A lot of people have an issue with someone else’s clutter and sometimes I get asked “How can I make my children or my partner de-clutter?” This is a very thorny issue so read on… 

The answer is that you can’t. You can’t force someone else to de-clutter if they don’t want to. A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to get other people to change their behaviour. Most of the time their efforts are destined to fail, causing frustration and stress.

1. Never Nag

However all is not lost, because whilst you can’t force someone to change, you can influence them. The most important thing is not to nag. If someone nags you to do something, whether it be your partner, your boss, or your parents, then it immediately sets up a resistance in your mind. The more they nag, the less you want to oblige (if they’re anything like me!)

2. Establish Boundaries

Don’t try and make them de-clutter but set boundaries. Tell them that they are not allowed to clutter up your spaces. For example if they keep leaving things on your side of the bedroom, then ask them not to. If they don’t listen, then quietly shift the clutter over to their side.

Don’t get annoyed with them or nag them. Just issue a diplomatic reminder now and again to keep their clutter on their side of the room. Shared spaces are more tricky, but if they have a favourite spot in the living room, then this is where their clutter should stay.

3. Set a Good Example

Don’t think ‘Well if they won’t de-clutter then there’s no point in me bothering either’. Instead keep your own spaces as tidy and uncluttered as you would like them to be. After a while you may find them casting admiring glances at your side of the bedroom, your desk, etc. But it’s important not to say anything about their clutter at this stage!

4. Offer to Help

If you haven’t got their back up by nagging, then they may secretly wish that they didn’t have so much mess and clutter to deal with. If this is the case then an offer to help, may be welcomed. Don’t tell them what to get rid of, let them decide. But if they are willing to give away anything at all, then offer to bag it up for the charity shop, take it to the tip, etc.

5. Turn Their Clutter Into Cash

Sometimes the most hardened clutter-collector is willing to part with their junk if they think there is money to be made. If you point out that certain items could sell well on eBay, at a car boot sale, or by advertising in the local newspaper, then you may be surprised at their eagerness to comply! If you offer to sell it for them, then you could have them eating out of your hands.

6. Offer to Store Their Clutter

Another tactic to use on die hard clutter-collectors is to offer to put some of their junk in the attic or into storage. They may be reluctant to give away their stuff, because it seems too final, but even they may get fed up with having it under their feet all the time! By offering to pack it up in boxes and store it for them, they know they still possess their precious stuff, and that may be enough to keep them happy.

Plus it stops you from having to look at it all day long. Eventually after 6 months or a year of not seeing it, they may even agree to part with it. In this case absence makes the heart less fond. Let’s face it, if they loved their clutter that much, then they wouldn’t have agreed to put it in the attic in the first place.

Don’t Change, Modify

Don Aslett has a good chapter on helping someone else to de-clutter in his book ‘For Packrats Only.’ [UK Amazon Link] [US Amazon Link]. As you can see, all is not lost as long as you remember my six golden rules: Don’t nag, establish boundaries, set a good example, offer to help, turn their clutter into cash and offer to store it.

You can’t change another’s personality, but you may be able to modify their behaviour so that their clutter habits become bearable for you. Give it a try and you may be surprised at the results.