The disharmony of clutter

Do you ever think about how your clutter affects the other members of your household? Do you think they don’t mind because they don’t complain about it? Have you ever considered that they don’t complain because they have simply weighed up the risk of upsetting you over it and decided you are more important? How unfair and ultimately heartbreaking is that.

Would you do the same for them? Would you grant them the same loyalty if they said, it’s your clutter or me, make a choice? Would you let them go easier than your clutter?

Or do the other members of your household complain about the clutter and yet you still don’t do anything about it? Do you care about them enough to make the effort to change your habits? In small increments these changes are not so hard to accomplish for those that you care about.

Is your clutter problem affecting those around you in other ways aside from the inconvenience or discomfort of it? Are your habits rubbing off on your children? Are you teaching them that possessions are more important than they ought to be? Are you teaching them that being happy depends on continuously acquiring stuff?

Is your habit of acquiring stuff affecting your family financially? Are you going into debt to support this habit or could your family enjoy more wonderful life experiences together, if the money wasn’t being wasted on stuff? Do your and/or your partner work harder and longer hours then need be to pay for the things you don’t really need, while the children hardly get to spend any waking moments with you? Could your children’s college funds be healthier if less money was wasted on unnecessary stuff?

Even if you think these questions are a bit melodramatic for your situation, consider taking a look at the areas of your home that you think are the most cluttered. Now think of the other members of the family that use these areas. Ask them if the clutter in these areas are inconveniencing or disturbing them in any way and see what response you get. Make sure you give them a free pass to give an honest answer.

Today’s Mini Mission

Empty and dust the most cluttered shelf in your home. This might be in a bookcase, a display cabinet, a shelf in your kitchen or even in your linen closet. Either way, doing this job will bring your attention to just how many items are on there, and may just inspire you to get rid of a few.

Eco Tip for the Day

Consider doing some things by hand rather than using an electrical appliance. Mix that cake by hand, tighten that screw with an old fashioned screw driver rather than and electric drill, sweep the floor rather than vacuum, rake up the leaves rather than using a leaf blower, let your hair dry naturally, wash the dishes by hand…

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen, these are really good questions. I think too many times we just live without thinking and because of that we have cluttered lives, buy with no thought, and let clutter take over. It is so easy to get caught up in what others do around us. I think that decluttering, at least for me, has helped me become much more deliberate in everything in my life.

    • Hi Deb J, for me I think that even more than clearing my clutter it is the fact that I don’t care to buy things anymore that is the most liberating thing for me. When I hear of other peoples struggles of buying stuff to fill a void and just thank God that isn’t me. Although I never really had any big issue with this I know I got far to much joy out of it at one point. But it isn’t just that I don’t need it, I don’t miss it and I’m so very happy about it.

      • Colleen, I know what you mean about buying less. I just am not even drawn to things. Even if I happen to be somewhere and see something I really like it is more of a “How pretty” and not a “I want that.” I really prefer experiences rather than things.

        • I live really close to a major shopping outlet mall which is evidently world famous. When people find I go there maybe once a year to buy a blouse or shoes, they look shocked. Then when I tell them I hate shopping, they begin to wonder if I harbor other unAmerican ideas 🙂 Shopping just doesn’t interest me mostly because I don’t want more stuff in my house and I do want more cash in my wallet.

          • Hum! Could it be Mall of America? Maybe not. I was in Minneapolis for a week on business. I went to M of A every night. Didn’t go to buy (except a meal) but to get in a good air conditioned walk. Loved walking that mall.

          • Deb J, It’s Camarillo Outlets in Ventura County just north of Los Angeles. We get lots of tourists.

          • Willow, I used to live in Lompoc. Your whole area has lots of places to spend money. Grin. It least you have the beautiful weather there. If I could afford to move to that area I would. I love that area.

      • That’s beautiful Colleen! I love that you are so over it all. The one thing I find myself wanting is a smaller version of everything. And then I feel a bit of guilt over those “wants” because they are wasteful even if they get me to a smaller footprint. I am trying to balance this desire by waiting as long as it takes to find the items used or trading them somehow or selling what I have so I can “trade” that way without spending more. Our microwave broke this month, and I wanted to try to do without, but I had to agree and admit that I do depend on it for reheating quick meals or making oatmeal pretty much every day, and so I want to learn not to be in the habit of using it, and maybe eventually my whole family will embrace that way if I can make it easier to live without. In the meantime, I convinced my love to let me get the smallest one we could find, but it cost more than a larger one. Even the seller exclaimed at how tiny an unusual it was. We LOVE the space we’ve gained. We’d like to get a smaller sofa. That’s pretty easy to do once we find a used one that is comfy. We’d also like to get smaller bedroom furniture. Wonderful I can say we about those. My husband agrees, but those were my ideas. But for now I just want to be content with our big stuff and still keep my eyes open for a way to trade for something smaller and just as useful, comfy and beautiful.

    • Yes Deb J – too easy to just “live without thinking ” . I think my de-cluttering has been part of a process of being more “deliberate ‘ or ” mindful” ,too!

