I often get emails and comment from readers who are having issues getting other members of their households to conform with their newfound decluttering ideals. I can certainly understand their frustrations because they are trying so hard to bring order to their home while others are just not cooperating. So what can you do about this I am sure you are wondering. And the answer is continue to set a good example, gently communicate your wishes and be patient. And that sounds a lot easier that it is in practice.
Set a good example
This is the easy part because you are already doing this by continuing on with the decluttering you do have control over. For the time being just enjoy the difference you are making with your efforts. So long as there is clutter to be controlled that you have free rein over then you are making progress. Hopefully the benefits of that progress will start to be noticed by others and they will begin to come around to your way of thinking and start dealing with their own contribution to the clutter.
Gently communicate your wishes
You will notice that I say “gently communicate” not make demands. There is nothing like demanding for making the opposition dig their heals in. They will just get on the defensive and justify their mess, both to you and to themselves and this will only make the situation worse. Nagging or badgering is just a prolonged form of demanding and will only make you look like the bad guy. What you need to do is just let the others in the household know how important it is to you to make your home a serene place to be for everyone and how much of a drain on your emotions it has been living among the clutter for so long. Let the other members of the family know how pleased you are with the outcome of your efforts so far and why you feel it is important to continue on this journey. Try to find the words to explain simply and without judgment why you find the clutter to no longer needed and what a burdensome weight it has become for you.
I am not going to suggest for one minute that this is going to be easy but it is essential. You can’t change other people, only they have the power to do that. But you can be persuasive by your actions and your suggestions. Part of being patient may require learning ways to see the clutter but not let it affect how you see the clutterer. It is so easy to equate the person with the mess and this can cause resentment and negative actions and responses. Remember that they most likely don’t see it as a problem.
Pick your battles and plan your campaign
By pick you battles I mean
- Only try to implement changes on one thing at a time. You will receive more resistance if you demand too much change all at once. People often don’t notice little changes here and there but a sudden assault on all that they think they hold near and dear will surely put them on the defensive.
- Like I suggest for any of your own decluttering, choose areas of change that you know aren’t to difficult to tackle. Leave the harder areas until you can detect a definite inclimation to conform readily in the other person.
Plan your campaign
First pave the way. As you are decluttering your own possessions be verbal about your thought processes so others begin to see the intent rather than just hear demands.
Discuss with your partner your wish to make your living environment more light and airy or cozy or whatever words describe your hoped for result. You should also discuss your wish for a home easier to care for, etc. If a partner knows you are looking for a particular result rather than thinking you are just “getting rid of things” you will have a better response.
Look for ways to get your partner’s cooperation without attacking them. Ask them to be willing to help you with decisions but promise to only take a preset amount of time at preset intervals. If they know they don’t have to “hear this over and over and spend ALL their time helping” they will be more cooperative.
There may be times when you need to actually show your partner how things should look. Devise and suggest solutions to the clutter areas of the home that you are most concerned about that are not within your control rather than demanding that the perpetrator cleans up their act. This may mean just asking if they are willing to let something go and taking care of the declutter method yourself. For example ~
- Your partner has a habit of reading the newspaper everyday and then stacking them beside their lounge chair until recycling day. If you would prefer them to be gone after they are read perhaps you could just ask if it would be OK if you removed yesterdays paper when the new one arrives. One you establish the fact that the papers have only been stacked up out of laziness the next lesson might be to try to coerce your partner into becoming responsible for decluttering it themselves each day. This may seem a little pathetic but one step at a time is often a more successful approach.
- Your partner has a basement full of “I might need it someday” items and you know that someday is unlikely if ever going to arrive. Instead of insisting that they get of their backside and deal with the “mess in the basement” try bringing one item up out of there each week and gently persuading them to let it go. Start with the item least likely to be of any use and work your way up until the basement is beginning to look more acceptable. Once they see the difference you have made perhaps they will join in the effort and begin decluttering independently.
- You have a living room cluttered with pictures on the wall, “collectibles” on shelves, and various other “nic nacs” scattered around. Rather than talking about decluttering the room, talk about taking everything out of the room so it can be rearranged. Suggest that it doesn’t seem to be as conducive to the end result you are aiming for. Then remove all the clutter, put back what you think “brings together” the result you want, and go through the decluttered items with your partner talking about why you don’t think it works and whether it should go elsewhere or should be sold/thrifted/discarded.
Today’s Mini Mission
Declutter something that you are keeping “just in case” you have grandchildren some day.
Today’s Declutter Item
Here is an example of clutter that I had no control over. As you may well have notice there have been baseball souvenirs and collectables vacating our home on a regular basis since my mission began. It was up to my husband to make the decisions on these and I have been happy to sit back and allow him the space and time to do this at his own pace. With a little nudging here and there of course.
Something I Am Grateful For Today
Deb J who helped me put this post together. As I consider her the guru on this subject. She has gently guided her mother through the declutter process at least as long as I have been blogging and the change has been nothing short of miraculous.
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast