Decluttering for the one who won’t


ClutterDecluttering – it can be immensely satisfying to rid your life of the piles of unwanted stuff you currently trip over, walk around, knock off shelves or jam into already over-full drawers. The only problem is … you’re not the only one living in your house. Your partner also shares your living space – and your bedroom – and you know, from bitter experience, they have no intention of ever decluttering. If you’re in this situation, the only thing to do is to forget the helpful internet sites which suggest tactful ways to bring your partner on board, and tackle the situation solo-and-sneaky. Here’s how to go about it:


You may think you know your partner inside out but can you rattle off their 3 favourite pairs of footwear? Their favourite carry bag, running shorts and beach towel? Do you know which of their six toothbrushes they reach for each morning, or if they still use any of the five camping espresso-makers they have rattling round in the boot of the car? The fact is, most of us are creatures of habit – we use only what is within sight. Hoarders, especially, tend to be lazy. They won’t go looking for what is difficult to find – which means they almost certainly won’t miss it when it’s not there!

The half-way house

Much as you feel you should give your partner yet another chance on the self decluttering front, it’s time for operation ‘rubbish sack’ – but not before you’ve found a half-way house – a temporary storage space for the belongings you’ll be biffing out. It might be a friend’s garage, a basement cupboard your partner never goes into, or in extreme cases, a lock-up storage facility. This halfway-house will be a cooling-off space where the decluttered objects are stored while you test the waters to make sure they can still be located should your partner suddenly suspect they are missing and ask for them back. Depending on your partner, you may want to store the ‘stuff’ for anything from a few days to two or three weeks.


Once you have your half-way house sorted, get your partner out of the way for at least a full day. As soon as they’ve left the property, gather up everything you feel they no longer use, place it in the rubbish bags, and take it to the halfway house. Don’t attempt any further tidying up at this stage, and before they return home (and this is paramount) make their usual living spaces looks as messy as possible. Clutter is their security; it reassures them nothing is amiss.

Honesty pays

A few days (or weeks) after the big biff-out, ‘confess’ to your partner that you have had a clean out and taken one or two of their things to the op-shop (be sure to mention items you know they would, however reluctantly, have not minded giving away). Accept their complaining, and even indulge in a bit of eye-rolling if you think it helps them to feel heard. If they go hunting for a particular item and complain they can’t find it, you can always secretly retrieve it from the rubbish sacks (and accept their praise for locating it).

The grand finale

When a sufficient cooling-off period has passed, and the ‘stuff’ at the half-way house has not been missed, it’s time to haul your partner’s clutter to the landfill. Or, if you feel it’s worth giving it to charity, drive it way across town to an op-shop you know your partner won’t be visiting, and hand it over.

Slow and steady

Once the major decluttering has been carried out, begin the longed-for tidy-up slowly. Don’t become an overnight minimalist or alarm bells will sound in your partner’s ears. ‘Slow and steady’ is the rule until, and always remember to leave a little messy spot (on his/her side of the bed is perfect for this) to keep your partner feeling secure. Will the house stay uncluttered? Unfortunately, your partner is unlikely to change but now you’ve done the major declutter, it is just a case of regularly keeping on top of it. Sounds like a plan? Why not start today!