What can you do when you’re completely into decluttering your home, but your husband refuses to declutter — and his mess is even bigger than yours?
This is absolutely the number one issue I get asked about. I have mentioned a few of my thoughts along with some of my other declutter tips. But now it’s time to do a dedicated post.
Here are my 8 go-to strategies when it comes to dealing with a partner’s refusal to declutter.
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The Struggle is Real When Your Husband Refuses to Declutter
In many relationships, there seems to be a huge disparity in clutter tolerance between partners. There is nearly always one ‘clutterbug’ and one ‘neatnick.’ Opposites attract, right?
But then there are relationships like mine where both partners tend to collect and hold clutter. That entire situation is a problem, but the real conflict arises when one partner (in this case, me) has that lightbulb moment and starts decluttering like crazy.
For a while, the other partner watches, figuring this current organizing kick will fade away just like the previous times.
However, that doesn’t always happen. I’ve been working toward living a clutter-free lifestyle for a few years now, and I can tell you it’s a pretty tough situation when you don’t see eye-to-eye with your husband over all the ‘stuff.’
A couple of reminders before you read further:
- It may not be fun for you to read, it may not be easy to hear, but please remember that personal respect is paramount. It’s best if this goes both ways, but even if it doesn’t… bashing your partner doesn’t help matters.
- I do not give relationship advice. I’ve been married for over 23 years, but I am not professionally trained to give anyone advice about how to deal with relationships. I can tell you what works for me, and I can tell you what to do with your own clutter. But if you need person-to-person help, I suggest seeking counseling from a professional.
That said, there is hope! Helping a partner who resists decluttering doesn’t have to be a losing battle. Keep reading, and I hope you find some helpful tips.
4 Ways to Get Your Partner to Declutter
Now that I have a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be in a clutter-disparity relationship, here are a few things I’ve found that have had at least some success. Even if your partner is reluctant to get rid of anything right now, try one or more of these suggestions and see what happens!
1. Have patience with your partner.
Converting someone from a clutter-keeper to a declutterer is a process.
If you’ve been through the process yourself, then you know how difficult it can be. We don’t all have that lightbulb moment at the same time.
If you’re a naturally neat and tidy person who simply cannot comprehend how your partner keeps so much stuff, then patience is even more necessary.
2. Be a good example.
Declutter your own stuff… and keep it that way.
Watching your positive attitude about decluttering over time is sometimes all it takes to help your partner see the possibilities in a clutter-free lifestyle, especially if you’ve both been clutter-keepers in the past.
It probably also wouldn’t hurt to watch Hoarders-type shows together. This is like a no-fail motivator in my house.
3. Offer to declutter WITH your partner.
Never declutter your partner’s belongings without permission, even if you know it’s mostly trash or things that could easily be donated.
How would you feel if someone went through your things and made decisions without consulting you? You would probably be hurt, angry, resentful… and unlikely to cooperate in the future.
Your spouse would likely feel the same, so just don’t even go there.
Make the offer to work WITH him, and make sure he knows he will have the final say about every single item. Reassure him that taking everything away is not the goal. And stick to your promise.
4. Start small, with common areas.
Remember, your partner may be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff in his life… just like you were when you began decluttering. He may be stuck feeling like a victim of clutter — although it’s possible he doesn’t realize that’s what’s happening.
Offer to work together on ‘easy’ areas. Starting the habit of a nightly 10-minute tidy is a great way to get into the habit of preventing new clutter piles.
Then, once you’ve established that habit, try moving into what I call a Slow Declutter. It’s much lower-pressure than emptying an entire room and being confronted with an even bigger mess.
4 Things You Can Do If Your Partner Refuses to Declutter
But what if, no matter what you do, your husband STILL refuses to declutter?
Here are a few things that have either worked for me or I have seen work for others. Remember, this is NOT professional advice. 😉
1. Point-blank ask your partner to do it ‘for you.’
When we have issues with clutter, we tend to purely think about it in relation to ourselves. It’s ‘my stuff’ and we don’t even realize it’s having an effect on others.
I’ve often heard people say ‘my husband’s clutter overwhelms me.’ I totally get that! But perhaps your partner doesn’t even know.
Sometimes, if we let our partner know exactly what all of that stuff is doing to us — and the family — it can help them start to look at things from a different angle.
2. Get counseling.
The twist here is that the counseling is for you.
Of course, you can ask your partner to join you. But if he refuses, then you should still go.
Clutter is a symptom of so many issues, and getting guidance from a certified professional counselor can help you work through those issues on your side. Doing so will help you decide exactly what you need to do going forward and what your next steps might be.
3. Live with it.
If your partner’s mess isn’t consuming your personal or family areas, you may decide to ignore it.
This is a little easier if you can contain the clutter to one area like a basement or garage workshop. It’s certainly not ideal, but there are times when it’s a fair temporary solution to preventing further conflict.
4. Stage an intervention.
If health and sanitation are at stake, it’s time to pull out all the stops.
Excuses like ‘that’s just the way I am’ only go so far.
When it comes to being in danger of getting sick or injured due to clutter, or possibly having government officials intervene, then it’s time for hard talk and harder deadlines.
Bring in a professional counselor or organizer if you need to. That way your partner is hearing the tough things from someone who can bring an outside perspective.
More Decluttering Mindset Help
30 Days to a Better Man Day 13: Declutter Your Life — Art of Manliness — Many of these are similar to my own tips, but sometimes reading them on a ‘manly’ site makes a difference. 😉
Concluding Thoughts on Dealing With Your Partner’s Clutter
Will using these tips always be successful? Honestly, no.
Humans are all different, and there may be times you simply cannot get through to a husband who refuses to declutter. When that’s the case, double-down on attending counseling sessions, because you’ve got to keep yourself afloat and get help with the tough decisions.
But for many people, these tips DO work. Not always immediately, and not always to the extent that we might WANT them to work… but often well enough that decluttering can become a unifying family project instead of a source of division.
Been there, done that… and I can tell you life is so much easier when you can work together toward the goal of clutter-free living.
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