How to Clear Couple Clutter and Conflict

If you are part of a couple, you may have found that you and your beloved have very different needs for order and divergent organizing styles. Those differences can stress a relationship. I recommend that you first accept the differences rather than judge them. A person’s wiring determines need for order and organizing style, and is not easily changed.

Second, I recommend that you and your significant other decide which rooms are public areas and commit to working together to keep those areas neat and orderly. I consider the entrance area, kitchen, bath rooms, dining room, family room and living room public areas. I also recommend treating the bedroom as a public area since its condition affects both of you and the level of intimacy in your relationship. All other areas are private areas.

A public area is a space where it’s not OK to create clutter by dropping your things instead of putting them away. Come to an agreement about what will happen when public areas do get messy. I recommend that you first remind each other of your commitment to maintain public areas that are clutter free and ask that the items be moved. If that doesn’t work, give each other permission to move your things to a private area designated as yours to re-establish order in the public area.

Private areas are places where one individual can keep their belongings in any way they wish without comment or judgement from the other partner. It is ideal if you have whole rooms available as private spaces. But, if you don’t have that luxury, you can identify a closet, a corner of a room, even a section of a pantry as a private space. I once helped a client claim a desk and filing cabinet in a family room as her private space. Another woman claimed half a credenza. Having space that is yours that can be as neat or messy as you want helps you be more patient with your partner whose behavior is different than yours.

Organizing differences can be a source of conflict or not. If you work together to accept and honor your differences, rather than judge, criticize and react to the differences, you can have a peaceful, clutter-free home despite the differences.

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