Living in small spaces can be difficult, but little pleasantries make up for it: the rent, the convenience, less cleaning, smaller electric bills, fewer chances of losing stuff. When it comes down to it, though, you’re still sharing a tiny place with another human being, one who was likely raised in a very different household than yours, and who probably didn’t have a dad who blew his nose in bathtowels.
So system implementation hits the top of the priority list–figuring out what works, what doesn’t work, and coming to some compromise. I’ve only been married 18 months (living together for 4-ish years) but I’ve heard that helps with other aspects of a relationship, as well.
Problem is, I’m an Ernie. I always have been. Cookie crumbs in the bed, splashing bubbles out of the tub, a feeling of real perplexity when my sister (the Bert in my life) became enraged just because I left her YMCA 45 out in the sun. Fast forward twenty years, and I move in with RocketMan, who’s more Bert than RocketSis ever was. He washes the dishes immediately after meals. He puts the cap back on the toothpaste. He puts his shoes away the moment he gets home. He hangs up his jacket (on the coat rack, even). All of these things come easily to him, too; it’s inhuman.
In classic Ernie fashion, though, I wanted to appease Bert, so I began changing my habits. Dishes are a non-negotiable; between the size of our kitchen and the threat of bugs, I adapted. Cap on the toothpaste? No problem. I was long-tired of the Stuff my childhood toothpaste seemed to spawn, anyway.
Other little pickups took longer, though, and we’re still a work in progress. We’ve created systems that work around my forgetfulness and his fastidiousness. Instead of demanding that I absolutely put something away every time, he creates an interim place close at hand–a staging area for my later cleanup. Or he notices I’ve lost something again and builds around it. Fortunately, he’s not so anal that he demands absolute minimalism, and I’m not such a slob that I don’t care about what our home looks like. The real trick is that I’m willing to do something I wouldn’t normally do–if it’s within the bounds of my messy tendencies–and he’s willing to make a small compromise, knowing at least I’m putting something in a home. With any luck, some of our systems might inspire the Berts or Ernies in your life to dial it up or back.
|My Favorite Systems|
Ponytails and Crosswords
I love crossword puzzles. A lot. I don’t know if you saw The Simpsons episode this year in which Lisa gets hooked on crosswords, but at the end, when Homer builds in a secret code with Will Shortz? I leaped up from the couch screaming “That was a clue from today! FROM TODAY! OHMIGOD THAT’S THE CROSSWORD I JUST DID!” It was like I’d gotten some SuperGeek decoder ring from the PuzzleMaster himself.
After a few months of working on crosswords daily–I pick them up, put them down, come back to it a day later–I came home one day to this ingenius system. RocketMan had sticky-Velcroed my correction tape to the corner of a clipboard, attached a pen to the clip, and arranged all of my in-progress puzzles under the clip. He’d done it out of sheer frustration in seeing puzzles flutter to the floor and hearing me ask “Have you seen my pen?” for the sixtieth time in a week.
Next to the crossword clipboard, you’ll see a little appetizer dish serving up two very unappetizing ponytail holders. I have long hair, but I hate wearing it down, so I generally wear it back all day. By the time I curl up on the couch, my scalp needs to relax (and who wants a big ol’ ponytail digging into a pillow?), so I pull out the ponytail, set the holder on the coffee table… and two hours later, I stumble up from the couch, having fallen asleep, and into bed. Two days later, the one holder has multiplied into four, somehow, and RocketMan is wondering how many women actually live in the house. To answer your question, yes, we tried getting me to just take it off in the bathroom, or put it away en route to bed, but it just didn’t happen. So RocketMan set out the little dish, designated it the official Ponytail Holder Holder, and twice a week or so I empty it into the REAL Ponytail Holder Holder in the bathroom.
The Not-Actually-Laundry Laundry Basket
We implemented a similar system several years ago, when RocketMan noticed a growing pile of clothes on my side of the bed. It was out of sight of the rest of the room, so I didn’t see what the big deal was, but I consented to consider a possible alternative to dumping my clothes on the floor. Here’s the thing–I get home from work, change into my comfy clothes, fall asleep on the couch, and then remove the comfy clothes in a sleepy haze before climbing into bed. They’re not really dirty at that point–I’ve only worn them for five hours, after all, and the most strenuous thing I do in the evening is wash dishes–so they don’t belong in the hamper, so… where do they go, besides the floor?
They go in this Canvas Stacking Basket from the Container Store. I wear my comfies out of it until I toss them in the laundry, and in the meantime, it’s near enough to the bed that I have no trouble remembering to not leave my clothes in a heap, teenager-style.