Are you and your significant other at odds on a space in your home? One of you is ready to declutter and clear out, but the other isn’t on the same page? One question I get asked often as a professional organizer is: how do I get my SO to purge and organize all their stuff??
Nothing is more frustrating than being ready to clean up and organize a space, and being stopped in your tracks by a partner that isn’t ready to get rid of anything. This is especially frustrating when one partner is naturally more organized and orderly than the other. Yes, I am speaking from experience.
There is 1 undeniable truth that can’t be ignored though…. you can’t make someone do something they aren’t ready to do. So does that mean you are destined to live at the level of the least organized person in the house? Does that mean that the pack rat takes the cheese?? NO. There are still some things you can do to reach common ground.
Private vs Public Space
First things first…. It’s important to clarify if the space you’re discussing is private or public. Private spaces are just that, spaces that are used by just one person – drawers, offices, closets or sections of a closet, master bathroom sink (in the case of a double vanity), etc. And though these spaces may not be as neat and tidy as you would maybe like, if it’s a private space, you have to let it go. Unless your half of the closet is infringing on your partner’s, you should be able to store your clothes, etc however you like.
Public spaces on the other hand are used by more than one person. And no one person in the home should dominate any common living area or spare living space in the house. (*the caveat here is small children… they WILL dominate every room in your house). If you have a public space, a spare bedroom for example, overrun with one person’s clutter, it’s now time to have some conversations.
It’s quoted in every daily inspirational, uplifting meme and cross-stitch sampler for a reason… communication really is the key to a healthy relationship. And it’s no different when it comes to organization. If you are frustrated with a cluttered space, and your SO isn’t interested in purging or reorganizing, communication may be all you need. Share your concerns with the space, along with your goals for what it could be. Have a real, honest, heart to heart conversation. Talk about how both of you could benefit from the space being cleaned out and reimagined. Even if you are dreaming of turning that spare bedroom into a craft room that your husband has no desire to use, most partners will be respectful of the wishes and receptive to the idea.
It’s “we”, not “you”
Even though we tend to say all the clutter in a space belongs to our partner, the reality is that there is almost always joint clutter in a space. So make sure you are as willing to go through your items and purge your things as you are asking your partner to be. One of you may have more to go through and more work ahead, but keep the goal for the space in mind and work together.
The best way to shut the whole project down is to demand your partner get rid of something, or argue about what they have decided to keep. If you really want to make progress, you need to respect your partner’s decisions. And honestly, when they feel respected instead of pressured, they will likely be more willing to make concessions. It’s very hard when your partner is more of a pack rat, and feels very strongly about keeping things you see no value in. Again, I speak from experience. You can do your best to have rational conversations about available storage space, and try to come to compromises when possible, but ultimately, if your SO feels strongly about keeping something, you need to respect that.
Is Sneaky OK?
So, there is another line of thinking to discuss when it comes to your partner’s clutter…. It has been suggested by others to box up, put away or “hide” some of the clutter as a test to see if they notice or look for any of the missing items. The logic behind this approach is to prove to your partner that they haven’t needed it or noticed it was gone in however long, thus making it unnecessary to keep. The key is that if your partner does notice, need or look for a missing item, then it is of course returned. I have a few thoughts on this tactic…
Since I’ve been speaking from experience throughout this post, I will continue to do so. As the more organized one between my husband and myself, I have faced this issue more than once in the 26 years we have been married. And I can tell you this, as soon as my husband smells a hint of manipulation or ulterior motive, he digs his heels in, shuts down and any organization progress I may have made is now set back exponentially. I’m not saying it can’t be effective for some couples (as long as it’s done respectfully), but for us, honesty and clarity has always proven to be a better strategy.
Bottom line, it is possible to get your partner to organize their things. And it is possible to live in harmony with a pack rat. You just have to go about it in a way that is respectful to all parties. I’m here if you need help!