Clutter has a detrimental and chaotic effect on the connection between the people who share a space. It doesn't matter what your relationship is - family member, friends, coworkers or partners. When the people who share the space are willing to clutter bust together, they have the opportunity to let go of the clutter and become closer.
1. Starting right. It helps to have a talk with each other before you begin. You want to have an understanding that you are not in competition. You are there to help each other. Agree to let go of the clutter of the need to be right. You want to help each other ask questions about the stuff in a way that encourages openness. You want your actions to be motivated by kindness.
2. One of you helps the other. One of you asks the other one questions about their things. You want to keep the questions simple. Pick up one item at a time and ask questions along the lines of, " Do you still enjoy this, or can we let it go?" You want to help the other person decide for themselves with a clear "Yes" or "No."
If the other person is having difficulty deciding, chances are the item is clutter for them. Recognize they are feeling emotional attachment and be gentle with them. Rather than give advice, try telling the person softly what you observe about them in the moment, "I noticed that your voice sounds tense and tired when you talk about this thing. Also I noticed that your shoulders are hunched up." You're not telling them they are wrong. You're wanting to help them see the effect this particular thing is having on their life. They probably don't notice. Helping them see can help them decide to let go.
3. Avoid criticism. Avoid any criticism of what they are doing. Ply them with encouragement, like, "You're doing a great job." Don't give your opinion about things, for instance saying, "You should keep that" when they want to let something go. Or avoid, "What do you need that for?" when they want to keep something. Honor the other person's choices. We can't know what's best for another person (though that doesn't stop us from trying.) Your only role is to help them make decisions for themselves.
When a person makes a decision about a thing, immediately put the item in its appropriate place. If it's trash, put it in a trash bag right away. If recycling, put it in the recycling bin. If it's going to be donated, put it in a donation bag. If the item is being kept, have the person put the item where it will be most easy for them to find.
4. Switching places. Don't have one person work too long with their stuff. You want to stay fresh for each other. Take a break. Then come back and switch places and now work on your stuff. It's good to switch back and forth because of the empathy you'll have from being clutter busted. When you do this with someone you are close to, you get the opportunity to become closer. You learn how to honor the other person's boundaries. And you get to learn how to be open and safe together. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, stop and express your feelings gently.
5. Dealing with shared things. When you come to things that belong to more than one person, everyone who owns the things should be heard. These include community items like DVDs, games, furniture. Casually ask of the group (I've seen families do this together), "Do we watch this anymore? Do we still enjoy playing this or not? Do we like this chair, does anyone like sitting in it, or can we let it go?" You honor the group dynamic when you question this way. You want to hear all the answers. Again, avoid criticism and control. You want to hear if this shared stuff is fresh for everyone, or can it go. If there's a conflict, you talk about the thing in question. If one person wants to keep it, you keep it.
I'd like to share with you what one of my blog readers recently wrote to me about her experience of clutter busting with her husband: "Yesterday, while my husband and I were off from work, I took the opportunity to put
the new skills I've learned from you to the test. We were basically
lounging around and I said to my husband, 'Let's take 15 minutes to tackle an area of the basement. Just
15 minutes.' I had chosen an area in advance. It's a worktable piled
high with stuff. I said, 'I know it's hard, but it'll only be 15 minutes.' 98% of the stuff got thrown out. I think that I was more
gentle with him that I had been in the past, thanks to you. I
encouraged him and didn't force him to get rid of something he wanted to
keep. Then, when it was over, I praised him. It was such a pleasant experience, that when I suggest another session, I don't think he'll
groan and moan."