So I Married a Neat Freak: An Interview with My Husband

It’s funny how much you can learn about a person by living with them. I’m talking about those little idiosyncrasies that surface only when life is truly shared…when the “on your best behavior” veil of dating is peeled away and replaced by filter-free marriage.

I firmly believe every marriage counselor should cover these kinds of topics at length with their heart-eyed clients:

  • Which direction should the toilet paper roll face?
  • What is the correct way to fold a towel?
  • And a two-parter: 1. Do you snore? 2. Do you steal covers?

Of course, I’m being a bit facetious, but all joking aside, marriage magnifies habits and quirks, potentially turning something laughable into something quite serious.

That’s why open and honest communication is so vital. A marriage is the union of two individuals. Spouses are bound to encounter differences; that’s a fact of life. It’s the compromises you make as a couple that determine the tenor of your marriage. A delicate dance of give and take.

For example, my husband is a tidy person, but he isn’t neurotic about it. He picks up after himself and doesn’t mind cleaning, but he isn’t blogging about it if you get my drift. Yeah, I take it to another level.

Yet, we are able to live in harmony with one another. A delicate dance of give and take, though my hubs deserves most of the credit. He’s incredibly thoughtful and goes above and beyond to make me happy. I mean, this man does dishes, laundry, and puts up with my labeling madness. He’s a keeper for sure.

And in turn, I don’t impose my organizing on his personal belongings. No Konmari in his dresser drawers. No color coding in his closet (though I did replace his hangers with these lovely velvet ones). Also, I try not to nag; instead, I aim to be a peaceful, organizing ambassador to my family (except for when I’m on the playroom warpath, garbage bag in hand).

This is my hubs’ home too, and I wouldn’t want to do anything to make him feel like he can’t relax in his own space. Besides, that’s one of my main reasons for organizing: to make our humble abode a more pleasant place. If my organizing becomes a point of contention in the home, then I totally defeat my purpose.

naggingwife

Anyway, this is the post I’ve been promising for a while: how to get your family on board with your organizing journey. As I thought about how to approach this topic, I had an epiphany: I should interview my hubs! Who better to offer a bit of perspective from the other side of the organizing fence? (And please imagine a cute, picket fence…not a chain link one topped with barbed wire.)

After all, your spouse is your partner. So if  you want to rally the rest of the troops (i.e. kiddos or any other live-in relatives), you better make sure your spouse is with you on the organizing train. Otherwise, this entire process will be an exercise in frustration.

So, let’s get to it…here’s what my hubs had to say about life with an organizing fiend master and why he supports me in this endeavor.


First of all, what it is like to be married to a neat freak?

Hubs: It has its benefits and challenges. Obviously, the benefit is that I’m always able to find things. There’s a place for everything. It can be challenging when you get stressed out by the mess (nervous laughter).

What motivates you to help out as much as you do?

Hubs: I don’t like clutter either, so I try to keep things picked up. And when you’re married as long as we’ve been, you can pick up on your spouse’s subtle needs. I see the effort you put forth in cleaning, organizing, and running the household, and I want to support that. So, I pitch in as much as I can.

Which organizational systems around the house were easy for you to get onboard with?

Hubs: The closets. When I do laundry, I know exactly where to put all the kids’ clothes. We’ve never had a conversation about it, but their closets are so organized, no explanation is needed. Also, the pantries and kitchen drawers…when I put up groceries or cook, I know where everything goes.

Which systems have been more difficult for you to maintain?

Hubs: Nothing that necessarily affects me. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do the whole Konmari folding method that you use in your drawers. I just throw my shirts onto the top, and that’s fine for me.

What would you say to someone who wants to get organized, but his/her spouse isn’t onboard?

Hubs: This might sound naïve, but I would think that if there was an open conversation about your desire to do something beneficial for the family, such as an organizing project, your spouse would be supportive. Organization should be a family goal and decision.

I would suggest explaining why this is important to you, such as, “I want to establish a system that’s going to smooth out the daily operation of the household. Here’s what I would like to do, and this is what I need from you. Can we find some middle ground to accomplish this?” I don’t know anyone who would give a flat-out denial to a request like that.

Sure, there may be a learning curve; it could take some time to work out all the kinks. But if you’re clear upfront that this needs to be a team effort, your spouse might be more willing to step up and help.

What would you say to someone whose spouse has good intentions, but is naturally messy?

Hubs: I think that’s part of marriage. Everyone is going to have differences. There’s no secret formula. It takes open communication, patience, and understanding on both sides. Genuine effort is the important thing.

This last question is geared toward husbands specifically. What is some advice you could offer other husbands about supporting their wive’s organizing efforts?

Hubs: I would point them to 1 Peter 3:7 where it instructs husbands to live with your wives in an understanding way.

If you’re going to live with your wife in an understanding way, you should be mindful of her wants and needs.

In the case of organizing, try to understand her underlying motives. If you know her organizing comes from a place of love, a desire to do something good for the family, you’ll find it easier to support her efforts.


 

So there you have it. Straight from the mouth of my hubs. He’s pretty amazing.

Anyway, I’ll end with a few ideas on how to get the kids to contribute and cooperate with your organizing efforts:

Set clear expectations. Lay it out in the simplest terms possible. Want them to hang up their coats when they get home? Don’t just say, “Put away your coats.” Knowing my kids, that could easily be translated into “Sling your coats onto the closet floor.” Be specific: “Hang your coats on the hangers in the hall closet.” Leave no room for confusion. For younger kids, you might even post a checklist as a reminder.

Involve your kids in the process. My children are fascinated by my label maker. If they get to wield it, they will organize all day. Figure out some way to make it fun for your kids. I know it often creates more work to have them “help,” but when they participate in the actual organizing process, they will take more ownership in maintaining the order.

Create consequences and rewards. In our house, everyone is part of the team. We all must work together. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, then there are consequences: You don’t pick up your toys? You run the risk of losing them to the big, black garbage bag. You don’t put up Mommy’s craft supplies when you’re done? You forfeit the privilege to use them.

And be prepared to follow through. Most kids can sniff out an empty threat like bloodhounds on a scent trail.

On the other side of the token, be sure to acknowledge a job well done. A little praise goes a long way. If you want to take it a step further, offer some sort of reward. Just keep it simple, such as extra reading time before bed. After all, in the real world, no one’s going to sound the trumpets when your child picks up after himself.

trumpets.png

To summarize, your organization won’t succeed if it isn’t a team effort. You can color code, label, sort, categorize, declutter, and Konmari your little heart out. But if no one else is on board, it will be nearly impossible to maintain.

So, call a family meeting and work out an attack plan that includes everyone.

Rally the troops.

Grab the garbage bags.

It’s time to declare war on the clutter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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