Today I gave a clutter busting talk and a couple brought up their clutter situation. The man said that his wife had a lot of collections and he felt they were clutter. Specifically he challenged her porcelain doll collection which he said took up too much space in their living room, and he didn't like them, plus it made it hard to entertain guests.
The woman said that he was wrong, the dolls weren't a problem. She loved having them. She felt they weren't clutter and he needed to leave her alone about them. Then she began attacking his guitar collection. She said they took up space in the basement and it kept them from entertaining down there. He said the guitars weren't clutter and started in again on her doll collection.
They began to complain back and forth that the other person was wrong and they needed to get rid of their clutter, and to stop complaining about their own things. It was clear they had a lot of practice at it.
I asked them to stop talking about it. I said to the woman, "You like your dolls. He doesn't like them. You don't like to hear that. You're going to keep the dolls no matter what he says. You don't like his guitar collection. You think that by telling him this, it will help him get rid of the guitars. From experience you see that it's not working." I said to him, "You don't like her dolls and you tell her that with the feeling that doing so will make her get rid of them. She likes the dolls and gets angry when you tell her how you feel and she's not letting go of the dolls. You like the guitars. You don't like when she tells you she thinks they are clutter."
I said to both of them, "You both have things that you like that your partner doesn't like. You can't make or convince the other person to get rid of their things. No one likes to be told what to do, and it never makes someone do what you want them to do. The clutter is this aspect of your relationship. You're dug in your trenches in opposition to each other. It hurts the relationship. Your relationship is a thing just as much as the dolls and the guitars. The way you talk with each other is clutter because it's not serving you or the relationship. Plus it makes you exhausted. When you were both complaining to me about each other, you looked tremendously weary and sad. If you could eliminate this way of talking with each other, you are letting go of clutter."
They again started in on each other about their things. I butted in and said, "That's the clutter I'm talking about. You are so used to it, that you don't notice the hold it has over you. You can't complain about each other this way anymore. It's detrimental to your peace of mind and to the health of your relationship. Seriously, you'll be a lot happier if you toss it and agree that you have things the other doesn't like...and recognize that you like each other. That's something you like in common. That's going to make you happier than getting the other person to toss something that's not as important as the two of you together."
They were quiet. I think they understood they were lucky to have each other in their life, and they didn't want to step on it anymore. Hopefully the understanding will get a chance to blossom when then get home.