August 10, 2020

What To Do With Other People’s Clutter

Other people's clutter: It doesn't matter if I am at a networking event, hosting a workshop or a challenge I often get this question: "how do I deal with family or household members that have clutter"

And just like with anything, there is no magic wand that I or you can wave to solve this issue, but I give you some tips and ideas on how to deal with it.

And just like with anything, there is no magic wand that I or you can wave to solve this issue. We can't tell other people how to live or what to own and the more you nag, try to convince, plead, or criticize the less you achieve.

The solution is to focus on you and your clutter. I know you might say, but Conny a lot of the clutter is his, and it will not make a big difference if I declutter my stuff if he doesn't do his part.... but in my experience it's still the best thing to do. Focus on you, because that's the only thing you have under control, you and your stuff.

I have a client who got her husband to declutter some of his things, not by nagging but by being part of my Decluttering is Self-Love challenge and doing decluttering herself. Then before she brought the items to goodwill she asking him if he wanted her to help him go through some of his stuff. She wasn't nagging and he had seen already that she did her part, so he agreed and let go of some of it. She says he still has a lot of stuff that he is not willing to let go but it was a start.

So just start decluttering and organizing your own things, start letting go what doesn't reflect anymore who you are and where you want to go in your life. Focus on you and see what happens. I heard and experienced it many times that clutter clearing is contagious, a good kind of contagious.... all of a sudden other family or household members start decluttering too, all without you saying anything.
Also, make sure you don't declutter anything that isn't yours. Getting rid of something that isn't yours but belongs to another person is crossing a line, it's not your decision to make, and at worst it can be traumatic. 

I still remember when my brother got rid of a Teddy Bear without asking me. When I confronted him, he just said "this thing was old and looked old, I didn't think you still wanted it". But I did still wanted it, he had no right to throw this bear away without asking first. I am not saying I am traumatized now but it does still sting a bit, the bear was a gift and just by me telling you this story, something that happened about 30 years ago, you can see what effect it can have on a person. so don't do it, it can create a lot of resentment in the other person.

Just think about how you would feel if someone came and decluttered some of your stuff that you were not ready to let go yet.

This is also why when I work with clients, I never tell them to get rid of anything, and I do make sure they know this before we even work together. It's not my place to tell them what to do, not even when they hire me to help them. My place is to explain to them the effects clutter has on us and help them see how the clutter holds them back or keeps them stuck. What they are doing with this information is up to them.

Now some of you might wonder, what about clutter from your children. I am no expert or psychiatrist, but I would say, if they are old enough to know that those are their things, their toys, be careful of just tossing things out without their consent.
Again it's better to focus on your own clutter first, once you are up to date you can lead by example. Children are watching us and they pick up on whether we are only talking or also walking the talk. 

Unless you live clutter free and tidy yourself, you can't really teach it to your child or children. While you are taking care of your own clutter, they may start doing it on their own because they want to do what you do, they want to be like you.

Here are 3 tips how you can help yourself and your family members, including your children, to clear the clutter:  

  1. A home for everything It is important that all things have a home, a designated place. When things have no home then you always have an excuse why they are laying around and are not put away.
    This goes with tip #2
  2. Create routines for yourself and for your children. It's a good idea to create a routine, every day, when you do the tidying. A few minutes a day keeps the chaos away.
    Only when things have a home you can get into the habit of picking up after yourself and put things where they belong. And only if your children's things and toys have a home, you can teach them to tidy up and put things back where they belong. How could you do that: 
  3. Play a gameTo do the daily routine you could play a game, you pick a number, say 3 or 5, and then you say "Go" and each child and you go and tidy up 3 (or 5) items and put them where they belong. Who is the fastest? Or you could set a timer, 5 minutes for example, and run a competition, who can tidy up and put away the most items?
  4. Bonus Tip: When something new comes in, something old goes out. So for example before their birthday or before Christmas you can help them go through their things and make space for new things to come in. The anticipation of the gifts might make it easier for them to let go of some of their toys that they don't play with anymore.

But again all that only works if you walk the talk, do it yourself, let them see that you declutter and let go of things on a regular basis, they are more likely to do the same. 

So lets summarize real quick:

  • never nag or criticize others, you get the opposite effect
  • never declutter things that don't belong to you, it's crossing the line
  • walk the talk, lead by example
  • create a home for all belongings
  • create a routine to put things away at the end of the day
  • make it fun, play a game
  • for everything that comes in, make sure you let go of something old

Let me know in the comments how this goes, I'd love to know. 

Next week I have time management guru Johanna Buss as a guest on the podcast.

Johanna can bend time, she has 3 children 5 and under, owns 3 businesses and has a full time job. If you are a mam and business owner and struggling with getting things done, this is the episode for you, Johanna will teach us all how to make time our friend. 


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