How To Motivate A Partner Who Won’t Help You Declutter

A happy couple relaxing in couch after motivating each other to declutter in harmony

Does your spouse, partner, or family member have too much stuff? How to motivate a partner who won’t help you declutter will show you the best way, non-combative ways, to approach decluttering.

It can be frustrating when you’re ready to declutter but your significant other isn’t on the same page. Three people I know started quietly decluttering their homes. Within a few months and often sooner their spouses joined them nd started decluttering their things.

You might worry about how to bring up the topic without causing any tension. Luckily, there are practical ways to encourage your partner to start decluttering without making it a battle. 

Maybe your significant other does not understand the benefits of decluttering. Well, let’s show him or her…

Decluttering goes beyond just tidying up physical spaces; it can have a significant impact on our mental and emotional well-being. By understanding the benefits of decluttering, we gain insight into how this simple act can lead to a more organized, efficient and productive life. 

Tell your reluctant partner decluttering will reduce stress and anxiety

The research should sell itself. Studies show that living in a cluttered environment can contribute to increased stress levels and anxiety.

The studies about cortisol levels being significantly higher in cluttered environments is nothing to sneeze at. I wrote aboutcortisol levels a while ago https://declutterbuzz.com/how-our-mental-health-is-affected-by-our-home-clutter/.

This constant exposure to disorganization can overwhelm the brain and lead to feelings of anxiety. By decluttering our surroundings, we create a sense of calm and order, reducing stress and promoting mental clarity.

Emphasize these benefits to your partner!

Enhancing Focus and Productivity

A cluttered space can be distracting, making it challenging to concentrate on tasks and stay productive. Studies have shown that a cluttered environment can impair cognitive functions, such as focus and decision-making. 

When we declutter our living or working areas, we eliminate distractions and create a space we enjoy being in and this results in more productivity.

There is no way I can work in a cluttered space. It doesn’t matter if I am writing, melting glass, or grooming my pups, my space needs to be tidy before I begin and task.

A clear and organized space allows our minds to focus better, leading to improved efficiency and performance in whatever we are doing

My den has a couch and a hanging screen, a couple of dog beds, and an old crate only which is functional and aesthetically pleasing to me. I can’t relax in a cluttered environment either and am in awe that others can. Is there excess stuff in your living room or the room where you spend a fair amount of time preventing you from resting?

Getting your partner onboard can also help by providing you each with an accountability partner and any project goes better when there is accountability.

Approaching the Conversation with Your Partner

Initiating a conversation about decluttering with your partner can be a touchy subject and a matter that requires a thoughtful approach. Set a positive tone, and use ‘I’ statements to talk about how you feel about the subject.

Listening actively to your partner’s perspective, and highlight the benefits of decluttering. Encourage your partner to join you. You could point out you have both of you in mind when you are working toward a more comfortable and efficient home.

A couple high - fiving each other across a desk in a bright light filled room

Have a Positive Attitude

You will have a fighting chance when broaching the subject of decluttering with your partner if you enter into the discussion with positivity and optimism.

Criticizing or complaining about the clutter, likely won’t get you the results you are looking for. Focus on the shared goal of creating a more comfortable and inviting home together. Try to inspire some enthusiasm and cooperation from your partner.

I definitely would not touch a spouse’s stuff without permission. I would concentrate my decluttering effort on my belongings while I am encouraging my partner to participate. Tossing a partner’s things almost ensures, at best, receiving no help in the future.

Listening and Understanding Their Perspective

Effective communication is a two-way street, and it’s essential to allow your partner to express their thoughts and feelings about decluttering. After all, these are your partner’s belongings. I get that you consider this stuff to be your husband’s or partner’s clutter. 

Their opinions matter as much as yours do. Listen attentively to their concerns, hesitations, and priorities regarding the process. Understanding their perspective will not only demonstrate that you value their input but also help you find common ground and address any potential obstacles together.

