The Odd Couple Syndrome

I’m not a marriage counselor, but sometimes I play one at work.  Very often, during the course of an organizing project my client will tell me about the organizing habits of their spouse. Sometimes it is the absent spouse that is urging the other to “get organized.” Other times the one who has called me in is trying to organize around their spouse.  In any case, it’s common and I get the question all the time, “What should I do about my husband’s/wife’s stuff?” I call this the Odd Couple Syndrome.

We all know that you are never going to completely change your spouse, but there are ways to work around them and curtail their clutter.  In my own marriage we are not too far apart on the neatness scale, but there are a few house rules I had to lay down early on in our relationship and I’m happy to say, my hubby has adapted.  He likes everything out, I like to tuck it away. So we compromised with where we could keep things out. Here are a few pointers when it comes to organizing with or around your messy spouse:

  1. Take a walk through your house with your spouse and write down the organizing/home improvement projects you’d like to tackle this year. Write them down according to room and then determine where you should start. I suggest starting with the worst room first.
  2. If you disagree on what needs to be done, compromise. Decide on your budget and discuss who will do what task.  Whenever possible work together.
  3. If your spouse has an exorbitant amount of stuff that he/she won’t part with, categorize it, box it up and then decide where this stuff will be kept. Basements, attics & garages are typical storage areas. Perhaps set a deadline like, “if you don’t use this in one year, it goes.”
  4. If your spouse is messy with one type of thing like magazines, newspapers or books, purchase a big basket, a magazine rack or a new bookshelf to house these items.  Literally contain them!
  5. If you are organizing a room or area and your spouse is not present, don’t toss his/her stuff. Simply put it in a box marked with his/her name and asked them to go through it and decide. Give them a deadline.  This works well for kids stuff too. Children who move back home after college, often have boxes of items they conveniently forget to go through. That’s fine, but let them know on a certain date, it all gets tossed. Not many people have room to store “Postponed Decisions.”
  6. If containing your spouse little by little does not work, give them a room or a closet for all their stuff that you don’t want in your living space. Then let it go. It’s their space so you don’t have to worry about, it as long as your shared living space is agreeable to both of you.

Like all things in marriage it’s about compromise. Think about what you can live with in terms of messiness and clutter. It’s better to discuss these things in terms of project planning and not pointing fingers about who is worse or whose fault it is that your home is not perfect.  Take a logical, proactive approach and remember to be kind to each other. You’re not right or wrong, you are just different.

When to Use a Storage Facility

People spend a lot of time in their kitchen. It’s one of the most lived-in rooms in any household, and as a result it can sometimes turn into a repository for culinary knick-knacks and other useless gifts collected over the years. When you discover that you’ve got three too many frying pans and more decorative napkin holders than you could ever use, it might be time to look at renovating this social gathering spot.
Everyone has dreams of home organization, but few are capable of accomplishing it. Some are just naturally good at keeping things in order, but most reach the point where things have gotten so out of control that they just have to start all over. Renovating any room in your home can be quite the project, but you can make things much easier on yourself by renting a self-storage unit.  

So when it finally comes time to do something about that clutter-filled kitchen, instead of spreading that mess to other areas of the house or garage, rent a small unit from one of your self-storage companies. Easily keep all of the things you can’t and don’t use out of the way until it comes time to use them.

Putting these unused items in storage can help cut down the visual chaos of messy home, while it also gives you an opportunity to take a mental break from the stress. Using them to keep the majority of the mess confined in one safe area gives you the option to free up space in others rooms of your house as well.
Once you have decided to de-clutter the kitchen, you must draw the line between essential and nonessential. Here are a few tips that will help you make those difficult choices.
• Start with duplicates. If you have two of something, first think about donating one. If, for whatever reason, you think you will need two, put one into your storage unit. And if only one works, throw the broken one away before someone calls you a hoarder.
• Move on to those accumulated appliances. Because no kitchen would be complete without the essentials (microwave, coffee pot, etc.), you can keep what you use every day, but put the rest into your unit.
• Perform the kitchen storage dust test; anything that’s got a thick layer of dust on it is something that can go into storage without the risk of being missed.
• Install a hanging rack for pots and pans. This will allow you to maximize cupboard space without having to send everything to the self-storage unit.
• Pack things logically. Don’t just throw everything into a box. By packing things in an organized manner and labeling boxes, you’ll make it much easier to find something.

Giving your kitchen a “facelift” can be one of the most stressful things you do as an adult. You must deal with living in a mess, and there are almost always unexpected expenses and unforeseen circumstances. However, you can minimize the disorder and relieve some of the tension in your home by taking advantage of cheap storage units.
This article was written by Matt Schexnayder. Matt is on the SpareFoot marketing team and writes for the SpareFoot blog. SpareFoot is the largest online marketplace for self-storage with more than 5,000 self-storage facilities listed nationwide. For more info visit:

Don’t Blame the Baskets!

