This weekend I helped my girlfriend and her son clutter bust their art room. At first they were being critical of one another. He would say what he thought she was doing wrong. She would take it personally and criticize him for criticizing her.

I see this happen a lot when I clutter bust with family members or couples. One or both of the people going through the clutter bust are trying to control the other person. No one likes to be told they are wrong. I find that people usually go the opposite way than the person is trying to change them towards. It backfires.

I said to my girlfriend and her son, "I noticed that the two of you often try to control each others behavior with criticism. It starts a ping-pong match between the two of you. It goes on for a few minutes. It's funny because each of you thinks the other is being critical. But it's doled out in equal doses. I think you might not even realize what's happening. Plus it makes you both very tired, which seems to increase the criticism. The thing is, you're both on the same side."

They quit the criticizing and worked together. They successfully finished clutter busting the art room.

Later on, when he was alone with his mom, he told her, "Do you know why I slow down when you say hurry up? Because it's my way of fighting back. I felt I had to get back at you because of how critical you were of me. I think I'm done being critical of you though."

My girlfriend said, "I'm realizing that when I'm critical of you, it's my way of saying that I need some quiet time to myself."

I think hearing their interactions slowed down gave them these new insights. Usually when we get in a heated argument with a loved one, we feel so emotional we don't hear what the other person is trying to say, and even ourselves. It's like being on fire and trying to by put it out by running. Clutter busting is basically slowing things down so we can take an honest look and see what's not working fur us.