One of the most common questions I get in my email is:
How do I convince my husband to declutter his stuff?
The answer, however simple, is not an easy one.
Before I give you that answer, I want you to consider:
Have you ever changed your political stance because of a Facebook post?
Have you ever changed the way you discipline your children because someone gave unsolicited advice?
Have you changed your eating and/or cooking habits because a friend convinced you to?
Those scenarios all have one thing in common: someone was trying to convince you. Those cases where someone does take unsolicited advice to heart are few and far between.
However, many of us have changed many things in our lives because we were seeking the change or saw the evidence supporting the change with our own eyes.
Many political viewpoints have been changed because someone met a person and saw with their own eyes how law will or currently does affect that person.
Many have changed the way they disciplined their children because they observed a healthy family life and want to replicate that in their own home.
Many have changed their eating and cooking habits because they saw a friend be healed by food.
…So, how do you convince your husband to declutter his stuff?
The answer: You don’t.
I know that by reading that, you feel like all the clutter is suffocating you. I know it’s stressful working around your husband’s things. I know his stuff impacts your life.
But there is hope!!
You see, when we start asking how to get someone else to change, it’s because we don’t want to face our own obstacles. Perhaps we don’t want to address the sentimental items and family heirlooms that we dislike, but don’t feel like we have permission to get rid of. Perhaps we don’t want to feel the shame of how much money we spent on clothes we never wear or craft projects we never completed.
Take a step back and ask yourself:
What am I trying to avoid, by focusing on my husband’s stuff?
What came to mind just then? Consider it, my friend. I know it’s not easy. Decluttering is an emotional process and it can be very difficult. It is very healing though! When you get to the point where you are willing to face those very difficult emotions, you have grown as a person. When you walk through those feelings, acknowledge them, and do what you need to bring closure to them, you will be more free than you have ever been.
Ok, but is there any hope for my husband?
Yes! Here are some healthy ways to approach this in your marriage:
Before anything else: talk. I love what Sandy Kreps shared:
Find Common Ground. It is rare that a spouse or family member is completely inflexible about simplifying. Often times, it is the fear of what they might say that hinders progress. This is why an honest, open discussion about your household’s possessions, needs, schedule, and goals is so important. Focusing on what you as a couple or as a family want out of life can take the stress off of the decision to get rid of that old VCR or stack of unread books. From: Simplicity When Your Spouse Doesn’t Get It
- Work on your own stuff. Sort through everything you have control over. Declutter all the spaces that you generally claim as “your space”. This is anything that is your actual possessions, or your husband doesn’t care about in the least. And like I mentioned above, address the clutter that you are avoiding.
- Keep going. Decluttering is a long process. Somethings can be sorted and changed quickly, but most of us will sort a drawer 3-4 times before it’s completely decluttered. You are the living proof, the example. Keep at it, each item decluttered is a success and a step in the right direction.
- Keep common areas free of personal possessions. Everything in the main living spaces should be communal- used by all members of the house. It’s not a place to store individual’s personal items. If you have children, think about where you want the toys. If toys are in different boxes and baskets in each room of the house, it’s going to be difficult to teach the children to pick up. Keeping common areas free of personal items, means there is less clutter. When you can keep these spaces clean and organized, you can sit and relax in these spaces without being bombarded with someone else’s stuff (even your own!)
- Be trustworthy. I know it’s tempting to toss things that you know he hasn’t used in at least 10 years, but if he has asked you to leave his stuff alone, then leave it alone. This goes for your children as well. Don’t get rid of someone else’s belonging without their permission.
There is no guarantee that your husband will change. Some may never change. But many do! My husband began decluttering his things 5 years after I started.
Purpose in your heart not to allow stuff to divide your relationship. Most people are drawn to simplicity because they are tired of the focus being on material possessions. Embracing minimalism is removing the control your material possessions have had in your life. Instead of owning material things, those material things have come to own you. However, don’t allow the opposite to happen: minimalism should not control your life or cause dissatisfaction with your husband.