  2. This post really spoke to me. These are the questions that my family has been asking me and I have been asking myself for the past year. At one point my husband threatened to get his own apartment because he was so tired of the clutter. Unfortunately, my bad habits have also worn off on my 9 year old. It is a constant struggle trying to get her to get rid of things she no longer needs, so that she can maintain a tidy room. I’m trying to make small changes to get to the point where our house is less cluttered, but it is a real struggle for me. I’m the oldest grand child and have lost both my grandparents and my mother. Family heirlooms have been passed down to me to keep for the family line, but many of them I no longer have use for. I have this overwhelming sense of obligation to keep them. I think much of my need to acquire new things has come from my grief at losing my closest support system. For a long time I used shopping as a way to get out of the house and fill my time. It became a game to get the best deal on each thing I purchased. I’m slowly overcoming that addiction, but it’s forcing me to deal with the emotional reasons behind my clutter.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post! I always find insight in your topics.

    • Hi Anonymous, firstly I wish for you the strength to overcome both the clutter and the emotional turmoil behind it. I dare way you are right that your grief and feelings of obligation have been the root of your cluttering issues. I hope that you are getting some professional help to assist you to deal with the emotional side of this problem. Counsellors can be so helpful at showing you a way out of the grief and loss and onto one where your focus is on those you love that are still around you and to a better future. I speak from experience here.

      As for the family heirlooms ~ I would suggest that you pass them on now. I dare say that there are other family members who would be happy to have an item that is part of their family history. There is no need to keep them all together, share them among those who want them. What Karen Kingston says in her book is ~ “When all your available space is filled with clutter, there is no room for anything new to come into your life. Your thoughts tend to dwell in the past… . You have to release the past to create a better tomorrow.” That doesn’t mean you have to forget your loved ones who have past (no one would want to do that), it just means that you remember them fondly while your focus is on living your life to the fullest. I am sure that is what they would want for you and it certainly is what those that are still with you want.

      Your daughter is still young enough to change her habits as you change yours. As she sees you parting with the things you no longer need or love I am sure she will see the benefits ~ You becoming more content, the ease of navigating your home, her father and you being happier together… .

      As you know, my advice is this ~ Let go of the easiest stuff to part with. Stop the inflow (No shopping). Be consistent and allot at least ten minutes a day to put some things aside to declutter. With a lot of clutter it is probably best to spend a little more time than the average person. Get the stuff, you have allocated for removal, out of the house as soon as possible before you change your mind. Don’t dwell on the big picture just be joyful for every little thing that leaves the home because it is making a difference.

      I wish you success in your future, I know you can make a good one for yourself and your family. Drop by here as often as you like for encouragement and advice or just for a chat.

    • Anonymous, we are here to support you in your work. Colleen has put it well and we are all rooting for you to be able to get past this situation. One thing that might help is if you ask your husband to help you with this. If you can come up with a plan for how you want to do things (one item a day, one small space a day, finding homes for those heirlooms, etc) then you can tell him and ask him to root for your success for you. Maybe he can come up with ways to celebrate your successes every so often as a way of being part of the process. You may not want him to actually do any of the work, or you might, but having have some part in it should help him to see you are working on it and give you space to get it done. You may even find at some point that he has some things to get rid of. One never knows.

    • Anonymous – we will be your support system on this journey. I have been with this blog for a couple of years now and the transformation in my home which has flowed onto my life is amazing. I was a comfort shopper and a comfort eater, just to fill a gap in my life at the time. Honestly, just one thing a day will make a difference, trust me it will get momentum. Here you are amongst reformed clutterbugs at varying stages of the decluttering and believe me, someone out there will have great advice or a clever idea to overcome ANY hurdles you encounter along the way.

      I’d suggest getting your husband on board with being part of the process and discuss what area of the house you two should focus on first. Maybe it will be the lounge or maybe it will be the master bedroom, so that you have somewhere to relax and unwind. Don’t try to do everything at once, and do start on the easy stuff. Accept that you’re going to have to revisit areas several times and items that are too hard to get rid of this time, will eventually be very easy. I liken it to gardening (I hate gardening but had to help with the family vege patch when I was a kid) and my mum always told me that if a weed was too hard to pull out, do all the little weeds around and then the big weed will come out much easier. It losens the dirt around its roots – or in this case, it loosens the emotional attachments surrounding an item.

      Your daughter. OK, 9 years old isn’t too old to change habits. I have one daughter who has embraced minimalism and I have another daughter whose artsy right brain isn’t so inclined, though she confesses she would actually like to be organised. Obviously the 2nd daughter is somewhat more challenging but improvements have been made. Is your daughter an arty creative type? Or a studious analytical type?

      If she is the creative type, I picked up a great idea from a post written by Cindy that seems to help Courtney. I think the example was the child kept losing her keys and instructions to put them in X spot just weren’t jelling, so the parent got her to make or find (can’t remember which) a little bowl to put keys in, and the idea worked. So I’ve been trying to work my ideas for Courtney to suit her personality more, I’m making inroads. The other thing I have set up is that Courtney wants a sleep over during the next school holidays, usually I’d ‘yep, sure, go ahead’, but this time I said if she could keep clothes off the floor and put away her clean laundry as I deliver it to her – if she could do this for the next 30 days, the answer was yes. We’re up to Day Five and its working. Humans are very big on the “what’s in it for me?” aspect.

