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Messy bathroom cabinetSo, it’s all very well that we’re getting more organized ourselves, keeping things neat, cleaning, getting things done, managing our lists and so on, but how do we keep it up if we are sharing our space with people who don’t share our desire for order?

It’s annoying and frustrating to repeatedly find someone else’s dirty dishes laying around, or to have to use the bathroom after them when they’ve left whiskers in the sink, step over their junk on the floor and so on.

Well, I have some strong views about this issue.  I’m going to get all philosophical on you now, but I see it as practical too.

If you are focussed on what someone else is doing ‘wrong’ – you have got it wrong already.  This won’t help you, or them, or make any difference to your quality of life.

Judging and rating others makes something your problem that needn’t be.  It makes you a victim, it focuses on negativity, it makes the other person defensive, it creates an atmosphere, and ultimately, it’s a reflection of how you see yourself.  Another person’s lack of skill or experience or good habits in matters of organization, tidiness and cleanliness, affect them more than they affect you.  It is their issue, not yours.


They don’t need your criticism, your judgement, or for you to do everything for them.  They need for you to do your own thing, look after your own stuff, your own life, and set a good example for them.  They need for you to help them by being happy yourself and being an example of good self esteem.

That’s right, the better your own self esteem, the less you will feel inclined to judge others, and the less you will be bothered or annoyed by the behaviour of others.

Keep in mind the reasons why you want to be organized yourself, and think about your motivation.  Your motivation should not be to be better than someone else, to prove anything, or because you’re worried about how you will be judged.  It should be a conscious recognition that is in your best interests, because you like it like that and it makes your life easier – for you.

With that in mind, remember that the work you do around your home, would be done anyway, for yourself.

You’re not responsible for ‘fixing’ other people, especially grownups. 

If the slobby people concerned are your children, well, they do need your guidance.  They don’t need to be judged, nagged, put down etc though.  What they need most of all is a good example, and setting a good example is your best shot at influencing anybody in a positive way.  Influencing them can’t be your reason for doing what you do though, or it won’t work.  You still need to do things for yourself, because it’s in your best interests, and for no other reason.

This is not to say that you should be a doormat and run around after other people though.  In fact doing so is harmful to them as well as you.  People need to be given a chance to do things for themselves, and they need to be allowed to do them wrong, or not to your liking.  If you jump on someone because they don’t fold towels like you do, that’s not going to encourage them to do it again.

Getting your own act together first is the best approach.  If you’re not looking after your own life, your own things, your own routines, what right do you have to complain about anyone else?  As you do move towards setting a better example because you’re improving your own habits, it can be quite pleasantly surprising, both in how it affects those around you, and also in how it affects your feelings towards those around you.  Often, if we behave better ourselves, we feel less inclined to pass judgement on others.

It is reasonable to have certain basic expectations of those you share your space with.  One is that when a meal is shared, everyone helps, or offers to help clean up afterwards, and the other is that each member of a household, who is capable of doing so, should tidy up after themselves and be responsible for their own things.  With your children, calmly insisting on this before they are allowed to have free time, will get them into good habits and give them a valuable life skill.

If it’s your partner leaving shoes, jackets, papers, dishes and rubbish all over the place, it’s a tricky one.  Nagging and complaining don’t work, but it’s no fun having to constantly clean up somebody else’s mess or putting up with the clutter. 

There are a few different ways to approach it:

1. Just leave it where it is, ignore it.  (Unless you have to pick it up because you have run out of dishes).

2. Ask, firmly but nicely, for them to put their things away.

3. Put the stuff away for them.

4. Pick up the stuff in a basket or box, to get it out of your way, but don’t put it away for them.

5. A combination of all these approaches.


- Don’t ever ask someone to pick up after themselves if you have not fully done so yourself.

- If you are going to ask, make it about something very specific.  For example, as your partner goes to leave the room, ask “would you please take your shoes with you”, or “don’t forget your shoes”.  Ask in a friendly and positive way, and not in a critical way, and always be polite. Make these reminders on a daily basis if necessary, but not too frequently.

- Don’t ever complain, whine or nag.  Don’t generalise, criticize, or use guilt tactics.  It won’t work, and it will hurt you.

