a couple having a misunderstanding

Valentine’s Day is about compromise

If you and your significant other don’t see eye to eye about how messy your shared space is, Valentine’s Day is a chance to make things better.

Not with chocolates and flowers, although surely they won’t hurt, but with a plan: This time next year, you’ll be celebrating in a space that makes both of you happy.

It’s going to take a year, because I’m not talking about keeping a counter clear so you both have a place to put the mail. Setting aside a designated place for the keys is nice, but it’s not going to wow anybody for long. And fervent vows to finally get organized right now never work.

This time, try something different.

Pick two rooms with doors

Pick a room with a door. You either love being in this room or wish you could.

Now your partner picks a different room, also with a door.

Talk amongst yourselves. Come back here when you’ve each found a non-essential room you’d like to call your own. An essential room is one that can’t be used exclusively by one of you. The spare room is a non-essential room, but the main kitchen isn’t, because it gets shared by everyone.

Ideally, you each have a room you can close, but if you can’t, then literally mark the line between your spaces.

When the tidier of you two has chosen your space, you can offer to work with them to get this space as comfy as they’d like, or you can let them have at it. They’ve been dying to get this space clear, so now they have your full permission. Take out anything you consider exclusively yours, and let them set that room up however they want it. If they want you to help, work slowly together so you don’t get overwhelmed.

READ MORE >> How to declutter and organizing

READ MORE >> Slow and steady wins the decluttering and organizing race

Rules of the road

Don’t decorate it for them, don’t offer helpful suggestions about what would go so nicely next to the window, just stay out of there. It’s like you don’t have that room anymore. Help them clear everything that’s yours out of their room and shut the door behind you.

Your neatnik partner doesn’t get to throw anything of yours away. They don’t get to suggest what you do with the things in your special room. Their room is theirs, but your room is yours.

Now shut the door behind the room you chose, and heave a sigh of relief. This is the room where you don’t have to compromised on whether you have too many books or if you really need to keep the back-up vacuum cleaner. If it’s your stuff and the door can shut, it’s yours.

Notice how you feel as the dust settle

Your partner can whip their space into shape, but you have a difference job. Now this room is officially yours, you can take some time to decide whether you love this cozy space. You’ve always wished they would leave you in peace, to stop fussing about your clutter. Now that’s finally happened, how much time are you spending in there?

Getting locked into clutter battles makes it hard not to be defensive, and lobby for your partner to lighten up. But when you find you’re not spending as much time in that favorite room as you thought you would be, allow yourself to think about whether there’s anything that can go.

The one year project

Commit to noticing whether this room you chose is as lovely as you hoped it would be, or if it’s kinda tough to find anything in there. Decide if that’s okay with you, or if you could stand to let a couple of things go.

Go into your room once a week. Are you in there all the time, or is this weekly visit the only time you enter?

Allow yourself to discover how things shake out for you when you try this experiment. Being truly responsibly for your own space can allow you to discover how you really feel about your clutter. If you realize you’re avoiding your room because it’s messy and difficult to enjoy, join my weekly gentle decluttering challenge.

By Lucy Kelly


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