Credit: Darwin Vegher / Unsplash

Let’s celebrate the month of love by sharing some thoughts on how our physical space can hinder our emotional space. One of the biggest challenges in any relationship is the clutter and “stuff” that can come between a marriage or partnership.

This might make you chuckle, but all too often, I have seen the little stuff turn into the big divide. Early in my career, I got many calls from people asking if I could come and get their partner more organized. To their disappointment, my answer was always “no.” I would tell them, “Getting organized is like getting in shape: They have to want it, and you can’t want it for them. If they don’t have the desire, then the changes don’t stick, and the habits aren’t genuine, so inevitably there will be even more disorganization — and disappointment — down the road.”

When people get together in a relationship, they each bring their lifetime of stuff — both emotional and physical — with them. Then they start to collect stuff together. We collect and accumulate for many varied reasons, but at the end of the day, it often impedes on the other person’s space.

Another issue is that each partner often has a different idea of what “being organized” means to them. Ring a bell? If so, then let me offer some ideas to noodle on when it comes to this area of your life … all in the name of love!

1) People must want to change.  People don’t usually change because you want them to. There, I said it. Sorry, but it’s the truth. If you can accept your partner just as they are right now, with all their “stuff” and their time management issues and their lack of understanding about how disorganized they may be, then you have won more than half the battle. Then change can start to happen.

What you CAN do is help them find their WIIFM — “What’s in it for me?” Helping your partner see what’s in it for them (more harmony, easier to find things, less stress, increased productivity) will make it much easier to support them in making some changes.

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2) Communicate expectations.  If the willingness to make some change is present for your partner, having a conversation around what you expect and what you want is imperative. Without this conversation, they’ll have nothing to work toward and nothing to gauge success in their process. And remember, an unspoken expectation is a resentment waiting to happen. 

3) Create a plan. Once you have breezed through numbers one and two, it’s now time to sit down and create a plan together. What do you want to do to move forward? How do you want your space to look, to flow, to function? What do you want to do in this room/office/area once it’s organized? The answers to these questions will get you on the same page and create forward momentum.

4) Claim your spaces.  Each person should have a tiny bit of space that is theirs and only theirs where the other isn’t allowed to criticize or start tidying up. It’s the other person’s expression of themselves, and I am a big believer that everyone needs a little bit of their own space to do with what they want. The rule is you have to leave it alone — even if it bugs you!

5) Ask for help.  At the end of the day, if you can’t find forward movement in this area of your relationship, then get some help! There are many people (therapists, professional organizers, consultants, coaches, etc.) that would be more than happy to help you restore harmony in your relationship. It’s their job. I suggest bringing in a fresh set of eyes and ears, and let someone else do the talking!

In the words of Richard Bach, “True love stories never have endings,” so consider this to be the beginning of a new chapter in your neverending love story.

Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase workplace efficiency. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at

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