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How to declutter when your family won’t let you


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Let’s talk about how to declutter when your family won’t let you. 

Related Post: How can minimalism change your life for the better?

Trying to declutter your home when you live with people who don’t want you to mess with their stuff can be hard. 

As a homemaker, the home is our “domain”. This means, if the home is out of control, it’s ultimately our responsibility!

I’m not saying that gives us the right to throw out anything we want, we still need to live with love for our families. 

We will discuss some ways we can gently encourage our families to see the benefits of a minimized space.

But first let’s talk about why this is our responsibility.

If someone walks into a home and it’s an absolute clutter pit, we don’t usually think, “wow, the kids must really hate decluttering!”  We won’t think it’s the husband’s habit of hanging onto his old clothes from middle school. 

Typically, most of us live with the reality that the woman is the homemaker. This means it’s our ultimate responsibility to help the home function best for our family members. 

I’m not saying no one else is responsible to care for the home, not at all. Everyone should be helping!

But at the end of the day, the homemaker is hardwired to lovingly care for the home in a way that no one else is. 

dark haired woman wearing bright red apron in a kitchen.

A study shows that 54% of people are overwhelmed with the clutter in their homes. Obviously, we need a different approach to our clutter issues.

I would safely bet that your family members would appreciate a less cluttered home, and just might not know it yet. 

If the only thing they see is you taking away their sentimental items, without realizing they’re gaining a more peaceful home, it will be a hard adjustment.

We have to tread lightly, with love.

How do we declutter our spouse’s belongings?

If you’re trying to declutter a roommates belongings, DON’T! That’s none of your concern. You can just be a good example by keeping your own personal belongings nice and tidy. 

When it comes to spouses (I’m talking about one man and one woman married for life) we should be discussing together what we hope for the home, and trying to be united in our vision.

If your spouse is still uncomfortable with you decluttering “their” things, I’d just leave it alone (unless it’s literally filling up the house). Start with your own belongings, and odds are, once they see how beautiful your side of the closet looks they’re going to get on board.

A tidy closet with neatly folded items.

Sometimes it’s just hard to know where to start. (The sock drawer, by the way.)

Everyone’s definition of clutter is slightly different. Maybe the things you’ve deemed essential your spouse sees as clutter.

Your husband’s clothes situation might not be bothering him either.

We need to practice living with each other in an understanding way. Our relationships are the most important thing.

If you’ve decluttered everything you can out of all your own personal possessions, and your spouse is still unwavering, I’d recommend finding certain storage bins or a space that you both agree on being “their” own personal spaces.

This way, you can account for the area that will be taken up with all of their own things.

It seems, if we don’t put a “cap” on how much clutter we can tolerate in our homes, it will just continue to multiply and fester into a monstrosity that will wreak havoc in our lives!

It’s nearly impossible to declutter anyone else’s personal belongings with the tenderness that is typically required. We all have different personal experiences that affect the way we see life.

Remember… your spouse isn’t standing in your way, they’re the reason you are motivated to make a lovely home. 

Decluttering the kids’ possessions.

wooden toy chest with toys spilling out on the carpet.

This looks different for small kids or bigger kids. Let’s talk first about decluttering younger kids’ clutter. 

This may sound harsh, but the parents are the boss, not the kids.

Little children don’t need the burden of deciding on every single thing of household clutter in the home. We can hardly handle that burden!

This is our job, not theirs.

If we say something is being donated because it’s no longer serving our home and our kids lose their minds and scream and cry… well, then maybe they’re putting too much stock in material possessions.

We don’t want to raise hoarders. We want to raise capable adults.

We hope that eventually when they live on their own they will be able to let go of items that are no longer serving them, and know which items are something they want to keep.

They should get lots of practice while they’re living at home. 

When it comes to little kids and clutter, I highly recommend grabbing the item in question (that annoying toy you’ve picked up too many times) and set it somewhere off to the side. Set it someplace they won’t see it.

Then if it is really important, they’ll notice it’s missing and you can promptly return it.

box labeled "donate" overflowing with clothing items, being held by a person in a flannel.

I have a box in my closet that we slowly fill with donations, and that’s where many items go until I’m ready to take them to the donation center. 

If something gets put in the box and no one notices for three weeks, but once they see it they suddenly remember it’s their FAVORITE toy in the whole world, I can remind them it’s been in there for weeks and no one missed it.

Someone else will enjoy it more if we send it to the donation center. It’s great to remind small kids that if we just stash things in our attic or basement it will likely get forgotten and damaged before it’s ever used again.

It’s best to donate those items now, while they can still fulfill a purpose!

Kids are creative. They can get good entertainment out of just about any physical item. It’s up to the parents to decide what items stay and which items go.

