If you’re trying to declutter and simplify your home, but your spouse isn’t on board it can be difficult for both of you. It can leave you feeling stuck, frustrated and resentful. But decluttering doesn’t have to come between you and your spouse. In today’s post, I’ll share 15 strategies you can use to figure out how to simplify and declutter when your spouse doesn’t want to!
How to declutter when your spouse doesn’t want to
1. Have open and honest conversations about decluttering
Open and honest communication is important for any relationship. If you’re trying to declutter but your spouse doesn’t want to or is resisting the idea of getting rid of anything, start with some open and honest conversations.
Share exactly where you’re coming from. For example, if you’re overwhelmed with the amount of time and energy your home and the stuff in it is taking to manage, talk to your spouse about it.
Be honest about how you’re feeling in your home, including what’s working for you and what isn’t. Talk about what you hope to achieve by decluttering and how you think decluttering will help. Share why clearing the clutter matters to you.
Don’t nag or try to convince your spouse that decluttering is the solution. Just be open about your ideas and where you’re coming from.
Offer decluttering as one possible solution to the struggles you’re facing and feeling in your home. Then ask for their input as well. Try coming up with solutions together.
Your home belongs to you and your spouse equally. If the way your home looks, feels and functions right now isn’t working for you, try to find solutions or a compromise that works for you both.
If your spouse is open, you can even share articles, podcasts, books, etc. to share what you’re learning about decluttering and the benefits it can bring to your life. You don’t need to pressure your spouse, just share information if they’re open to it.
2. Start with your own stuff
Resist the urge to get rid of anything that belongs to your spouse. Or even start by decluttering mutual household items. Instead, lead by example and start by decluttering your own stuff first.
Start by decluttering the stuff that belongs to you and you have complete control over. Your shoes, your clothes, your makeup, your books, your hobby items, your memorabilia, etc.
Not only will this show your spouse that you’re “walking the walk” and getting rid of your clutter first, not just expecting them to get rid of their stuff. But you’ll already start simplifying your life by getting rid of the clutter that belongs to you. And that’s one step closer to your goal of a clutter-free home.
And an extra bonus of simplifying your own stuff first is that you may even end up inspiring your spouse to come around to the idea of decluttering after they see you enjoying the benefits.
Hopefully, seeing you enjoy the benefits of less might plant a seed. Showing your spouse there are benefits to decluttering. Even if they don’t want to admit it or it takes a long time to sink in!
3. Don’t pressure or nag your spouse to declutter
Do you like to be pressured to do something you don’t want to do? Do you enjoy someone nagging you to do something you’re not on board with? Probably not! Nobody likes to feel pressured or be nagged.
Not only will nagging your spouse to declutter cause tension in your relationship. But it will probably make them dig their heels in and get their back up about it even more!
There’s a line between sharing why you want to declutter and pressuring or nagging your spouse about it. Share what you want to do and why, but don’t cross the line into pressuring or nagging them.
Most people embrace the idea of decluttering and simplifying when they’re ready. If your spouse isn’t on board with decluttering, they might just not be at the same place you are in terms of excitement or buy-in about decluttering. They may get on board eventually, or they may never feel the same way you feel.
Try to accept that you’re in different places when it comes to decluttering. And remember that no amount of pressure or nagging will ever force someone to do something they don’t want to do. At least not without causing damage to the relationship in the process.
4. Don’t declutter your spouse’s stuff for them
It can be tempting to see stuff that belongs to your spouse that you know they don’t use and get rid of it. But don’t do this!
When you get rid of things that belong to your spouse without their permission, it can feel violating, and cause mistrust, anger or resentment. It can even make them hold onto “stuff” even tighter, completely defeating what you’re trying to achieve!
You probably wouldn’t want your spouse to go through your things and get rid of stuff without your permission, involvement or consent. So, don’t do it to your spouse either.
5. Ask where they are open to decluttering
After decluttering and simplifying your own stuff, ask your spouse if there are any spaces or categories of stuff they are open to decluttering and simplifying.
Just because they’re not open to decluttering everything, doesn’t mean there aren’t some areas in your home they might be on board with simplifying.
This can help with your own mindset as well. Instead of only focusing on all the things they don’t want to declutter that are driving you crazy, you can focus on the areas of your house and the categories of stuff they are willing to simplify and you can do something about.
6. Give your spouse a say in decluttering decisions
If your spouse is hesitant about decluttering, but not totally against it, involve them in the process!
Work on decluttering together so they are involved in deciding what stays and what goes. If your spouse doesn’t want to be involved in the actual decluttering, let them look through anything you’re planning to get rid of before you get rid of it.
Sometimes knowing they have a say in what’s being decluttered can help your spouse feel more ok with the process of decluttering.
7. Use a maybe box
A maybe box can be a really effective tool for anyone who feels unsure about getting rid of something when they’re decluttering. It’s like a decluttering safety net. Allowing you to experiment with getting rid of something, without the fear of regretting your decision holding you back.
Here’s how a maybe box works:
Anything that you or your spouse are hesitant about getting rid of goes into a maybe box. Seal the box and put it away out of sight somewhere. Set a reminder in your calendar for some time in the future, one month, three months, whatever works for you.
