Living With Someone Else’s Clutter

If you’re the type of person who likes living in a clutter-free, organized space, it can be really frustrating to live with someone who doesn’t! I know from personal experience. Whenever my husband enters a hardware or athletic store he will always find something to buy, whether we need it or not, and I live with the consequences at home. I once discovered in our garage enough lights to illuminate an entire baseball field.

One thing I’ve learned over the course of my marriage is that you can’t change someone else—believe me, I tried! So instead, I try to find a balance between our different approaches to clutter.  If you also live with someone who likes to accumulate a lot of stuff, try the below suggestions to create harmony at home.

Eights Ways to Live With, Organize, and Manage Your Partner’s Clutter

1.              Take responsibility for yourself. Are you really as clutter-free as you think you are or is some part of your frustration with your partner a projection? Every drawer and closet in my house may have been in order, but one day I realized the desktop of my computer was a mess. Really the only way to help someone else learn a new habit, is to first change yourself. So look for your hidden clutter before tackling your partners.

2.              Divide your space. If you can, have your own closets—even if that means one of you takes a guest room or hall closet. Do the same in the bathroom too by each having your own drawer or drawers. This way you can keep your area streamlined and organized and not be weighed down by someone else’s stuff.

3.              Refrain from preaching! It’s not always easy to keep your mouth closed, but the best way to inspire someone is to live by example. They will see the positive difference it makes in your life and hopefully want the same. Lecturing or nagging usually doesn’t produce positive outcomes, but when you positively shift the energy in your space it will often motivate your partner.

4.              Offer support. Some people don’t know how to clear clutter or organize and if they’ve never been organized they may not realize what they’re missing. If you and your partner argue when you try to help,  try hiring a professional organizer for the day. If clutter has been a source of conflict in your relationship, it’s often too charged a subject for you to be the teacher. You could also take a workshop together or share a book such as Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston.  When your partner experiences the freedom and the extra time and energy from organizing even one small area of his or her life, hopefully s/he will want more.

5.               Room of your own. Some people can simply live with more stuff than others. What looks like clutter to you, may not be for someone else. All his things may actually be current and meaningful for your partner. If you have the space, it’s great to each have your own “room” where you both get to live exactly as you choose. If you can’t have an entire room to yourself, try to find a closet, storage space or bookshelf that you can each have as your own. In the common areas look for the opportunity to practice respect for one another and compromise.

6.              Take a look inside. Are you using your partner’s clutter as an excuse for not being happy or to pick a fight?  Is the clutter representative of some larger issue?

7.              Look at your habits as a couple that may be contributing to the clutter.  How do you spend time together? Do you spend a lot of time shopping on the weekends? If so, choose activities where you can have fun and focus on each other rather than on purchasing more stuff.

8.…………No one’s perfect. Chances are you have a habit that your partner would prefer you change as well… Is there anything your partner complains about? Do you leave dishes in the sink? Leave lights on all over the house? Talk during movies? Next time you mention your partner’s clutter let him/her know, you’re working on your less than ideal habits too!

For more tips about clutter clearing read:
Our Guide To Clearing Clutter
Common Clutter Clearing Challenges
Changing Habits That Create Clutter
Can You Live With Lots of Stuff and Still Be Clutter-Free?

To find a professional organizer near you, try the National Association of Professional Organizers Directory. If you live in the Los Angeles area, Laura and I love organizersJosef Consegni and Andrea at Girl on the Go.

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