Thought Provoking

4 Powerful Strategies for Getting Organized As A Couple: Couple Struggles Part 5

You may see yourself in one or more of my previous articles on struggles that couples face when trying to get organized:

  • Part 1: Every Couple Struggles

  • Part 2: Who’s Really “The Organized One”?

  • Part 3: Whose Responsibility Is It, Anyway?

  • Part 4: Just Get Rid of It!

If so, know that you are very much not alone! You’re also probably wondering how to tackle your organizing struggle with your loved one. Here are some strategies that I both use and recommend to keep the organizing process smooth and as low on conflict as possible.

Photo by  Kelly Vorves

Photo by Kelly Vorves

1) Acknowledge that it takes two to tango.

Both of you got your home the way it is today, and both of you are going to have to work together if you want it to change. This doesn’t necessarily mean that each of you contributed 50% of the mess or have to do exactly 50% of the work during the organizing project! It does mean that it isn’t productive to spend time and energy blaming one half the couple (whether it’s yourself or your partner!). Instead, team up as co-conspirators in the organizing process.

2) Avoid placing a value judgement on organizing skills.

Some people are good at organizing. And some people aren’t. That’s ok! Organizing is not an inherent trait, it's a skill that can be learned. So, if you’re already good at organizing, that doesn’t mean that you’re better or smarter than someone who isn’t - and the reverse is of course also true. If you can separate your feelings about your partner’s organizing skills from your feelings about them as your love and partner in life, it will be at lot easier to work together!

3) Give each person their own space.

I find that a lot of organizing struggles stem from objects being commingled at random. Of course, many items in a home are shared among everyone that lives there - kitchen tools being one of the most obvious examples! But by mixing up things that clearly belong to individual people, you muddy the waters about who is responsible for organizing those items and the spaces they live in. And in a vacuum of responsibility, nothing gets done. The more you can separate belongings and give them dedicated, designated locations, the easier it is to assign responsibility and the more control each person will feel over their own belongings.

Photo by  Kelly Vorves

Photo by Kelly Vorves

4) Think about how tradition has affected your approach.

In pretty much all the heterosexual couples I work with, the female partner is in charge of the home - whether or not she works and/or earns more than the male partner. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s of course up to each couple to divide responsibilities in the way that works for them. However, this traditional division of labor can become a problem when it happens by default and/or puts a greater total burden on the female partner.

(Note: this dynamic can also exist in homosexual couples where the partners have defined their identities based on traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity.)

So, I really encourage you to talk to your partner about the goals you share for keeping your home organized and how each person can contribute to reaching them. This keeps the focus off divvying up major, well known tasks like laundry and dishes, since this traditional approach can obscure the many smaller tasks that contribute to a home but are often automatically picked up by women and unnoticed by men.

In conclusion…

All of the above are strategies, but none of them can be implemented without a shared vision. So Step 1 should always be to get on the same page about what you want your home to look and feel like, and how you want to use your space. After all, it’s impossible to properly share the load when you haven’t defined it in the first place!

LMW

Don't Buy Random Crap for Your Loved Ones

You’ve heard of The Five Love Languages, right? If not, the basic premise is that people tend to prefer to give and receive love in one of five ways: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, gifts, and quality time. Once you and your loved ones figure out your individual love languages, it can help you show love to each other more effectively. In fact, if you’re not sure what you prefer, there’s an online quiz you can take to find out!

Recently, I’ve watched my clients struggle with the gift giving love language. Specifically, they have family that lives very far away and misses them very much, and shows their love by sending them inexpensive gifts regularly. While I haven’t met the gift givers in person, it’s clear to me that these gifts are sent out of an abundance of love, with absolutely no ill intent.

However, there are serious side effects to a regular gift giving routine.

  1. Those gifts add up fast. In thinking of one client in particular, her mom likes to send her costume jewelry, cloth bags, cute glasses and dishware, and general tchotchkes. My client, like many of us here in San Francisco, lives with her boyfriend in a one bedroom apartment. It’s plenty of space for them and their cats, but there just isn’t enough storage to accommodate the constant inflow of gifts. 
  2. Those gifts cause serious guilt. My clients tell me that they don’t want to donate these gifts because they know that if the giver found out, they would be hurt. The gifts, in effect, become an emotional burden and an extension of the guilt my clients already feel over living so far away from their loved ones.
  3. Those gifts can cause relationship strife. I have a couple of clients who deal with continuous gift giving from both of their moms. They are each uncomfortable with dealing with so much stuff from their own mothers, but end up taking that frustration out on each other and the other’s mom. While this is so common for all of us as humans - we redirect anger at a person we can’t confront to the people who see us every day - it’s completely avoidable in this case.
This is what years of inexpensive gifts looks like after I've helped a client decide what's important to keep... and what's not.