Coming from a family of six children in a three bedroom house, clutter and limited space were inevitable. So when we all grew up and most of us were out of the house, what did my parents do? Put on an addition of course! They built a nice 20×20 family room with a closet. The problem which I’m sure you can identify with is that this extra closet became a catch-all for anything that didn’t have a home:  blankets, games, plastic chairs, shopping bags, etc. So my sister bought them a closet organizer to help solve the problem. When she came back 3 months later to see how it was working, my younger brother said, “I don’t think it works.” And he proceeded to show her the organizing rack, still in the box at the bottom of the heap!

This made me think how many times I hear people say, “This doesn’t work for me.” When in actuality it’s that they are not working with a system. Yes, there are some organizing gadgets, bins & boxes that work better than others for different people. But before you blame the basket, think about have you tried it? Have you developed a system, and then bought the container to work with your system? Most often people get the container first and that just goes against my whole organizing system! So here it is again:

C.P. R. – Categorize, purge, then re-arrange. During the re-arranging step you can contain your stuff. When it comes to paperwork you can use a wall mounted organizer with 3-4 pockets, a multi level “in-bin” that sits on your desk or colorful folders to separate each of your projects, just to name a few options. But pick the one that is most visually appealing to you, and put it in the right location. The trick is, when you have an In Bin – what I call the TO DO bin, you’ve got to take the time to sit down and DO! So many people let it pile up. It’s not going to get done by magic!

Just like if you use a step basket to store items that need to go up or down a level in your home. You have to make a routine of emptying the basket and getting all items back to their home space. Again, I’ve seen clients get the basket, fill it and then stop and say “It doesn’t work.” Imagine if you’re children told you their clothes hamper didn’t work – doesn’t that really just mean they are not taking the time to put dirty clothes in it? Seems silly but you’d be surprised how many adults give me this excuse.

Next time you hear yourself saying something doesn’t work – don’t blame the basket!

Organize For a Cause

I write a lot about organizing your home, your time and doing so to reduce your stress, and have your life run more smoothly. But lately I have been struck by another type of organizing: Organizing for a Cause.

Talk about motivation. When a group of people get together for a common cause, magical things happen.  Events run smoothly and everyone leaves happy. I have seen it happen many times over the last year. Let me give you some examples of organizations who have organized for a cause and why I believe they were able to reach their goals.

 JDRF – Every year since 1996, my family has participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundations’ Walk for the Cure. It is held across the country in October. The amazing thing about this organization is that 93 cents on every dollar donated actually goes toward research for finding a cure for Diabetes. The next time you get a phone call from a charity, ask them what percentage goes towards the goal. They usually tell you “No less than 15%” At that point I say “no” and hang up. That means if I give them $100, the charity really gets $15. With JDRF it would be $93. And their goal is clear. They run efficiently because they depend on volunteers heavily. They also do the same type of fundraising each year which makes it easy to have the same volunteers and improve efficiency each time. Local news personal and celebrities also get involved to help publicize their events. This charity gets an A for efficiency in my book.

Relay for Life – I just participated in this fun event last Saturday. It was a 24 hour relay walk for the American Cancer Society. These walks also take place in several local communities across the country. Although I wish the turnout was higher, what makes this event successful is the fun and emotional aspect of honoring not only those living with cancer, but recognizing “in memoriam” those who have not beaten this awful disease, and those who are often forgotten, the caretakers. I was walking with people who represented all three groups. My daughter and her friends camped out all night in memoriam for a friend who recently died. They lit luminaries, sang songs and reminisced about the good times they all shared. What a wonderful tribute and not to mention a fun camp out! Each hour there is a theme and the hosts of the walk play trivia games with the walkers just to keep things lively. I have no doubt my daughter’s group will be back next year. This charity gets an A for appealing to the emotional side of a cause.

City Team Ministries – This is another efficiently run shelter and outreach program in the Philadelphia area. Their goal is to provide basic needs for people who are living on the streets. Homeless men are giving a place to stay, food to eat and spiritual counseling if they would like it. The center also has an outreach to local mothers and babies who are in desperate need of supplies. In one 2 hour luncheon this amazing team raised over $100,000. That is because they target an audience who is willing and able to give generously, they supply them with a nice event – usually golf, silent auction, or a luncheon. And then they appeal to their sense of community by having the benefactors themselves speak to what City Team has given them.  I give City Team an A for targeting the right audience.

Soles4Souls – Last year the National Association of Professional Organizers was involved with a charity challenge to collect the most shoes for the needy. We are a competitive bunch so needless to say many chapters across the country got busy and collected over 168,000 pairs of shoes for the needy. What I love about this charity is its simplicity. They collect one type of item and deliver them directly to the people in need. They were smart to challenge an aggressive bunch of organizers to do their collecting for them. As a prize the members of NAPO who collected the most get to take a trip to Haiti to see the fruits of their labor first hand. I give this charity an A for simplicity and focus.

So you can see that when a cause is emotional, when the right people are approached and asked to help and the situation for the fund-raising is appropriate & fun, the group will succeed in their cause. I find that my clients are more willing to give up their abundance when it is going to a worthy cause.  I’d love to hear about what other charities are organized and efficient, so leave a comment!