This month is all about the most important men in your life. With Father’s Day keeping us aware of the male influence, it may be time to help your favorite masculine pack-rat renew (or discover) some control in their own environment.
Gender Bias for Clutter
There is a serious gender-bias when it comes to clutter. When clutter reigns, women are “messy” or “hoarders” and men are “eccentric” or are “just being men.” This fanciful misconception is propagated by the media, by cultural acceptance, and by the tendency of men to memorize rather than organize.
Men may forget where they left their glasses, when they have that next appointment, why they walked into a room, or when they are supposed to take their medicines (relying on feminine reminders for such things) but they SWEAR that they know where everything on their desk (or bedside stand, or the table beside the recliner….) is.
They also declare that any attempts to clean said areas will result in them never being able to find anything again… ever. They say so accusingly, usually through squinted eyes, while glaring at someone in particular.
Helping a man begin to embrace rightsizing is QUITE a task. The rat-pack type get all panicked and break into a cold sweat if you even suggest that they throw something away. Staying in control of their “stuff” is representative of staying in control of their environment and, by extension, their life.
So don’t tell them what they need to do or what they should throw away. Instead, help them to organize what they have. It makes the process longer and more exasperating for you — but it helps them to see the sheer volume of their possessions in a more realistic light. Once they realize how MUCH there really is, they will slowly be willing to part with a bit of it. Ironically, when everything is in disarray, it’s often easier to buy duplicates rather than finding the item sought — which only adds to the clutter.
I know that when I have ONE pen that I use, I always know exactly where it is. When I have a dozen pens, I can never find one when I need it. The same is true of most belongings.
Let the System Sell Itself
Once the man in your life can actually find things, they will be more accepting of an organizational “system” in general. They will recognize the waste of duplication and will like being able to find the things they seek without all the hunting.
Give the Gift of Organization
If you are doing this for an occasion, make the “gift” a specific task in a single area. Don’t try to take on everything at once — that’s overwhelming and is doomed to fail. Don’t even take on a whole room. Your approach matters, and the magnitude of the initial task can make or break future endeavors. Start in one simple area (for instance):
- Closet – getting rid of things that no longer fit or are ripped/torn/stained. (Reason: “I’d like to make it easier for you to get into and out of your closet and get dressed in the morning.”)
- Garage – Help him organize his tools. (Reason: “I’d like to help you get all your tools together so you can find them when you want to take on a new project or a repair, so it’s less stressful just finding what you need to do what you want to do.”) This also works for fishing gear, photography gear, camping gear, or whatever he deems most important.
- Office – Help him organize his files. (Reason: “I know it frustrates you to not be able to find things and I’d like to create a system – tailor made to you – so you can find your important papers quickly, without having to rifle through stuff on your desk.”)
Remember: there is a learning curve for reorganization, so be sure you help them store things in the most logical places where they are going to look to find the items they need. Organize things in clear totes and easy-to-see places. Deal with visual clutter in the early stages of organization. Resist the urge to hide things away out of sight. Hiding their belongings will only encourage them to resist the process and will ensure that they never return anything to the designated place and the whole system will fall apart.
Would you want to adopt a new system that made life harder and made it impossible for you to find your stuff? Yeah, me neither.
It’s Not About You
Remember, you don’t have to agree with or even like where they use (and should therefore store) their things. You don’t have to agree with everything they say is essential. Listen to them and help — don’t argue and disagree. Eventually, they will tire of organizing the receipts that are several years old and then you might ask if they would like to just throw those away, since they are probably not going to be needed. They will probably agree to do so — even if they refused the same suggestion when the process started. It works. I promise.
It’s Not a Quick-Fix
This is not a quick “in a weekend” project. It’s not an instant fix. It takes time and adjustment — especially if your particular man is not accustomed to such systems. But, once your father (or husband, son, or friend) starts to see a difference, he will want to do more. He may even do some of the work solo — without you right beside him being a cheerleader. Give him the time and space to recognize the value of what has been done and encourage him to think of other areas that he would like to improve. Offer to help when he’s ready.
Evaluate Your Own Motivation
Make sure your heart is in the right place. People — male and female — get uncomfortable when they believe that someone is trying to take, discard or hide their belongings. It’s imperative that you don’t “sneak” and discard or donate anything and that the owner stays in control of the decision making process. This type of activity is a trust-building exercise as well as a clutter-busting one.
How you approach the project is important too. Remember, you aren’t “getting rid of all this junk,” you are helping them to live a better life. You aren’t there to judge and dictate what that means. You are there to help and to offer suggestions and choices and then to accept their choices and keep them moving forward.
It’s like being a study-buddy or a diet pal — you are there for moral support, not to judge. If you want to help them, rather than simply wanting to eliminate their stuff, your good intentions will shine through in time and they will recognize it and appreciate it (and you).
Enjoy the process and give the man in your life a great gift this month — time with you, a helping hand, and the ability to improve his life without feeling the need to protect his territory!