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How to Declutter When Your Spouse Doesn’t Want To

How to Declutter When Your Spouse Doesn’t Want To

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

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.

A 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 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 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 going through your things and getting 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, 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

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 into 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 is 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!

How to Declutter When Your Spouse Doesn't Want To

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pam purser

Friday 19th of April 2024

this is my second marriage . . I sold my home and practically gave away everything in it to move into my husbands existing home. We kept furniture from my house that was better than what he had. He has the master bedroom closet . . I put my clothes in another bedroom . . over the years he has brought in pieces of furniture (some from his mothers home) and others to satisfy a short term situation where his daughter had to live with us. One bedroom has turned into a warehouse with is extra clothes that he will not let go of even though he never wears them . . shelves that used to hold books and pictures are cluttered with gloves,WD 40,jars of bb's, sunglasses . . . all this man stuff and the computer desk . . is covered with 5 little flashlights, 4 knives, a little dish with full of screws and whatever . stackes of paper and 7 spiral bond little note books that fit in your pocket . . I could go on to describe the rest of the house . . but that is what I am dealing with . . I have slowly removed all signs of (decor) because I have given up . . Any suggestions?

Simple Lionheart Life

Friday 19th of April 2024

That sounds challenging for sure. My first suggestion would be to have some open and honest conversations with your husband about how the clutter is making you feel. See if he's open to you helping him declutter if it's not something he can or wants to do on his own. Or see if it's possible to contain some of the stuff that's bothering you to one area or room so the whole house isn't taken over. I hope that helps. Thanks for reading :)

Lou

Tuesday 14th of November 2023

I love my 82 year old husband dearly and we've been together 37 years. He's a hoarder and you can hardly get into one of the spare bedrooms because if is full of things. There are other very cluttered areas in our living rooms which causes me stress and anxiety and sometimes prevents me from inviting friends into our home. I find it very hard to keep the house clean and it affects my asthma. For years I've been asking him to do something about it with my help and I've tried explaining to him how the clutter makes me feel. I would like to feel relaxed and comfortable in our home. He doesn't see it as a problem. Help!

Simple Lionheart Life

Wednesday 29th of November 2023

I'm sorry, that sounds really hard. It sounds like it might be to a point where some professional help could be helpful. Hoarding disorder is something that often requires professional help for both the hoarder and the people who love them/live with them. In the meantime, maybe you could make yourself one or more "clutter-free spots" you can enjoy. Perhaps your side of the bed or a corner of the living room. Creating a spot you can spend time in and keep how you'd prefer. I hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

David

Saturday 30th of September 2023

So, basically if they refuse to do anything about their mess you just deal with it? I’ve been dealing with it for thirty years. It creates high blood pressure in me. I’m ready to leave her and her mess. She can live with her clutter all she wants but I’m not.

Simple Lionheart Life

Wednesday 25th of October 2023

I think this would be a good time to have a serious conversation about the impact the clutter is having on you. Going to a therapist or councilor together might help too to have a productive conversation about it.

Marie

Sunday 19th of February 2023

I am living with my husband that hoards & even though he promises to clean never does, he takes care of his mom full time & I help, allready causing stress) also has brother coming & has brought his own hoarding habit,… we are getting mice in house, I can’t deal with this to the point I want to leave but it’s not that easy, I really need advice

Simple Lionheart Life

Wednesday 22nd of February 2023

This might be a situation where professional counselling could help. Hoarding is a serious issue and can have devastating effects on families and people. My best advice is to find a therapist who specializes in hoarding to not only help your husband, but also yourself. Take care and thanks for reading

Duncan

Sunday 10th of April 2022

This was slightly helpful, but I'm in a bit of a fix because we're two established adults that are talking about moving in together.

I'm not materialistic and have already stated that I'm fine selling 75% of my stuff. But I have 5 specific larger things that I'd like space for. But instead of her making room by selling or donating, she I stead will just place things in odd spots (middle of the living room for a computer desk, for example). This is mainly because she is very attached to strange items, like an older large wooden computer desk. I am fine with certain things being sentimental, but when it's the majority of furniture, I'm not sure how to politely acknowledge that I'm not fine with her keeping everything because of sentimental value...

I believe I have to put off moving in because this doesn't feel equal to me. I already stated that I'm fine with moving in with her instead of her with me because she has more space. But I refuse to feel like it's me in her space, instead of a mutual space.

Any advice on how to approach this would be amazing...

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 12th of April 2022

That sounds challenging for sure. My best advice would be to have a really honest conversation with you and explain exactly how you're feeling. I think you wanting the home to feel like a mutual space is key. Hopefully, if you're able to explain your perspective and how you're feeling, it'll help you understand where you're coming from. Then you can make a plan to move forward together. I hope that helps!

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