Washington - Opposites attract, or so they say, and in many ways this phenomenon can work out well for a couple - they complement each other's interests, styles and habits. But one area in which a couple's differences can make living together less than harmonious is home organisation.
Unless couples find ways to deal with their organisational divide, the stress on their relationship can be immense - both for the neat spouse and the more laid-back, untidy spouse. Here's how I've seen people make things work.
When a couple move in together or get married, they often assume that cohabitation means that they'll share everything. But once the boxes are unpacked and they begin settling in, it becomes apparent that one person prefers a very neat closet and the other couldn't care less whether all the shirts are hung in the same direction or if the shoes are lined up.
Or it might become clear that one person likes a tidy desk in the home office where everything is put away and the other can function only when everything they need is right at their fingertips.
It's a good idea to try compromising and to make joint spaces work, but it's also okay to realise that neither of you is going to change drastically enough to totally accommodate the other's wishes. So it may just be better if one person sets up a desk in the basement or decides to have their closet in a spare bedroom.
Arguing about what an office or closet "should" look like is usually not helpful. People function differently, and they're rarely able to change ingrained habits dramatically. So don't waste years trying to get your spouse to come around to your way of thinking. Giving up on sharing everything is not a failure. A willingness to take a different approach is a sign of respect.
Make rules for certain rooms
With some couples, one person feels very strongly about keeping a particular room organized but is willing to compromise on other areas of the house. Maybe your spouse insists that the kitchen counters be clear of papers at the end of each day, and maybe you can't stand when shoes pile up by the front door. Make clear rules about certain spaces.
The guidelines need to be specific, attainable and enforceable - for example, before the cleaning service comes, everything must be picked up off the floor. This strategy allows both spouses to have input but also requires cooperation.
Divide and conquer
In most homes, there are a couple of areas that regularly become cluttered and disorganized. Sometimes the spaces that get the most traffic, such as the kitchen and family room, become messy the fastest, and sometimes it's the less frequently used spaces where things tend to get stashed until they can be dealt with later - the dining room, a spare bedroom or the unfinished side of the basement. But for an organized person, the location is irrelevant. They don't like it when things are out of place or difficult to locate.
Doing nothing when there is disagreement about how to live in and enjoy your home is not a viable option. If you can't resolve your differences alone, call in a third party to offer objective advice. It doesn't need to be a professional organizer, and a relative may not be an ideal choice, but a friend or neighbor may be able to help you clean out or straighten up your closet a couple of times a year or share ideas about how they process bills.
You can also hire a person or service to clean your house every few weeks.