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Articles from June 2016

June 3, 2016

Unfinished Remodeling Projects and Clutter

I received this question by email recently, and it's got three very familiar elements in it:

I am reasonably neat and organized. Not obsessive and definitely not a clean freak but I like my papers organized and my home relatively tidy. My husband is one of the messiest people I've ever met. With his encouragement, I've organized his desk but it's back to where it was within a month. A mess of string, rubber bands, clips, books, checks, checkbook, 20 prs of reading glasses, random nails, batteries, you name it in what looks like a post tornado whirlwind.

We came to an understanding that he could keep his office and his workshop any way he wished but our papers including a hanging file basket of yearly tax stuff would be organized. We had issues surrounding the stuff that needed to be filed- he would throw them in piles but we solved that by buying a table he agreed not to throw anything on but papers needing filing.

Two years ago he decided, with many misgivings on my part, to redo our bathroom. He said it would take a few months. It is nowhere near completed. In the meanwhile, all the stuff that used to be in the bathroom clogs up my study and our hall closet. I share a bathroom with our daughter now- and she is as messy as my husband and the space is tight. I cannot find things on a daily basis. It is a daily stress.

I was going to put all the files in my office but there is no room because it is overflowing with bathroom stuff .

I cannot tell you how stressful it is to go to sleep in a junked up room crammed with bathroom items, work in a crammed up office crammed with bathroom items and step into a super messy garage crammed with all the new bathroom fixtures/appliances mixed in the most messy way with our regular food, paper goods and other supplies.

I cannot even think straight any longer.

I think we:
a. need to hire someone to finish the bathroom ASAP

b. need to create a third neutral space to house our joint papers that hubby cannot extend his mess into

c. in the long view: we do not decorate for holidays because whatever bins I put holiday decorations into are lost in the mess of the garage. I find this greatly reduces my enjoyment of festivity and life living with such disarray.

Unfinished Remodeling Projects

I'm going to take as a given that our goal isn't to get the house ready to sell to facilitate a divorce but rather to strengthen the marriage and make it more enjoyable for the writer.

If that's the case, the writer wants the bathroom stuff (1) out of the bedroom, (2) out of the office, (3) out of sight, and (4) accessible from her daughter's bathroom. Paying someone to finish the bathroom remodeling isn't the only way to get what she wants. And it's possible this approach would rob her husband of what he wants, if that happens to be the satisfaction resulting from remodeling his own bathroom.

The most marriage-strengthening solution is the Third Alternative they come up with together. It may turn out he's not looking forward to finishing it himself, but hiring someone else to do that hasn't come up because he's just not bothered by the current state of the room. In that case, it's a great solution.

But if he's looking for more time to finish his project, here are some others they might come up with together or she might implement on her own:

  • a garage sale armoire in the hall outside the daughter's bathroom

  • temporary shelves inside the unusable shower

  • a rolling storage cart

  • a shoe caddy on the inside of her daughter's bathroom door

The trick is in separating what we need from what we'd prefer. Can we give our spouse a little more time on a project by reducing the amount of daily annoyance it causes for us?

Of course, if this were the only bathroom in the house or if using the other bathroom were a huge issue, she could say, "I need a bathroom near where I sleep and room in it to store things. It doesn't need to be this one you're working on, but it's what I need. Let me know if you need more time on the bathroom project. If so, let's figure out together where I can sleep with a usable bathroom next to it until it's done."


The writer and her husband have come up with a few steps to decrease the clutter problem, but they are not working. So what next?

I'd like to invite you to help get us to a Third Alternative. The first two alternatives are (1) the convenience for him of leaving things on any surface where they can be searched for as needed and (2) keeping things orderly enough to require no searching for, in particular, joint financial records and holiday decorations whenever she wants them.

On the blog, please leave a comment with one or more suggestions for Third Alternatives that will please both of them (i.e., give him the convenience and her the instant access to those two categories of things) and avoid the resentment both of them likely feel right now.

I'd love for us to give her "50 Ways to Keep Your Lover." In fact, I'll send a prize to the one she and her husband agree is best for them if we come up with 50.

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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