      There are lots of suggestions we can offer and if every day you want to talk about anything, trust me, you’ll get replies. And more than likely, someone else will having a similar problem.

      • Wow Moni ! LOVE your Mum’s weed analogy ! You never know what’s going to turn up here on 365 !

    • Hi Anonymous! I have been in this blog for 2 years, I think. and I have been decluttering for, at least, 6 years. It has not been an easy or fast journey for me, but with help from Colleen and my fellows 365rs, it has been a fun and happy journey. It is not easy to deal with the ghosts and feelings attached to objects. And as I was in dire straits for some time, I always wonder if I should keep stuff in case I need it in the future. I have family heirlooms. A dresser and a cupboard that belonged to my grandmother. They are quite lovely and I have allocated special spaces in my house so they are well used and in display at the same time. I look at that lovely uncluttered piece of furniture (cabinet), in a nice spot in my living room and it gives me a nice feeling. However I did not get here overnight. I had moments when I told Colleen, either by e-mail or in comments that I would never, ever declutter so and so object. Sometime later I would mull over the idea and I would see that I did not really need that particular object I was just holding on to it because it was mine (it was a sort of Gollum moment – “My precious! Mine!” 😀 😀 :D) and seeing that I had no use for it I would let it go. Do a thing a day, work on your emotional issues, be an example to your daughter by decluttering and getting your things in order (I have two young children and they have been more quick to pick up their stuff and to clear up, once they see I have all my stuff in order 😉 ). As for shopping it can be a real struggle. So, don´t go to malls. Avoid them like the plague. It may not solve your problem, but as far away as we keep from temptation, the harder it is for it to catch us :D. Be patient with yourself and with those around you. There are moments when we think we have done nothing and we despair. Never give up. Work everyday, do a little thing at a time and you will see results. Good luck and good work!

    • Hi Anonymous,
      I wish you all the best with your declutter journey!
      We are certainly there for you to cheer you on!

      I am reading “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir at the moment (actually, it is a difficult read, so I’m reading it for a year now together with a good friend). It is really interesting, because at the moment we are at the part of “women as housekeepers” – though she is coming from a very different angle, she also observes the need of women to decorate their homes and keep heirlooms and memories for the family and maybe even future generations. The very different take on possessions of men and women. I’m eager to read more on that and think a little more on it. It would surely be interesting to identify clutter traps for women. Maybe getting rid of clutter can also be a way of getting rid of some cliché of “how women should be” and instead find your own individual self on the way.

    • Dear Anon-this is going to work for you because you know what is going on. I hope you do talk to a counselor. I want to share this with you-a close relative of mine moved from a huge family home to a temporary 1 room “studio” while building their empty nesters house. She was not quite a hoarder but had way too much stuff, and most of it had to go. She just couldn’t do it. It was all the stuff from the home she had raised her children in and more stuff that she had been given by her mother and siblings. She was frozen, kept talking and talking about doing it until finally there was no time left. Her husband came to the rescue! Now this is something you could talk to your husband (or another relative) about if they are willing to help you. Her husband got rid of everything that needed to go, and swiftly! He went through all the boxes of paper carefully and shredded it all-there was almost nothing that needed to be saved. He rented a dumpster and got rid of all the trash, moldy stuff, and tons of shreddings. Then he passed all the furniture along to those who were willing to come and get it right away. This all with her blessing. She couldn’t handle doing it herself, but she told me how relieved and overjoyed she felt when it was done. Now she is in the new home and has nice stuff and doesn’t miss the old, useless worn out that is gone. I would let your husband know you love him more than the stuff and get the help from wherever you need it to get the clutter out. For the guilt clutter that you don’t even want, I would send a note to relatives asking who wants the items and give them a deadline for how long you can keep it. If they cannot come get it by that date, perhaps they can rent a storage unit (let them do it, not you!) to hold it for them. Anything that is not claimed, you can feel free to pass along to someone else-someone else may need it.

  3. I started out on this journey purely because my partner moved in – I knew I had far too much stuff and it was completely unfair to ask him to live with it all. As much as I liked my things, I loved him more, and so they slowly started to leave the room. It was a turning point for me, to go from having a living space which only suited me (though how much it really suited me is debateable as I never felt relaxed or organised!) to making room – literally and figuratively – for someone else.

    I’ve spent the last year getting rid of things, and recently he said that the room was fine and doesn’t bother him anymore, nor is he particularly fussed about me getting rid of more things, but I’d like to take ‘fine’ to ‘a really nice place to relax’. I know what areas/things I’d like to tackle decluttering next and I’m starting to think about how I’d like the room to be decorated once finished – I’ve seen a really nice photo frame recently which I think would be nice.

    I try to frame my decluttering around him and our life together – for example I think ‘Do I really want to have this in our home (when we get a place together)? Do I want to carry this from place to place throughout our married life? I imagine our ideal room/home and use that image in my mind to keep me moving forward. I’m SO glad I discovered minimalism before we got married and bought a house and filled it with things we didn’t need or want – I’m really looking forward to having a nice, relaxing, peaceful married home.

