How to Get Your Spouse to Declutter Without Nagging

Decluttering without nagging

My husband is the neat and tidy one in my home. I like things that way but often I let procrastination set in…and of course my kids make that option far too easy to choose! I think it’s great that God wired us all differently and although that may make it challenging to understand our partners it’s a good thing. Things that stretch us are good, right? Just like the Live With Less challenge! ūüôā


Before I was married I had the fun experience of sharing a room with two fabulous girls in college. Three totally different people with different personalities, previous experiences, decorating styles, cleaning methods, and opinions on food were shoved into a small room and expected to live peaceably together for the year. ¬†We¬†ended up having a great year and chose to room together every semester after that. ¬†Why did we get along? ¬†It’s because we accepted each other despite¬†our differences. ¬†We knew we were different and we chose to bond over what we had in common. ¬†They bonded over liking Ohio State and I never will as long as I live. ¬†One girl (on the left) and I bonded over dogs, we both loved our dogs while the other girl liked cats. ¬†The other girl (in the middle) and I bonded over finding great deals and repurposing everything. ¬†We both balked at the other one as she got rid of a perfectly good cd alarm clock at the end of the year because she no longer needed it. ¬†The lessons of compromise that I learned in college is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life.

Our spouses will probably disagree with us on something every single day. ¬†Whether it’s the way we make spaghetti, fold t-shirts, or how we take the lint out of the dryer. ¬†Those are all hypothetical, of course. ūüėČ ¬†I¬†like Brummel and Brown and my husband likes real butter. ¬†I can’t stand the thought of sugar on my cereal and my husband doesn’t eat it without it. ¬†We’re all different and that’s okay. ¬†How we deal with those differences¬†will¬†affect our relationships.

In our Live With Less Facebook group I’m seeing a lot of conversation about how to approach our spouses to get on board this decluttering train.

Here are a few things I’d like you to remember:

– It wasn’t long ago that you weren’t in this decluttering mindset either.¬†¬†Give them time to come around. ¬†Lead by example and hopefully they’ll want to follow suit.
– Don’t give away their things.¬†¬†Unless your spouse specifically gives you instructions to throw things away, I would avoid it. ¬†My husband will sometimes tell me to throw away his old birthday cards because if he rereads them he would want to keep them but he knows he’ll never miss them once they’re gone. ¬†You wouldn’t want your spouse to prioritize your belongings and get rid of them without warning so don’t do the same to them.
– Remember you’re on the same team.¬†¬†You two are both on the same team battling clutter. ¬†No one wins when you fight each other.
– Question but don’t mock.¬†¬†If you’re going through belongings with your husband and see that your husband is keeping a t-shirt¬†that has seen better days don’t make fun of him for keeping it but ask him why he’s keeping it. ¬†He just might have a great story to tell that you’ve never heard before and you’ll be able to know that much more about the man you married.
– Communicate. ¬†If you’re annoyed that your spouse isn’t as excited as you are about Living With Less it’s important to make sure you communicated your desire clearly. ¬†Casually bringing it up once at dinner might not get the point across. ¬†Wait till the kids are in bed, distractions are limited, and look them in the eye and explain what you’re feeling. ¬†Are you overwhelmed with stuff? ¬†Excited about having a peaceful home? ¬†Paint them a picture of what you want your home to be. ¬†Tell them your thoughts and engage them in conversation. ¬†Your spouse loves you and hopefully when you explain that this is important to you they’ll be willing to listen.¬† ¬†Together fine tune your goal and what each of you can do to work towards that goal.
Above all, respect them. ¬†Even if they don’t agree with decluttering right now, they may be more open to it later if they’re not constantly reminded about it. ¬†It’s okay if they don’t want to. ¬†Remember, they don’t have to be like you and you can be happy being different from them. ¬†Do your own decluttering and bond with them over the things you both have in common.

Did I leave something off this list?  What would you add that will help keep the peace at home while decluttering?

About Ashley

Ashley is very happily married and the mother to a beautiful little girl and handsome little boy. She is the main voice behind Embracing Homemaking.


  1. Julie Waltz says

    This was so well written. Thank you for putting such great thoughts into words!

  2. Michelle S says

    My boyfriend has been very welcoming of the changes without really knowing what is going on. I haven’t told anyone yet what I’m up to or why. I figured once I was done (and successful) I could share the reasons why and how. So the BF sees me decluttering and cleaning like crazy. I had a few bags of stuff to go and turns out so did he and he immediately donated the stuff. Some things we did put in storage for our little place up north that we are working on just to get what didn’t belong to this house, out of it.
    Last night I was making dinner and he decided to tackle emptying the fridge. Well, I already did a quick run through the other day so the expired stuff was gone but he wanted to reorganize what was left. Timing was bad as I needed the counter space for cooking but I was happy to have him volunteer to do stuff so I bit my tongue and worked around him. Anyway, he has been helping me without even knowing why. He has been going through his own stuff without me saying a word. Even my 16 yr old son joined in and cleaned out his room. It has been amazing!
    I will tell him later what made me change and motivate (I always thought about the stuff just didn’t know where to start). Also, I know better than to ever throw out any of his stuff…especially tools. LOL

  3. Nicely written, but completely useless too me. Sorry, but that’s true. I’ve been doing, or attempting to do, all of the above for 10 years and getting no help from my husband. It’s too overwhelming to do it alone, and since I’ve NEVER gotten rid of anything of his, downright impossible. I have even had outside help cleaning or clearing one small space by consolidating or relocating things, but within a few days it looks as bad, or worse. I STILL have my Xmas tree up for no other reason than keeping the clutter from taking over that spot again. I’m just about ready to move out.

  4. Sherry Newcomb says

    I have been married to a clutter bug for 19 years. I feel that your article was great! Do what you feel is best for your situation. When you run out of other options, look into counseling. Divorces have been caused by lesser things.

  5. colleen bogovich says

    My husband graduated from college in 1977 and has all his textbooks plus those from when he obtained in our basement. Forty years and they smell, take up room. We have a piano which we don’t play also 40 years old, multiple train sets not seen out of boxes for thirty years, a decanter collection from his late father filled with old whiskey and brandy. I am ashamed of our basement. I can’t get thru to this otherwise likable intelligent man. What do I do?

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