One of the most common questions I am asked goes something like this:
“I’m very organized, but my husband/boyfriend/wife/etc. is a slob. How do I get them to organize their stuff? Will you organize their office/garage/etc for them?”
Oh, dear readers, that is an area most organizers fear to tread. Not even the best of us can force a person to get organized. We can’t make anyone throw anything out. Your messy family member has to want to get organized, because it’s a personal decision that involves time, commitment and discipline.
You could try to sort through his or her things, maybe get rid of a few things and put the rest in pretty boxes on a shelf. But chances are, your family member won’t maintain the system you set up (because he or she didn’t choose it or agree to it), and disorganization will descend on the room again within a matter of weeks. For all the work you did, all you have to show for it is a temporary solution to a long-term problem.
Disorganization occurs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it happens simply because there’s not enough storage for the person’s collection of, say, books. In that case, you can just buy another bookcase, and voila! The problem is solved. But sometimes, disorganization occurs for much more complicated reasons. For example, some people need to have a lot of stuff around them to make up for a childhood of deprivation. The stuff makes them feel safe and protected. If you get rid of any of it, your loved one will likely feel betrayed, angry, anxious – and will waste no time replacing all that stuff you threw out.
The most you can do to “make someone get organized” is to gently point out the effects of being disorganized. You can have a conversation along the lines of, “I’ve noticed that you’ve started working at the dining room table because your desk is covered with so much stuff. Would you like me to help you get your office organized? Or would you like me to hire someone who can help you find more room in your office?”
If he or she says “yes” to your offer, then you can start the process of organization, being as non-judgmental as you can, and asking his or her opinion every step of the way. It’s their space, so they call the shots. But if your loved one says “no,” then there’s nothing more you can do. Just close the door to the offending room so you don’t have to look at it.
Thanks to the Portland-Baby Boot Camp mama who suggested this topic to me.