You Can Battle Clutter Without Attacking Each Other

By Lauren Hill
Chicago Tribune.

Shoes litter the living room floor, unopened mail and catalogs are scattered across the dining room table, dirty dishes are stacked next to the sink. You want to be one team united against clutter, but your family or roommates would rather live in the mess.

Professional organizer Donna Smallin wants to help. Her new book, “Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness” (Storey), offers plenty of doable ideas. But we also wanted her take on relationship challenges that occur when you’re co-existing with the untidy and/or declutter-averse. Answers have been edited.

Problem: My partner doesn’t mind the mess, but I do.

Solution: Negotiation. “A sit-down is required for that,” Smallin said. “You have to negotiate so that both people feel like it’s a win-win,” Smallin said. “Say, ‘This is something that is bothering me. What can I do in return for you to keep the space clean?'”

Problem: My kid’s room is a pigsty!

Solution: Organizational tools. “Use a basket or bins that are easy for kids to just throw things into instead of using a more complicated system,” Smallin said. “I say make it easier to put away, not necessarily to find.”

Problem: My dad is helping me clean out my garage. As I put my childhood dollhouse in the “give-away” pile, he says, “I spent good money on that.”

Solution: Be firm, and share the wealth. “If you’re not using it, it’s not worth it,” Smallin said. “If you have clutter, you are abundantly blessed. And you can share those blessings (with) someone who could really use them.”

Problem: My wife is trying to be less messy, but it still feels like a losing battle. I am beginning to resent her.

Solution: Put people first. “Try to remember why you fell in love with them in the first place,” Smallin said. “It clearly was not for their organizational skills. Focus your attention elsewhere and away from the thing that you find most annoying.”

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