Home Organization

Is Your Spouse Sabotaging Your Organization Efforts?

It’s exciting whenever the organization bug suddenly bites, because you finally want to get your space in order, no matter what anyone else says. Until, of course, your spouse, who is not having this organizational epiphany, changes everything. Cue the Real Housewives meltdown. The problem isn’t your spouse, though.

Just because you watched every episode of Marie Kondo’s Netflix show doesn’t mean that he shares the same drive to tidy up as you do. And while you may have turned the junk drawer into a perfectly curated necessity drawer, he may not be as inclined to keep it that way. The minute you see him put the cereal box where the crackers go in your perfectly organized pantry, you feel the wires starting to fray in your head and your blood starts boiling. 

“Why does he keep messing up all the hard work I did???” runs through your mind as the frustration starts to build. Then you find clothes in the floor instead of the new hamper you bought. And the toothpaste in the wrong section of the bathroom drawer organizer. Then the ketchup is on the shelf in the refrigerator instead of the condiment tray you just added. At that point, you’re taking it personally. “He doesn’t respect me or the time I took to make this home neat for our family!”

Before you go feeling resentful and starting the “you’re a big fat slob” fight, here’s 5 tips to help get (and keep) your spouse on board the Tidy Train.

5 Tips To Get Your Spouse Involved With Home Organization

1. Start Small And Ease Into It

Unless he’s been begging you to turn off the basketball game and go clean out the kitchen drawers, I’m going to guess that he may not be as excited about decluttering as you are. And that’s totally ok. You probably weren’t as excited about buying that new jigsaw as he was last week.

Here’s the deal Girlfriend…if you go telling your man that you’re about to rearrange the entire house in seven days, I guarantee he’s going to shut down right then and there. And he’s sure as hell not going to volunteer to be a part of this mass-confusion. Instead of turning his world upside down by moving around *everything* in the kitchen all at once, start with just a couple of drawers. Nothing is going to make him more irritated than spending 5 minutes looking for the coffee mugs in the morning.

2. Be Respectful Of His Belongings

If you’re sitting at the table on a Sunday morning with a coffee in one hand a newspaper in the other, and you peek up over the paper and say “I’m going to organize and clean out the whole house,” the first thing he’s going to think is “this chick’s about to throw out all my stuff!” And rightfully so. Because the last time you “cleaned out the closet” that’s exactly what you did.

You may not see any value at all in the old t-shirt he hasn’t worn in years or stack of books on the shelf that have never been read. But just like things are sentimental to you, men have those same feelings. They just don’t show it like we do. If he were to throw out a kid’s doodle on a napkin, you’d flip your ‘ish, right? He sees a napkin. You see a memory. But it works both ways. That old t-shirt from college reminds him of his glory days playing football. And those books are a collection from an author that inspired him.

Try to be mindful that his stuff isn’t just junk taking up space, and he owns it for a reason. Instead of going on a war-path with a trash bag, turn a decluttering session into a fun date at home. Spend time together reminiscing on what each item means to you. And the stories that go along with it.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Trying to get your husband on board with home organization? Turn decluttering into date night with your spouse by spending the evening with a bottle of wine reminiscing over the memories of your belongings as you sort through your stuff. via @lelaburrisinc” quote=”Trying to get your husband on board with home organization? Turn decluttering into date night with your spouse by spending the evening with a bottle of wine reminiscing over the memories of your belongings as you sort through your stuff.”]

3. State Your Case

Men are very logical. Us chicks are very emotional. That’s just how things are. So when you’re trying to explain to your husband that you need that hundred dollars worth of stuff in your cart at The Container Store because it’s going to make the closet pretty, he’s going to roll his eyes and say the closet’s fine.

But if you come at it from a logical standpoint, he’s so much more likely to see your point. When you explain that it stresses you out when you can’t find things in the closet, and it slows you down in the morning, and the new organization system you’ve planned will maximize the square footage of the closet as a whole, that makes a lot more sense, huh?

By stating your WHY, instead of just your WANT, you’re much more likely to get him on board. And when he understands why a space in your home has been cleaned up and organized, he’s  also so much more likely to help keep it that way.

Lela Burris shares tips on Organizing With Your Spouse

4. Stop Moving Stuff Around So Much!

You may not be able to convince him to work side-by-side with you on every organization project. And you know what, that’s ok. Remember that YOU are the one that felt driven to make this change, and YOU are the one that ultimately will be carrying this project out.