    • You started out right. Good for you. It’s so good that you are doing this so that you have a married life without all the clutter.

    • Good for you Jane, this is a great way to start out together. Continue to consult with him on how he feels about your surrounding as you could also go too far in the other direction. I know that I would be happy to keep letting things go but they are mostly my husbands mementoes and he is content with the levels at this point. I could very easily get rid of some more of my craft supplies instead and I am content to work on that for now. It is funny that he continues to encourage me not to let go of too much of my craft items. He feels that I am more content when I have to opportunity to create and he is probably right about that. It is nice to know that he and I are in touch with one another enough to know where each of us should draw the line.

  4. We had the discussion lately again, as we thought again about hosting someone for some weeks or months. It’s clear for us that we value having a guest with us much more highly than those things that clutter up that room. I didn’t even have to mention that we need to get rid of more if we want to host someone for a few months. My boyfriend does know this as well and has every intention of getting rid of some of his clutter in that case. I might make him declutter in any case 😉 …
    I’m very happy that we are both going along well in that regard. Each of us has their own “problem zones”, but they are getting smaller on both sides. Decluttering has surely made our home feel nicer to both of us and also removed a lot of potential stress – his “cluttery” things are in his area, mine in mine. Also, he needn’t ask as much any more “Where is xy?”, “Where did you put xx?”. Storage areas have become less in general and the fact that things actually fit in there makes it less likely that I rearrange, so he is finding what he needs and I don’t have to answer this kind of questions any more, which is relaxing for both of us.

    • Sanna, I love your description of how you no longer have to be asked where something is because things are decluttered enough that things stay where they are put. Isn’t that a great feeling? Means a lot less stress on the relationship too.

      • It is a great feeling, DebJ!

        By the way, he is doing great: we went through the toolbox together and eliminated quite a bit. THAT is feeling great, too! 😀

        • Oh my, Sanna, tools are a whole topic in themselves. When my dad died he had a garage full of tools. Thankfully we had a guy we knew who came in and helped us price them before selling. Dad’s tools were as bad as my scrapbook supplies become later. I recently got rid of some more when I realized I was never going to use them because I could no longer get around as well as i once did.

          • I got the impression that there are certain people who hoard tools and others who always forget they might need them and not own any (especially among young people, good tools are a rare thing). My boyfriend got a box of old, but fine tools from his dad when he moved out, but that seems to happen not very often. In just a few hours we got responses of 8 people interested in our tools. They are popular!
            I’m quite fine with the amount of tools we kept. We only kept two rather stupid ones for which we don’t have any use at the moment (and I don’t see that changing soon), but oh well, there’s room in the box, so that’s okay. All the others get used regularly. We got rid of duplicates and near-duplicates though (and I’m happy we kept the hammer that is light enough that I can use it comfortably as well – it wasn’t all my boyfriends decision)

    • Great comment Sanna. It is lovely when partners are on the same page and can discuss these things rationally with each other. I think having a goal, whether that be a peaceful, easy to manage home, or space enough to host a guest for an extended period, give one a focus that isn’t just a guide but a reward at then end of the mission.

      Good for you two!

  5. We’ve been on vacation for a couple of weeks in Alaska and in between the laundry and general catching up at home since getting back I’ve been enjoying reading all the recent posts and comments (we had no phone or internet while traveling). I think the questions in this post are excellent ones for us to ponder. I think my husband reached the point of wanting to stop acquiring and start decluttering a year or so before I did, so luckily we are on the same page with this project and are gradually working through our possessions. It is a different story with our sons and I intend to raise the question of their possessions with them while they are home from college for the summer. I’m hoping that now that they have experienced living in a small dorm room, and understand the inconvenience of having to haul stuff home over a long distance and leave some in storage, that they might be more open to donating or selling some of their childhood belongings. But I have learned from everyone on here that I need to be patient with them in this process.

    We stayed in various cabins during our travels and I was very struck by the contrast between two of them. The first was completely uncluttered, no art work even – what art do you need when you have snow-capped mountains outside every window? – carefully furnished and the kitchen was supplied with all the essentials. The décor was minimal, but bright towels and bedlinens gave a splash of color. The next place was a similar size but the whole cabin was cluttered up with all kinds of artwork and decorative items, some clearly chosen to give a local flavor but many looked like things that well-meaning friends and relatives had given, souvenirs from places visited, odds and ends that the owners probably didn’t want in their full-time home but had put into the rental because they kept the things out of obligation. Even though the place was clean and fresh I couldn’t imagine dusting all that stuff, and once the four of us were in there with our suitcases and things it felt like there wasn’t room to move, and I lost all motivation for keeping it tidy. Being in those two places really clarified in my mind how I would like to have our home, and renewed my enthusiasm for clearing out the little knick-knacks and odds and ends that add no value to the decoration and life of this house.

    • Christine, it sounds like you and your husband are working together to make your home what you want it to be. That’s really wonderful to have him in on it. Your description of the two cabins are great reminders to all of us that the difference can really be felt.

    • Hi Christine, welcome back. Don’t you just love it when you plan a vacation to get away from it all and some aspect of it clarifies for you what you really want for the place you usually call home. I’ll take functionality over decoration any day of the week.

