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How to Talk To Your Messy Friends About Getting Organized

When people discover the benefits of living a more organized life, they often find it to be addictive.  As with any new passion, they want to share it with their friends.

Their messy, disorganized, and forgetful friends. They see these friends struggling to get to meetings on time or find something to wear that isn’t completely wrinkled.

They’re a tiny bit horrified when they see all of the things their friends have pack-ratted away in their closets, and they worry that all that stuff on their kitchen counters is a legitimate fire hazard.

But how can people with a passion for organization help their friends… and still remain friends with them? Many people don’t take self-improvement advice very well, and no one ranks alienating a friend high on their to-do list. Professional organizer Ellyn Elstein offers some tips.

  • Depersonalize it. When you talk to your friends about getting organized, focus on the mess and not the person. “Don’t say, ‘Gosh, you’re really sloppy,’ Elstein says, “That’s one thing.” Instead, choose to mention something impersonal. “Boots are not necessarily something that people get offended about if you’re making a suggestion for how to be better organized.” If you happen to see a big pile of shoes in their entryway, mention how you solved the boot storage problem in your own life.
  • Offer to spend some time helping your friend get organized, but include the offer as part of a social event. “I could come by over the weekend, we could watch a movie, and I could help you sort through some of this stuff,” might be a good way to approach it.
  • Buy your friends a gift of time with a professional organizer. While they might be hesitant to show you, their friend, the full extent of their clutter, they could be more comfortable with a professional. “People are really quite sensitive about their things and other people going through them,” Elstein says. “I use a lot of my training from nursing to help my clients… Often the root of the issue is they don’t have their own space, and it’s a conflict in their relationships. Like a counselor, I hear a lot of things my clients haven’t ever told their spouses! My job is to calm them down, get it all out, and help them get some separate space.”
  • One of the most common problems is when a couple shares a closet, especially when one is very neat and the other is not. They’ll have a real problem working together within those confines. The solution is not changing either of the people, but working to find them their own spaces so the tension between them can be reduced.
  • Customize your approach to the objections your friends might offer. If they are always in a hurry or lack time to get things done, you can explain to them that becoming better organized would save them time – time they could then use to get other things in their lives done. If they are always losing things, mention that decluttering could really help solve that problem
  • Help them prioritize by asking what part of the house – or their lives – creates the most problems for them. Is it a desk or a closet? Is it where they keep their shoes or boots? Their car? Their unsorted mail? When they identify their most pressing problem, you can concentrate your efforts on solving that one thing. And after that’s solved, you can move on to the next most pressing problem.
  • Do not approach helping with organization like it’s a total life makeover. No one wants to be another person’s project, nor do they want to perceive themselves as needing an overhaul. Little victories make larger victories possible over time, so start small.
  • Promise to keep their privacy – and keep it. People don’t like it when others notice their messy houses and comment on it. They feel judged and embarrassed. If you can help and keep your mouth closed about it, you will build trust with your friends, and your friendships will become more intimate. Under no circumstances should you gossip about how messy their house is! This will get back to them eventually, and it will ruin your friendship.

Friends help their friends when they need it. This is what friends do. While not everyone will respond the same to an offer of help, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Better organization does help create easier, simpler living and greater success in many areas.

Who wouldn’t want that for their friends? If you follow the above tips and are patient with your friends, you may be able to get them on the path to that simpler, better lifestyle as well.


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