Can Organizing Save Your Relationship?

In many couples, one person is markedly more organized than the other.  I’ll give you about half a second to figure out which side I live on.  So, I know from personal experience that organizational disparities can cause a certain amount of, ahem, friction in even the most loving and communicative relationship.

That’s why I loved Sarah Burton’s tongue-in-cheek take on getting organized in a messy/neat dichotomy: I Hired A Professional Organizer To Save My Relationship.  I so feel for her boyfriend – I have been there! – and I feel for her, too, because many of my clients have experienced similar judgment and frustration from their partners.

The house divided: literally!  Photo courtesy of (Sarah Burton)

Sarah did the right thing by hiring a pro.  I’m not a therapist, nor do I play one on organizing projects, but a large part of the value I provide is in serving as an unbiased third party.  How do I do it?

First of all, I don’t judge the relative organizing skill sets of the people I work for.  Just because one person is more organized than their partner doesn’t make them a better person, or always right.  You can see this value judgment plainly in Sarah’s account: she refers to herself as “a mess” and “a typical fifth grader” while she calls her boyfriend “an adult.”  That kind of language makes both people feel like the less organized person is hopeless and can never change – which isn’t true, but becomes a self fulfilling prophecy!

Second, I never allow one person to make unilateral decisions about another person’s belongings or the stuff they share.  Doing so would only destroy trust: both the trust my clients have in me, and the trust they have in each other.

Finally, I organize spaces so they work for both people.  It may not be the more organized person’s ideal, but it will be sustainable for both of them, which is really the ultimate goal.

The best part of working with a couple is when they start to see each other as members of the same team instead of as adversaries.  They see the effort they’re each putting in towards the mutual goal of an organized home, and they start sparking ideas off each other about where and how to store things.  It’s pretty cute, honestly!

Could hiring a professional organizer help your relationship?