A key to peaceful communication is to compromise a shared vision. A good compromise is when both people walk away from the table without getting 100% of what they want. 

Highlight that your decluttering efforts will lead to a simpler life and when there is a less amount of stuff you will both save time cleaning.

the outline of 2 hands clasped

Making Decluttering a Team Effort

Start decluttering with a unifying family project. An example could be finally going through the pile of wedding gifts you sent thank you notes for 10 years ago. If you still have not used the gifts you probably never will. Or maybe you never sorted through the piles of old pictures from a family event.

This kind of decluttering task can be a good starting point.

Another example could be decluttering a shared hobby that has become a magnet for clutter.

By telling your partner you need their help the area you choose to declutter can become a fun and rewarding experience. By making decluttering a team effort, you not only lighten the load but also strengthen your bond through collaboration. 

Let’s explore some strategies to actively involve your partner in the decluttering process.

Scheduling Decluttering Sessions Together

Setting aside dedicated time for decluttering as a couple can make the process more manageable and enjoyable.

Again compromise is needed for when you will work on your decluttering plan.

Assigning Areas of Responsibility

Dividing tasks and assigning specific areas of the home to each partner can streamline the decluttering process. By taking on distinct responsibilities, you can work more efficiently and prevent overlaps. 

This division of labor also instills a sense of ownership over the decluttering project, motivating both partners to stay focused and accountable.

2 climbers and one is lending a helping hand to the other to get to the top of rock.

Offering Support and Encouragement

Decluttering can unearth sentimental items and bring up emotional issues. Decluttering can involve making difficult decisions.

not everyone’s sentimental stuff conjures up warm and pleasant recollections. Oddly we can be just as attached to sentimental things that we associate with not so-great-times.

It is always well received when we offer heartfelt support and encouragement to our partners. Celebrate small wins together, provide a listening ear during challenging moments, and acknowledge each other’s efforts. 

It may take a little more time to listen intently, but it is well worth the peace that comes with it. Patience is a virtue.

Creating a supportive environment fosters teamwork and helps you navigate decluttering hurdles as a united front.

Embrace collaboration, communicate openly, and celebrate progress together to make decluttering a fulfilling experience for both of you.

Dealing with Emotional Attachments

One of the most challenging aspects of decluttering can be dealing with sentimental items. Here are some strategies to help navigate this delicate process.

Sharing Memories Instead of Physical Items

Instead of holding onto physical items that evoke memories, consider capturing those memories differently. Take photographs of sentimental objects or create a memory book where you can write down the stories and emotions connected to those items. 

By shifting the focus from the physical object to the memories it represents, you can cherish those moments without the need to keep every item.

suggesting different themes for a memory book such as writing about memories in a book or adding mementos or painting a memroy

Compromise and Finding Middle Ground

When decluttering with a partner who has strong emotional attachments to certain items, it’s essential to find a compromise. Instead of discarding everything, consider selecting a few key pieces that hold the most significance and agree to keep those. 

Encourage your partner to prioritize which items truly bring them joy and add value to their life. By finding a middle ground between keeping everything and decluttering completely, you can make the process more manageable and respectful of each other’s emotions.

Put the shoe on the other foot and offer sensitivity and understanding like you would like to receive and remember to compromise with your partner.

Creating a Sustainable Decluttering Routine

Establishing habits that prevent clutter from accumulating again is essential in maintaining a decluttered space. By incorporating regular maintenance and organization practices, along with periodically revisiting and reassessing belongings, you can create a sustainable decluttering routine that promotes a clutter-free environment in the long run.

