How to help your partner let go of their clutter

Trash bags

What can you do if the clutter in your home isn’t yours but belongs to a partner who refuses to do anything about it?

An American woman wrote to me once to say, “85% of what is cluttering up the energy of our home belongs to my boyfriend from before we met. There is nothing in this house that represents US together. I have asked him about doing some clearing and reading your book, but he is saying it’s stupid and all in my head. I love him and I believe that if he would just understand and maybe even just remove those things, he might be happier too.

How can I get him with the program? I feel trapped and soooo unhappy. He came from a very unhappy marriage and there are things that he brought from that relationship that he isn’t willing to let go of. When we moved in together, I took my kitchen table and chairs and clothes and a few other things. That’s it!! I gave up everything that fit into a beautiful 3 bedroom house with a two car garage to live in a 2 bedroom single-wide trailer because he didn’t feel comfortable in my house. I want a home that reflects US, not HIM!! Please tell me what I can say to get him to understand.”

In Chapter 14 of my book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, I explain that there are only two remedies I have consistently found to be effective in dealing with other people’s clutter. The first is education and the second is leading by example.

By education I mean getting your partner to understand that the stagnant energy that accumulates around clutter can make it more of a liability than an asset.  Trying to convince them of this yourself doesn’t usually work. Getting them to read about it is much more effective because then they’re discovering the information for themselves. Most people who have clutter suffer from constipation, so you don’t even need to suggest they read the book. Just leave it where they’ll have time to read it (!) and you can even put a bookmark in the page you want them to start reading at to intrigue them to open the book and begin.

The other approach, leading by example, also involves you saying nothing at all to your partner. You just get on with clearing your own clutter and very often they will get the idea to start doing it too. Again, this is effective because they feel they had the idea all by themselves.

What doesn’t work at all is nagging your partner about their stuff. This usually only makes them more entrenched about hanging on to it. And pleading rarely works either. Something fundamental has to change in a person’s belief system for them to see clutter clearing as a positive step rather than a chore or a process that will destabilize them or cause them to feel at loss in some way.

The important thing to understand about clutter in relationships is that it’s only a symptom of deeper underlying issues. When one partner lives clutter-free and the other does not, it highlights a fundamental difference in beliefs, values and emotional makeup which is sure to be reflected in other areas of their relationship too. The good news is that if the clutterholic partner finds their way, as a result of education or example, to changing their habits, they become less emotionally attached to their stuff and more emotionally available to their partner too.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2010

Related posts
Always check a person’s attic before you agree to marry them
How other people’s clutter can affect you
An experiment you can try

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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3 Responses to How to help your partner let go of their clutter

  1. Hello Karen

    I have been married and together with my husband for 38 years. When we met and moved in together we had nothing. Over the course of years we managed to obtain a lot of beautiful things. Neither of us was given ANYTHING when we started and we BOTH appreciated the things we DID COLLECT together. We have a rather large piece of property with a rather LARGE amount of things IN it and IN our Yard. We also have another house on our property that is full..along with several sheds and outbuildings. During the years, several people (family) have died and left more things..and I became the KEEPER of my now dead family.

    I now feel NOW IS THE TIME to at least attempt (I am 59) to try and find some semblance to my home and property but my husband has become a bit of a “SANFORD AND SONS” mentality..and we just closed our business which also housed numerous things. I am lost as to where to begin. Its not that I don’t want to do it, but I am only 1 person and this job FEELS daunting!!

    Believe me when I say this I also know that I am a part of the equation. I have the same issues…I had nothing and ALWAYS WISHED I had a family that would of left me beautiful antiques…I appreciated THEIR BEAUTY..however so humble that may be. They are a part of me…and a party of who I became…

    BLAH..blah I am, almost 60 and I STILL LOVE ALL of the things people have given me or that I found weather at a yard sale or an antique store.( I was also an antique dealer).

    My question REALLY IS: HOW DO I EVEN BEGIN AND SHOULD I DO IT NOW?? I’m not in the greatest health nor is my husband. I know you will probably tell me: ABSOLUTELY AND START TODAY!! But these are things where EACH THING HAD A STORY: A MEMORY. I’ve given AWAY so many things. AND honestly NOTHING in Rhondamy house (although ADORED) is worth a lot…But it’s not junk either. Everyone had told me to do Ebay but I am not great with the computer and eBay entails a lot! I wish there was an answer…I still feel so young…and Giving away my things…just doesn’t…????

    I’ve said enough…I hope you can help me.
    Thanks so much!
    RHONDA in New Mexico

    1. Hi Rhonda – There are levels of clutter clearing help available, as this page of my website explains: Clutter Clearing Help

      If you have already read my book and it hasn’t ignited you to start clutter clearing, as it does so many people, I suggest you join my 21-day Fast Track Clutter Clearing online course in March 2018. Alternatively, if you prefer one-on-one help, contact one of the clutter clearing practitioners I have trained who are available to do consultations in New Mexico.

      To further inspire you to get started, read this: Why life over 60 workes better without clutter

  2. I tried using option 1 for quite a long time, but found that it caused me nothing but angst and sadness at my inability to communicate the stagnation of our home to my partner. Finally I decided to do what I do with everyone and everything else in my life, lead by example, which turns out to be your option 2.

    What a transformation. I cleared a drawer, he cleared 38 old monitors. I cleared a set of drawers, he cleared out almost a whole garage. Sharing the spirit of the endeavour, in wordless communication, does have great results.

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