You know how they say sometimes people look like their pets? It's hard to tell whether we choose companions who resemble us, or whether we come to resemble them as time goes by. I think the same thing happens to married people. Live together long enough and you start finishing each other's sentences, referring to yourselves in the first person plural, and wearing matching outfits. That part is a total accident. My husband and I were winding up in color-coordinated shirts before we even started dating. I mention it because yesterday we both wore lavender, and I didn't see what shirt he had on until he got home from work. It's uncanny. As much as we start to merge our tastes and behaviors in certain ways, as much as we pick up each other's turns of phrase, our personal possessions start to blend and merge, too.
An example of this is this particular ceramic travel mug that looks like a paper cup. It has a little silicon sleeve that looks like a cardboard sleeve, and a silicon lid that looks like a plastic lid. I bought it for myself before we got married. At some point along the way, I lent it to my husband, and he adopted it. He's convinced it's his, and at this point, it is. What's mine is yours, babe!
We don't share everything. Maintaining privacy is one of those things that many people let fall by the wayside, but I firmly believe that abandoning it undercuts romance. You start to become more like roommates, or, heaven forfend, siblings. Some doors should be kept closed, both figuratively and literally. It always strikes me as strange when couples share email or social media accounts, especially since they don't cost anything. We need to know which one of you is talking! It's weird! Make a Venn diagram of the two of you and make sure that it doesn't overlap completely.
We're in the end stages of moving to a new place, and this yours/mine/ours division has become more pronounced. There are still a few boxes left to unpack. This always happens; the last ten percent usually takes longer than the first fifty percent. It happens in our case because I'm a professional organizer and my husband is...not. I unpack all of my stuff, all of "our" stuff, and part of his stuff. I'll never do all of it, because he has a lot of high-test electronics equipment, and I don't want to be held responsible for banging it up. Also, if I organize it, he'll never be able to find anything again. It's a mark of respect.
What I've learned in working with chronically disorganized homes is that people often don't feel like they have permission to dispose of certain things - even when they live alone! The boundaries between yours/mine/ours can be quite blurred. 'Ours' might include family heirlooms, adult children's belongings, stuff left behind years ago by former roommates, or even random bits that "came with the house." Almost every time I have taken occupancy of a new house or apartment, there have been various amounts of things left behind, such as cleansers, hardware, plant pots, lamps, or even furniture. This happens when even the landlord is hesitant to make an executive decision and just get rid of stuff.
Someone needs to be the boss of the house. Preferably this is an adult human being. When there is no adult in the alpha role, the leadership position will quickly be filled by a child, a pet, an influx of vermin, or even a relative who drops by occasionally. When nobody is managing, no decisions are being made, and chaos will be the default.
Families generate a lot of random clutter. It just happens. The bigger the household, the more guests and visitors, and the more forgotten books/CDs/headphones/hoodies, etc. All it takes is for each household member to leave one stray item laying around per day, and by the end of the week it's total bedlam. Controlling this does not have to be the job of any one person, but it can certainly be the suggestion of any one person. The best person to catalyze an organizing spree is actually a small child. They love being "bad cop." Pick the bossiest kid. Tell them nobody can watch TV until everyone puts their stuff away. Tell them, whoever finishes first gets to pick the movie/choose the music in the car/sit in the best chair, or whatever is the juiciest prize in your household. Tell them that if everyone can get the job done while asking you zero questions, maybe there will be dessert afterward.
This method only works for items that belong to someone. Either it's yours or it's mine. When it's "ours," things get more complicated. It turns out that almost everything in most homes is "ours." The furniture and appliances. The towels. Everything in the kitchen, including the scary leftovers in the fridge. The carpets and cabinets and tiles and shelves. The lightbulbs, the windows, the blinds, the doorknobs, the light switches. The car. The mailbox. The junk mail. EVERYTHING. When you think about it, everywhere other than your house, there's a facilities manager, a landscaper, a custodian, or a janitorial staff. School, work, the store, the library, the gym, the post office, the park... everywhere else, someone is paid to make sense of it all. We just expect to walk down hallways and stairs that are free of clutter, to use countertops that someone eventually wipes up, to have ready access to chairs and tables put there by some interior designer at some point. At home, nobody manages the infrastructure.
Someone needs to pick up the wand. Someone needs to take charge and make some decisions. Do we even need this? Are we using it? Does it need to be stored right here? How often should this get cleaned? Once a year, or not until we move out? The boss/leader/manager does not by any means need to do all the scutwork. What needs to be done is to delegate. Someone needs to be putting away clean dishes. Someone needs to be cleaning floors. Someone needs to be making sure the washer and dryer are switched over. These don't all need to be the same person, unless of course you live alone.
What helps the most is to cut back on clutter. That's mostly going to be "our" stuff. A cluttered house takes 40% longer to clean. Who is going to decide what clutter can be removed, though? What's needed is for someone to take ownership of "our" stuff long enough to make those decisions. This can go, this can go, that can go. Do it as a group if necessary. Life will be easier - yours, mine, and ours.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.