Chances are, if you’re married or in a relationship, one of you likes to keep things and one of you would prefer to get rid of excess stuff.
I’m 100% a declutter-er since birth. As a kid, I thought it was a fun activity to go through all of my toys and clothes and get rid of whatever I hadn’t used in a while.
And Austin? Well, my mother-in-law has told me stories about him as a child getting upset when she got rid of clothes that didn’t even fit him anymore.
A huge question in the decluttering/organizing/minimalist world is how to deal with a spouse that has no interest in decluttering or getting rid of excess stuff.
In my limited experience, these are the ways I’ve gotten Austin on board with my need for a clutter-free and organized home.
Decluttering: How to Get Your Spouse On Board
Help Them Understand
Clutter doesn’t make everyone feel the same way. Some people truly don’t notice it. If you want to get your spouse on the same page as you, they need to understand how a cluttered space makes you feel.
When things are out of place in our home, I feel stressed, chaotic, and like I can’t relax. Austin doesn’t really feel that way. It took me a while to understand that most of the time, he just isn’t bothered by clutter like I am.
Explain to your spouse how your home makes you feel.
Set Space Limits
Space limits are a wonderful thing. A space limit is a decision that a certain category of items needs to fit in a certain area. If it starts to overflow, then something has got to go.
For an example, you might have one bookcase for all of your books. If you acquire so many books that they no longer fit nicely on the one bookcase, then you need to declutter your books until they fit.
To help your spouse get on the board with decluttering, set space limits on each of your possessions that you both agree on.
Austin and I each have one storage tub that we use to keep our childhood memories stuff in. Last year, both of our parents gave us extra stuff that they had been saving. We each went through our tubs and got rid of things until what we kept fit in our tubs.
If you can set space limits that you both agree on, then you can both hold each other accountable.
Go Through Things Together
It can help to go through things together.
The key here is to not be pushy. There have been times that I’ve tried to help Austin go through his stuff and I just stressed him out and made him think I was try to throw away everything he owned.
For someone who isn’t very willing to get rid of things, being too aggressive can cause them to panic and want to keep everything.
I will try to point out things like, “Hey, you haven’t used this in over a year. You probably don’t need it, right?” or “I think you have three of these. Can we get rid of this one?”. But if he wants to keep something, I don’t press the issue much.
Help Them Organize
I always recommend decluttering before you attempt to organize. If your spouse is unwilling to declutter their possessions or still has a lot left over after decluttering, try to help them organize what they have.
Their stuff will be so much more useful to them if it all has a “home” and can be easily found!
Maybe they keep buying nuts and bolts from the hardware store because they can’t find what they have. If it’s all organized, they’ll be able to find what they need, save money, and save time going to the store.
Designate Family Areas & Personal Areas
Each of our personal things can easily overflow into family areas, which is when it starts to really make our home feel cluttered.
It’s great to have designated personal areas where each person’s things belong. The goal is to keep family areas like the living room uncluttered so that you have to space to relax and do activities together.
Having personal areas is also great because it gives your spouse’s stuff a place and you can just not worry about that area.
My husband doesn’t have his own home office or separate room, but we each have a night stand where we keep personal items like books or electronics. If some of his random stuff is laying around, I usually put in on his nightstand and he can deal with it.
At our old house, we each had a desk. Austin had small shelves above his desk for his favorite knickknacks. I used my desk area to hang photos and keep a few of my favorite stuffed animals.
Digitize Where Possible
Most of my husband’s clutter comes in the form of electronics, movies, video games, or music. Over the last few years, we’ve digitized this stuff as much as possible.
We have an external hard drive that stores most of our movies. Most of the video games he purchases now are digital downloads instead of physical disks.
We did take all of our DVDs that we couldn’t part with and put them in a DVD binder so that they take up less space now.
Talk About Your Budget & Purchases
Stuff costs money! Haha. Since I’m an budget-believer, I thought I’d throw this tip in.
Maybe you and your spouse need to have a discussion about your budget and your purchases.
Austin & I each have a small monthly allowance. It’s hard to create too much clutter because we don’t have much money to buy things with.
You could also make a rule that you need to discuss any purchase over $20 with the other person.
These kinds of discussions are good for your finances and good for taming your clutter.
Lead By Example
It’s not great to try to get rid of someone else’s stuff when your stuff is exploding all over the place 🙂
Spend time getting your own stuff in order and you’ll have a better chance of “rubbing off” on others.
Your space will start to feel better and less cluttered and that might just be the inspiration your spouse needs to do some decluttering of their own.
Be (just a little) Sneaky
Ok, so I have on occasion gotten a little bit sneaky about Austin’s stuff. I have never gotten rid of something of his without asking (unless it was obviously trash or I knew he wouldn’t care), but I have hidden things.
There have been things from time to time that he hasn’t wanted to get rid of even though I knew he hadn’t used them in a very long time. We’re talking old clothes, movies, cords that don’t go to anything, crazy-old electronics, etc.
If I’m being sneaky, I hide those things in a box in another room for a few months. If he asks me if I know where “such-and-such” is, I’ll go grab it for him. If he doesn’t ask about it in a few months, I’ll bring it up and say, “you haven’t used this in months, can we get rid of it?”. Usually, the answer is yes and he’s ready to part with it.
If you get rid of someone else’s things without them knowing, it can cause a lack of trust and make them want to keep everything because they’re panicked that you’ll throw out their treasures.
I hope these tips help! They’ve worked well for me, but it has been quite a long process to get my husband to start to come around to my way of thinking.
O, and I have to mention my new favorite book about decluttering and organizing. I got The Joy of Less for Christmas and I love it! It’s so motivating and practical. It makes me think differently about my stuff and my space.
If you’re looking for a good book to read about simplifying your home, I definitely recommend it.