by Susan McCarthy
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Everyday practice: Notice when stuff creates a problem (can't find things, run late after looking for things) and suggest problem-solving instead of decluttering (which might be the solution),
One of the challenges I face with stuff is that my husband likes to hold onto things, even if he isn’t using them. To him, all his CDs are useful because he can listen to them when he wants to … someday. He wants to keep his DVDs because they are his.
Chances are, you both have a different definition of clutter. People who aren’t ready to declutter, don’t see knickknacks and things they don’t use as clutter. It’s their stuff.
Focus on Your Clutter
If you are interested in decluttering, but your partner, roommate, or housemate is not, all I can say is to focus on your own stuff. I know, it becomes frustrating after a while because you’ll look at an end table or a set of shelves and realize that it’s cluttered with stuff and none of it is yours.
You can explain why you want to remove clutter, but remember, this is your reason, not the other person’s. You can request that the other person go on a shopping ban (no more books until they’ve read the one’s they haven’t yet read), or point out that there is a finite amount of space to store items … so all DVDs should fit on a particular shelf or unit. But, if they don't have an issue with the way things are, they aren't going to listen to your suggestions.
So, focus on decluttering your stuff. When you’ve filled a donation box or bag, and are making a trip to the thrift store, ask the other person if they have anything they’d like you to take to the donation center. Don’t be snide or demanding. Hope that at some point they’ll take you up on the offer.
Super important decluttering rule - never toss another's belongings, even if you mean to be helpful.
Share Why You Are Decluttering
Remember, until recently, you owned a lot of things that didn't get used. Your significant other may think that your decluttering is a temporary phase and things will go back to 'normal' soon enough.
Consider your specific reasons for wanted to declutter. If you want to spend less time cleaning, explain that you will no longer clean certain pieces of furniture – shelves, for example, because there is so much stuff on the shelves you can’t clean them.
The dirt might not bother them the way it does you. So, you may want to focus on how your mood affects your relationship. "I know you don't care about the dust, but I get uptight when I see cobwebs strung across things displayed in our home. I hate being grumpy and nagging when you'd rather we do something fun, like go for a drive. Less stuff means less time cleaning the house and more time doing enjoyable things with you."
Notice Their Frustration
Notice when your significant other gets frustrated because they can't find something. Did they miss a deadline? Did they have to go out and spend money buying the duplicate of something they know they already own? Do they get stressed when they can't find their keys or their wallet?
Discuss how you've noticed they're getting frustrated by a repeating situation. Approach the topic as one of creative problem solving. Guide them toward noticing that they are having issues with owning too much stuff.
Get them an eBook, like my Decadent Decluttering or Clear Your Clutter and Create Space for Your Life. It may be that they don't know what the decluttering process involves (some people think they have to get rid of all their stuff, even the things they like and use).
Of course, you can't change another person. You can explain what you hope to gain by decluttering. Focus on the benefits for everyone in the house. Discuss creating organized zones and messy zones (or, works-in-progress zones). if your significant other knows that they can still have their own space, set up the way they want, they may be more inclined to help declutter and organize shared spaces in your home.
Then, focus on your stuff. When others in your home see the results you're getting, they may be more inclined to join you.
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Other helpful articles:
The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).