Even mention the words “declutter” or “clean-out” in your household, and there’s a good chance your family will give you a death stare that dares you to even think about touching their stuff.
I get it.
I would like to say this is something I’ve conquered completely. That I’m going to give you all the answers to declutter your home while your family excitedly helps. However, that would be a lie.
Getting your family to agree to declutter takes time, practice, persistence, and patience. Lots and lots of patience.
It doesn’t usually happen overnight. There’s a good chance there will be tears involved (from all involved parties), and you may take the blame for getting rid of someone’s favorite ______________ (fill in the blank).
However, I can tell you this. Even with the most reluctant parties, you are not forever doomed to a clutter filled home. There is hope.
Give your family time to catch on to decluttering
If you want your family to help you declutter, you have to give them time.
It stinks to wait and give your family time because chances are, if you are ready to declutter, you want it done yesterday.
There could be toys strewn about the house, piles of clothes in every room begging to be washed or put away, and the kitchen counters hidden under stacks of papers.
You will not get your family to help you declutter by simply declaring, “This weekend, we are cleaning out your clutter!” Oh, if only it were that simple.
Your sweet family is going to need time, and if they are naturally messy at heart, they may need more time than you want to give them.
It doesn’t mean it is impossible. Knowing this is half the battle.
As you start to declutter your home, start with your stuff first.
This gives your family time to see how the process works, gives you time to learn how to work through the emotions of clutter, and then, once they see it isn’t so scary, they generally are more willing to jump in and try it.
Help your family practice decluttering
When you start to declutter, especially with children or a reluctant spouse, start small and practice often.
When I say start small, I mean start really, really, really small. Maybe set a timer and declutter for just 5 minutes.
With children, your first decluttering sessions may be something as simple as having them find one or two toys to give away to other children in need. You can even guide them to toys you know without a doubt they do not like, so as to make the decision making easier.
One mom told me she would hold up two toys, one that she knew was broken, old, or worn out and another perfectly good toy. She would then ask her child which one to give away. This process was brilliant, as the decision making became infinitely easier for the reluctant child.
If you have a reluctant spouse, you may want to do something similar as far as making decisions easy. Maybe have him grab three shirts from his closet he hates, or grab one or two coffee mugs to which he has no emotional attachment.
These small, practice decluttering sessions help your family get into the mindset of decluttering, so when bigger sessions come later, they know what is happening.
They also start to understand that creating order and space in a home isn’t the end of the world. Decluttering simply takes a little practice.
Be persistent with your decluttering efforts
If your family isn’t on the decluttering bandwagon, you will need to be persistent in your efforts.
No, this doesn’t mean you have to turn into a nagging person, but it does mean you might have to make the same request more than a few times.
For example, when we first decluttered our dining room table dumping ground, my family was not immediately on board with putting their stuff away after coming home every day.
We had bad habits of dumping our stuff right there on the table, and unless someone helped them make a conscious effort to put the stuff away, it was going to keep happening day after day.
Our family started to create routines. They weren’t comfortable at first. No one wanted to come home from a long day of school and work and then “clean up”. It felt like torture!
However, I was persistent with my requests. With my persistence and a little bit of practice on their part, keeping the clutter cleared became less of a chore and more of a new habit.
Be patient with your family’s decluttering efforts
Sometimes, you simply have to shut the door.
This is a realization I came to after months and months of begging my family to go through their closet, donate a few toys, clear out boxes of old memories, etc.
For the longest time, even after practicing and showing persistence, it seemed my family could never get fully on board with my decluttering efforts. I couldn’t understand why.
Then, a wise friend reminded me that you can simply shut the door on all the messes.
If my kids’ rooms were a disaster, I could shut the door.
If my husband’s clothes were left on the floor, I could put them in his closet and shut the door.
If the garage was ignored for another weekend, I could leave the garage door closed.
Shutting the door wasn’t my preferred method of practicing patience, but it did buy me time. It didn’t mean I was giving up, it simply meant my family wasn’t ready.
I needed to practice patience.
After I decluttered my dresser drawers, it took my husband two years to finally agree to it. I didn’t ask him to do it. He simply did it on his own after watching a Marie Kondo video one evening while I was away.
He saw how happy decluttered dresser drawers made me. I had to be patient for him to realize he might enjoy the same. (He also needed to hear it from someone else!)
Practice patience with your family. They need to see your success before they can even begin to imagine their own.
Get your family to declutter
Getting your family to help declutter doesn’t happen overnight (not usually), but it is possible. They just need a little guidance along the way from a willing participant.
Be brave enough to show them you can let go of your own excess before asking them to do the same. You have to be willing to guide them and help them practice letting go.
You must be persistent with your efforts, not throwing in the towel too soon on new routines and new processes. Most importantly, you must be patient and give them time to come around. It will happen.