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Natalie asks our organizer Jessica Duquette:
How can I get my husband to help me stay organized?
I only work part-time and he works all day, so he is understandably tired at the end of the day. But I am tired of walking into the kitchen to find all his garbage sitting on the counter! He wears his shoes in my just-swept house. He dumps the mail and his paperwork wherever.
Nagging, obviously, does not help – and I really try not to do it. I thought I had solved that last problem by giving him a basket to put all his “stuff” in – perfect! Until it got full, and we ended up with a basket full of paperwork that he would never go through.
Short of locking him in his office, which I have vacated, how can I keep on top of my house chores when hubby doesn’t “get it”?
Thanks, Natalie, for your gut-level honesty. Just know that you are not alone in this situation, even though it probably feels that way sometimes!
About 85% of my married clients have this same issue to deal with, and it can be a tricky one. Tricky because on the surface (no pun intended!) the issue seems to be about clutter and respect, but what I have discovered is that clutter issues in a marriage are almost always about the marriage itself, and the communication between spouses.
What if your husband is trying to tell you something by stomping his dirty boots on your just-swept kitchen floor? What if you discovered a new way of listening and that solved the problem? Sure beats nagging…and it works, everybody ends up happy.
Sometimes, men don’t know how to express their feelings of anger or resentment and so they act them out instead (women do this, too!). You didn’t mention this in your letter, but many times, men get upset when they don’t feel they are getting enough attention or affection from their wives.
Most men’s first instinct is to protect, love, honor and respect their partner, but if they don’t feel appreciated or nurtured, then they can get passive-aggressive in their actions to get your attention and to “pay you back” for what they feel you aren’t giving them. I am not defending that way of communicating, but it’s a lot easier for you to deal with the problem if you see it as a message, rather than as a behavior you feel powerless over.
Try discovering what your husband may not be expressing in terms of his need for your attention. When was the last time you guys had a real date? Made love with no distractions? Gave each other a foot massage, or held hands for no reason? When was the last time you thanked him for how hard he works? Dressed in sexy lingerie for no reason? Went to a football game with him, even though you hate football? Talked about him in glowing terms in front of friends when you know he can hear you?
When your man feels satisfied, he will crawl over broken glass to give you what you want. When there is something he feels gypped out of, he’ll stomp over an obviously clean floor, just so that he’s sure you get the message.
Clutter is powerful that way, it’s not about the stuff, it’s about the message underlying the stuff. We all use clutter in one form or another to mask our uncomfortable or unconfronted feelings of anger, resentment, rebellion, grief. If you want results, I suggest you take a deep look at what you are both trying to say to one another and approach the situation from that perspective. It’s much more forgiving, compassionate and kind to both of you!
For a copy of an excerpt from a recent posting on letting go of the emotions under your clutter, click here.
I hope this answers your question!
Remember, I am on your team!
..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
((¸¸.·´ ..·´ Jessica -:¦:-
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