His and Hers: Organizing for the Sexes
By Debbie Williams of Organized Times
Why do I have to do all the work around here? He never hangs up his wet bath towel! The kids never help out around the house. Sound Familiar?
These are cries heard all too often in the battle of the sexes. But if we're all striving toward the same goal, getting and staying organized, then why are we nitpicking on how we get there?
There are differences in the way men and women see things, and the level of organization (or lack thereof) is no exception. Gone are the days of full time homemakers trying desperately to convert their sloppy husbands into neatniks. This symbol has instead been replaced by a working mother spending her entire weekend cleaning and decluttering her home. Feeling overworked and under appreciated, she blames her problems on her poor husband who is trying to figure out what on earth he's done wrong! After all, he drives the kids to school each morning after she gets them ready for school so she can have time to enjoy her morning coffee and clear the breakfast dishes. And he's great at picking up the kids from soccer practice on the weekends so she can go to the mall with her friends for an espresso. He feels he does his fair share of pitching in and resents the accusation of not being supportive or setting a good example for the kids.
I'm happy to say that both are correct in their assessment of the family organization. Dad does his part by taking responsibility with errands and chores, and scrubs a mean toilet when he has to. All Mom has to do is ASK and he will gladly help her. And Mom does indeed do most of the housework, but usually because she thinks it needs doing. So what's the solution to this clutter dilemma? Should Mom go on strike until Dad sees the error of his ways and does a load of laundry? Should Dad give up his day job to be Mr. Mom? The solution is much simpler and less drastic than either of these options! By lowering her expectations of herself and her family, Mom can live with a little dust and a lot more family time. And although Dad doesn't see a cluttered home when the bed is unmade or towels cover the bathroom floor, he can learn to change his own habits to accommodate the rest of the family's level of organization.
Talk to your family, all members, and find out what needs doing and when THEY think it should be done. You would be surprised at the responses you will receive. Who says the living room floor should be vacuumed every day? The mother on a television sitcom? Guess what: she's not real, and neither is that rule! I hereby give you permission to lighten up and lower your expectations of how your home should be managed. (Notice I didn't say how your FAMILY should be managed? They're entirely different things!)
Consider some alternate organizing solutions that everyone will be happy with, such as decorate boxes to hide the tv remote (wooden cigar boxes are inexpensive and fit right into your hubby's eclectic den décor). Or stash his Popular Mechanics magazines under the bathroom cabinet for library reading material so you don't have to dust them. Make a safety zone that is sacred to his organizational needs, a place he can let clutter pile a mile high without being nagged or pressured, such as a room, basement, or garage. Fellows, build her a nice shelf to house her doll collection and hang it in the guest room. You not only won't have to have it invade your den, but it'll keep those long-term houseguests from staying in the Doll Room for very long at a time!
These are just a few examples of ways you can compromise the clutter level in your home, whether you are living with a shot-glass-collecting husband or a woman who collects miniatures. Coming together for a compromised solution is much easier than trying to convert your significant other into giving up his life as a packrat for a life of Zen simplicity. Be respectful, be patient, and get creative.
Got a question about organization? Ask Debbie
Previous Columns by Debbie:
Home office management tips for parents
Organizing computer files
Organization On the Move
Automate your Life
Debbie Williams is an organizing strategist and founder of the online organizing forum, OrganizedU.com. She is the author of
Common Sense Organizing, from Champion Press.
Copyright 2001, Debbie Williams