This is what years of inexpensive gifts looks like after I've helped a client decide what's important to keep... and what's not.

People whose love language is gift giving (and I am one of them, so I know of what I speak!) sometimes struggle with the idea that a gift could be a bad thing, and they often don’t know how to communicate their love in other ways that feel just as effective. So, I have a few suggestions!

  1. Take a picture of the cute tchotchke, send it to your loved one, and tell them why it made you think of them. How fun is a random loving message in the middle of the day? You get all the benefits of gift giving, like reminding someone that you love them and showing that you understand what’s special about them, without any of the downside. This also gives you the opportunity to see whether or not your loved one actually wants that item! If they text back “hahaha, love that, I miss you too!” then the thought was enough. But a text that says “OMG I need this!” means you have the green light to send a gift!
  2. Give experiences rather than objects. This is something my family has wholeheartedly embraced as part of our gift giving tradition and we all absolutely love it.  You get the gift giving experience - opening something, the surprise, the feeling of being special to the giver - and then you get to extend it by talking about the upcoming event, planning for it, then doing it and reminiscing about it after the fact. My sister gave me a trip to Jackson Hole for Christmas a couple years ago and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten!
  3. Direct your gift giving energy to people who are in need. Every holiday season, my husband and I adopt a family through Compass Family Services, and take great joy in making their Christmas magical. I love giving to friends and family, but it's even more rewarding to give to people who truly need and appreciate the gifts.
  4. Save your gift giving effort (and budget) for select occasions. Often, people send many cheaper gifts because they feel that the number of gift giving occasions should be maximized but they don’t have the funds to purchase high quality gifts that often. When it comes to gifts, like many other things in life, I recommend going for quality over quantity. Two high quality, beautiful gifts per year will give your loved one all the surprise and delight you crave, and because you have the extra time and money to spend on selecting it, chances are much higher that they will use and love the gift.
  5. When in doubt, just pick up the phone and say “I love you.” Because that’s what we’re all really trying to do with gift giving, right?
This not my family's Christmas, but the gifts prepared for our adopted family this past holiday season!

This not my family's Christmas, but the gifts prepared for our adopted family this past holiday season!

I, personally, will never stop loving the process of opening a present that someone has selected just for me, and then watching them open something I know they’re going to love. But I love it even more when it’s a truly special moment and not just a regular thing.

LMW

On Imperfection

I will not be the first or last person to talk about imperfection. Insert trite truism about our social media airbrushed perfection image driven society blah blah blah here! Plenty of people smarter and more articulate than I have written powerful pieces on the topic.

Instead, I want to tell you what imperfection means to me. Specifically, I want to tell you about my skin.

Hangin' out in the skin I'm in at The Peak, Hong Kong

Hangin' out in the skin I'm in at The Peak, Hong Kong

I’m super pale. I come from a long line of people so pale that some of our freckles are white. For most of my life this has been distinctly unfashionable, so in my teens and twenties I absolutely hated my pale skin and tried to tan. Emphasis on "tried." 

I’m covered in freckles and moles, because see above: pale skin and sun damage. Some of them are cute (my mom used to refer to the crop of freckles that would appear on my nose every summer as brown sugar sprinkles), but a lot of them are bumpy, uneven, and weird (yes, I get my skin checked from head to toe by my dermatologist every 6 months).

I have cellulite. I’ve had it since I was about twelve years old. No matter how much I weigh, no matter how much I exercise, no matter how well I eat, the skin on my butt and the backs of my legs is lumpy and dimpled.  I spent a lot of time when I was younger tying sarongs over bathing suits and being sure that no photo ever captured me from behind.

In all my pale, freckly, cellulite-filled, scarred glory from a bachelorette party this spring!

In all my pale, freckly, cellulite-filled, scarred glory from a bachelorette party this spring!

I have a few scars. There’s a line on my lower abdomen from my emergency appendectomy in December 1995 (in Nairobi, Kenya - it’s quite a story). My bellybutton is a little wonky from an ovarian cyst removal in 2007 (it was 10 cm in diameter and my best friend named it Alvin - good riddance!). I have a long keloid on my inner left arm from the removal of a melanoma in 2016 (it had not spread, I’m lucky). 