      As for those boys and their stuff. You only have to be patient for only so long. If this situation drags out for too long, year in year out it becomes time to put your foot down. 😉 They can always pay for their own storage if they aren’t prepared to part with their stuff.

  6. These are excellent questions for everyone to ask themselves. I have a lot of guitar crap and sheet music. I try to keep it neat, but it takes up more space than I’d like. My wife has been very kind about it. I will see if any of it can be put away, given away or trashed. Thanks for a super post!

    • Good for you CJ. Have you ever considered transferring your sheet music to digital form and perhaps using an iPad or other tablet device to read it from. Just a thought!

      • This is not a bad idea as long as there is a way for me to mark up my scores. I make a ton of pencil markings to alter fingerings and the like. If there were a way to use a pencil-like device that could mark on a screen. That must exist. To Google I go…

        A Jolly thanks to you, Colleen!

    • CJ – one of my daughters is quite musical and at the moment she is trying to talk us into buying her an interface cable so that she run import her music on the digital piano onto the laptop. There are some amazing options out there.

  7. My husband knows that clutter bothers me and has been very considerate about paring items back along with me so that we fit more comfortably in our home. Before we got married I wouldn’t say either of us had a terribly cluttered home, full with a few problem areas is probably a better description but when we combined those two full homes- bam! Insta-clutter! Suddenly there were two or more of everything. Although it was messy at first, I think that going through the items together has brought us closer together over the past 4 years. We always consult with the other person before getting rid of anything and have had many great conversations about our stuff sharing stories, etc. It makes the process longer, but I really wouldn’t trade that for anything. A few weeks ago I was going through a file cabinet (the one that I’ve since gotten rid of) and came across a file that contained just about every report card I’d ever received throughout high school and even Jr. High. At first I didn’t think too much about it, but then I reflected with my husband that I’ve moved MANY times and somehow that file always got packed and moved along too. But why? In talking with him I realized those report cards represented something that I took extremely seriously when I was a kid- my grades and somehow some of my identity from that time period. I was always ‘the smart one.’ It occurred to me that it is silly to keep hanging on to these things. I don’t need a folder full of honor roll report cards to prove anything. I looked them all over and tossed them in the trash and oddly it felt very freeing.

    • Melissa, I think it is really wonderful that you and your husband are working together and talking together on the decluttering process. I do believe that it brings people closer together.

      Your story about your report cards and awards reminds me of some things I recently shredded. I had copies of resumes for each job and other detritus to go with them, transcripts of courses and grades from high school and colleges, awards, etc. A lot of it I used when job hunting but now that that stage of my life is over, and has been for 8 years, it was time to get rid of it all. Like you, it was oddly freeing.

      • We’ll see if I can remember the report card folder lesson when I retire someday. Hopefully I won’t keep a folder full of work related papers for almost 2 decades (which is what I did with the highschool stuff). Good for you letting it go in only 8 years! 🙂

    • Hi Melissa, what a wonderful story of you and your husband united in the fight against clutter. Great communication is key to a happy marriage.

      I am also pleased that you ditched that file. We can get so caught up in identifying ourselves as this and that. This can actually block opportunities that come our way. Perhaps I am lucky after all that I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and still don’t.

  8. Calico ginger

    Great post Colleen. My previous life was made a misery by my ex-husband’s compulsive “collecting” and “op-shopping” (ostensibly to to sell on eBay, but it rarely happened). It is obvious to me now that it was symptom of his deep unhappiness, but at the time all I could recognise was how limited and controlled it made ME feel.

    While I am really delighted that so many 356ers have happy marriages, where their partners are either on board or gradually seeing the light, that was not the case for me and perhaps for others who visit this blog. I don’t have any answers, but I do know that to have one’s “environmental” needs respected in a marriage is as an important a right as any other.

    My ex’s compulsion also affected my daughter, who was ashamed to bring her friends home, both because of the clutter and “weird” collections, but also because basic home maintenance was being neglected in favour of acquiring even more stuff. Needless to say she is an enthusiastic home improver and de-clutterer now!

    I guess what I am trying to say is that it is not always easy to identify and face up to some of the problems underlying clutter, but I think it is really important to do it. In my case, things have worked out not as I ever wanted or expected, but I am very happy to be back in control of my life and my environment.

    • Hi Calico ginger, thank you for sharing your story. It is a good example of the point I was making. In the end sometimes there is nothing more to do but part and start a new life for yourself. I am glad that everything has worked out well for you and your daughter in the end.

    • Calico Ginger, thank you for sharing about your previous life. I can’t imagine how hard that would be to live with someone with a compulsive shopping/acquiring problem. I would think that it might be similar to living with someone with any other compulsive behavior problem- gambling, alcoholism, etc. Congratulations on finding a happier path for you and your daughter.

