I posted this several years ago, but because it is so relevant, I want to share it again with you….

My husband and I will be married a lucky 13 years this month. We got married as close to St. Patrick’s Day as possible because I was marrying an Irishman. There’s a shamrock that hangs in our home that says, “Marrying an Irishman Builds Tolerance”. Very true I’ve learned, but he is fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, married to an organizer, so he too has a high tolerance level.

At my first Clever Container party I had asked the guests to talk about their hardest organizing challenge and to my surprise, almost all of them said their spouse! So I thought I would share with you one of my common organizing strategies when I am organizing my husband’s stuff or when I am helping a client organize not her own things but other people’s possessions in her home.

I remember the first time I ever threw out something of my husband’s. We had been married a short while and I was cleaning out the “junk drawer” in a table we had in the foyer. There were lots of items that I didn’t have a clue about and there was this old leather key chain that was so faded I couldn’t make out what used to be written on it. It looked like an old logo of some kind. It didn’t have keys on it so I tossed it into the garbage. I finished cleaning and organizing this junk drawer like a good wife should or so I thought.

About six months later my husband said to me, “Honey, have you seen the Notre Dame key ring that my mom gave to me when I first got my driver’s license?” I instinctively knew that the keychain I dumped in the garbage must have been just that very item he was looking for. With tears forming in my eyes I said, “I threw it out months ago and I’m very sorry. I didn’t realize what it was.” He gracious looked at me and stated, “The next time you decide to throw out something that is not yours, please ask.”

I have never forgotten that advice. So when it comes to my own family or to my client’s possessions I always ask permission before purging.

“Mother May I” Get Rid of This for You?

That being said I’ve found a way to help my husband and others quickly make decisions on which of their items should stay and which can go. I create “Mother May I” piles. I do all the SORTING for the person. I separate whatever it is I want to organize into logical categories so that a lot of the organizing work is already done for the person who is going to make the decisions.

For example when changing over my husband’s seasonal clothes, I’ll use the bed or bedroom floor as a landing/sorting zone and put all his t-shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, socks etc. into neatly layered piles so he can see not only how many he has but also what kind of variety he has. I might even put a Post It on top that tells him he has “43” t-shirts and I’ll have them color-coded too so he realizes 12 of them are black. I might even label a pile, “Suggested Donations”. Then since they are his shirts, he can make the decision as to how many he is comfortable giving up. When he tells me which ones he is willing to let go of, I gladly scoop them up and place them into my donation bin getting them out of my house as quickly as possible.

This may seem like a lot of work on my part but it is worth it to me because afterwards, I can easily close the dresser drawers. It saves me the stress of waiting for him to do it himself while I stew because the clutter is annoying me. If I simply do the sorting he will make decisions and making decisions will get the organizational ball rolling. If I didn’t do this with him or my children our home would become unmanageable. So, give it a try!