Decluttering & organising together can be an exciting (and useful) way to learn more about each other, and about the goals and dreams you wish to share.
Moving in with someone else is a big life change:
We not only transfer our furniture and belongings into the new joint home, but we also bring along our unique personalities, values and beliefs, personal habits, and lifestyle expectations.
Consider decluttering together before you start living together.
Kevin and Claudia had been living together in their new apartment for about 6 months when I first met them there.
I immediately understood why they had decided to get the support of a professional organiser. Their tiny space was fully packed and cluttered with stuff.
However, this was a problem that could easily be solved. Thus, I didn’t understand why they both seemed to be so extremely stressed and sad.
During our conversation, I soon started to understand better.
Claudia and Kevin were disappointed and confused. They both said they still felt in love with each other but they now feared that they were not able to live with each other.
They both didn’t feel at home in their apartment because it was so cluttered, untidy and disorganised.
- They never could find what they were looking for and they didn’t know where to put away what they’d just used.
- Getting dressed in the morning took much too long, having a shower in the cramped bathroom was an uncomfortable exercise,
- and cooking together in the evening was no fun because the kitchen counters were covered by stuff that didn’t fit into the cabinets.
They hadn’t talked about this with anyone else so far because they felt so unhappy and also ashamed. They felt they should be happy all day.
Instead, they had started fighting about actually unimportant issues. And they no longer looked forward to coming home and meeting their loved one and having time together.
I remember that I was very impressed. And absolutely optimistic about the outcome of this ‘organising’ project.
- I was impressed by the bold decision of these two young people to ask an outsider for help, and about their willingness to try to get to the root of their problem.
- And I was optimistic because their problem – although it seemed to be a very tough one to them – was nothing unusual or untypical. They were experiencing what we all encounter when we move in with someone we haven’t lived with before.
- We have to get to know each other in a new and very private environment,
- we have to know and openly discuss our values and expectations,
- and we have to be willing to cooperate and compromise,
- and to coordinate our individual ways of organising our lives.
It took us only two sessions to get them on the right track.
From there on they could easily continue organising together without any further outside support.
The first step is to discover and understand the different organising styles.
Keven is a keeper, he doesn’t like to sort things out and wants to store everything in case he might need it in the future. Claudia doesn’t have a problem to give away what she doesn’t use. However, she never comes to that point because she has no interest in getting her stuff sorted, so she actually doesn’t know what she has and what she needs.
For Kevin, the most difficult part of the organising task was to sort and declutter their belongings in the kitchen and living room. When they had moved together, they had just combined all their possessions. The consequence was that they had many duplicates: two coffee machines, two toasters, several pans and pots, too many dishes and cutleries, vases, tablecloths, bed linen, etc.
The second step is to find out together what each partner likes and needs.
As soon as we had taken everything out of the cabinets, dressers, and drawers, Kevin and Claudia could clearly see that they had too much of nearly everything. Now the seemingly tough part began: They took up every household item, discussed its necessity and usefulness, and then they had to decide whether to keep it or toss it. This quickly became an exciting process. They realised that
Sorting and decluttering together is a great ‘relationship-improvement-opportunity’.
- to get to know our partner better,
- to understand how and what he/she thinks,
- and to discover what’s truly important to him/her.
Kevin and Claudia barely noticed when I left them at the end of our session – both still sitting in the middle of chaos on the floor of their living room and discussing things.
When I arrived two weeks later for our last organising session, the apartment had changed its outlook significantly. The kitchen looked neat and tidy (only one coffee machine and one toaster on the countertop!), the little bathroom was perfectly organised, and the living room had become an inviting spacious and comfortable space.
The bedroom was the only problem area we still had to work on. This time, Claudia felt she had a tougher job. Her clothes and shoes occupied much more than two-thirds of the wardrobe and additionally covered the dresser and two chairs.
Again, it was not as tough as assumed.
We took out all her clothes and accessories and sorted them into categories. This helped Claudia to see what she had – much too much. And as a natural declutterer, she had no difficulties to sort out more than half of her possessions. Kevin packed them into bags and got them to the local charity.
Don’t do it just once. Sort out your stuff on a regular basis to keep your relationship clutter-free.
Claudia and Kevin know now for sure that they definitely can live together. But they also know that they have to continue to declutter and re-organise their belongings from time to time, and that they need to do it together.
However, that’s no threatening task any longer, because they know each other so much better, and how to work with their weaknesses and combine their strengths to make their organising projects successful. And fun.