Since he’s not going to be around while you move the knives to the other end of the kitchen and he won’t know that you want to keep the laundry detergent on the third shelf instead of the second one, you’ve got to leave a little direction. Think of it as if your mother-in-law came to visit and while you were at work she rearranged your whole bathroom. (I don’t know if that happens in real life but it always seems to on TV) You come home and you can’t find anything! You’re so mad because it feels like an intrusion of privacy and your sense of space.

Guess what babe, that’s what hubby feels when he comes home from work to see the bathroom all moved around. Ouch.

So be sure to give him a heads up before doing something major, and try to label everything to help ease the change. Even if it’s just for a week, by popping post-it notes on the drawers and cabinets so he can easily find what he’s looking for, he’ll be super grateful that you considered his feelings. And I guarantee he’ll put things back much more often.

One thing I’ve noticed with my own husband is that if he knows where something goes, he’ll put it back. There’s been so many times he has left something sitting out, and when I finally asked why he didn’t put it away, he responded with “I didn’t know where you kept it now.” Talk about a kick in the face, right? Here I was, annoyed that he didn’t know where to put the extra toilet paper, even though I’ve changed it’s storage spot three times since we’ve lived in our new house. I’ve learned to quit moving things just to move things. I find the best possible home for our stuff, and I leave it there.

5. Lead By Example & Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Here’s the biggie. You can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. If you’re telling him you want the towels folded a certain way and stored on a certain shelf, you sure as hell better be doing that every single time. And if you want all the cleaners stored in a cleaning caddy instead of scattered under the sink, you better not dare to put a bottle under the sink in a rush. If you’re going to all the trouble of setting up these new systems and monitoring them like a guard dog, you better have all your ducks in a row all the time.

But I’m here to tell ya, treating your man like a child isn’t going to get him on board with anything. Marriage is a partnership and you’re equals. You’re going to screw things up sometimes, and so will he. You’re both going to get lazy sometimes. You’re both going to lose things. And you’re both going to put the keys in the wrong place, no matter how long the bowl has been by the door.

Give each other the grace of knowing that you’re humans with lives and obligations and feelings and you both have your own crap going on. There’s no point in hounding him over putting the silverware in the holder the wrong way. Come on girl, he emptied the dishwasher for you! Whether he did it your way or not, he did it. And he may not have file folded his shirts like you did the first time when you organized his drawers. But dangit lady, he put his clothes up.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Hey Ladies, stop hounding your hubby for not emptying the dishwasher the way you want it. He emptied the damn dishwasher! Be grateful! -via @lelaburrisinc” quote=”Hey Ladies, stop hounding your hubby for not emptying the dishwasher the way you want it. He emptied the damn dishwasher! Be grateful!”]

Start The Conversation

We all have different priorities, and we all have different ideas of what being Organized-ish is. Before you go tearing through your house with a trash bag, a donation box, and a drawing of a new closet layout, take some time and sit down with him with a slice of cake and a cup of tea. Have a real-life grown-up conversation about what is holding you both back from being organized, and what a tidier lifestyle would look like for you as a couple.

You may be surprised at what ideas he has, and what he values. I think the biggest difference maker is just taking the time to understand each other. And once you do, neither of you will be unknowingly sabotaging the other’s organization efforts ever again.

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  1. So glad you are sharing tips on this topic! But it’s totally focused on getting males organized, so most tips can’t help me. Could you please try to write this for husband’s who struggle with getting their spouse to stay organized? My wife won’t even put dishes together.. plates on top of bowls next to coffee mugs. Her only principle is to put things wherever it’s easiest at the time she puts it away. Naturally, this means we search for things much longer because they are never in the same place. I’ve tried labeling drawers, shelves, etc. but nothing works. SonsSscarves and hats mixed with daughters gloves and rain pants. My only satisfaction is throwing everything on the floor so I can find what I’m looking for more quickly, showing chaos breeds chaos.

    • Hi Tee, I totally get it. You can’t really “make” someone who is a grown adult clean up after themselves so you have to get creative with how you deal with it. You could talk with her about how frustrating it is that things aren’t put away, or you can walk her around and show her where things should go (though I assume she knows). It sounds like she may have too much on her plate and is just putting things wherever because she’s busy. Maybe consider hiring a housekeeper to come every other week or weekly to free up some time and stress. It may also be a good time to schedule a therapy appointment together to discuss your frustrations with a moderator, or at least set up a call with an organizer who works with couples. I offer a 45 minute couples call virtually to help couples get on the same page when it comes to organization. You can check that out in my services page.

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