Decluttering when your husband’s a pack rat can be very tricky. But, it is doable … I know … I’ve got lots of experience.
When you talk to most women nowadays, they will all tell you that they are on a mission to declutter their homes. As a mom and manager of the household, one of our biggest struggles is figuring out how to deal with the inflow of STUFF. There is an amazing amount of stuff that comes into our homes between mail, the kids’ school projects, new clothing, household supplies, decorations, books, etc. This is why decluttering is so important.
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First, you need to know, I checked with my husband before writing this title.
Don’t worry, he wasn’t a bit surprised by it. Decluttering, organizing, saving things, and purging are things we have talked about a lot … like … all … the … time. Having a clean and organized space is something I am highly driven to work for. Having any kind of clutter really clutters my mind and leaves me overwhelmed.
Secondly, my husband is not a hoarder, you would not find us on the tv series Hoarders, not even close. I do think, though, that if we weren’t married he just might end up there.
Anyways, he is truly just a collector of things and someone who likes to hold onto stuff. He is very nostalgic and sentimental about belongings. Add to that the fact that he also has very limited organizational abilities, and you get piles … lots of piles. Piles in the bedroom, piles on the desk, and massive piles in the garage.
So, I’m guessing you’re reading this because you are in a similar situation.
The big question is: with two different approaches to belongings, how do you manage to meet your personal goals of decluttering and organizing while still having respect for your spouse’s things?
I’m going to share with you some of the things that have lead to successes in our home.
Decluttering When Your Husband’s A Pack Rat
1. Communication – Have lots and lots of talks about it — unless it’s going to ruin your marriage. It’s possible that in the past you’ve nagged and yelled and gotten mad or frustrated, so this could be quite a heated topic. It’s time to take some of the heat out of it. From now on all your communication around this topic needs to really address what your needs are. Be really clear about how you FEEL about your space. And, remember, this is a two-way street. That means you also need to understand how your husband FEELS, too. You can make statements like these:
- “I feel really overwhelmed when there is a lot of clutter around.”
- “When there are piles on the table I can feel my heart starting to race.”
- “In order to cook dinner, I really need the kitchen counter to stay clear of clutter.”
- “It makes me really happy when we keep the living room organized.”
2. Boundaries – With the air cleared, try to come up with some boundaries and solutions that work toward a compromise. Determine which areas or things are off-limits to your decluttering rampages. There should be space allowed for the special belongings of each person, and that should be respected.
3. Be Honest – Admit to your own faults and quit blaming all the clutter on him. It’s so easy to focus on the other person’s mess instead of our own. It’s just human nature. But, be honest with yourself about all the ways you have contributed to the current mess and admit your own struggles.
4. Start With Your Own Stuff – Odds are, there is a lot in your own area of responsibility that you can work on decluttering without even touching your husband’s belongings. Start there. Make progress through every single area of your own responsibility and then start over with Step 1. You may be surprised to see that you bring some inspiration to your husband by your actions more than your words.
5. Quit Bringing Stuff In – This may seem obvious, but is much harder to put into practice. You have to stop the flow of stuff coming in. That means no more STUFF! Just don’t bring it in. If something comes in then it needs to have a place where it belongs and something else must leave.
6. Change Your Expectations – It just may not be reasonable to expect your home to look like those in “House Beautiful” magazine. And, striving for that could be causing you way more stress and frustration than you need to be going through. Even Antonio Banderas says, “Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” Try to relax and be OK with your home being short of Pinterest Perfection.
7. Acceptance – Accept that this could be a very long process and any step forward is still progress. The reality is that all this stuff didn’t get into your home overnight, so it will take some time to get it cleared. Yes, we want it out NOW! But, take a breath and make a plan. You need to pace yourself like this is a marathon. And, like Ruth Soukup says in Unstuffed, “Realizing that who I share my home with makes a big difference when it comes to stuff.” I love WHO I share my home with.
Only after going through all these steps is it time to start pushing for decluttering HIS stuff. And then, do it very tentatively. Hopefully, he has noticed how much better things look and flow with less stuff around. Maybe he’s ready on his own to start making progress. We can hope that is the case. Either way, go back to Step 1 and start over with communication.
Decluttering is a very emotionally charged topic for most people. We tend to feel strongly one way or the other about our belongings. We want to keep them badly, or we want to get rid of them badly. Try your best to take some of the emotion out of the situation. For me, this is not worth losing my marriage over, and peace with my husband is way more important than how much stuff is in my home.
I can tell you, I am still on this journey … I’m right there with you. Someday, maybe, our home will be decluttered enough for me. Maybe not, I’m just going to keep trying.
But, I try to remember, my home is there for the people that live in it. All of them. I can maintain a wonderful, comfortable, beautiful home without it looking perfect. I can nurture the people in it and welcome those who are dear to me in my home just as it is.
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Which step do you think is the hardest? Which step has given you the most success? Will you share all your little wins with us? We need all the encouragement we can get.
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