He Says He Doesn't Want To Live Like This & I Agree. Now What?

Forty eight percent of couples fight over clutter.  

When we enter a relationship, we bring our own notions about:

  • how much stuff we allow in our physical space (our clutter meter)

  • the roles that our partner will fulfill 

  • what stuff means to us

  • how money should be earned and spent


We either accept or rebel against what was modeled to us by our parents in many areas of life.  Clutter being one of them. 

I, for one, rebelled against my dads desire to keep everything. Purging was not an activity that he enjoyed and he would tell you that.  

We all have our own clutter meter, that internal device that tells us when there is too much. Or too little.  

The argument arises when the clutter meters are not aligned and one spouse likes more clutter than the other. 


Just like our Clutter Meter, we all bring to the table our own notion of what our partner will do within our relationship. 

"The woman cleans the house."
               "The man provides."
"The woman changes diapers."
               "The man washes the car and mows the lawn."

Over the years, cleaning the house has meshed with organizing the house.  Think of cleaning and straightening up like sisters, and organizing like the distant second cousin.  That is a whole other family with it's own dynamics. 

Women feel the weight of keeping a tidy home. Men enjoy said tidy home and when it gets out of hand, he likes to remind her that it needs attention. 

"I don't want to live like this anymore" says a husband.
               "Neither do I" says a wife. 

And they both stand their ground pointing fingers on who should tackle the mountain and who is responsible for all this stuff. 


The value of an item is different for every person. To the untrained eye, a chipped up bowl with a fading pattern, no doubt from years of dishwasher abuse, is trash.  To another it is the memory of Sunday lunches around Mamaw's table. 

Stuff isn't just stuff.  Well, some of it is and some of it isn't.  The disparity arises when 

  • one person attaches to a lot of stuff and thus the house starts to feel like a storage unit

  • one person deflates the meaning of that chippy bowl by calling it junk. 

We don't feel heard or valued when our memory pieces are categorized with the trash. Conversely, we feel that our partner doesn't respect or value our home when he keeps bringing home more pens/tools/movies/what have you.


Just like our Clutter Meter, we all have a Money Meter.  To save or to spend.  

Here we go again rolling our suitcase of assumptions into our combined household. 

Once inside, we each begin to unpack our bags and as we look over and watch our partner carefully unpack the most hideous pair of sweatpants you've ever seen, we start to shake our little fingers and say, "oh no, not in my house."


We all yearn to be heard, to be valued, and to have our own space.  Basically, we all want to be our unique and individual selves within the context of a loving relationship. 

Communication is key.  Talk about the level of stuff that you are comfortable with and ask your partner the same question.  

When they share, I want you to LISTEN. We love one another not for ourself, but for them.  Love them enough to listen to what they say. 

If your partner is talking on and on about why more is better, then begin to share how that makes you feel. 
 "Honey, too much stuff makes it feel like I'm suffocating." 
We can't expect our partner to read our minds, so it is time that we share it. 

Next, ask how your partner thinks the decluttering of the house should go.
 "Should we spend next weekend cleaning out the garage?"
If he isn't showing interest in being involved, then follow up with this question: 
"Would you prefer that I hire someone to help us move through this?"
If there is a double standard, then gently point it out.

When it comes to getting family members on board with organizing, the first step is to focus on your stuff and your piles.  


Pointing out all the ways that your family is contributing to the mess falls on deaf ears when your office looks like a tornado blew threw it. 

Be the model of how awesome being organized feels and how happy it makes you because ___, ___, ___. 

Only when someone is ready to make a change in their life can you give encouragement.  Otherwise it shows up as preachy and has the opposite effect of encouraging.  

Communicate that you care and that you are here to help, should they be ready to receive it.  

Just as it took time for the stuff to accumulate, it will take time to work through this with your family.  And you know what?

That is okay!  

Slow is better than still.  Commit to yourself to change how you feel and operate in your home.  Openly communicate this with your partner, then sit back and watch how they respond to the changes. 

If it becomes evident that neither of you are interested in tackling the mountain together, then let's talk.  

I'm here to support you and your goals of a simplified and organized home.

Jennifer Burnham