  9. Ouch.
    That post hit home. My husband was a neat freak when we got together. His room was minimal and sparse, in contrast mine was utter chaos! I don’t know why he agreed to date me at all actually, since he had seen my room long before we were romantically involved. He has given me so much leeway over the years, and though I have improved by leaps and bounds, I am not anywhere close to where he wants to be. I KNOW it stresses him out, I KNOW it eats at his soul to see the piles of this and that and all the “treasures”. Having 2 children has just amplified it all and I know home is not the restful haven he deserves. Like I said, I HAVE improved. But he deserves better, and I deserve to have a happy husband.
    The sticky part is that I don’t see it like he does. I see a pile of books as ONE thing. He sees each and every slip of paper. I see food as a blessing when are cupboards are crammed full, when he sees too much work wading through it all to find something to eat. Perspective is the problem with our vast canyon of clutter tolerance differences.
    I can live with less, I can trust that I will always have enough, I will improve every day so that our lives will be less stressed,

    • Creative me, do you think your husband could help you with this? Maybe having him look at things with you will help you to come to a compromise of what is needed and what isn’t. I have had to do this with some things with my mother. In my opinion we could get rid of all of the books but those by our favorite 3 authors. She wants more kept. We came to a compromise so that we are both pretty happy with the result. Maybe you could do something like this with your husband.

    • Creativeme – do we have a classic case of opposites attracting? The analytical thinker was drawn to creative-you and you were drawn to his structured approach to life, would you describe him as your rock?

      To make things work you can’t live in either extreme because one of you will be unhappy-ish. So the good old compromise word comes out. I’m with Debj and a discussion with your husband is the best way forward. I’m going to write further down a wee bit of my story, it should make you smile. My suggestion of compromise is both of you get to bring opinions and ideas to each room, but there will be some rooms you will need to get more of say over but you’ll have to give him a few rooms that he gets more of a say over. Eventually it will all smooth itself out.

      • Moni, that’s exactly it! I do describe him as my rock actually. And he says I’m the one with “vision”.
        We compromise in many areas.
        I don’t touch a thing in his garage.
        He doesn’t disturb the piles in my office.
        As for the rest of the house, I work hard not to let it got out of hand and he tries hard not to have anxiety over temporary messes.
        The compromises have kept us together and evolving as a couple for over 2 decades. I think it all boils down to respect. I respect his need for order, and he respects my need to create.

    • I need add little more advice to this than Deb J and Moni as their advice was very sound. I would add this though, consider exploring your need to have more than enough. What brought you to the point where you felt that having more than you need adds value or perhaps security to your life.

      • This subject has been on my mind for a long time and I think I have nailed it down to a couple points in my young life that were… well… vunderable. The stuff was an insulator against loss. Now that I see the cause with perfect clarity I can work on healing without the stuff.
        I know my personality has been one tragedy away from full blown hoarding in the past (I was a big time pack rat), but the strength and love of my family and a lot of soul searching has pulled me away from the edge and given me a fresh perspective that I can sum up in one word: “ENOUGH”

        • Creative Me, I’m so glad that you have figured it out and have a new perspective. I bet that feels really good to you.

  10. Colleen this is an excellent list of questions on an aspect of clutter that can have very detrimental effects on relationships. It’s great to read the comments with success stories but as Calico Ginger reminds us not all relationships survive extreme situations.
    I’d like to weigh in about the acquisition habit being passed down to children. The point was made very clearly to me some years ago when I was teaching a Kindergarten class and during one of the Monday “news” sessions (also known as “Show and Tell”) a little girl in the class very proudly said that she had been to the Chanel sales with her mother and went on to mention all the great bargains that had been made. Hearing a five year old talking about this as the highlight of her weekend made me stop and think about what messages I might be giving my own children in relation to “stuff”.
    Also I strongly agree with the eco tips for today – especially about the leaf blowers! I live in a very leafy area and my husband and I are the only people I know who use a broom or rake to deal with fallen leaves. The noise and pollution of the leaf blowers drive me nuts so I keep hoping that seeing me wielding a broom might catch on instead 🙂

    • Megan, something else that bugs me about leaf blowers is that what they do is blow leaves. They don’t pick them up. So at some point you either have to pick them up or they are blown into the street and left. Argh! I like to see them either put in a compost pile or picked up by the city and put in their compost pile. They can even be shredded and left on the lawn. We live in Arizona. We have rocks instead of lawns. I am told you have to use a leaf blower because leaves can’t be raked on rocks. Hum! I didn’t have any problem with it.

      • Deb J – before I actually ever saw one in person, I hadn’t given leaf blowers a lot of thought but assumed they would be like a vacuum cleaner and suck the leaves up (of course, they are called leaf blowers not leaf vacuums) I wonder who thought to make them that way?

        • I don’t know who thought of it but I don’t like it. I saw someone the other day who was sucking them up with what looked like a leaf blower and wondered if they can do both but was told no. So maybe their are leaf vacuums too but you seldome see them. Ha! Shows you how up on things like that I am.