There are a plethora of self tanners available, even ones that don’t make a person as pale as I am look orange. I could have larger moles removed if I wanted to. There’s a procedure to fix cellulite. My dermatologist has even offered me a shot to make my scars less prominent. For reasons that are only starting to coalesce to me now, I don’t do any of the above.

To me, my skin is part of my story. Yeah, it might look a little gross in places, but the human body is a little gross. That, and it makes me look interesting. No one else on the planet looks quite like me.

I love to be active and try new things, whether it’s a new workout, travel destination, or clothing style. In the past, caring about my imperfections has hindered that. These days, I put on my sunscreen and wear my workout clothes or bikini, and get on with it. The more time that passes, the fewer f*cks I give about whatever anyone thinks of my pale, moley skin with cellulite and scars. I can’t say I totally love it - at least not yet - but I’m getting there!

LMW

The Truly Accessible Organizing Manual

Getting organized is like a lot of other self improvement processes such as healthy eating or exercise - we all know we should do it, but it often takes a particular “a-ha!” moment to get us moving in the right direction. Today, I’m continuing my journey through some of the most popular organizing books so that I can help direct you to the organizing philosophy that connects with you and gives you your “a-ha!”

So, if you find Marie Kondo too exacting, Swedish Death Cleaning too weird, or Emily Ley too traditional, it may be because you’re starting from zero and you need just the basics on how to maintain a livable home. In this case, I have found the organizing manual for you: Unf*ck Your Habitat, by Rachel Hoffman.

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There are two things I love most about Rachel Hoffman’s book. First: she maintains that organizing is for everyone. Male, female, single, coupled, able bodied, differently abled - Hoffman maintains that no matter who you are, you are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the space you live in. I could not agree more. As I always say, organizing is not about appearances, it’s about creating a functional home environment that supports all the things you want to do with your life. That’s something everyone needs!

Second: she gives it to you straight. While there is not even a speck of meanness in the book, and she explicitly discusses strategies to deal with limitations related to both physical and mental health, Rachel Hoffman doesn’t coddle her readers. She is straightforward with what it takes to get to minimum standards of of a human living space, and real about the amounts of work involved. Because that’s the thing: living an organized life does take a little work. It actually takes less work than living a disorganized life, but it’s certainly not an effortless magical ride.

Some people might find Unf*ck Your Habitat too basic. For example, if you already have a house cleaning schedule, clear flat surfaces, or a regular schedule for doing your laundry, you’ve already mastered the fundamentals and you might be ready for something more in-depth. But if you don’t understand and fully live the fact that doing your dishes is a three step process (“wash, dry, put it away goddammit” - love this!), then this book is for you.

Are you ready to “unf*ck your habitat” but don’t know where to start? Give me a call! I’ll meet you wherever you are and help you create the beautifully organized home of your dreams.

LMW

The Clutter/Shopping Death Spiral

Which came first, the disorganized home or the shopping habit?

Let me introduce you to the phenomenon I call the clutter/shopping feedback loop. In a disorganized home, clutter accumulates, which prevents you from efficiently finding and using the things you own, which leads to more purchases of things you may already own, which you then try to store in a disorganized environment, which then leads to more clutter… and around and around and down the death spiral we go.

An actual LMW Edits original: please ask before using this image!

An actual LMW Edits original: please ask before using this image!

Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

People often think that they just need to stop shopping in order to resolve this downward clutter spiral. True, this is one way to disrupt the feedback loop, but it’s actually pretty difficult. Plus, you can never let up - if you slip back into the shopping habit, the clutter will just start accumulating again.

Why do I say “just not shopping” is the more difficult solution? Because as humans, we have limited willpower, and marketing is in our faces literally 24/7.

I keep a spare “junk” email account for online shopping and ordering. I was sick of all of that stuff cluttering my main inbox (I'm always working towards the holy grail of Inbox Zero) but I still wanted access to deals. I rarely pay full price online because there’s always a coupon code or sale going on!

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 3.14.43 PM.png

Here’s a screenshot of my trash folder from this afternoon. Literally every email is screaming at me to “buy buy buy!!” All of these messages arrived within a 8 hour period. And that’s a curated list, I unsubscribe from mailings from any store I know I won’t shop. AND that’s even before I go online or outside to do, well, anything essential to modern work and life.

How can any human be expected to just go cold turkey on shopping when a) they need things and b) it’s so incredibly easy to just buy them? It requires way too much willpower!

