An Organizationally Odd Couple
November 11, 2010 8:45 PM   Subscribe

Mr. Pr0n likes to keep his stuff in neatly labeled bins. I like to keep my stuff close at hand. How do we find a middle ground where I don't feel suffocated and he's not irritated by clutter? Concrete examples of our organizing styles inside.

To me, a hanging basket full of paint tubes is organized. He considers it a jumble of junk hanging from the ceiling.

A bookcase next to my painting table, full of stacked books and papers and sketchbooks and jars? Looks organized to me - it's not strewn all over the floor, are they? To him, that's an eyesore; bookshelves are for neatly shelved books. Everything else? Little bins!

Shelve the four to six books I'm always reading at any given time as soon as I close the covers, and take them back out of the bookshelf when I want to read them again? Oppressive! And the little bins? When I try to do that, they all turn into filthy little junk drawers.

(And yes, I know that I have ADD.)
posted by freshwater_pr0n to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Can't you get a bookcase with doors and drawers, and have your messy shelves and drawers just the way you like them, but behind the doors so he doesn't have to look at them?
posted by davejay at 8:51 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have a friend in your exact bookcase situation with her SO, and their solution was to attach curtain rods to the top of the bookcase and use nifty little curtains on them to hide all the clutter
posted by Ashley801 at 8:55 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing you're talking about a room or section of your home that is a painting studio. Is there a way that you could agree that the painting area is your "turf", and as long as it's physically neat you can organize it how you like? And then compromise by sticking to his "everything in its place" philosophy in other parts of the house?
posted by Sara C. at 8:57 PM on November 11, 2010

How large is your home? Ours is small, but we carve out separate areas. I don't care how cluttered Mr. 26.2 has his closet, the entire garage, his bookshelves, or his work area. These are his areas. I am not accountable to tidy them. They are his problem (or not since the clutter doesn't bug him).

My areas are the front room of the house and dining room. Both areas are clutter free zones, because it stresses me walk in the door and see piles of stuff. To me a tidy home equals a restful home. Note that since I'm the one bugged by clutter, I tidy these rooms all the time.

Left to his own devices, he'd fill that dining room table with comic books and bike parts. He agrees to keep it clutter free, because he's got space to clutter as he needs it. We have such different standards for order, I don't see a compromise working. It's separate areas.
posted by 26.2 at 10:05 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

The solution to this is zone play. She who is my wife is a piler: what's not in hand is in a pile near to hand, most recently touched at the top, least recently at the bottom. I, on the other hand, am a "hide it all in a container that's appropriately designated" organizer, and ideally would have no more than four items visible in any room, counting furniture.

The compromise that works for us is that certain areas are mine to keep organized (the kitchen), while others are hers (the end tables by the couch). Our respective crazies are confined in exclusive areas, and ne'er the twain shall meet. I ignore the condition of the coffee table, piled willy-nilly with wool, needles, books, cameras, and sudoko books; she ignores the serial killer precision with which the food processor is aligned with the toaster oven on a bare, sterile countertop.
posted by fatbird at 10:43 PM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yes, separate areas. Use a Brady Bunch masking tape line on the floor if you have to.

...and I'm not sure anybody would have mentioned ADD
posted by rhizome at 11:29 PM on November 11, 2010

Bookshelf skirts are definitely your friend -- I posted a project on Burdastyle with the ones I made for our dining room (aka the room where the piles all go to die).
posted by at 6:52 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

The middle ground has to be how you react to the differences, rather than the differences themselves. Everyone wants clean carpets, nobody wants a clean-freak nutjob following them around with a vacuum cleaner.

So, for the person who likes to read 7 books at once and thinks it is silly to reshelve them when not in use, a compromise might be that they ought to get reshelved when company is coming over or during the weekly cleanup. And for the neat freak to accept this.

And vice versa- the person who likes everything right at hand needs to conceed that some of this makes the bin-labeler crazy, and come up with compromises.

The hard part is for each party to stick to the compromises they have made.

An example that popped into mind is the bedside stand- I can imagine a bedroom with little tables, and all of the clutter making the other person crazy. "I have to keep the flashlight, handgun, asthma inhaler, cell phone and half-empty Pepsi near me when I'm sleeping!" Those are valid desires. Just as valid as the other's desire to be able to hit the snooze button without knocking everything down. The easiest solution to that would be a bedside stand with drawers and optional cupholder. (And, of course, a bed-side refrigerator. But that's just me.) There is no reason most of those things can't be in a drawer. There is no reason the flashlight needs to be in the "flashlights and batteries" drawer in the kitchen if someone prefers it in the bedroom.

Another potential solution would be to have multiple copies of things. Some might consider it wasteful, but having two pairs of scissors so A can have them in the craft room and B can rest assured they are safely in the "scissors, tape and rulers" cubby is well worth it. Getting into a battle of wills about which brand of toothpaste the household uses is silliness.

In other words, save the arguments for the important things.

(For the record, I am a dual personality when it comes to stuff like this. A constant internal battle between convenience and clutter. And for me, the issue isn't whether the clutter is out of sight or not, but that it exists. A jacked up closet is no less uncomfortable because the door can close. I still can't find my goddamn gloves, which I know I put in there last spring.)

Actually, that is a big part of it that I forgot: the tidy and the clutter urge is, I'll bet, a struggle to simply know where something is when it is wanted. It probably matters less whether the checkbook is in its checkbook cozy, or in the pile on the desk. As long as everyone knows where its home is. The battles are probably more about putting things in the same place twice rather than where that place is, and things not being where they were left. At least after you account for the control freaks and people with real neurological issues with too much stimuli.
posted by gjc at 8:15 AM on November 12, 2010

I've seen curtained shelving like what Ashly suggested -- it can look great. I think they're better without gathers, so the fabric can lie flat. You can also use narrow blinds or roller shades.
posted by wryly at 12:14 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

A bookshelf skirt is even easier to make if you use Velcro. Easy on, easy off.
posted by jaimystery at 1:40 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

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