Wanting a Partner to Let Go of Their Clutter

Here's a question from one of my blog readers:

"What do you do when one member of a couple is a pack rat? I have been a clutter buster for years, but recently read your book and learned so much more! I have clutter busted my home of all my clutter and my children's clutter. My husband, however, does not want to participate. I have tried asking him the questions you ask your clients, but to no avail. He simply believes that everything should be kept "in case we need it" someday. He is able to let go of many jointly owned items, but anything this is solely his is off-limits. We have boxes of things in the attic that he hasn't used for years, but he won't let me get rid of them."

The first thing to recognize is that he does not want to participate. I would honor his way of doing things. You can ask him questions, but they only work if the person is open to the process. I found that I'm only effective as a clutter buster with people who are open to letting go. In the early days of my job, sometimes people would hire me to work with a relative that they couldn't get to let go of clutter. It never worked because the person didn't want to do it. So I stopped taking on those clients.

Your reaction to your husband's way of living has become clutter for you. Clutter means anything in your life that is no longer serving you. Your feeling of wanting him to change and the actions that you take to make it happen don't serve you. They frustrate you. I understand because it's your nature to notice your clutter and let it go. But he has a different nature. Sometimes when something is in our nature, we feel we can explain it to someone whose nature it isn't, and make it their nature. But people tend to resist things that they aren't naturally predisposed to. They will often get stronger in their nature and go the opposite way you want them to. They'll be frustrated and you'll be frustrated. This restricts the connection between the two of you and you'll both be unhappy.

I would look at this clutter situation as a chance for you to ask, "Is my wanting my husband to clutter bust serving me, or can I let it go?" It's always good to come back to yourself in the clutter busting process. We can't control the world. We can do something about ourselves.

It's also good to know you're not alone. This comes up with other couples too. I've seen the tension this produces in relationships. I've also seen partners let go of their need to change their partner just by recognition that it's not working. This produced a natural peacefulness in the one who let go. The relationship benefited from the change.

I hope this helps. I wish you the best.