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Decluttering when you live with a pack-rat

My life would be so simple if I didn’t have kids. Or a husband.

I mean, I wouldn’t have a PlayStation4 in the living room.  I could garden for hours, uninterrupted. There wouldn’t be a Barbie doll and her dinosaur minions staring at me as I brush my teeth. I wouldn’t feel the stabbing pain of a rogue Lego block piercing my foot as I make my way to bed.

However, my life would not be my life without my family. And considering I love them all dearly, living without them is not an option. This does mean that parts of life can be problematic when we don’t share the same definitions of certain things, such as clutter, mess, tidy, enough, prepared or relaxed.

I’m fortunate that my husband isn’t a pack-rat. And, at 5 and 7, our kids are still at an age where I can help guide their keep-or-toss decisions (this is changing though). Plus, if I’m being honest, out-grown toys and party favours sometimes quietly disappear, along with the reams of artwork that come home from school and no-one has noticed yet.

So often though, I receive emails from readers whose situations are different. Their partner is a pack-rat, or their children have a really hard time letting go and they feel like this is holding them back.

Desperate to create a simple life

They are desperate to create a simpler life for themselves, only to face constant opposition from their partner, family, older kids or housemates. But the truth is, there is only so much you can do in this situation, aside from tossing their belongings without permission – which I really don’t advocate.

Start the Conversation

You don’t need anyone else’s permission to simplify your own life or your stuff. Undoubtedly though, it’s helpful to have support.

So start the conversation:

Bring up your desire to simplify.

Make it about you and your desires, and avoid accusations or judgement. The quickest way to get people off-side is to start a conversation with an accusation. Their defenses will go up and they won’t be receptive to anything else you have to say.

Talk about what you need and want from life.

Tell them that you want to start simplifying your life and will begin with your belongings. Tell them that you feel frustrated, stuck, overwhelmed or depressed and that the clutter in your home is adding to the problem. Tell them how you plan on going about simplifying and then ask if it’s something they are interested in. You could be surprised at the answer!

If you live with others – kids, housemates, relatives – talk to them too.

You’re not asking for permission, you’re just telling them what will be happening and why. (Bonus: you may just inspire them to action too.)

Decluttering when you live with a pack-rat

Now…Walk the Walk.

It’s time to show the conviction behind your words.

Do the decluttering, cut out unnecessary commitments, create a simpler life for yourself and enjoy the benefits. You will have more space, more time, more room to pursue passions and more clarity about what makes life better.

But please, don’t:

  • brag about it
  • constantly talk about it
  • toss other people’s stuff – no matter how tempting

Just by living it you are demonstrating the benefits of a simpler life. Let your partner, kids or housemate see simplicity in action. Let them see how it’s impacting your life. Let them see how you are benefiting.

Then, after a month, or three, or six, you can talk about it. Ask them how they feel about simplifying some of their stuff. Even just some of your shared belongings. If they’ve been inspired by your efforts, they may be keen to get on board. Then again, they may not.

But like I said at the beginning of this post – there isn’t much you can do about that. Just keep living your life as simply as possible and presenting them with a viable alternative.

One day, your influence will make an impact.

[They] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are. -Jim Henson

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