As you might imagine the work I do is very intimate. I’m in your underwear drawer and filing your tax return. People tell me their innermost secrets. Frequently what I sense is a level of tension in the relationship that comes from the fact that one member of the team is organized while the other has no clue. I set up systems that will be easy for the unorganized one to follow and I assure them this new way of being will reap benefits. They will save time and energy not having to hunt for items. They will save money by not buying items they already have. They will be expressing love and respect for the environment and that will be a ‘turn on’ for the organized half of the partnership. Being turned on by acts of love always reaps positive benefits, doesn’t it? Gifts you purchase are wonderful but gifts that require time, attention and personal sacrifice are often more valuable to your partner. Give it a shot. You don’t have anything to lose except chaos and upset.
The clients with the most difficulty are frequently the left brained among us. It’s the doctors, lawyers, scientists and engineers who have more difficulty getting organized than the groups you might expect like actors, painters and writers. The doctor may be having breakfast with you but a part of him is thinking about his patients. The attorney may be writing a brief in his head and the scientists is likely mulling over her latest experiment. They literally don’t notice the physical world around them because the problem solving that’s going on in their head is far more engaging.
You can imagine the problems that arise when someone like that marries a person who is more balanced in terms of how invested they are in left and right brain activities. The rubber can really hit the road the first time you hear: “If you really loved me you would unpack those boxes!” “Why do I have to ask you to put down the toilet seat?” Or “I can’t live like this! You’ve got piles everywhere!” The person who isn’t interested in order may feel like he’s being controlled and I caution my organized brethren to be sure that that isn’t the goal. Getting and staying organized are meant to make you more productive and efficient. They give you a sense of being literally nurtured by your physical space. The minute getting organized is used as a weapon to control another person it is inappropriate. It certainly has nothing to do with the philosophy I describe as Zen Organizing.
If you are that left brained soul who doesn’t see the mess in the environment that’s making your partner insane, what can you do? First off realize that organizing is a skill just like those skills you have mastered and enjoy. Everyone can learn how to get organized. It isn’t a gene that some were born with and the rest of us can just go home empty handed. Practice and determination very often trump natural ability. If a surgeon went into the OR without checking the instruments it would be irresponsible and dangerous. If an attorney couldn’t find key documents to present to the court she’d be putting her client’s welfare in jeopardy. Just so you and your partner need to establish designated places for every item in the home and return them to that spot after each use. It’s like my mom said to me 1000 times a day when I was a kid: “Regina, there’s a place for everything and everything belongs in its place so that the next time you need it or want it you will know where to find it.”
So there you are running around your home establishing order and you wonder if there are tools that can help you. Yes, I guarantee there are tools in the marketplace to help you. In One Year to an Organized Life and again in The 8 Minute Organizer I detail products that I habitually use to give you some guidance. Surf on over to a site like TheContainerStore.com and see what they offer that might assist you. You want the material to be durable so that over time the tool can be used in new ways in different areas of the home. Take a peek at Closet Factory’s website and learn how their custom closet systems can help organize and improve your life. It’s best to make your purchase in a store that consistently carries the item that way if you need more over time you won’t be disappointed to learn that the organizing tool you now love was part of a one time shipment. Here’s the story of a simple product and how it removed a source of friction in a relationship.
John was very neat and tidy by nature. He loved the idea of putting his everyday bathroom items into a small container that he can store under the sink. He places it on the counter when he needs to prepare for the day. Before he leaves for work, he returns the container to its position under the sink. On the counter he has a display of beautiful bottles. This area is now very inviting, clutter free and easy to maintain. When we first met, it looked like a small cyclone had passed through. John had no idea there was a way to avoid clutter and still find what you needed when you wanted it. And there was one additional complication.
His sweetheart lived part of the year in another city. Unlike John, she did not mind being surrounded by a sea of bottles, brushes and tubes. We introduced her to the container concept, and as a compromise, she has decided to use one as well. Now her things reside in a quiet corner of the cabinet under the sink rather than spreading across the counter like a fungus. She can retrieve them easily whenever she is in residence. When she is away, they live quietly under the sink in one controlled area, waiting for her return. John, meanwhile, is soothed by the absence of clutter. I used the ‘Grid Tote’ from The Container Store but you can use whatever size, color and shape item that will contain the items you have to store.
The very first time you pick up an item, shrug your shoulders, say to yourself “I don’t know where this goes” and toss it on the counter or in a drawer, you have jeopardized all your efforts at organizing that room. One casually tossed item will call to its brethren, and before you can invoke the name “Zen Organizing,” bottles, jars and brushes will have bled across the nicely organized space like ooze in a horror movie. You are creating the system. You determine the placement of everything you own. And you can work the system to support your experience in the home but also to show your love and respect for your partner. How’s that for win/win?
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‘The Zen Organizer’
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