When Your Spouse is a Pack Rat

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A Time to Clean: Day 9

So… this may be a touchy subject, but I know it’s an issue for a lot of people, so I think we should talk about it. Some of us are married to people who really hate to get rid of stuff. There could be a lot of reasons – just like when we have a hard time getting rid of stuff, too. Only maybe your spouse is worse than you when it comes to holding on to things!

My husband loves a neat and clean space. It makes him happy when he walks into a room that has no clutter. In fact, I’m the messy one in this relationship. He always cleans up after himself – cleans his side of the bedroom before he leaves in the morning, never leaves dirty clothes lying around, straighten the bathroom before he leaves it.

But, when it comes to parting with other stuff… well, he has a hard time and to convince him that we should let go of stuff is a real challenge.

My husband grew up very, very poor. They had nothing. Now, I know I’m psycho-analyzing him here, but I really think a lot of his trouble with letting things go stems from that. He worries about money all. the. time. I know we don’t have a whole lot of money… and as a pastor he’s not exactly rolling in the dough. So, when we buy something it’s a real commitment in his mind. As in – once I bring it into the house… I’m stuck with it for years or decades.

Unfortunately, this can apply to everything that isn’t broken or totally unusable.

Okay, so in his defense, he’s been doing much better lately as I think he’s finally realized that we have too much stuff and it’s invading every space in our home.

So, how have I gone from having a husband who is a pack rat to a husband who is beginning to be okay with letting things go?

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5 Tips for When Your Spouse is a Pack Rat

1. Talk about stuff. It doesn’t have to be a big long conversation either – especially if the topic is stressful to your husband! Over time, mention how you’d like to see things simplified. You’re dreaming of a neat and clutter free home. Don’t accuse your husband of being a pack rat or a slob… that probably won’t work and just cause a fight. Talk about how YOU feel. Say things like, “I want our home to be warm and welcoming so we can have people over and not be embarrassed.” Make suggestions as to how things could be improved.

2. Make sure you aren’t hoarding clutter. In other words, set the example! Be a living witness in your own space – your personal closets, how you shop for things, and how you let things go when it’s time.

3. Show your spouse how things could be. For instance, my breakfast nook has notoriously been a catch all for clutter that my husband often contributes to. Last week I cleaned the space and decorated it nice for the season. I proudly showed him how I nice it looked and said I wanted it to stay that way forever. And he agreed. So far, so good.

5 Tips for When Your Spouse is a Pack Rat... @ AVirtuousWoman.org #ATimeToClean #clutter #declutter

4. Make a point to demonstrate how you need to get rid of some things. For instance, I have way too many pots and pans. In fact, when my MIL passed away this summer, I ended up with all of her pots and pans. My cupboard was already full. Not good. So, I selected the pots that I wanted to keep and put them in the cupboard and put the ones I wanted to give away on the bench in our mudroom {that’s where I put stuff that’s going to be given away}. So, of course, my husband said, “Why are giving these away?” and I showed him how full the cupboard was.

Okay, so sometimes that’s not convincing enough. He really hates getting rid of anything that we already own that is still in working condition. And honestly, I can’t say I have always handled this in the best way. But, sometimes I will take stuff that he doesn’t want to give away and put it in “his space” and tell him he needs to find a place in “his space” for it or give it away. That usually works.

 5. Finally, if your spouse insists on keeping ALL of their clutter, see what you can do to organize it for them. For instance, use Rubbermaid Tubs with lids and a label maker. Or gather things in a pretty basket on the desk and ask {nicely} that when the basket is full that they clean it out to make room for new stuff. Be considerate and make sure their things are easy to find – even helping them locate items when needed and showing them how nice things are when stored away and organized.

Have Compassion

It’s important to have compassion and respect for your spouse. We can have strong emotional attachments to things and letting go can be hard. Realize that there maybe be underlying reasons that your spouse keeps a lot of stuff. Pray for them, lead by example, and be gracious!