    • Hi Megan S, thank you for sharing that Kindergarten story. It really is a good example our habits rub off on to our children. My kids would tell an opposite story. How their mummy always used to say, when we were clothes shopping, that she could make it better and cheaper than that. By 8 & 10 they had already had enough of hearing me say that. 😆

  11. Finally Colleen has written about me! 😉

  12. LOL – great post. Adrian is the arty brained type and grew up on the road but somehow his parents still managed to be entry level hoarders. I am naturally more organised and like structure, grew up somewhat conservative but had ‘colourful’ leanings ie I like creativity but have not an artistic bone in my body. And so Adrian pictured a harmonious well structured stable home for his future children to be raised in and I pictured a life with just the right amount of creativeness and free spiritedness to make life interesting. Obviously other quirks and issues get added to the mix, but eventually we found ourselves in the nicest house that we’d both ever lived in, 3 beautiful children and tonnes of stuff. Adrian felt a bit ripped off because he was back in a rats nest situation, albeit a more expensively full rats nest and a wife who seemed a bit lost and overwhelmed and him caught on a hamster wheel trying to pay for it. And I felt a bit ripped off because the scoreboard was showing family and household obligations were slaughtering the exciting and adventurous life 100-0. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t not like my life, I have a good life and a very fortunate life and are very grateful for all that I have, especially for Adrian and the kids. But I realised I was living my mother’s life! Eeeeek! Never mind, life can change and evolve, the idea is to be ready for those changes/opportunities when they appear.

    I heard a line on a tv programme the other day and it was something a long the lines of you meet an extraordinary person but every day living eventually turns that person into an ordinary being, until you have this moment and you see that extraordinary person again and realise they were there all along. And that reminded me something one of the 365ers said once (it is on my quote-on-a-post-it-note-wall-of-fame) to just imagine that the person you want to be might just be buried under all your stuff. So that’s my philosophy about the disharmony of clutter and relationships.

    Adrian likes the house much better since it has been (mostly) decluttered. As white space is opening up, I am encouraging him to think about doing us some artwork to put around the house.

    • Hi Moni! I know what you mean. Sometimes we mimic what we have known all our lives and it is not right for us. It took me quite a while and a few visits to my Dad´s house, to realize that I did not WANT my house to be like HIS house. I am finally putting my imprint in my own house and it is not easy at first but it gets easier and easier with every little change and every space conquered (yes I feel like a four star general on a war LOL 😀 😀 :D). I am glad you and Adrian are finding your ideal home and you are discovering him again under that load of stuff you had. I found my husband too, under that load of extra clothing we used to own…
      And changing the subject talking about your wedding dress: I think your friend who threw it in the fire was just closing a very sorrowful chapter in her life. You are NOT going to burn down your wedding dress, just do something else with it, that does not require it to be stored in your house. My husband would be upset if I stopped wearing our wedding ring. But does not remember the dress. So, tell your husband that you are ditching the dress, not him, not the marriage, not his love, the kids, the 20 years together and so on and so forth…And I would accompany that with a very emotional love letter. A sincere one makes them sweet for months :D.
      Do you believe that a friend here gave me the same advice about the suits that you gave me yesterday? Why? I was so looking forward to keeping those suits. You people just burst my bubble…:D 😀 😀

      • Andreia – if you really want to keep the suits, LOL, I’m not going to turn up on your doorstep and rip them from your hands! Although I had another idea last night, you could sell them on ebay and put the money towards something else?

        Wedding ring – I don’t actually wear mine at the moment, I doubt Adrian has even noticed – they need to be re-sized down and I’m putting off the expense until I have maintained my new size for a while longer. A sis-in-law had hers increased in size recently and the cost was staggering $500. I know!!!!! It will cost about $35-$50 to get them downsized so I want to make sure it is a one-way cost.

        Wedding dress – I’ve got a couple of options – (a) our local High School, the students dress up for the cross country, it is a spectacular event as the kids have raided every 2nd hand clothing store in town, wedding dresses are a favorite, there are usually about 20 brides running the course and a few Super Heros and all sorts of creatures, even seen a gorilla costume. People turn out just to watch it all go past on their way down to the beach for the sand dune part of the run.

        Or (b) next year if my daughter takes what we would call sewing, plus a textiles course, there is a project option for a project to make over an existing dress into something new, I think it might even be a competition between schools, and if so, I’ve told her its hers to do what she wants with it.

        • I have to jump on the wedding dress talk bandwagon because I’ve been married for four years and finally figured out what to do with mine! Just last week I took it to a seamstress along with some gorgeous red fabric that I purchased and asked her to use both to turn my wedding dress into a Christmas tree skirt. I am so excited to see the final result. She said she’d be done with it at the end of August. 🙂

          A lot of people I’ve told this too look at me as though I’ve lost my mind. It makes sense to me though. Why keep the wedding dress in it’s current form? I’ll never wear it again. Besides, wouldn’t a beautiful Christmas Tree Skirt with an oddball story make a better heirloom than an outdated yellow wedding dress in a tomb of a box??? 🙂

          • Melissa, I like your idea.

          • Melissa – what a great idea!! It will be useful and appreciated and its a mult-purpose item ( wedding dress one day ,Christmas Tree skirt the next!) Love it! I know what you mean about those wedding dresses in their “tombs”. Its an expensive process – they are mummified and then hidden away and no one would want to disturb the mummification to actually touch them or play with them so they become stagnant and stationary and symbolically dead whereas your lovely dress gets a new life every year which is much more joyous and refreshing and energising.