If the reminder goes and neither you nor your spouse has wanted, needed or even thought about what’s in the maybe box, you can feel confident in your decision to get rid of it.
It gives you a trial run of living without the item or items to see how much you really use, need or love them.
8. Make decluttering more fun with some friendly competition
If your spouse is becoming more open to the idea of decluttering, some friendly competition can be a great way to make the process more fun for both of you.
Challenge each other to see who can find more things to declutter in a set amount of time. Whoever wins gets a fun “prize” like maybe sleeping in on Saturday or not doing the dishes that night.
Decluttering doesn’t have to be a torturous task for you or your spouse. Find ways to make decluttering a little more fun and it might help get your spouse more on board with it.
9. Offer to help your spouse declutter
Sometimes people don’t want to declutter because they don’t know how to declutter, they don’t want to do the hard work, they don’t know where to start, or they just feel completely overwhelmed at the thought of decluttering.
If that’s the case, maybe your spouse would be open to you helping them declutter. Again, don’t pressure or nag them, just offer to help.
My husband falls into this category. He is quite minimal to begin with, but he rarely declutters unless I suggest it.
His wardrobe is one example. He won’t get rid of clothes on his own. But every so often I’ll ask him if he would like help sorting through his clothes. Sometimes he says no, so I leave it. But sometimes he says yes.
I do have to do most of the work. I hold up things I haven’t seen him wear often and ask if he wants to get rid of it. Then I bag up the clothes he’s getting rid of and take them to the donation center, and rehang everything he wants to keep. But I’m ok with doing the “heavy lifting” because it means he is willing to simplify our home.
10. Help your spouse find a system to organize their stuff
Your spouse may not be open to decluttering their stuff, but you may be able to find a way to compromise by helping them organize their stuff in a way that works better for you and your spouse.
Finding a better way to organize their stuff can help make your home and the amount of stuff in it feel less overwhelming to you. While still honouring their desire to keep their stuff.
11. Encourage your spouse when they do declutter or let something go
Just like no one likes being nagged, everyone likes to have their efforts noticed and appreciated. Positive reinforcement is a great way to encourage your spouse to declutter without nagging.
When your spouse is able to let something go, or agrees to declutter, encourage them and show your appreciation. As my grandma always said “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar!”.
12. Agree on clutter-free zones in your house
If you’re craving a simpler, clutter-free home, but your spouse doesn’t want to declutter, creating clutter-free zones is a great way to compromise.
A clutter-free zone is a space where you and your spouse both agree to keep surfaces and the space free from clutter. It could be one area of a room or a whole room, it’s up to you. But the key is designating a space that you both work to keep clutter-free.
This could mean making the space more of a neutral space where neither of you keep your personal belongings. Or it could mean claiming a space that is yours and you keep it clutter-free.
It requires respect from both of you to maintain this space.
13. Give your spouse space for their stuff
And along that same line, if your spouse doesn’t want to declutter, it can be helpful to give them their own space or spaces in the home for their stuff as well.
It could be a space your spouse can use and enjoy, and keep as much stuff in that space as they like, as long as it stays within whatever space is designated for them. They will be responsible for maintaining the space and you will promise not to interfere with the space or their stuff in it.
Establishing some clear and defined limits that work for both you and your spouse can be helpful. For example, you might establish a clutter-free zone or zones in your house for you, along with a zone or zones for your spouse that can be more cluttered.
Remember, you and your spouse both live in your home. It should be a place you both love and enjoy spending time in. Even if the amount of “stuff” you each prefer differs.
14. Slow down what you’re bringing in to your home
Clearing the clutter from your home is an important way to simplify your home. But equally important is stopping, or a least slowing down, the new stuff you’re bringing into your home.
You can’t always control what your spouse buys or brings into your home. But you can control what you buy and bring home!
If you stop bringing new stuff home, or at least bring less stuff into your home, it will stop more clutter and stuff from being added to your home. Especially if your spouse is resistant to getting rid of things once you own them.
15. Be patient, accepting and respectful of your spouse
Part of being in a relationship is finding compromise. And accepting your spouse for who they are and the ways they are different from you.
We all are who we are and we all have different “stuff” that matters to us.
Your spouse may never understand why you need so many shoes. And you may never understand why he needs so many tools. What is important to each of you won’t always be the same. But you can always choose to be respectful and kind. Accepting your spouse for who they are and remembering if something is important to them that’s reason enough to keep it.
You and your spouse may never see completely eye to eye on decluttering, and sometimes that just has to be ok. Accept your spouse for who they are, even if they are a packrat!
Try to find ways to compromise, but also put the value of your relationship above the “stuff” in your home. Even if that sometimes means accepting more clutter than you’d prefer.
Focus on what you love about your spouse more than the things they do that drive you crazy. Because in the end people will always matter more than “stuff”.
How to declutter when your spouse doesn’t want to
I hope this post will help you find ways to figure out how to declutter even when your spouse doesn’t want to. It’s not always easy to put the brakes on when you’re excited and motivated to declutter but your spouse isn’t on board. But in the long run, it’s better to prioritize your relationship over making progress clearing the clutter from your home.
Have you ever struggled with trying to declutter but your spouse doesn’t want to? How did you handle it? Leave a comment below and let me know!