You want to declutter, but nobody else in your family wants to help. What do you do? Follow my three tips and be happy, no matter the outcome.
It’s the age-old problem that all adults face. You want to clean the house, but getting anybody else to help is like pulling teeth.
It’s almost as if a simple request to help clean the bathroom is akin to asking your kids to eat a raw onion.
They screw up their faces in disgust and whine and complain and come up with every reason in the book not to do it.
Finally, in frustration, you might say, “Fine! I’ll just do it myself!” It’s easier than fighting, right?
Let me tell you, friend: You are not alone. You might think that as an organizing expert, I have a well-trained family who jumps into action at my every whim. This is not true.
I have kids who drop their socks all over the house.
Backpacks and coats are commonly found on the floor.
My husband saves EVERYTHING “just in case.”
The struggle is real. And I understand that feeling of anger that creeps up when you are trying so hard, but nobody else seems to care. They don’t have a concept of taking care of their environment, or cleaning up after themselves.
Things that just seem like common sense and common courtesy somehow do not even make it onto the radar of our family members.
But I have some good news for you. You can still be happy, regardless of what your family does or does not do. And I’m going to tell you how.
I’ve got three tips for you that will help your relationship with your family members as you try to declutter your home, with or without their help.
Tip 1: You cannot throw away other people’s stuff.
The biggest rule when decluttering is that you are not allowed to throw out other people’s things. If your kids are under the age of 2, you can throw out their things. But if they’re older than 2, don’t do it.
When you get rid of other people’s things without their permission, you lose their trust. It’s like you stole from them and then threw away what you stole.
You might think you can get rid of their stuff in secret, like when they are at school or work. And maybe this will work a few times. But I guarantee that at some point, they will catch you, or notice something is missing, or see something in the trash and say, “Hey, that’s mine!”
No amount of arguing from you about how many holes were in those socks and how they couldn’t possibly wear them any more and how there are plenty of non-holey socks in their drawer will persuade them that you were justified in throwing out THEIR possessions.
Now you’ve just created a child or spouse who will be hyper-vigilant about their things. They’ll always be on guard, worried that their possessions are not safe.
At that point, good luck getting them to voluntarily let go of their holey socks.
You are always welcome to ask family members if you can get rid of their things–but if they say no, you need to put the item down and leave it alone, no matter how painful it is for you to do so.
Tip 2: It would really mean a lot to me if you would…. What can I do to make that easier for you?
If you have family members who repeatedly do things that drive you nuts, of course you can ask them to stop. But how you do it makes a big difference.
For example, one woman in my Declutter This — Home Organization for Everyone Facebook group was frustrated with her mother who left messes all over the place. This adult daughter was annoyed that her mother didn’t seem to care about keeping the house clean.
I suggested that she approach her mother with these two sentences:
“It would really mean a lot to me if you would (put your dishes in the dishwasher, take your mail to your room, put away your groceries, etc.) What can I do to make that easier for you?”
When you approach a person in this way, you’re not accusing, begging, or being frustrated.
It’s important that you are super specific with what you want the person to do. Just saying “It would really mean a lot to me if you would clean up after yourself” is not specific enough. People (especially children) don’t know what “clean up after yourself” means.
Now when you ask the person nicely to do the specific thing(s) you’ve asked them to do, three things could happen:
They could agree and comply.
They could agree and comply once, but then forget.
They could not agree. (This is most possible with children, who might not care if it would mean a lot to you if they picked up their socks).
I suggest you try asking nicely at least three times before you give up. Remember to be super specific about what you want them to do.
If other people won’t do what we want them to do, we need to stop expecting them to do it. And this brings me to tip number 3, and the key to your happiness, regardless of what your family members do.
Tip 3: Stop expecting other people to do things.
He “should” stop hoarding things.
She “should” pick up her socks.
The kids “should” put away the Tupperware properly.
Most of the pain we experience in our lives is when we expect others to do things.
Notice every time you use the word “should” in regards to yourself and others. How do you feel when you use that word?
Angry? Frustrated? Annoyed?
That’s because when we use the word “should,” we are trying to control people. Aside from ourselves, we have no ability (and no right) to control others. It’s a losing battle, which is why it’s so frustrating! We’ll never win!
I have been reading a book called “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie. She goes into great detail about accepting the reality of our lives and changing our mindset so that we stop blaming others, and start finding solutions for ourselves.
For example, I have recently come to the realization that my kids will never put the Tupperware away how they are “supposed to.” There will always be lids and mismatched containers haphazardly stuffed in the cupboard, despite my many trainings about how round containers go with round containers and square containers go with square containers.
I have accepted this as a fact. But now when I open the cupboard and see the Tupperware in disarray, I’m not mad, because nobody “should” have done it a different way.
I know how I like the Tupperware, and I can rearrange things if I want.
This is what I was doing in the first place, but now I’m not doing it angrily, because I’m not trying to control what others (my children) do.
This doesn’t mean that you can never ask your kids or husband to help. (See Tip 2). But it does mean that if they don’t help or do what we want, we can solve the problem ourselves without getting angry.
You might say, “Well that just means I’ll have to do everything myself!”
Aren’t you already doing everything yourself? The only thing that changes here is your level of happiness. You can solve this problem with a feeling of peacefulness and calm. Or you can solve it angrily while muttering to yourself and scowling.
In short, you can solve the problem from a place of power rather than from a place of anger.
Instead of saying in your head, “I’ve told them ten thousand times not to leave their socks there!” you can say, “I notice there are socks there. What will I do about them?”
You could get a basket and put the socks in them. You could take them to the laundry room. You could calmly and clearly tell your child that any socks left on the floor after the next ten minutes will be thrown in the trash.
You’ll be amazed at the creative solutions you come up with to solve your problems!
Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary, and you’ll be a much happier person!