The good news is that there’s another way to disrupt the clutter/shopping feedback loop: organize your space. By organize, I don’t mean move things around or put them in pretty containers - you still can’t find that thing you ordered on Amazon last week if it’s at the bottom of a very delightful woven basket! By organize, I mean take yourself through the whole process of decluttering, setting up systems, storing items appropriately, and maintaining your organization through simple daily habits.

If that sounds overwhelming, that’s why I’m here to help. I’ll guide you through the whole organizing process so that you can finally live clutter-free - and laugh at all of those promotional emails as you mass-delete them!

LMW

Two Must Reads: Just The Facts, Please

I love to share what I'm reading with you, because my life isn't only about organizing! Today, I just have two pieces I strongly believe will bring you a lot of value. They have in common a strong grounding in objective research, as well as a subject that a lot of us stress out about. I don't know about you, but I find all the conflicting information spinning around the internet to be so overwhelming that it's functionally useless. i also get really frustrated with the fact that if you're just trying to be better at something and following what you think sounds like a good plan, you will still be told that you are doing it wrong in a zillion different ways.

So, without further ado, here are two definitive guides, based on facts and presented reasonably. Get rid of the guilt and get the real info!

Photo courtesy of grubstreet.com (Bobby Doherty)

Photo courtesy of grubstreet.com (Bobby Doherty)

The Last Conversation You'll Need To Have About Eating Right

As a friend of mine said to me the other night, "I know what I should do... I just don't always do it!" This article is even more proof that you don't need to buy fancy ingredients, follow complex instructions, or starve in order to have a healthy diet. It also helps reframe diet goals from "I need to do everything perfectly" to "I want to live a healthy, long life."

Photo courtesy of flickr.com (miltedflower)

Photo courtesy of flickr.com (miltedflower)

14 Sustainable And Ethical Fashion Myths That Need To Die

Less is still more, and quality is still better than quantity, but it turns out there's a lot of nuance that many of us overlook. Read on for seriously good reasons to become a more thoughtful consumer, practical ways to do it, and a nice side of absolution from some of the worst of the wannabe ethical shopper's guilt.

I'd love to check out any other fact and research based articles you might have come across on related topics - please share!

LMW

What I'm Reading

Image courtesy of Getty Images and Victoria Warnken/Bustle

Image courtesy of Getty Images and Victoria Warnken/Bustle

How About We Don't Expect Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle to Get Along

As usually happens when I read a piece by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, I started cheering in my head when I got into this one! More great work here on the outsized expectations we have of women and the strangely specific roles they are forced to play.

Is Wokeness In Fashion Just Another Illusion?

I will not be including a picture of the Instagram post in question here, but if you click through you can see what the uproar is about. Personally, I find it incredible that in our connected world anyone could possibly claim ignorance on so basic an issue as usage of the n-word. If you speak English, spend time in the United States, and do business with Americans, it is your responsibility to behave in culturally appropriate ways - just as it would be if you were occupying space in any other country and culture.

Sex Work Has A Class Problem

I don't have strong feelings on the concept of sex work in general. They call it the world's oldest profession for a reason and I know it will never go away, but the intricacies of how to protect people who might be victimized and still enable people who feel empowered by their choice of work are complex. This is a great take on how some of these issues play out in the actual practice of sex work.

The Strange Brands in Your Instagram Feed

Can I be honest? I haven't for one second thought that any of these brands were worth purchasing, even before I knew the details about how they came to be.  If something is too good to be true, it probably is!

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of lithub.com

Photo courtesy of lithub.com

Anne of Green Gables: Patron Saint of Girls Who Ask Too Many Questions

The depth of my love the Anne of Green Gables and her world knows no bounds. I've read the entire series many times over and wholly identified with her from the start. As a kid, I read pretty much any historical fiction I could get my hands on, and there was lot of prim and proper behavior and bonding with horses and stuff,  but Anne was always real to me. To this day, I use the term "kindred spirits" and look for them everywhere.

Me as a debutante with my grandma in 2000.  We bought the dress in the bridal department of Saks, which was... bizarre.

Me as a debutante with my grandma in 2000.  We bought the dress in the bridal department of Saks, which was... bizarre.

The Curious Plight of the Modern Debutante

So, uh, fun fact: I was a debutante. Twice: in Ventura, where my dad's family has lived since the 1880's, and in LA, where my mom grew up. Even eighteen years ago I found it weird, dated, and irrelevant. I agreed to do both balls because they meant a lot to my mom and grandparents, and because I got to wear a poofy dress with lots of hair and makeup and force a boy I had a crush on to hang out with me for a night. I mean, I was 17!

