Before you start reading this, just remember that, no matter what you think or do, your mother was right when she said, “A leopard can’t change his spots.” She was warning that if you think you can change someone’s behavior (i.e: make a messy person neat) after you move into together, begin working together, or marry, it’s not going to happen. No way, no how, not now, not ever!
That said, there are ways to make life more tolerable and with the help of an experienced professional organizer, you may be able to change your leopard just enough to manage your differences—just don’t expect to change another person’s inherent behavior 100 percent. Here are some tips for people who find themselves in that zany and frustrating scenario made popular on the 1970s television show, The Odd Couple.
Establish boundaries and rules: Growing up, my brothers, sister and I had the luxury of having our own bedrooms. This privilege came with a few caveats, including making our beds, picking up after ourselves and keeping our rooms tidy. Our parents didn’t care if we tossed stuff under our beds or in the closets, as long as the overall appearance was clean and presentable.
When it comes to partners, roommates, spouses, co-workers and families, establishing an “everything has to look nice on the surface” rule is paramount to keeping the peace. (Keep reading for hints on how to deal with the piles under the bed or desk.)
Compromise: So, now that you’re living with that loveable slob who swore he’d change, and whom you knew you could change in spite of the fact his mother, roommates and past girlfriends failed, what are you going to do? To keep the peace, you need to pick your battles—very carefully.
Gentlemen, if your wife doesn’t like it when you leave your dirty dishes piled up in the sink rather than putting them in the dishwasher, try making the effort to a.) Open the dishwasher door b.) Slide the top rack out c.) Put the dishes in the dishwasher. It’s not that difficult.
And ladies, if your husband goes berserk in the bathroom trying to make room for his razor amidst piles of makeup, hygiene products, hair brushes and bottles of perfume, clean up after yourself.
As the late, great thought leader Dr. Stephen R. Covey would say, “It’s all about checks and balances.”
Respect shared spaces: Simply put, all “shared” spaces (kitchen, living room, bedroom and/or den) are war-free zones!
I know someone who gets a little nutsy with his wife’s propensity for clipping coupons, recipes and articles from the local newspaper and covering every square inch of the living room with these little scraps. His wife, on the other hand, hyperventilates when she sees his fishing lures and tomato seedlings littering the dining room table.
The initial solution—putting his stuff in his office and her stuff in her office—was a huge success. The next challenge is organizing and compartmentalizing all the “stuff” that’s now accumulating in their respective offices.
Three strikes, you’re out: Parenting is not that hard if you establish rules and enforce them, especially when dealing with children who refuse to clean up after themselves. The beauty of this “rule” is that it actually works, and what’s more, it usually takes just one time. Be firm and make sure your kids fully understand the consequences should they choose not to pick up and put away their smartphones, headsets/earphones, clothes and/or sports equipment, all of which you probably paid for in the first place.
The third strike means you will donate, sell or lock up the loose items. If they want their phone back or can’t join a team because they don’t have the right gear, they can do household chores to “buy” back their stuff. DO. NOT. GIVE IN.
The big purge: Wondering how to tackle what’s behind closed doors and stuffed under the bed? Challenge everyone (slobs and neatniks alike) to an all-day purge-a-thon. At the end of the day, the person with the cleanest, most clutter-free room wins. Prizes can range from cash to services, such as the “runner-up” washing the winner’s car, or a special dinner out for the whole family. In the end, there are no losers, just winners.