One question I get asked often is how to get other family members to declutter…
“My wife has too much stuff”
“My husband is a packrat”
“My kid is a hoarder”
“Can you come help, JoAnn?”
I’d love to say I can just show up, wave a magic wand and fix it all for you or that you can just toss it all when they’re not looking but this is not the key to lasting change and it’s not kind nor appropriate to take matters into your own hands when it comes to someone else’s belongings.
What to do with their stuff is not your decision to make.
So, what CAN you do?
Start by Being Honest with Yourself
I’ve shown up to many consults and heard someone blaming another member in the household for the clutter, disorganization, and overall stuff. Be honest and ask yourself how much is actually yours. How much are you contributing to the clutter? So often, it’s more than we think!
We might blame or deflect the responsibility because we feel shame around being disorganized, or in how much stuff we have, but there’s no shame or judgment here!
There are many different reasons, each of them unique and personal to us as individuals, that we might have clutter or be disorganized.
Start working on your own clutter first. In fact, sometimes this step alone can help you from needing to confront anyone about theirs! Family members often see us working on our things, organizing what we have, and want to join in! Especially when they see things getting cleaner and lighter.
Open Up to Your Family Member and Share Your Feelings
Even when you do work on organizing on your own, it might not inspire family members to do the same. OR you might not have anything that you need to work on! Maybe it really is someone else in the family who is the cause of the clutter chaos.
Take time to sit down with them, at a time when you’re both feeling nourished, well-rested, and calm, and share how it makes you feel. Not how they make you feel (that’s an important distinction) but how all the stuff is causing you stress, anxiety, or feelings of being out of control. Be open and honest and share what emotions you’re feeling around the stuff.
Keep in mind that money factors can also play a role in too much stuff and clutter. Clutter can be tied to financial issues when someone in our lives has a shopping addiction, purchases things they don’t need or use, or is on a mission to stock up for the apocalypse. Money issues and clutter issues can be equally sensitive, so make sure that you approach the conversation with empathy, love, and a willingness to help.
There are all sorts of emotions tied to what we own. There are fears of not being able to replace things, hesitancy to let go for sentimental reasons, or worries about upsetting someone else.
Even when something seems ridiculous or like junk to you, the other person may have a special meaning attached to an object, or a belief that it needs to be done in a certain way. You can’t force anyone to change. Don’t allow shame or judgment into the conversation with them.
Kindly, paint a picture of how things might look if there was less stuff around. Perhaps it would even translate to more money available to take trips, or it would feel lighter in the house and you’d be less stressed.
Encourage openness and honesty during the conversation and allow the person you’re speaking with to share their emotions and feelings as well.
If they’re not receptive, you might need a third party to help mediate the conversation such as a therapist or counselor. Again, remember that there is no shame in bringing in assistance.
Is My Child a Hoarder?
Children have a natural inclination and tendency to collect things and most children will keep everything from rocks to projects they’ve made to seashells. Collecting is part of the experience of children discovering and learning about themselves and the world around them.
Make sure what you’re child is collecting is safe and not harmful, isn’t food that’s being stored improperly and attracting pests, and don’t worry about them having something psychologically wrong with them that’s causing them to collect.
In the majority of cases, they are simply doing what they are naturally driven to do.
If your child is collecting too much, have a discussion with them about whether or not they need to let something go in order to bring in more, how much is too much, and how it needs to be stored.
Again, approach the conversation without judgment and with empathy.
Ways to Help Your Family Members Start Decluttering
Sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves and help your family members get started! The key is to start small and help them tackle a little bit at a time. Help them see the value in decluttering as you go by getting rid of things that are old, stained, duplicate items, broken, damaged, and think together creatively as to how to make the additional space useable and able to be enjoyed!
Get them on board by making it a game! Challenge each other to declutter one item a day on day one, two on day two, three on day three, and so on. Have a contest to see who can declutter the most in a given amount of time. Set rewards and incentives, put on some good music, and make it a family affair to get organized!
Stay focused on the WHY as a family! Is the goal to create more communal space? To sell enough clothing on consignment to go on a trip together? Or perhaps there’s even a goal of downsizing in order to be able to move into a smaller home?
Keep the big picture goals in mind, together, and it can help the process be more smooth and enjoyable for all!
If you need someone to help you have these conversations and navigate the clutter in your household, schedule your free consultation below where you can share your challenges and see if I am the right fit to help you!