Simple Saturday – Communicating your needs

Recently I received a pair of photos from Willow which demonstrated her frustration with items cluttering up her kitchen bench. Even though this is a launch area for stuff coming in and out of  Willows home there wasn’t a lot of items out of place once she removed the things that had just accumulate during the course of a day. The problem was the items that had landed there and not been shifted for some weeks. I will let you read her email so you get the full picture.

Willow wrote :- This counter is higher than the kitchen counter and would normally be used as an eating bar, but my husband’s desk is where the chairs would normally be placed. In interests of being transparent here, in one photo I showed the stacks of CDs that are my husband’s. He has gone through them once but then put them back up on the counter. Oh well. It’s just not a battle I want to fight right now. I did discover this week though that I am usually the person in the family who drops stuff on that counter and since I’m working at keeping it cleared off, it hasn’t gotten messy until today.

My first thought when I read this was, does Willow’s dear husband understand her frustration with the CD’s cluttering up this space so I replied as follows…

I have come up with an angle for a post using your photos. First though could you do one thing for me? Could you ask your husband — if you haven’t already done so — what is his plan for that pile of CDs. I ask this because I had a similar problem recently. We have a staging area for potential ebay sales which was becoming quite cluttered and annoying. It suddenly occurred to me to just ask my hubby what his plans were for some of the stuff he had put there. His answer was, “Nothing, I left them there for you to declutter”. Sometimes clutter is just the result of a lack of communication.

Willow replied :- Here’s an update on my husband’s stacks of CDs/DVDs on the counter. I asked him. “What are you planning to do with the CDs/DVDs in that stack?” He had already moved one of the stacks of music CDs to his car and when I asked him about the Christmas CD from The Canadian Tenors, he stated it was for me. 🙂 The stack that was left was empty CDs/DVDs and one clip on flasher for his bike riding at night. He picked them up and put them all on his desk. Clean counter!

As it turns out all Willow had to do was ask and now her counter (right) only has the two bowls of healthy colourful fruit and vegetable that she wants to see there every day. The next mission is to get her husband to work on his messy desk and bookshelf. Make no mistake though her husband makes up for his little bit of clutter in so many ways. Willow informed me – He cooks dinner, he does laundry, he gives me the better car, he grocery shops. He even takes me clothes shopping (cuz I hate it) and bribes/rewards me with coffee. The messy desk and messy book shelf are a small price to pay.

I have since had an update from Willow — The bench is staying clear aside from the usual in transit items that we all have in our launching areas. Hubby has cleared the clutter off his desk and it is staying clear. Just the bookcase to work on now. All and all a pretty good effort I’d say. Well done Willow and hubby!

Just remember sometimes all you have to do is ask. Good communication can be an important key to decluttering.

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Aww, Willow’s hubby sounds so sweet. Mine does the same thing – he may not be the decluttering addict like me, but he makes dinner and does laundry and runs errands for me and surprises me with little gifts (my favorite Snapple!) just because. :)`

    • Hi Lynn,
      you are a pair of lucky ladies! My hubby brings in the bacon, spends long hours planning holidays for me, is great at gift giving except that I tell him not to buy me anything any more and he loves me to death. I am happy with that.

  2. What great progress, Willow!

    I try to take into consideration that my husband works long, long hours and is a kind and loving person even when under that kind of stress. But I was still getting frustrated that there were so many things I couldn’t begin to declutter because they were “his” things. Finally I asked if he minded if I went through his clothing for him. His reply? “No, I trust you.” I was making a big deal out of nothing!

    • Hi Jo,
      it is just these small incidences that give you the confidence and the experience to know the best way to approach the situation in the future. One would think that after 24 years I would know the best strategies that work with my own husband by now but as humans we tend to respond to the negative experiences we have had and retreat back into ourselves. This is another of those life lessons that I am getting better at since I started this declutter mission. The unexpected benefits of this challenge never cease to amaze me.

  3. Anne, if you are reading, I left a reply for you on yesterday’s post 🙂

  4. Communication is the key, I agree. Ah well, I don’t have anybody (yet), so I’ll do the decluttering in my own now 🙂

    • Hi Hurchamiel,
      look on the bright side you don’t have the frustration of having someone else contributing to the clutter. It’s best like to be a cup half full kind of person.

  5. Good communication is so important. It’s amazing that with so many words in our vocabulary we often say something other than what we mean, and when we do say what we mean we can often be misunderstood.

    I came across a really good book to help with improved communications in all areas of life recently. It’s called Non-Violent Communications by Marshall D Rosenberg.

    • Hi Karin,
      I am going to see if I can pick that book up at the library. I have read about love language before but I think that most people have a listening language as well. You will note that in the post both Willow and I didn’t say to our husbands — Can you please deal with that stuff or How long are you going to leave that stuff there. We asked them what are you planning to do with that stuff. Funny how instead of a request or a demand a simple question was all it took for them to think about the stuff and give an immediate (satisfying) response.

  6. I’m definitely the clutterbug in the house. Poor Kevin would love to see more clean surfaces. Part of the issue is that I am territorial and could only just be persuaded to share my living space with him, so I don’t take nagging (my space! moving in was your idea!) particularly well. I have only started to explore your site and I’m sure there are lots of helpful solutions. Reading up will be a good thing to do this weekend.

    • Hi Jennifer,
      I am not sure if I will have the solutions you need but I certainly give plenty of encouragement to start tackling the situation. If there is a specific solution you are after always feel free to contact me with your questions. When it comes to forming good habits I suggest selecting one area at a time to work on and give yourself at least 14 days to stay focused on doing that thing differently. After the 14 days you will often find that you have developed a new good habit to replace the old bad one. Once you have mastered that start working on the next one. If you overload yourself with too much change at once there is a good chance you will fail. So take the tortoise and hare approach because slow and steady really does often win the race.

  7. I’ve found too that when my husband sees me working on MY stuff and keeping MY stuff cleaned off, then he is more likely to tackle HIS stuff.

    • Hi Willow,
      it is great when communication solves a clutter problem but it is even better when our loved ones get fully on board and start decluttering of their own accord.

    • My husband is the same way Willow. If I keep the coffee table clean, he’ll pick his cup and put it in the sink before leaving for work. I don’t think he leaves it there on purpose. It’s just that he notices it’s the only thing out of place if the surface is cleared off. 🙂
      Same thing with his clothes… If the room is tidy, his clothes make it INSIDE the hamper instead of on top or on the floor where he undresses. It’s the encouragement to keep going because I can tell he notices. Life sure is easier with so much clutter out of the way!

      • Hi Pat,
        setting standards can have a very good effect on those around you once they see the benefits. Too bad it never worked on my daughter but as they say “You can’t win ‘m all.”