This one goes out to all of you that are living with someone that has made it their mission to declutter the entire house.
You stand by, quietly keeping any signs of anxiety in check, wondering how much longer till they come for your treasured possessions. They told you they wouldn't, but you know in your heart they will start smuggling things out from under your nose once they’ve finished throwing away everything they own. You can’t help but to suspect that they’ve joined a cult of some sorts because they are using new words like, "minimalism" and “essential”.
You start to take a mental list of the things you haven't seen in a few days, like maybe your favorite hoodie with the small rip in the sleeve. You want to ask, but decide it’s best to go check for yourself and leave them alone in the kitchen deciding which coffee cup is the one they will use for the rest of their life. What you really want to know is, “should I be this worried about my stuff?”
The answer is yes.
You most definitely should be worried about your stuff, especially if you have a lot of it, it tends to be everywhere, and you’re not proactive in your communication about decluttering. If this sounds like you, then they are going to want to talk about it because it is something that has become very important to them. They will not be able to realize their ultimate goal if they can’t get you on board.
You will not be able to get around this.
It will come up and it will become a constant fight unless they give up, you give in, or you sit down together and work out a compromise. Sounds rough, but think about it for a second. This is the normal trend of people when they began anything that they feel will give them a more fulfilling, satisfying, or healthier lifestyle. If they join a gym, they may want you to do the same. If they start eating healthy, they may want the same for you and start pointing out reasons why you shouldn’t eat what you’re and why you should eat what they’re eating. Not because they are trying to bother you, but because they want the best for you, and fully believe that they’ve found the best. The missing factor to all of this is that they have seemed to forgotten how long it took them to begin making the changes themself. That part is critical and why you need to be the one to initiate the conversation. This will show them that you understand their needs and desires, but it will more so make them more receptive to hear your own.
How about an example?
This is truly a best case scenario, so use caution.
YOU: “You’ve been a decluttering machine lately. This is really important to you, isn’t it?”
THEM (surprised that you asked): “It is. I’ve just been tired of seeing things all over the place. I read that book I told you about recently and it talked about having peace at home. I always feel stressed so I’m trying out some ideas.”
YOU: “Feel like you’re getting there?”
THEM: “I do, but I hate that it seems like I have to make a bigger mess in order to take care of a mess.”
YOU: “I’d like to help but I really feel like I’d just be getting in the way. I know I could start on my stuff, but in all honesty, I’m not really ready to start getting rid of anything yet. Is there anything I can do?”
THEM: “I appreciate you asking, but taking care of your stuff would really help me out. Aren’t you tired of stuff being everywhere?”
YOU: “It never bothered me before. I know it bothers you, though, and I don’t like that. Would it help if I make sure all of my stuff is in my (closet, drawers, private bathroom, shed, man cave, etc. Basically anywhere that they never have to go if possible)?”
THEM: “That’s just shoving your stuff somewhere and not actually dealing with it. Why don’t you go through it and get rid of a lot of it. I promise that it really helps with the stress.”
YOU: “That’s just it. It doesn’t stress me out. I know that may be hard to hear, but I’m not. I’m actually more stressed out that you may throw out my stuff without asking me first. You wouldn’t do that, would you?”
THEM: “To be honest I think about it everyday. It feels like you are against me in this and it makes me mad.”
YOU: I am not against you doing this in anyway. It’s just still new to me, and to you too, for that matter. I thought you didn’t mind it all as much as you do because you’ve always just lived with it, but I know now that you’re bothered by it. How long did you think about it before you were able to start working on it?”
THEM: “I don’t know. Maybe 6 months. Maybe a year. I just got to the point where I was fed up and reading that book really helped give me the push I needed. You should read it.”
YOU: “How about we make a deal. I’ll read the book, and do my best to keep all of my stuff out of sight. Just promise me that you won’t start getting rid of my stuff without telling me. It may take me awhile to get on board, and I may never fully get there, but I want you to know that I’m proud of what you are doing.”
THEM: “I appreciate it, and I won’t get rid of anything that’s yours without asking.”
I know what you’re thinking… maybe. This is about as Hallmark of a conversation as it could get. Well, blame that on my grandmother and my wife. They have collectively surrounded me with an almost daily doses of Hallmark movies since my childhood. You may also be thinking that you are now stuck with having to read a book that you don’t want to read. Remember, no matter how great of script writer I am… (clears throat)… this is a fictional account. Be you in the conversation, but make sure you let them know that you care about them because that’s the main purpose. You want them to care about you, and they want you to care about them, but you start the process. Like Dalton said:
I’m showing my age with that one, and I always thought he'd be bigger, but it stands true. It’s not about showing them that you’re the boss, but that you aren’t where they are and they can’t expect you to be there in a matter of seconds. They really have no say in your personal belongings, unless they are your parents, and they need to know that they will be held financially responsible for getting rid of items that belong solely to you, or any items that share ownership, without your permission. It’s easier to start off nice while being direct about your wishes concerning the space you share. It’s usually as far as you have to go if it’s genuine.
As the owner of Declutter Planning, a Certified Professional Life Coach, and a Father of 7, of course I’m going to say that you should consider cutting down or removing anything that isn’t a part of a goal you set, but I also hope that one of your main goals is to honor and respect those that you call loved ones and friends over anything you possess. That one is for you declutterers out there that made it to the end of this post. I’m proud of you for going after your dreams, but please respect those that live with you and the stuff that belongs to them. I have a feeling your passion will be contagious, but as with everything, it can take some time.
Speaking of which.
Till next time, and as always, sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, is greatly appreciated. I hope you were able to take something away, and I know that there are more that would enjoy this article, as well. It is my heart's desire to see you living a life that's not only clutter-free, but filled with family, friends, and fun. If you find that your belongings are beginning to bring you more stress than joy, and you live in the Richmond, Virginia, and Tri-Cities area, then I would be honored to come to you for a free consultation. You can find out more at declutterplanning.com or check us out at Facebook or Pinterest.
Stay for a spell.