We've all heard the phrase "happy wife, happy life," but what about "clean house, happy spouse?" If your definition of a clean house doesn't line up with your partner's, your clutter incompatibility could become a bigger relationship issue.
Organizing expert Peter Walsh is helping two married couples tackle their clutter before it hurts their relationships — and his tips can likely help you at home, too.
The "Squeaky Clean vs. Clutter Unseen" Couple
Meet Amy and Scott. Amy takes decluttering to the extreme, while Scott is a sentimental clutterer. He hangs onto things that have strong sentimental value, but keeps them hidden in the attic so the clutter is less visible. Amy says that for her, an organized life is an organized mind, and Scott's habits are starting to affect her everyday routine.
So, how can the couple reach a clutter compromise?
1. Turn Sentimental Clutter Into a Gallery Wall That Tells Your Story
Firstly, Peter suggests going through the stuff in the attic and figuring out what's most important. Then, instead of keeping it hidden away, Scott and Amy can display the items in their home. One way to let your things tell a story is to hang them up in a gallery wall in the hallway. It's almost like a hall of fame where you display the memories that mean the most to you and feel proud every time you walk by, Peter points out.
2. Donate Usable Items To Those In Need
Amy also says that Scott's couponing is taking over the shared spaces in their house. "Couponing is a great way to save money, but you need to establish limits or you're just wasting money and space on stuff you don't need," Peter says. He suggests keeping enough stuff to fill their shelving unit, but agreeing that any overflow has to be donated to a shelter. "Don't buy anything else until you run out of what's already on the shelves," Peter adds.
3. Make Decluttering a Shared Activity
Peter's final tip for Amy and Scott is to shop together and get rid of clutter together, rather than Amy trying to tidy up without Scott's help, which he says can feel sneaky and disrespectful. If and when Amy feels like the clutter is getting to the point of being overwhelming again, the couple should set aside time to declutter together, Peter says.
The "Tidier vs. Collector" Couple
Meet Arlene and Mark. Arlene acknowledges that for Mark, collecting is about more than just stuff — it's something to do and a way to bond with people he loves — but it is making her anxious and holding the couple back from their ultimate goal to move and downsize.
4. Declutter Now So You Can Downsize Your Home Later
Collecting as a hobby is one thing, but it's a problem if it's making Arlene anxious and holding you guys back from moving, Peter says. And these two aren't alone. "One survey found that 62% of Americans want to downsize, but they're overwhelmed by the stuff they own," Peter says.
5. Gift Collectibles To People Who Appreciate Them (+ Gift Yourselves a Clean Home)
Similarly to Amy and Scott, the first step is for Mark to set limits to start clearing out some of that stuff.
"Look at each of your collections and pick out three to five of your favorites items, the ones that mean the most to you that you want to take with you when downsizing," Peter advises. Then, he suggests taking the rest of the items and gifting them to family members or friends who admire them. To make it easier, Peter had Mark make a list of people who might appreciate these gifts.
The next step is to mark important dates on a calendar that make sense for him to gift these collections — birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and so on. The idea is to make a clear schedule of when to hand these things off.
"Not only are you giving your friends and family members the gift of these things they admire, but you're also giving your children the gift of an empty house, which is the best gift you can give them," Peter says.