Before you keep reading, I have a disclaimer:
I love my husband. My husband gave me full permission to share this with all of you. Now, enjoy the article and hope it brings smile to your face.
If you’re falling in love with a disorganized guy, don’t be worried. Four years ago, that was me. Yes, a Certified Professional Organizer falls in love with a messy bachelor. Opposites do attract and make for sometimes, one tough marriage… but with respect, flexibility, and true appreciation for your partner, you can achieve organizational success in your relationship.
I know this from firsthand experience. On our first date in Madison, WI I saw the tell-tale signs of a Type B, free spirited disorganized handsome guy. Showing up thirty minutes late set his first impression. He made me smile and sigh (I was thirty minutes early). I also noticed he was a little scattered, misplacing things and forgetting to lock his messy Landcruiser, but I chalked it up to nerves. I could tell he liked me and that he was really trying.
When we got lost walking to the restaurant he had chosen, I knew we were complete opposites, but I was intrigued. He rolled with the punches. He was quick to modify and adapt to things, all along not losing his confidence. I could see that he cared, and it was endearing. So I said to myself, “Let it go, Amber.” And I bit my tongue.
After our first date, we continued talking on the phone long distance, and a couple weeks later, he invited me to his house for the first time. When I arrived, he blocked the doorway with his body, making me stand outside on his stoop, and said “Please don’t break up with me.” I was thinking, “Oh no, what is this guy hiding?” I laughed and reassured him as he swung open the door.
It was a mess. Clothes, books, tools, sports equipment and other items were scattered everywhere around the house. The placement of the furniture wasn’t “Feng Shui” (the back of the couch was facing the fireplace) and basically it was a bachelor pad- no lamps, curtains, pillows, etc. It was a house that was uncomfortable, not relaxing, and not a home.
But I put my professional face on. I didn’t say a word and treated him with respect, just like I would treat a customer. I took note of his complaints, struggles of his home and habits, desperately wanting to help him. My fix it/problem solving hat wanted to kick in, but I waited and decided to pitch him my organizing proposal at dinner that night.
“Tomorrow let me show you what I’m good at. Do you want to experience what my customers experience? Let me help you get organized,” I said. “I’m not going to throw out anything without your permission and you will be by my side the entire time. I just want to give you a taste of what I do every day.” I reassured him that it would only be us, and we’d only work for four hours in the morning. After much discussion, he said, “Okay, I trust you. This is really hard for me, but I’m going to let you work your magic. And only for four hours. ”
The next morning, we decided to just focus just on the first floor where he spent most of his time. He stayed by my side, followed my directions, sorted really well, and made great decisions. I was super impressed. He was so focused and respected my organizing process. And after four hours, we had met out goal. We had trash. We had donations. We had triaged things that didn’t belong to other parts of the house and I had rearranged all his furniture.
He stood back, looked around and gave me a big smile and then the biggest hug. It was a success! The final touch would be running to Target for some touches to make his house a home. To this day, he teases me of our six-hundred-dollar trip to Target.
By that night, we had candles lit, placemats on the dining room table, a throw on the couch, and the couch was facing the right direction toward the fireplace. We enjoyed every bit of it, and spent a relaxing evening in his home. Daniel was thrilled, and he couldn’t stop smiling. He said, “I could have never done this without you. I get what you do now. You respected my stuff and you worked with my personality and habits.”
Today, 4 years later, here’s how we make our differences work. It’s not easy but we are growing and learning and have grown in much respect for one another.
4 Tips for Living with a Messy Spouse
Treat Your Partner with Respect
Daniel hit the nail on the head. The reason we were able to make his house into a home is because I treated him with respect, and we listened to each other. Of the many couples I work with, those that achieve the most organized homes are the ones who listen to one another, respect one another and are willing to change. If you’re in love with a disorganized person and you want to make real progress, start by treating your spouse (and their stuff) with respect. Listen to what he or she has to say and be willing to give a little. As I’ve grown in this area, we find ourselves digging through the garbage can less and less looking for his stuff. I ask him first now before donating or tossing anything.
Model Strengths for Each Other
God gave all of us different gifts and skills. That’s as true for being a strong organizer as it is for any other quality or talent. Daniel has gifts of adaptability and spontaneity I wish I had. And he’s jealous of my consistency, discipline and organization. When we admire each other’s strength, we laugh at the weaknesses and know where to help one another.
Someone who performs at a high level naturally inspires and motivates others to follow suit. So, if you are the Type A organizer in your relationship, you will, over time, influence your partner by simply modeling your solid organizational skills. Likewise, your partner’s more relaxed behavior may help soften the hard edges of your drive. We can attest to this in our marriage. I was a bit worried that Daniel would be a slob after we bridged the long-distance dating, got married and moved in together. But actually, the opposite happened! He is more organized living with me and more apt to follow the systems I put in place for both of us. He thrives! And guess what? I have more fun, more flexibility and spontaneity thanks to Daniel! So don’t be discouraged. Keep up doing what you’re good at with passion and a good attitude, and you will give your partner an inspiring example to follow.
Divide and Conquer
Focusing on your strengths enables you and your spouse to divide and conquer. If you both focus on and do what you’re good at, then you will get into a great routine where you can rely on one another and not argue about the small stuff. So let’s start with Daniel. He does all the yard work, rolls out the garbage and recycling every Friday morning, carries down the heavy laundry for me, loves to grocery shop for me and does his fair share of dishes. Why these things? Because I procrastinate on dishes. Yes I do! I hate doing dishes. I also can’t stand grocery shopping. He loves to grocery shop so why not swap? And for Daniel, he doesn’t want to track our finances or pay our bills and he hates doing laundry. So, he forwards bills to me, receipts to me and is super good at giving me passwords and usernames he sets up to add to our master family list! Then I do his laundry and put it away, so it doesn’t become a mound of chaos. We might be oil and water personality wise, but we decided early on to let each other shine at doing what we’re good at!
So, if you’re in love with someone whose skills are different from yours, recognize and be happy when they are put to good use. Appreciating the combination of your differing talents will achieve more than nagging each other about shortcomings.
Don’t Give Up/ Be Patient
As you know, any new habit takes time to change. No one is perfect and no one changes overnight. Instead of nitpicking on things that still need changing, celebrate the wins while being patient. Daniel used to drop his socks all over the house. It was a weird habit he had that he worked to change because he knew it drove me nuts. It became a game and joke between us in our first months of marriage. I would say something like “Hey, did you see the socks in the foyer? They gave birth and multiplied!” or I would say, “ I have to show you something! Look!” and I would take his hand and lead him to his “sock pile” and say, “the socks had sex! We caught them!” Yes, silly but funny and it made him smile… and he quickly caught on! He’s proud to tell you he rarely drops his socks now and if he does, its on our bedroom floor. I’m totally fine with that.