Regular Maintenance and Organization

The most important thing is to implement a maintenance plan if you want to avoid being faced with a big decluttering project again. This may require you both building new habits

To maintain a clutter-free space, it’s crucial to incorporate regular maintenance and organization tasks into your daily routine. Setting aside a few minutes each day to tidy up and put things back in their designated places can prevent clutter from piling up. Consider implementing the following practices:

Create good habits is written on a gradated light blue background.
  • Daily Decluttering: Take a few minutes each day to declutter surfaces such as countertops, tables, and desks. Put away items that are out of place and discard any unnecessary clutter.
  • Designated Storage: Assign specific storage areas for different items to ensure everything has a place. Use storage bins, baskets, and organizers to keep belongings organized and easily accessible.
  • Consistent Cleaning: Regularly dust and vacuum your living spaces to maintain cleanliness and prevent dust and dirt from accumulating. Keeping your environment clean can make it easier to identify clutter and address it promptly.

Revisiting and Reassessing Belongings Periodically

In addition to regular maintenance, it’s essential to revisit and reassess your belongings periodically to declutter effectively. Some folks do this seasonally, others just naturally do this.

Thankfully we don’t stay the same and our needs and preferences change. This can lead to the accumulation of unnecessary items. Consider the following steps when reassessing your belongings:

  • Seasonal Purges: At the change of each season, take the opportunity to declutter and organize your belongings. Sort through clothes, decorations, and other seasonal items, and donate or discard anything you no longer need.
  • Rotation of Items: Rotate items in storage to ensure that everything you own is being used regularly. If you come across items that have been stored and forgotten, consider whether they still serve a purpose in your life.
  • Quality over Quantity: Focus on quality over quantity when assessing your belongings. Keep items that hold sentimental value or serve a practical purpose, and let go of duplicates or items that no longer bring you joy.
donate is spelled out in large red letters and held in place by different color hands

If you are at odds about how and where to donate new and gently used goods download the free Resource Guide I made. This guide will show you how to donate most household items.

Celebrating Achievements Together

Progress not perfection should be the goal! Acknowledge progress and let go of any perfectionist goals you may have. Criticism will not go over well.

By celebrating achievements together, you can motivate each other to continue on the decluttering journey. 

Setting milestones and rewards can provide positive reinforcement and make the decluttering process more enjoyable. Reflecting on the improvements you have made will allow you to appreciate the positive changes that decluttering brings.

a woman and man celebrating a decluttering victory with a drink.

Making a date night plan when you finish cleaning the garage can be a motivating factor. Or suggesting your partner does something he or she loves to do after the project is complete whether your partner decluttered an entire home office or a small area. 

Your partner is probably doing the best he/she can because most people do their best. At least you are now going in the right direction. This is the first thing to acknowledge. Depending on the sheer volume of stuff you have it may take a while to achieve a clutter-free home. Being patient is worth it.

Reflecting on the Improved Living Space

Take time to reflect on the positive impact of decluttering on your living space, especially the common areas. Notice how the cleared surfaces make the room feel more spacious and inviting.

Reflect on how easier it is to find things now that everything has its place. By appreciating the improved living space, you can stay motivated to continue decluttering other areas of your home. Share your thoughts and feelings with your partner to reinforce the benefits of decluttering together.

By setting milestones, rewarding progress, and showing appreciation for the positive changes, you can celebrate achievements together and create a supportive environment for decluttering. This positive reinforcement can strengthen your bond as a couple and make the decluttering process a shared and enjoyable experience.

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Aim for Peace!

Don’t let decluttering be a source of division. Start small, do a little bit at a time. Be understanding and respectful of each other’s different things, and concentrate on your clutter.

Make donation piles and don’t forget to use the Resource Guide I offered. Others have found this guide helpful. Sometimes I put a pile of free stuff out in front of my home and it seems to be snatched up in a minute.

Encouraging your partner to start decluttering can be a game-changer for your home and relationship. If you don’t get an enthusiastic partner right away keep decluttering yourself. I suspect it won’t be long until your significant other sees the improvements your efforts are making and starts joining in.

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

For more Declutter Buzz & Freebies check out our safe and private Decluttering community on our Facebook page. We are a safe and private space of like minded folks tackling this all encompassing clutter thing once and for all. No shame allowed and always a few laughs!

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