*Obviously we need to not get rid of things that are their favorite things. (Because, we want to act in love toward our families)

a tan teddy bear sitting in front of a blue wall.

I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to lie to our children. If they ask me something and I know they’re not ready for the answer, I’ll tell them so. That said, they’ve caught me donating things before and I’ve had to confess.

But I don’t think this is a bad thing. This is a way for them to see what it takes to diligently keep a home. They will learn to appreciate it (eventually!)

I know how frustrating it can be when you’re doing a lot of hard work to keep the home decluttered and peaceful, only to receive nothing but criticism from your family members. Take heart, it’s worth the effort.

But I recommend being honest about it. 

If we are deceitful and lie to our children, we could be breading mistrust. That’s never a good thing.

I’m not saying we need to announce every time we put something in the donation bin, but if they ask about it we should be honest.

Let’s talk a bit about older kids’ clutter.

cozy teen bedroom with fairy lights, shelves with knickknacks, photos, pillows, and a teddy bear.

From my experience, once kids have lived their younger years watching you create order out of chaos in the clutter of today’s world, they’re much more likely to want to join in the decluttering process.

If you’re just starting your decluttering journey with older kids, don’t worry they can learn along side us. (Kids are so smart!)

Older kids should slowly begin having more responsibility when it comes to their belongings.

Oftentimes if the older kids ask if they can acquire something, I tell them “yes” as long as I never have to deal with it. If my daughter wants a rock collection, that’s fine as long as I never have to pick them up or put them away.

A toddler will never be able to handle that kind of responsibility. So this will look different for each kid in each stage.

Now, some of us have kids that want to hoard things and we want to be delicate with their feelings. What good would it do for me to belittle their adoration of a certain handmade craft. There are times when we should loosen up.

It’s not the end of the world.

Remember, our relationships are more important than a decluttered home!

The best solution to this is, give them a private space for their own stuff. 

Younger children will naturally get a smaller space to keep their “special things” and the spaces will increase with their capabilities to keep them orderly.

Our two middle children each have a drawer in a night stand for their “special” items. When the space if full, they know that’s their limit.

This really helps create less clutter. 

What about special things that the kids make for us?

I know right.

girl painting a giant leaf with paints all strewn about on a table.

This is where we get so much stuff. As a parent, you want to keep everything!

Just think how often you look back through all those boxes of old drawings and cards. If you frequently leaf through those things and they truly enrich your life, then I’d say you should keep more of them!

But I’d bet most of us hardly ever look back through those boxes of crafts, cards, and report cards. Definitely keep a sampling of things, but it’s easier to toss out things when you know there are a few good samples in the keepsake box.

Decluttering in the main living areas

Decluttering the group spaces is such a fun place to work, because it is so easy to see the positive results! 

minimalist living room with beige couch, chair, and a lamp with a couple plants.

 Some people recommend having no throw pillows in the living room, because they’re hardly ever where they’re supposed to be.

How many times a day are you dealing with certain items? Locate your pain points and start there.

 This will look different for everyone’s own home, but the impact of having a peaceful living area will be undeniable to our family members!

Having an organized space to live in is such a blessing.

Decluttering the heart of the home

utensil drawer in the kitchen.

A kitchen that is easy to work in will save you so much time during meal prep. Simply going through the kitchen and getting rid of any similar items will help create a clear space.

Why do we end up with so many duplicate items? How many whisks do we need?

What about those “just in case” items?

You won’t want to have a lot of stuff in the kitchen that you rarely use. Think through if you’ve used it in the past year, or maybe it would better serve someone else. 

The kitchen is the heart of the home.

Everyone inevitably ends up hanging out in the kitchen at some point in the day. Having it clean and decluttered will make a big impact for everyone, and they won’t be able to deny the improvement.

Decluttering encouragement for the long-haul.

woman with red nails organizing some folded towels in a small wire bin.

Going through the entire house, one room at a time will take a while. Enact some good habits now into your daily routine it won’t feel so overwhelming.

If you need a little moral support, ask a friend to come over and help. Sometimes that’s just the boost we need.

This is a never-ending process, and should be a family affair (it can be so much fun!) If you find yourself needing to declutter again and AGAIN…. that’s normal! Everyone feels like that at times, and you’re not doing anything wrong. Just keep on working to bring beauty out of the chaos.

Where do we even begin?

It’s hard for us to flourish in messy homes.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, just take a few deep breaths. You can get started by throwing out all of the obvious garbage and doing the dishes.

Just do the next thing!

woman fluffing a pillow in a tidy living room with a white couch.

I wish you good luck as you embark on this journey to a more peaceful home. 

God bless you and yours.

Hi, I’m Stephanie! I’m a Christian wife, mom of 4, homeschooler, and a technically trained chef. I love creating a simple, beautiful life with our sweet family.

I’m so glad you’re here!

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