One of the keys to getting organized is decluttering. Most of us know this: The bags of old clothes, the sentimental objects that fill the shelves, the bins of messy toys, the piles of schoolwork and art projects on the kitchen table. All of them suck up energy and put up real blocks to getting our lives and our brains in order. (We wrote last week about how disorganization can cause as much stress as unpaid bills.)

Even though you might be 100% onboard with Sparking Joy through the enormously popular KonMari method or another variation of minimalism, you’ll only be 50% effective if someone in your home still clings to the clutter. Home disorganization and clutter can be an enormous source of tension between family members – you are not alone!

If you feel held back by a spouse or other loved one who has a pack-rat problem, there is hope! This is important: although you may not be able to change the behavior of your loved one, there are strategies for dealing with it that can make your home life saner.

Of course, mega clutter issues like hoarding can be the sign of complex issues that might require therapy to get to the root of. For the rest of us, here are some simple strategies for dealing with someone who you love, but might be a clutterer:

Look at your own stuff first.

It’s easy to get fixated on the other person’s habits when they’re a known clutterer. Work on your own stuff first, improving the areas under your control and leading by example.

Keep it positive.

Nagging and cajoling are surefire ways to sabotage their interest in decluttering. Instead, keep positive about their results, no matter how small, and show them the benefits instead of just talking about them.

Keep the stuff

While simply throwing your partner’s stuff away behind their back is tempting – resist the urge! Never get rid of something belonging to the clutterer without their permission. Doing so can replace the clutter problem with a trust problem and make them less likely to part with their objects in the future.

Work with a third party organizer. 

There’s a reason that professional organizers exist! A neutral third party can provide an unbiased view on your current situation and give you real, workable solutions to improve it. And maybe, just maybe, your spouse will be inspired to declutter if they know someone will be looking at their old junk.

Isolate the clutter into designated spaces

Although it’s a short-term solution, putting away clutter into a designated space such as an unused room or basement can at least let you enjoy your home and keep the clutter out of view until they’re ready to deal with it.

Practice acceptance

Ultimately, our loved one’s clutter, like their lives, is out of our control. Practicing acceptance and focusing on the positive aspects of your partner may not change them, but it will give you a stronger relationship.

Good luck!

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