How to Get My Husband to Declutter?

Updated on December 05, 2007
J.A. asks from Elk Grove Village, IL
11 answers

I joined Flylady a few months back. I stopped the emails and went and purchased her book. Just finished reading the whole book, on my time, and now I am motivated to start. First, my house has way too much stuff. I need to declutter before I even think about anything else. The problem is my DH is not ready yet and not sure how to motivate him. For instance, I was going through old cards and just tossing all but some special one for the kids (1st B-day) my husband got a bit upset and asked that I sort the one for him out so he could keep them ALL. The other issues I came across is he have a 20 gallon fish tank on top of our dresser in our bedroom. It is empty but has all the asssersories. We do not want to set it up since my kids are little and we worry about electrical shocks. But he wants to keep it there until they kids are older - like 5 years. He even suggested that he get a storage locker ($50/month) so that he can keep his stuff, which we can't afford.
I am getting so depresed with my house. I want to change - need a change.
How do I get my husband on board??

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So What Happened?

First, I wanted to thank everyone who responded. I was very down a few days ago and each e-mail made me feel a bit better. Sometimes I feel that everyone is doing a better job then I am, why is it so hard for me? Then you talk to people and realize we are all strugling with something.
Secondly, I sat down with my husband and we talked about the clutter problem. The main issue is that I use to be ok with his stuff - why not now?? Well, 2 kids later and toys galore it has gotten to my breaking point before his.
Since our house is a small ranch we need to keep it livable. Another issue that came up is how much we paid for items I want to give away. I told him I would try to sell them and he was much better about the prospects.
I have to remember Babysteps and maybe someday I can get my car in garage.
Thanks to all,

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on

Simple. De-clutter when he is not around! Just like kids, you have to do things, such as, de- clutter when they are not there. It works out for everyone!

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answers from Fort Wayne on

I am a clean freak and super organized and my husband is the complete opposite. I struggle with this same issue on a daily basis. What I suggest is compromising. My husband loves the idea of extra money, which everyone I convince him that we need to get rid of certain things, but instead of just tossing them or storing them for the future. Try selling them on ebay or through your local paper to collect some extra cash to put towards more practical things your children can get use out of. That way you are still giving to your children, which he wants, and you are getting rid of the clutter, which you want, and replacing it with something more practical, which makes things seem less cluttered and chaotic. Plus I always add that unless my world is clutter-free and organized I am very unhappy...and no one wants to deal with a cranky and unhappy wife!

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answers from San Francisco on

First of all, you married a packrat, you will be fighting that for a longggg time. Now that we got the depressing part over...there is hope! He does have to be on board. For one thing, there is a show called "How clean is your house?" on the BBC channel, record it if you can and SHOW it to him! (it's a good resource for tips,btw) Ask him if he wants to end up in a house THAT bad! Believe me, they only do horrible houses.
Rubbermaids are your friends. Give each family member a good sized rubbermaid (large), put their name on it on the lid and the side. These are your memory boxes. He is to keep special things in them. Momentos from the kids, pictures they have drawn for him, b-day cards, etc. BUT if it gets full HE has to go through it and sort and pitch. I have had a memory box most of my life and I have the most precious things in it AND it is NOT full! You get to the point where you are picky about what goes in to it.
Give him a shoebox sized box, rubbermaid to go by,under,on his desk and let him put bills and papers in it. When it is full HE has to clean it out. (My husband had 3)
These are just a few ideas, I can give you more. =) OR you can call my daughter who is an organizer, she can give you ideas too. She usually comes in, assesses what needs to be done, gives you ideas and either you hire her to help you or she can give you a list of things you can do on your own.
Good luck dear. And don't be depressed, all our homes get the clutter bug at one time or another. *HUG*



answers from Chicago on

I would be very careful when you approach this subject with your husband. While you might be ready to part with the clutter, your husband is still very attached to it. Remember that this house belongs to both of you. In the same way that you feel that your life might be out of control with all the clutter, his life might be perfectly balanced. Many people who are packrats, hoarders, or even just clutterbugs can have emotional attachment to the items they keep...even to the point where the items provide security and identity. Throwing away the items would be like throwing away a piece of him and could be emotionally traumatic and cause a great deal of anxiety. Or, he could just be totally content to live in the mess and annoy you for the rest of your marriage.

Sit down and have a frank conversation with him about why the clutter bothers you and see if the two of you can come up with some sort of compromise to this issue. Not sure how much room you have in your house, but why not declare clutter-free and clutter-acceptable zones/rooms?



answers from Indianapolis on

I suggest getting some Rubbermaid bins (or equivilent) and putting his stuff in them. If, after six or 12 months, he doesn't miss the stuff, toss it. Write a list of what's in the boxes taped to the inside of the lid so if he does go looking for something, it's not too hard to find.
This will show him he doesn't need so much and help him get rid of things gradually instead of just up and getting rid of it one day.
Is there a family member's basement the fish tank could go in? Having a large, glass tank on top of a dresser doesn't sound much safer than using it.



answers from Chicago on

I tried to get my husband on board for 2 years now, and here's what I do. Depends on how much attention your husband pays to stuff though.

