Power, sex, money and clutter in relationships

Clutter can become a major issue in a loving relationship, especially if one partner wants to live fairly clutter-free and the other doesn’t make any effort to declutter at all.   

Man in cluttered home study

Psychologists tend to focus on three biggies that need to be addressed in a loving relationship: the balance of power, sex, and money. But in my experience, there is a fourth biggie that also needs to be taken into account these days – clutter.

A “biggie” is something that can make or break a relationship if it becomes a major issue of contention. Many hurdles usually need to be overcome to establish a happy co-existence in the arenas of power, sex and money, but clutter issues go very deep too and are sometimes insurmountable. It’s not about the items themselves but about the way they reveal the different values that each partner has. When one person lives clutter-free and their partner does not, it highlights a fundamental difference in beliefs, values and emotional makeup which is sure to affect all aspects of the relationship in some way.

Clutter issues between partners

In Chapter 14 of my book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, I explain:

Merely discussing your partner’s clutter with them can quickly bring to the surface issues that have long been buried in a relationship. Nagging, arguing, threatening and issuing ultimatums only makes clutterholics more entrenched, and NEVER, EVER, EVER clear their clutter for them unless they specifically ask you to do so. People have deep emotional attachments to their junk and can get very upset or even go berserk if it is tampered with.

There are only two solutions I have consistently found to work. They are:

Most people have no idea how much clutter affects them and holds them back. They don’t understand that the stagnant energy that accumulates around clutter can cause them to feel stuck in life and how clearing it allows them to move forward.

Attempting to explain this to a partner is generally not the best approach because they may feel you are trying to manipulate them and change them to your way of doing things. But if you can get them to learn about the benefits of clutter clearing themselves by reading a book, they can have their own realizations about it and are more likely to act.

This article explains an effective way to help them: Here’s an experiment you can try

Leading by example
Leading by example means forging ahead and doing your own clutter clearing, regardless of how resistant your partner is to doing it too. Tackle your own personal possessions and ignore theirs. Sort through your stuff purely for your own satisfaction because you want to improve your quality of life.

In the Fast Track Clutter Clearing online courses I lead, there’s a lovely phenomenon I call ‘The Clutter Clearing Ripple Effect’ that occurs without fail. At least 10% of participants (and often more) find that doing their own clutter clearing without saying anything to anyone about it often inspires a partner, relative, close friend or neighbour to spontaneously start clutter clearing too. Somehow it rubs off on them and they embrace it as their own idea.

Read more about The Clutter Clearing Ripple Effect

How clutter clearing can benefit a relationship

To some degree, anyone who has clutter uses it to suppress emotions of some kind in some way. Intuitively, people know this, and one of the main reasons they put off decluttering is to avoid feeling the emotions that can surface during the process.

However, when you and your partner both work through your feelings as you clear your clutter, it opens the door to deeper levels of emotional and sexual intimacy between you. You will not only have a clutter-free home but also a deeper and more meaningful relationship too. This may seem a little scary at first, but if you value the relationship and are willing to open, you’ll discover a whole host of benefits that come with living clutter-free.

What to do if your partner won’t change

If neither of the two tactics I’ve described in this article work for you, there’s a strong possibility your relationship will not survive or will not thrive. If one partner is attached to clutter and the other is not, it’s like living on opposite sides of a bridge that neither person is willing to cross.

But even if clearing your own clutter does not inspire your partner to do likewise, I still recommend doing it for yourself. Focus on how much better it makes you feel, and the way forward for you both will gradually unfold.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2018, updated 2021

Clutter clearing online courses

Related articles
Always check a person’s attic before you agree to marry them
Let go of clutter and live your life to the full

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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 fourth 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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6 Responses to Power, sex, money and clutter in relationships

  1. My husband is a hoarder/clutterer, although he insists that I’m to blame for the mess in which we live because I haven’t minimalised my own belongings sufficiently for him to properly store his. He’s constantly buying new things, but will not part with anything he has even if it’s worn out, broken or otherwise unusable. Sadly, only recently, he’s been telling me that we can turn off our radiators to put extra storage in front of them. What can I do to help him?

  2. Clutter – mine is more obvious, dragged between houses. My boyfriend’s is more hidden. He had a new house build, locked the door in his family home and moved in. He left the old house pretty much as it was. He jokes about bringing his digger to bury my stuff. I get a bit prickly when he says it. It reminds of a family member who I felt ‘stood over’ me to clean my room. I never felt I had privacy in my room either growing up. It stirs up a lot. He is overweight, I don’t fluctuate to much. We probably have opposite issues to work on.

  3. Is there anyway to do your paper and digital clearing course in November this year. Waiting till March defeats the purpose. I have been working towards clearing and now is the time. Thanks Carmen

    1. Hi Carmen, I’ve taught 46 online courses in the last five years but am I’m not offering any more until January 2019 because I’m busy writing a new book at the moment. My next Clear Your Paper & Digital Clutter course is in March 2019 if you still need help with some aspects of your clutter by then.

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