  13. A bit of a topic detour but last night I was looking thru some flooring options online for kitchen and dining room areas and one of the options that Adrian quite liked, I pointed out that it suited to a more contemporary decor and the buffet/cradenza that sits in the dining room probably wouldn’t suit. We thought about it for a little while and Adrian said, where would you put everything? And without thinking I was listing where everything could move to, all off the top of my head, all into white space areas. A couple of things might require a bit of a re-shuffle of the likely area they would be moved to ie the trivets would go in the drawer that the zip lock bag boxes are in (but I have been thinking of doing a 3 month challenge of having no zip lock bags) but the only items which I’d have to think about was the vases.

    Wow that’s how far I’ve come! I can mentally eliminate a piece of furniture that is designed to store stuff within minutes. Of course, it helps that I did a bit of decluttering on this recently and also late last year, but how cool is that!

    • I think that is totally cool, Moni. Don’t you just love that feeling?

      • Deb J – Yes it was a great moment. Whether we keep the piece of furniture or not will depend on which flooring we go with, I know that sounds bizarre but its technically in the sizeable walkway area to the kitchen which looked really bare before we got it, but if we go with the bamboo hardwood floors it will look out of keeping. Nice to have the option and nice that either option isn’t a drama.

    • Moni – I wrote a big reply and then my computer decided to do an update and I lost it all! Try again -I wanted to say brilliant ! and how lovely that you are both considering it and there is no heat or drama one way or the other .I just wondered about your vases -how badly do you need them? If you get given lots of fresh flowers then of course you need them but your vases reminded me of mine .Until a few weeks ago I had a collection of brightly coloured West German pottery vases on top of the kitchen cupboard – they looked cheerful enough but I just gradually stopped loving them with the same intensity – so -off to the auction house they went and someone else can enjoy them .I kept ONE and I think it looks fabulous up there and in fact I appreciate its colour and texture far more now than I ever did before when it was one of many .It was the odd one out but on its own its perfect and it “works ” with the rest of the kitchen . I’ve also got one big vase which I use on those infrequent occasions when I get given flowers but otherwise I make do with a jug or a glass for smaller bunches of flowers. And good luck with your flooring choices !( We are enjoying our floor boards after years of worn out carpet).

      • Jez – no I absolutely don’t need that many vases, I think I get one lot of flowers a year. They were going to be considered at some stage in the future, but as we may still put the house on the market, I may use them for ‘staging’ the house. I will get them out at some stage and think out what could be used effectively and what is excess.

  14. Really great thought provoking questions today, Colleen. I think had I asked myself those questions about 3 -5 years ago, I would have saved myself from so much anguish, financially and emotionally. I knew for years that I overcompensated myself with things because I did not have much “stuff” growing up, but it truly became an issue on multiple levels about 5 years ago. I was stressed out from a job and working way too many hours. I chose to shop to deal with not only my job, but other emotional issues that I was going through. My family would complain, but they would just shake their head because I would be defensive, instead of really taking in what they were saying, which was a true cry of frustration on their part. Having them walk around or over items, knocking over stacks of things, etc., should have been a sign that something was not in balance in my life. After months of trying to maintain and deal with my stuff and spending too much on unnecessary items, I saw the light. The first sign of seeing the light was moving and realizing how much stuff I had and when I saw my house empty. I realized how much more the home seemed bigger and it could breathe without having the suffocating effect of excessive stuff. At that point, and after living without the majority of my stuff for about a year, I knew that I wanted to get rid of many items and only keep my most useful and beautiful things around me. I knew that I wanted my next home to be uncrowded, so we could all breathe. I turned to the internet for inspiration and I believe that I did not find this site by chance. I work now, but don’t have time to shop on my lunch break anymore, (I am so thankful for that, Deb J!), but better yet, I don’t feel the need to do so. Many of my things have left, and are continuing to leave my home and it feels great. I still struggle with some things but making the decision to improve my home environment for myself and my family was the right one to make.

    • Jen, in looking back I think two of the reasons I shopped for scrapbook supplies was I finally had the money to actually do something I wanted (took 10 years to pay off parents debt) and it was something I could talk about and show off. I’m glad i “saw the light.”

  15. Melodramatic, Colleen?
    I think I’d like to get even more melodramatic. That field of relationships and clutter is a mined one. Sooo sensitive, so difficult, so laiden with fear of rejection. I think you have to reach the point that you are not your stuff first respectively the person you ask to declutter must be there. Otherwise one easily falls into the dead end argumentation of “you have to like me the way I am”. Which is true – just that you are not your stuff.

    My BF and I have very different tastes and very different perceptions of clutter. He keeps things I happily let go in the very beginning of decluttering. But then I have whole categories of stuff he never owned to begin with and more stuff in general. His motto is: if you don’t need it, don’t get it. But then he hardly ever revisits or rethinks things and even for a minimalist type like him that means some clutter builds up over the years as life changes. So there is a lot of tiptoeing around ( on my side) and a lot of harsh words (from his side … I am just glad that I have slowly gone through the process of letting go for years because it has hugely improved my reflectiveness and seeing how I shopped and what I kept years ago and how I feel about it now I see so many different positions. He is not so conscious of all of that and with the knowledge I acquired it is easier to forgive his behavior – though I definitely would appreciate if he was more sensitive and would acknowledge different strokes for different folks …)