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4 Helpful Tips To Make Conversations About Clutter Easier

As it is National Conversation Week next week, I thought it would be fitting to give you some tips on how to make having those difficult conversations about clutter with your partner, spouse or flatmate a bit easier.  This topic can bring up all kinds of emotions for people, and there is a very good chance that there will inevitably be arguments because often opinions are very divided when it comes to the stuff in your home.

Did you know that 61% of households in the UK argue about clutter at least once a month?  So, it stands to reason that a bit of help would be really useful when having conversations about clutter.  The way that each person feels about their items can be quite different, and this is influenced by all of your life experiences up to this point.  But understanding how to broach this subject, especially if you are hoping to see some changes, will increase the chances of your success, and I’ve got four great tips that can do just that!

1) Set the Mood

You might think that you know where I’m going with this one by the title but it’s not what that.  There is a very big chance that whoever you want to talk to about clutter will feel resistance and reluctance to having this conversation because there may be negative feelings coming up for them such as embarrassment, shame or even anger.  This step needs to be approached delicately.  The best way to start is to ask if you can set aside some time to have a conversation about something that’s been on your mind but reassure them that it is nothing to worry about.  Make sure that you allow a good amount of time for this conversation to take place because if things feel rushed, it can add stress to an already tricky talk.  Then decide on a neutral space like a café or a walk in the park where you can have this discussion.  Remember, when you have this conversation, you want to be coming from a calm place so give yourself time beforehand to get into the right mindset.  All of these things will help to set up the best situation for raising the clutter subject.

2) Rehearse your Language

If you want to feel prepared and confident any time you are speaking, it can always be useful to practice what you are going to say beforehand.  I don’t mean word-for-word, but this can be a good time to think about the language you are going to be using for this touch conversation.  The most important thing is to be non-judgemental in everything that you are saying.  Try and use the same expressions that they may use to describe their clutter such as ‘my collections’, and steer clear of words like junk, mess or clutter.  They will, most likely, not be feeling that same way that you are about the clutter so it’s key to remember that both of your feelings are okay.  You want to keep the conversation as neutral as possible so use language that is factual and keep to the topic on hand.  This is not the time to be dredging up any ‘dirty laundry’ from your relationship that will most definitely result in this talk failing to have any positive outcome.

3) Be Curious

One of the most respectful ways to approach a difficult discussion is to be curious.  Allow the other person time to share their perspective about the situation.  This is your opportunity to ask questions about why things are the way they are.  How do they feel about the space that you are sharing?  Do they think it’s easy to clean or find things? Is the space relaxing for them? Was this what their home was like growing up? Is this how they imagined that their home would look like?  Do they even see the stuff (collection)?  The more questions you can ask, the more you will learn about how they see things.  This can be so useful because you will most definitely learn something new about this person that can help to find a common ground in the future. 

It’s also worth noting here that you may have a very different clutter threshold to this person.  A clutter threshold is essentially how much stuff that you can handle having around you but still feel comfortable and in control of it.  Knowing this information about each person can help you to find a compromise.  Ask them what ideas that they might have for a solution.

4) Moving Forward

First, you will need to agree to a clear goal.  Focus on what you can agree on and not necessarily your ideal situation.  There will need to be some compromise here, but just remember, it will be better than it was.  You might decide to work together or perhaps it would be easier for the other person to try and declutter a few things on their own.  If you do decide to do some clearing together, allow them to make their own choice about their things.  If they feel like they are being rushed or forced into decisions, it may cause them to become defensive about what they want to keep, and this will create a barrier for letting items go.  Also, let them talk about their stuff.  Most people just want someone else to see their appreciation for an item by sharing a memory or having you admire something that is special to them.  One additional thing that you can try going forward is to create spaces in your home that are for each person.  This may not be a whole room, depending on the size of your house, but even carving out a part of a room that belongs solely to each person can make a big difference. 

Having conversations about someone else’s clutter is often going to be difficult because different items mean different things for people.  It’s common to have differing expectations about how you want things to be in your home, and about how you feel about objects in your home. But using these four tips will make the conversations you have about clutter much easier and increase your chances of seeing real changes happen in your home.

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