- Don’t be a martyr.  It won’t help anyone.  If you behave like someone’s personal servant, you’re inviting them to treat you that way. If you’re trying to prove you’re better than someone else, you’re only hurting yourself.

- There’s no reason people can’t do nice things for each other sometimes.  Why not put someone’s clothes away in the drawer for them if you know they’re rushed, tired or unwell today.  Why not pick up someone’s keys and put them in the designated spot before they get lost.

If it’s your partner, don’t let petty annoyances get out of hand.  I find they can often be a sign of other things going on, deeper issues of how we feel about ourselves.  Remember, people will treat you the way you teach them to (Dr Wayne Dyer).  Try to calm down, step back, forget what doesn’t really matter, and just get on with your own stuff.  Getting your own life in order will benefit your relationships and the people around you.

If it’s your kids, set an example and provide leadership.  Guide them.  Be sensible.  You’re not their personal servant, and they are more capable than you think.  They need life skills, they need good manners, and it’s your job to provide those things by setting an example and requiring that they take some responsibility.

If it’s your share house people or flatmates, don’t let their problems become yours.  Get your own act together first, and if they are no fun to live with, move.  They’ll learn more from you by following your example, and you’ll be less stressed if you don’t take on other people’s issues.

If you look around a room and it looks cluttered and untidy, take a moment to assess what the items are.  Is it dishes, clothes, rubbish, magazines, things that belong in the room, things that don’t belong in the room?  If you want the room to be a certain way, keep it that way.  Put away the CDs and DVDs and books and remotes that other people have left out.  Pick up the cushions.  Straighten the curtains.  Just because somebody else left it like that, doesn’t mean you should deny yourself living in a tidy room.  If you think of it in terms of time, i.e. it might take you 3 minutes to do those things, you can see that it’s not worth the stress of leaving the mess.  Others are more likely to keep the room straight if they keep finding it that way.  But this won’t work if it’s accompanied by nagging or complaining.

If the items in the room belong to others or don’t belong in the room, keep some small boxes or baskets handy, and just spend 3 minutes picking up.  Pop the box in their room, or to one side.  If they ask where their stuff is, you can tell them it’s in the box – without any attitude.

With my kids, I try to cultivate a feeling of pride in OUR home.  I focus on things we like together about our home, how WE like our home to be.  If I’ve moved something around and they notice, I talk about how it will be better for US like that, and ask what they think.

Yes, sometimes you do need to show someone something, maybe for the third or fourth time, like how not to overfill the rubbish bin, (so you don’t have to go around picking up rubbish off the ground when the wind/birds/possums/cats have spread it around), or why the glasses get washed first, before the frying pan, or about socks not being inside out in the washing basket (so you don’t have to put your hand inside someone’s dirty sock).  Just do it calmly, patiently, nicely, but do it.  Six or seven times tops, and they’ll catch on.  As long as it really matters.

Organize Your Life – Get the Ultimate Guide here


#4 Zeeva 2011-04-15 18:18
Hahahahahahah! Make laugh! Oh, yeah, I've tried it all. And none of it works. I've pretty much have given up. Marriage has taught me that not much in life is worth care taking, just pile it up in a corner or where ever the is an empty spot and wonder 2 -3 -4 -5 or more years later why whatever it was is ruined, dusty, rusty etc. Its a matter of caretaking. You take care of things so you have them. You toss them around the house in piles, most likely things get broken. Also you make times to use things and if you don't use them, after a period of time, you rethink whether or not to keep or donated, sell, etc. the item.
#3 Valerie 2011-02-15 15:36
Number 4 usually works for me. It also helps that he has a separate closet, so I just pitch stuff in there and close the door. Thanks for the article! PS - we are also in the market for a housekeeper. ;-)
#2 Sandy Billadeau 2011-01-04 00:45
]This is great advice. Maybe I won't yell at my husband for leaving the bar of soap on the tub floor...maybe ill ask him nicely to pick it up;-) I will put these guidelines to use!!!!
#1 Sandy Billadeau 2011-01-04 00:22
Thanks Yvette!! Great advice...i guess the soap my husband left on the tub floor isnt really a big deal. The part about not nagging makes sense too, no one wants to be nagged. I'll let you know the guidelines work out ;-)


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