Are communication problems causing disorganization?

When couples can’t agree on how their home should be organized, the impasse may seem impossible to resolve. But even when he wants things one way, and she wants things another, peace (and order) can prevail!

I recently came across this situation in my organizing work:

• Wife needs office space in their small home. She wants to buy an armoire to house her laptop and office items.

• There is no wall space for the armoire due to husband’s large art collection.

• Husband reluctantly agrees to remove the artwork but only if the wife finishes the backlog of taxes for him.

• Wife says she can’t finish the taxes because she has nowhere to work.

Does this sound familiar? Poor communication skills can lead to disorder and hurt feelings. They can also result in a deadlock: A situation in which two or more competing actions are each waiting for the other to finish, and thus neither ever does. No wonder this couple is disorganized.

Is deadlock happening in your home?

When couples have conflicting communication styles, and/or lack skills in negotiation, management, leadership and delegation, their home is likely to be disorganized. * Perhaps one partner likes to dictate how decisions are made, and the other wants to talk things out and express feelings. Maybe one person has a hard time admitting when they are wrong. Perhaps one person takes on chores they don’t have time for, and then can’t deliver. Whatever the reason, the conflict often manifests as clutter in the home.

Here’s what you can do about it:

Happy couple1. Own it. Be willing to look in the mirror and be honest about your role in the disorganization. It is unlikely that your partner is 100 percent responsible for the mess.

2. Know your goal. When you can articulate your goal, then there is no blaming. For example, “My goal is to have an organized kitchen that supports me in making healthier, nutritious meals.” It’s tough to argue with that goal.

3. Talk with your partner. Use language that puts you on the same team rather than on opposing sides. For example: “This office enables me to do my life’s work and manage our finances. How can we work together to share this space?” That is more effective than “I don’t understand why you pile all your junk in here.” **

4. Get help. If you can’t see eye to eye and are not getting through to each other, talk with a professional counselor. Many people do, and they see a huge benefit in their quality of life.

In the case of our couple fighting over the armoire, they opted to use the services of a professional. They negotiated and compromised. They bought the armoire and swapped out a large piece of art in favor of a smaller one.

Disorganization is often a symptom that something else is wrong. If communication problems are causing clutter and conflict in your home, you are not alone. There are things you can do and skills you can learn to have a better relationships and a better life!

* Fact Sheet 004: Disorganization, by the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.

** It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh, Free Press, 2007



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