Help, My Partner is a Slob

Does the title sound familiar? Nevertheless, finding the balance between different people’s various styles of organizing can be challenging, especially when you are living with them. Living with anyone can be difficult; we all have quirks and ways that we like things. If you’ve decided to share your life with someone it requires compromise and sometimes just plain tolerance. So then what do you do when your partner is not as particular about things as you are?

First, where are your intolerables – those things that have to be a certain way? Where can you shift enough to accept things? Then ask the same questions for your partner. A weird example for me: I feel strongly about the toilet paper being put on the roll in a certain direction. My husband could care less. No problem, I change the rolls so they go on the way I want.

At a presentation I was giving, a woman asked at the end how she could organize so that her husband would not interfere with her systems. She explained that she needs the visual reminders of things. I suggested that they make “safe” areas in their home, a couple of places that were hers alone. That way when she set out the stuff by the back door to remind herself of errands, her husband knew to leave it alone and then the same thing for her vertical filing rack. Making some safe zones means that things are always where you left them. It also might mean that you’ll need to retrieve something for the other person, but it can be maintained in a way that works for you.

There is nothing wrong with creating certain spaces that are off limits to the other person, not that there is anything sinister going on. We are so individual in the way we deal with things, embrace that, and find ways to make it work. Hopefully it is easy to ask for areas that are purely yours and have that respected. Additionally, you keep control of that area, and if it gets disorganized, you can figure out why and make modifications.

I heard from a woman who said she needed help and her partner was not willing, so she wanted to hire someone. There did not seem to be any animosity there, just limits. On the other hand, he did not mind her hiring someone to come in to help her.

Depending on the situation, we might want or need the other person’s involvement. This is where I return to the power of a timer. If you want someone’s help, find a time limit that is mutually acceptable, then set the timer. There is no way that you will lose track of time. You gain credibility too that you want exactly what you are asking for. The stereotype of the nagging wife can be eliminated and the husband can be helpful. I warn you though that it might feel a little silly setting the timer, but don’t let that stop you.

We cannot change anyone else. We can only change ourselves. Can you accept that the dirty laundry never makes it into the basket? Or that you find random glasses around the house and not in the kitchen sink? Are they willing to meet you part way? Sometimes it can be a simple matter of their systems are not working anymore, so they need to find other ways to approaching things. Systems break down, we outgrow them, it happens to all of us. Finding systems that compliment each other so that you can maximize your own productivity is what matters. Look for ways to balance your different approaches. If you cannot figure it out, there are always professional who can help.

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