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Strategize Organize LLC 
Newsletter Volume 2, Issue 6

 Sharing a Living Space   

Often times people ask me for tips on how to share a living space with someone who does not necessarily have the same philosophy of organization.  From what I have learned, there is not a simple solution.  However, I do think there are things that we can do that can help us along.  

40 Minutes a Week - Less Than an Hour! 

If you are living with someone who you feel really does not want to organize, perhaps they might be willing if they knew that it would take less than an hour.  These 40 minutes can be divided up into two parts.  The first part is the MEETING and the second part is the DOING.  


Schedule a 20 minute meeting once a week.  Ideally, it would be in a relaxed space and maybe even with a cup of tea or coffee.  If there are kids that need to be looked after, try and meet at a time when they are gone, in bed, or occupied.  If they are old enough, explain that you are having a meeting for the next 20 minutes and they need to hold their questions until after the meeting.  

Talking and Listening - This meeting should be a time where both people follow rules of good communication.  Try and listen and speak respectfully.  It is important to remember that people do have different ideas and perspectives about stuff.  Although it may seem that your way is the "right" way and their way is the "wrong" way, it usually isn't that simple.  The goal is to find a way that both people can live in the space and feel comfortable.  

Generally people have two kinds of topics for a meeting.  One involves stuff.  Stuff can be things that have not been put away.  Or stuff can be thing after thing after thing - keeping everything, getting rid of nothing, and running out of space.  The second topic for the meeting is feedback. Sometime we can not deal with or act on a piece of paper or physical item because we need to get the other person's opinion, permission, or knowledge about the paper or item.  This meeting is a time to talk about these topics.

Stuff - Our stuff can be difficult.  Both people should explain their point of view about the stuff and then try and come up with solutions.  For example, if one person doesn't put their things away, maybe the current assigned home is not working for some reason and a new home needs to be found.  Or maybe the person needs a specific place to dump their things such as a basket, drawer, or room.  A dumping space can work as long as there are systems set up for the things to get put away.  

Keeping everything and running out of space is another stuff problem that can be discussed at the meeting.  Putting physical limits on things can sometimes be helpful.  For example, "We have figured out that we have space for one box of magazines.  When the box gets full, every new magazine that comes in has to replace an old magazine that goes out."  *If it is impossible to imagine getting rid of anything, it might be beneficial to get some help from a counselor. 

Feedback - Sometimes we just need a bit of feedback in order to deal with a piece of paper or a physical item.  The meeting is a perfect time to find out if the other person wants to keep something or to find out if there is a legal, financial, or other reason to hold onto the item.  Come with your list of questions.  


This is the time where sorting, purging, and putting things away gets done.  Both people can do this.  Work for 20 minutes so the task is not so daunting.  Experiment with how the two of you spend this time.  It might make sense for each person to take their own pile or maybe you will both work on the same pile.  In terms of what pile to choose, you might want to start with the pile that has been getting on your nerves, or maybe your partner's nerves. If there is a dumping area that has collected from the week, that might be a good place to start.  It may be that there needs to be a longer time scheduled for a bigger project.  If so, great, go ahead and schedule it.  But keep up with the weekly 20 minute sessions.  This will help maintain the space and hopefully keep everyone comfortable and happy.

Helpful Hint - Use a timer! It can make you do something for a period of time and it also can give you permission to stop.

Good Luck, 

My company name is Strategize Organize LLC.  
You can find my website at
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Copyright (C) 2008 Susan Hunsberger Professional Organizer All rights reserved.
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