Have you ever tried getting organized, filling up multiple bags of clutter, walking them to the garbage dump and just as you are about to purge, your spouse says, “What’s in those bags? I hope you’re not getting rid of anything important!”
To some, the mere thought of purging and throwing things out is very stressful. Others love to be organized.
What if you love to get organized and your spouse hates it, resisting every effort that you make to get the house in order?
Organizing and decluttering can often create conflict in your marriage.
That’s likely due to the fact that you uniquely fall into one of the 4 clutter personality types. Like many other qualities in marriages, your spouse likely falls into a very different clutter personality type- very possibly a clutter personality type that is diametrically opposed to yours!
The 4 Clutter Personality Types can Save your Marriage
If you’ve tried getting your spouse on board to get organized in the past and it ended up in acrimony, then this information makes a lot of sense to you.
Let’s take a look at 4 clutter personality types and see where you may recognize yourself.
Sentimentalist- “Oh, the little darling. Isn’t that cute? I saved every single drawing each of my 16 children made from preschool up through college.”
Hoarder-“I might need this someday”. If your cabinets are stuffed with egg cartons, margarine tubs, and many duplicate items, you may have Hoarding tendencies. Hoarding comes from feeling like you may not have the resources to buy what you need when you’ll need it-even for the littlest item. These feelings may show up in a household that grew up poor or during a financial depression.
Procrastinator-“I’ll do it tomorrow.” Procrastinators and perfectionists often go together. A Perfectionist wants to do everything perfectly. So if you haven’t thought of the perfect organizing system yet, then you don’t organize at all.
Rebel– “I don’t want to and you can’t make me!” It’s our parent’s fault right? We had to tidy up all of our lives so now we don’t want to do it anymore.
Do any of these clutter personality types feel familiar?
If you’ve struggled with getting organized in the past, chances are that you do see yourself in one or two of these types.
And if organizing has brought you into conflict with your spouse, it is likely that your spouse is a very different clutter personality type than you.
I’ll never forget early in our marriage, I was emptying our home of boxes and purging extraneous magazines. I threw out a whole bunch of magazines that I thought were unimportant.
My husband came home and was very hurt and upset that I had thrown out his magazines.
Growing up in a divorced home, where I shuttled back and forth between houses, sometimes on a daily basis, I couldn’t afford to grow too attached to any physical object.
My husband on the other hand, was a deep sentimentalist. When we first moved into our home, his parents gladly gave us many boxes filled with his possessions that had been taking up space in their storage closet. We spent many hours going through those boxes together!
But what we learned from our first conflict that revolved around our different organizing styles, was that in a marriage, we may often feel like we are “one” with our spouse and we forget that we really are 2 unique individuals with 2 unique stories and preferences. This phenomenon is called symbiosis. “Why don’t you love ice cream it’s so delicious!” “I cannot believe that you don’t like pizza. Who doesn’t like pizza?” We get so close to someone that we just cannot believe they don’t like the same things that we like.
In our case, when we got curious about each other’s stories, my husband developing compassion for the adult child of divorce that I was, and me developing curiosity about what it was like to be a sentimentalist, we were able to cross the bridge into each other’s worlds, learning to speak each other’s “language”.
Here’s how you can prevent organizing from turning you against each other.
Appreciate your spouse’s different style and don’t take their resistance to getting organized as a personal affront. Validate their experience and that it makes sense why it may be hard for him/her, without playing psychologist. If they are willing to stretch out of their comfort zone and get more organized, here are some ways you can help them overcome their blocks to getting organized:
If your spouse is a sentimentalist: Help them to become more selective with the mementos they choose to save. Select the very best photos or trip souvenirs. Take a picture of the rest. Remember, memories are intangible. You will remember that trip to Hawaii, you don’t need to save the napkin, key chain, etc.
If your spouse is a Hoarder: Remind them that they can always get what they need if and when they need it. There is so much stuff everywhere-yard sales, antique shops, the library. You will be able to replace the item, so take the plunge and dump it.
For a Perfectionist spouse: A Perfectionist wants to do everything perfectly. So if you haven’t thought of the perfect organizing system yet, then you don’t organize at all. Perfectionists and Procrastinators need to think about just doing 20% to start with. Tomorrow is not going to bring any more energy or perfection. Start today.
And for the Rebel spouse: Not only that, it’s an internal war! Rebels have to tell themselves, “Your parents don’t live here anymore. This is your house and you deserve to live in a nice house. The war is over, no one is MAKING you do anything you do not want to do.”
Like any issue in a marriage, organizing can be a source of conflict if you can’t appreciate the otherness of your spouse and their unique perspective. By understanding your spouse’s clutter personality type, you’ll be better equipped to working together in harmony and creating a productive home life.