“My husband won’t throw anything away!”
Ever heard a wife say this? Of course you have. After all, opposites usually attract, right? So, what to do when your husband won’t declutter his stuff?
You may be super excited to go through closets, make a huge pile and cart stuff off to the local donation drop-off, but your husband may be picking through individual items, pulling them aside and saying things like:
“Hey, I was planning to fix this and use it.”
“Do you remember how much we paid for that? We can’t just get rid of it!”
“I might need this someday.”
“I forgot we had this! I LOVE this!”
“The kids might want this someday.”
And just like that, all the wind goes out of your decluttering sails.
Decluttering would be so much easier if it didn’t involve other people, but for most of us, decluttering is a messy affair because we live with a spouse, and often our spouses have different ideas about decluttering than we do.
You may be going nuts, ready to arm-sweep the stuff off every flat surface in your house into a box and run for the dump, but your husband doesn’t feel so inclined, and worse yet, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the clutter at all!
The best solution for what to do when your husband won’t declutter is to stop looking at your husband as the problem. This only pits you against your husband, builds resentment, and gets you nowhere. Resolve to work with your husband to tackle the problem.
It’s you and your spouse versus the clutter, not you versus your spouse.
So, below are three tips for what to do when your husband won’t declutter. This is a frustrating problem, but in reality, it’s an issue many couples face.
Tip #1 Communicate About Decluttering
Now, there is a difference between communicating and nagging. One is effective, the other shuts the conversation down before it even starts.
In communicating about decluttering, let your husband know why it’s important to you to declutter and what your heart is underneath that “surface desire” to have a decluttered home. The point in communicating is not to shame or lecture your spouse about “their problem,” but rather to simply let them know where you’re at and why this issue is important to you.
Then invite them to share with you, as well. What is stressing them out? Are they too tired to deal with any house clutter because things are crazy at work? Are they holding onto things to pursue a hobby you can help them make time for? How can you come alongside them rather than attack them? Get on the same side of the table and work the problem together.
Tip #2 Establish Decluttering Zones, Establish Decluttering Rules
If you have a spouse who tends to collect clutter, you’re not going to change them. I’m going to repeat that to drive the point home:
You are not going to change them. Period.
The only person who can change your husband is your husband. Does that mean you’re left to drown in a sea of clutter? No, but it means you’ll want to establish some zones and rules together to keep you both sane.
In our house, my husband knows I don’t like stuff on the kitchen counters. Even if mail sits there for a matter of hours it drives me crazy. So, this is a “no clutter” zone for us. We each have a magnetic pocket on the side of the fridge where we put mail (stuff to file, bills to pay, etc.)
My husband is a visual organizer (see the Clutterbug website all about the different organizing types). I don’t touch his desk, and I don’t touch the top of his dresser. He remembers to do things through visual prompts (if he sees the water bill sitting there, he remembers he has to call about those extra charges from last month), so to mess with that stuff is kind of like screwing with his to-do list.
It’s critical to have ground rules in place for decluttering around your home. This keeps trust intact and can help prevent so many arguments if you’ve already established what you’re both comfortable with for decluttering practices.
I don’t throw away or donate any of my husband’s things without his permission. Ever. Different couples will feel differently about this, but for us, the stress and tension would rise in our house if my husband felt like I was tossing and rearranging his things without his input. He has piles, but he knows what is in those piles and he wants things to be there when he goes looking for them.
Tip #3 Make Decluttering Compromises
Declutter warriors don’t want to hear this word, but if you live with other humans, compromise is necessary.
Nobody’s home looks like a magazine cover. Instagram and Pinterest have fed us the lie that basically everyone’s home looks perfect except for yours, but that’s just not the case. We live in our homes, and as a result, our homes get cluttered.
Is it important to have a decluttered space? Of course, but even more important than a decluttered, thriving space is a decluttered, thriving marriage. Don’t let the idol of a perfect home keep you from engaging in the healthy give-and-take of real life with your spouse.
In other words, make compromises. As mentioned above, designate some zones “clutter free” and agree on where those zones will be together. Commit to keeping your own things and your own spaces tidy and clutter-free (i.e. make sure you’re not jumping on your husband for something you’re not even doing yourself!)
Compromising on small things doesn’t mean you’re compromising on a tidy house. If you’re willing to give a little, you’d be surprised at how your husband is willing to give to you in return. People almost always respond well when they can feel someone else is seeing their needs and caring for them, rather than accusing and judging them.
This topic can be such a challenge because, like most decluttering issues, it touches on deeper things than just the clutter that’s on the surface. It touches on marital communication, dreams and goals for the future, financial priorities, personal values, and much more.
For these reasons, it’s all the more important to make sure you’re communicating, establishing zones and rules, and compromising with each other.
So, what to do when your husband won’t declutter? Stop looking at your husband as the problem. Prioritize your marriage above the clutter, and watch how this issue begins to resolve as you commit to care for and help each other above everything else.