My husband and his mother are total pack rats and we have waaay too much stuff in the house. She is always bringing over junk that he had when he was little, everything from animal encyclopedias that are 30 years old to old fishing gear he had.

He does nothing with the stuff but leave it in the garage. So I started getting rid of things when he wasn't home. A little at first, to see if he even noticed, and he didn't. And he still doesn't.

And of course he never looks for the stuff either because it's useless JUNK.

So basically, in my book, if something sits in a certain place (for me, the garage) for at least 2-3 months untouched, I either throw it away or donate it to Goodwill.

Hope that helps.



answers from Indianapolis on

The worse thing you can do is get rid of his stuff when he's not around! That is mean and very disrespectful. It's junk to you but not to him. Trust me... I almost made that mistake. I'm like you... I get rid of stuff, my husband keeps everything.

The thing that helped us the most was moving cross country. No kidding... he finally got rid of TONS of stuff a few years ago before we moved. I had the movers break down how much it costs to move a pound based on the distance we moved. My husband is very frugal so this worked for him.... when I told him it would cost $50 to move that big box of old college textbooks (20 years old that he hadn't opened in 19 years) he didn't hesitate to ditch it. :-)

Assuming you don't want to move... give him one room. My husband has his office and also a room in the basement. He needs to keep his 'junk' in there but no clutter can invade the rest of the house. I'm afraid to go into his office but we just keep the door shut. The basement room started out as a somewhat clean place for his lionel trains but it's been overrun with junk too. If I see 'junk' in the other parts of the house that I want to get rid of and he wants to keep 'just because', he takes it to his room.

As for the fist tank... set it up or get rid of it. There's no reason to not have one just because you have kids. We have several (20 gallon, 50 gallon, 10 gallon) around the house and the kids love them (ages 5, 2, and newborn). Even the baby loves to stare at the fish swimming around. If it's set up right, there's no way they can get shocked.

In general... if I haven't used it in a year or I'm not absolutely totally in love with it because of a personal connection (not just because it used to be owned by a great aunt or something), I get rid of it.



answers from Elkhart on

As the FLYLADY says "baby steps". Start with your stuff, consolidating, donating, thowing-out. Once you creat some room move the fish tank into his closet. If he wants to keep it, let him keep it in his space. Since you have a computer, invest is an inexpensive scanner if you don't already have one, and scan copies of the "special" cards onto a disc. Then you have them forever, in a much smaller place. I've just started the Flylady system (sinks clean- but my house is still a mess). I keep reminding myself "baby-steps", and I do what I can when I can, since I work full-time outside my home and have a messy husband and 3 kids to clean up after. I'm only putting out the bare minimum in Christmas decorations this year, hoping that by next Christmas, I'll be really "flying" and be able to go through all the Christmas stuff I've accumulated too.
My husband has been less than interested in getting on board the system. My house is scattered with tools, and magazines and his junk he wont put away or pitch. I started boxing the stuff up and putting in a place that is in his way, and out of mine. Hopefully he'll get the point.
Be careful not to get burnt out (discouraged) and once your husband sees how peaceful an unclutter house is, he'll get on the system too!
Good luck, and God Bless!!!



answers from Jacksonville on

Take him on one of those
My husband and myself are not like that at all, we only keep things that we need. You probalby shouldn't keep the fish tank but try and sell it and buy a new one later down the road. Maybe once he sees how much money you guys can get for it, he may change his mind. Maybe a yard sale to make a little extra cash may give him a little push also!



answers from Chicago on

First, whenever I think of clutter I think of this photograph I saw once in our school's social studies department - there were families from all over the world who were asked to take all of their possessions and put them in front of their home. Families from countries in Africa, Asia and South America could literally fit their life, including their family, on a blanket. The American family could barely fit their things in their yard - it was seriously a mountain of stuff. We are such a society of gatherers, it's not healthy or necessary. I applaud your efforts to declutter!

It can be really frustrating when you want to simplify your life and sentimental items come up. Have you ever seen that show Clean Sweep on TLC? I like how if you have a collection of something that you just keep in a box, they make you select your two or three favorites that you keep to display, and the rest get donated. What if you got your husband a scrapbook for his cards, which wouldn't take up that much space, and encouraged him to keep only the ones that are most sentimental. That way, he's limited to what fits. And if they're truly important, he can easily access them to admire them instead of keeping them in a box.

As for the fish tank, when I was trying to declutter and things like that got in the way, my husband told me to ask myself: what's more important, the item that we might use someday, or the space that it will free up when it's gone? And the suggestion to pay to store it just isn't practical. Tell your husband to do the math - $50 a month for 5 years is $3600. You can donate that aquarium or even sell it to a family who will enjoy it today and then take the money you would have saved to buy a much nicer one as a family when you're ready. I think when you put storage of personal items into perspective like that, it makes it a lot easier to let go of the bulk of it. Good luck - this is a monumental task, but I think it's worth it!



answers from Chicago on

I feel your pain my husband is a pack rat good luck with it all!

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