Organizing a Spouse: It Can Be Done!


hippo-cookie-jarPlease help me extend a warm welcome to a new contributor to the CCF blog, Kim Henson! Find out more about Kim and her work on our “bio” page. Thanks, Kim, for this wonderful contribution!

In from work every afternoon, my husband piled his jacket and hat on the wooden coat rack inside our living room door. He would drop his keys and mail on the dining room table. And then drape his work shirt over the back of one of the chairs. Into the next room, he dumped his change in a coffee mug he pulled out of the kitchen cabinet.

Some rusty nut, bolt or an old key, would end up in my favorite ceramic bowl on the island in our kitchen. Also lying here and there were nail clippers, his pocketknife, cell phones (he has two) and at least one pair of shoes.

At the time, we lived in a 3,000-square-foot house with a two car garage. I figured with patience, it would be possible to make some progress in putting our home back in order since we had the space and he was using a spare bedroom as his office.

Containment became the goal. One piece at a time, I wanted to relocate all of his belongings to the upstairs office. The first thing I took up was the coat rack since he was the only one who used it. I sat it beside a bookshelf we had recently put in the room to help with organization. His baseball caps stacked neatly on the center post of the coat rack. When headed upstairs, I’d take his shirt from the dining room chair and hang it alongside his jackets.

Next, I hung a key rack by the front door and we all used it. I started checking the mail and laying it in his office chair where I knew he would see it. Once a month, we categorized, in a file box, receipts and bills that had been paid. Beside his desk, on the floor, I sat the hippopotamus cookie jar that he bought years ago for his change. Finally, I purchased a compartmentalized tray that fit on the shelf of his desk to put all of his odds and ends.

The trick was going to be talking him into going directly upstairs instead of shedding all over the living room, dining area and kitchen. It took some time but I kept piling anything he laid downstairs on the bottom step. One of us would end up taking it to his office.

A word of caution before you undertake your husband (or anyone else) as a project: we are trying to get organized here and even if you think it might be easier, divorce court is not the answer. So be patient. My husband and I agreed we wanted the downstairs straightened up since that’s where we entertained. I was respectful and asked if he minded that we make some changes. He said, “It’s fine.” I think he actually meant, “I hope this doesn’t involve me.”

Since the revisions were mostly my idea and more important to me, I had to be the one to take action and follow through when he didn’t. Complaining was not going to put the house in order. After several months, he helped more, huffed less and finally admitted, “I appreciate the house being organized even if I don’t always act like it.”

Tips for Organizing a Spouse:
• Agree on organizational goals
• Make a plan to reach the goals
• Work together and avoid assigning jobs to each other
• Have a place for everything and return things to their spot
• Be patient because it takes time to undo disorganization
• Feel good about doing more than 50% when order is most important to you
• Call a professional if the task becomes overwhelming


3 thoughts on “Organizing a Spouse: It Can Be Done!

  • August 26, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Good tips! Slow and steady wins this race, I think — although my 17th wedding anniversary is this Sunday and my hubs and I are still negotiating this stuff. But yes, patience, humor and taking “ownership” of the problem (because I care more about it than he does), seem to be the tickets. Love this post!

  • August 26, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Thanks for the comment, Kathy! Some goals take a lifetime to achieve, that’s for sure! I think the key is always our attitude in achieving them.

  • August 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    H Kathy,

    My goodness, I can’t believe I left out “have a sense of humor.” The night I was writing it, I probably didn’t think something was funny. : ) We’re 32 years into our negotiations and still hanging in there. Good luck with yours!

    And thanks for your positive comment!


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