When I started decluttering, my OH thought I had absolutely lost my mind. Throwing out perfectly good stuff for no reason whatsoever. That was easy for him to say, he generally wasn’t the one trying to clean and manage the stuff! I’ve never been one to let someone else’s opinion slow me down, so I developed a few tips to… get around… my OHs hesitation.
- Leave it. If you know your OH isn’t interested in decluttering, it’s probably because you have already mentioned it and received a bad reaction. Even though you are dying to get started, let things settle down for a bit and approach it from a different angle once they have forgotten the conversation and cooled down.
Phrase to try: “Ok, it was just an idea I wanted to run by you.”
- Don’t declutter their stuff. Don’t even talk about decluttering their stuff. This can be very threatening to them so even if you are convinced their stuff is the problem, you are going to have to try leading by example.
Phrase to try: “I’m thinking of clearing out my side of the wardrobe this weekend. Don’t worry, I won’t touch your side.”
- Start with something they already complain about. Does your partner ever complain they can’t find their razor in the bathroom because you have too many cosmetics? Or that it takes you too long to get ready because you have too many dresses? Start with one of these areas, even if it is hard for you. Make sure you include the 3 magic words. No, not ‘I love you’! ‘You are right’. Everyone loves hearing this, and it kind of makes it sound like the decluttering was their idea, so they can’t argue with it.
Phrase to try: “You know, I was thinking and you are right, I DO have way too many shoes. This weekend I’m going to get rid of some old pairs.”
- Push the charity factor. Some stuff will probably go to charity. For extra brownie points, choose a charity close to your OHs heart. And if your OH is resisting letting something go, see if you can use this angle to leverage it out the door.
Phrase to try: “The girl in the animal charity shop told me they always get good money for these, it will do them more good than us.”
- Take before and after photos – even if it is a shelf they look at every day. It’s so easy to forget how something was. Let a week or so go by after decluttering a space, and then just happen to come across the photos on your phone. This will reinforce in their minds that the Before really was bad, even if they didn’t realise it at the time. This in turn proves that you were right and decluttering is awesome.
Phrase to try: (while ‘randomly’ looking at stuff on your phone) “Oh look at this photo of the bathroom before we decluttered it, doesn’t it look so much better now?”
- I versus We. Use the word I for any work that needs to be done, but we when handing out the praise. I know, it’s not fair but it helps. In their mind, you are not assuming or demanding they help, but they get to feel good about the end result.
Phrase to try: “I think I’ll declutter this weekend” followed by “Wow, this room looks much better now we cleared stuff out!”
- Play the damsel in distress card. Pretend you can’t lift down a heavy box. Pretend you are totally confused by a box of cables or computer parts. Basically try to engage them by stroking their ego. Do what you gotta do…
Phrase to try: “I wanted to tidy this box but I don’t know what these wires are, you’re so good at this stuff – could you help me?”
- Shock him. If your OH doesn’t think there’s any need for either of you to declutter, maybe it’s time to shock them. I did this with shoes once. I always kept some shoes in my wardrobe, some under my bed, some in boxes, some in the spare room with my seasonal clothes, some in gym bags, etc. One day I took every pair of shoes and laid them out on the bedroom floor. There was barely any free floor space left. I had nearly 50 pairs, it was embarrassing and ridiculous and there was no way anyone could deny that some needed to go.
Phrase to try: “I decided to put all my/our (insert item here) together to go through them – can you believe there’s so many? I think I/we can definitely get rid of some, do you?”
- Don’t put any pressure on them. Ask them if they want to declutter but make it casual and don’t badger them about it. You might be surprised…
Phrase to try: “I’m bringing a bag to the charity shop tomorrow, do you have anything you want to throw in?”
- Tease them. This will only work with some people and will just annoy others so use with caution – but a little teasing may get them thinking.
Phrases to try: “Wow, that shirt is very 90’s…” “I think you have more clothes/ shoes/ cosmetics than me now!”
- Play up any illness/physical impairment anyone in the house has. OK, I know this sounds terrible but hear me out. If you can give a valid excuse for decluttering it makes it harder to disagree with. Somebody in the house surely has some niggle you can use as an excuse…
Phrase to try: “You know, I can’t move things around as easily anymore when my back acts up – I think I might clear out the presses so it’s easier to get at the things I use.”
- Bribe them. Don’t be patronising or obvious, but maybe cook a nice dinner or agree to have some mates over or something once the task is done.
Phrase to try: “You haven’t had the lads over to watch football in ages, maybe if we cleared the sitting room a bit they could come over this weekend?”
I would love to hear if any of these work for you or if you have any other tips!