothes, and in exchange, she just needs to keep her door closed the rest of the time so you’re not overwhelmed by the sight of it. Or how about if your kids leave a path of shoes, hair bows, action figures, and school supplies all through the downstairs instead of taking them up to their rooms? Maybe middle looks like having a bin on the stairs to gather up all the left behinds, and once it’s full, the kids carry it upstairs and put away anything that belongs to them rather than your having to make several trips throughout the day. Maybe middle is giving your spouse the freedom to go through only one box from the garage a week, so digging through his parents’ life isn’t so overwhelming. And maybe, just maybe, it’s letting the person you love keep that thing that you REALLY wish he’d get rid of.

This brings me to the story of The Wok. I have a couple of friends who have been together for years. As I’m sure many of you know, when you first move in with someone, there can be quite a bit of back and forth regarding who’s keeping what and where it’s going. My friends were successful, in their twenties, and merging two fully stocked apartments. As my friend was unpacking her things in the kitchen, she noticed a wok that she had never seen better half use. When she asked him to get rid of it, he said no because it was the first thing he bought when he moved into that apartment.  This was their very first argument in their very first home together. “Get rid of the wok, you never use it.” “I’m not getting rid of the wok!”  On and on this went until she finally got tired and went to bed. In the morning, she woke up, went into the kitchen, and he was making her scrambled eggs in the wok. I’m happy to report that they are now married, and yes, he still has the wok. So sometimes it’s worth letting our loved one keep something we wouldn’t just because it makes him or her happy.

Speaking of happy and exciting relationships, there’s nothing more romantic or spontaneous than Setting a Weekly Meeting with your partner. Just picture it: You get home from a long day of work, cruise up to your spouse, and whisper, “Hey baby, why don’t we whip out our calendars to see who’s taking the kids to soccer and dance this week.” I’m joking, of course, but I do believe that one of the most direct ways to communicate and one of the best ways to stay organized is to have a time set aside each week to talk about the maintenance of your home and lives. This is a great time to talk about things like who’s taking the kids to what; when is the AT&T guy finally coming to fix the Uverse, and who’s going to be home for that; or are you going to see your parents this summer and how does that match up with any upcoming projects at work? This might seem like overkill, but it really is a great way to keep the business of your home and relationship contained so you can focus on more important, interesting things, like each other, your kids, or your hobbies. It also helps you feel confident that you’re not missing something or that you haven’t forgotten to tell your partner something.

To help get you started, here are some components of a successful meeting:

  • Keep an ongoing list of things you want to talk about during the week.  Obviously, if something’s urgent, deal with that right way, or if you happen to forget something, chances are it will be okay until you get to it.
  • Bring your to-do lists and calendars.  Is there any overlap or conflict in your action or calendars?  Brainstorming will also help you catch anything you might have missed.
  • Division of labor: Who’s doing what and when?  Does one of you need to cover for the other in some situation?  What is it okay to miss if you run out of time?
  • Be consistent.  Although this idea may seem foreign or even sterile, the more you practice it, the more natural it will seem.  Chances are your meetings will get shorter over time.  As much as possible, try to pick the same time each week, and stick to it.  It doesn’t even have to be a long meeting: 15 minutes or so.
  • A note to single people: The same thing applies to you.  Set up a consistent, weekly meeting with yourself to touch base about your action items so you feel confident you’re not missing anything.  There really is a freedom in knowing what you have to do and by when you have to do it.

Implementing a new organizing system for yourself and your loved ones might take a bit of navigating, but with consistency, patience, and a sense of humor, you can make it work for everyone.