13 Things You Should Know About HIV, But Probably Don't

As a teenager in the 90's, I was absolutely petrified of AIDS. It was finally publicly acknowledged but it was still basically a death sentence. I remember the AIDS quilt and Ryan White, and Pedro on The Real World, and scary sex ed. I'm glad we've come so far, but AIDS remains a global health threat and we should all be informed about how the disease is currently impacting our world.  Spoiler alert: it's not just for men who have sex with men anymore.

Image courtesy of thecut.com

Image courtesy of thecut.com

The Other Women's March on Washington

It's not enough to march, we need to run and vote, too.  I'm looking forward to participating  in the political process in 2018.  And I happen to love this author, Rebecca Traister - check out her book All The Single Ladies if you haven't already!

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of npr.org (Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)

Photo courtesy of npr.org (Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)

Louise Linton Said She "Sacrifices" More Than Other Taxpayers.  It's Not That Simple.

We could all use a refresher on the economics and political principles that underlay the latest scandal-of-the-week.  And if you, like me, post about fashion on Instagram, I hope you can join me in taking a renewed look at our content and remembering that the ability to wear a wide variety of things just for fun is an incredible privilege.

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Greg Finck for Sarah Haywood)

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Greg Finck for Sarah Haywood)

Weddings of the 0.01 Percent

Even though It's been over seven years since I planned my own wedding, I still love reading and talking about weddings - especially when there's as much juicy insider detail as there is in this article!  But as with so many things, I finished it remembering the sociological research which tells us that, past a certain point, money doesn't actually buy any additional happiness.

Photo courtesy of the guardian.com (Alexandra Iokovleva/Getty)

Photo courtesy of the guardian.com (Alexandra Iokovleva/Getty)

Why We Fell For Clean Eating

I completely cut out sugar and processed grains for a solid three months about five years ago, and continue to minimize both of those things as much as my inherent tendency to being a sugar monster allows.  I've never really thought of this strategy as a health panacea though - it's really a weight maintenance tool for me.  I generally avoid extremes, and this article reassures me that that's a wise strategy.

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Claire Zulkey)

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Claire Zulkey)

Shopping For Boys Cloths Is So Boring

This article also brings up an excellent point to me: why does "gender-neutral" skew so masculine?  My sister and her wife dress my niece in all kinds of things, from frilly dresses to onesies that are clearly from the boys' department, and that just seems like a progressive strategy.  But I wonder if they or anyone else would put boys in pink and glitter sometimes in the name of gender neutrality.  I wish they would!

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of thoughtcatalog.com

Photo courtesy of thoughtcatalog.com

The Definition of Hell for Each Meyers-Briggs Personality Type

Having gone to business school, Meyers-Briggs is A Thing. Every MBA can to rattle off their combo of letters.  I don't think this particular paradigm is the be-all, end-all - there's not a lot of room for gray area, for example.  But when this article made the rounds of my friends, I laughed and was shamed but just how true the prediction was for me!  (For the record: I'm an ESFJ.)  Don't know your Meyers-Briggs type?  There's a relatively quick test here.

Photo courtesy of manrepeller.com

Photo courtesy of manrepeller.com

Is Wellness a Fad, and Is It Over?

You may have already picked this up if you've been a reader for awhile: I am an extremely practical person.  I do not go in for much in the department of woo.  I do my very best not to judge those who do, because different people find comfort in all kinds of different things, but I am at heart something of a skeptic.  So, I have noticed, and been somewhat exhausted by, the wellness trend and am hopeful it might be moderating in the near future.

A Very Confusing Makeup Guide for Scientists

I'm not a scientist, but I can definitely identify with the women described in this story.  I'm pretty feminine, and I embrace that about myself - but I get frustrated with the still pervasive ideas that as a woman who cares about my appearance I'm too girly to be taken seriously or too shallow to be a feminist.  

This Startup May Have Just Solved The Biggest Problem In Plus Size Fashion

The biggest surprise to me about the plus size fashion industry to me continues to be: why does it barely exist?  The money is there!  I know the people who are willing to spend it!  The image the fashion industry continues to have of plus size women as poor, sad, and dumpy has to end.  Here's hoping Universal Standard is a runaway success!  I'm out of their range, but would love to hear from anyone who's tried them.