Today’s Goal

  • How can you help your spouse have less clutter and be more organized?
  • Pick up a journal and write down your thoughts about what He has shown you today or print my free prayer journal.
  • Choose an area in your home you want to tackle.
  • Fill at least one bag or box full of stuff to give away.
  • Take a picture of your bag. Share it on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram – use hashtag #atimetoclean {optional}
  • Leave a comment below about what you chose to get rid of.
  • Do your best to wake up early tomorrow and spend time in prayer. Use your prayer journal.

Does your spouse have a clutter problem? How have you dealt with it?

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  1. Fantastic advice! Both my husband and I have the tendency to collect things we don't need, but we've been working gradually over the last two years to get rid of the unnecessary items. When we started this process, my husband had a very hard time getting rid of anything. (I was that way, too, before I finally reached my breaking point and was like: "I'm throwing everything in the trash!") The first step was buying a shed and containers to sort and store items we could not part with, and then very slowly over the next two years, we would make some process here and there -- but not too significant. At the beginning it was very hard to convince my husband to part with items, even if they were mine (like when I purged my clothes, he kept putting items I did not want back!). I was very patient and kind, and focused on your tips #1, 3, and 4. Sometimes during my frustrating moments, though, I would let him know the clutter and extra stuff was stressing me out. Sometimes a change of perspective really helps. In May, my husband volunteered to do one of the most selfless acts ever: he quit his job to become a stay-at-home dad for our young son. (My income covers all our bills and expenses while his did not and after 13 years in a stagnant job with bad hours, he was very tired.) Not only has he taken on the primary caregiver role for our son, but he has also taken over a lot of the housekeeping tasks. After four months at home and with a second little one on the way, he is now very much on board with getting rid of our unnecessary stuff! Now when we talk about getting rid of something, he might say: "Are you sure? Okay. Let's put it in the donation box." (Praise the Lord!) Our master bedroom and closet are almost finished. Now we are finally tackling the office -- which had been the overflow/catch-all room for junk.
      1. my husband lOVES to save everything that comes in the mail. I've tried being kind asking him to keep one envelope. example, when we receive a power bill they send a extra envelope to mail your payment back but he keeps everything that comes in the envelope instead of throwing out what is not needed. so what i do is wait until he goes to work and go through a week worth of mail,sort it real neat and pray he finds everything he needs when it is time to pay it. this works for me and it will keep the frustration level down and peace in your home.
  2. Thank you Melissa, for this message. Both my husband and I tend to be messy, and we both have trouble letting go of things. (We're both working on it!) I get frustrated cleaning up after him and I am not always as kind and gracious as he deserves. I appreciate your reminder to be kind.
  3. Hi Melissa I’m the hoarder in our house and I’m ashamed to say that I have boxes of stuff in our shed from when we moved house 2 years ago. We moved from a 6 bedroom home to a cottage and decluttering is hard. My husband has been very patient and I’m now at the stage where I need to get organised and tackle the boxes. I really appreciate your tips and endeavour to get the job done. Thank you
  4. I think it's a poverty thing. My husband grew up poor, and has things from decades ago. Our neighbor's husband grew up poor and he's a worse packrat even than my husband! We have a large house, mostly neat, but the basement was full of his clutter. I'm an avid fruit and vegetable gardener, keep poultry for eggs, honeybees, and homeschool our children. We had a basement room he didn't want to move junk he hasn't used it in decades out of it. He's usually a doting husband but when it comes to his stuff he gets touchy. He said, "You want me to move MY stuff to put in YOUR stuff!" I said, "It's not my stuff. It's stuff we use regularly for our honeybees, our food garden, our egg-laying ducks, and homeschooling our kids. It's our emergency preparedness supply room, and our extra dried goods stores" (we live in a rural place where long-term - 8 days! - power outages can and have happened). I said "Your stuff is congesting our pantries and upstairs closets because I have nowhere to put stuff we actually use which needs to be stored in the basement. I'm not asking you to throw out stuff, just move it to back storage so I can organize a family supply room It's harder to be organized to homeschool when all their books and art supplies are on the table, in my closet, on their desk, etc!" Well, God intervened. He flooded our basement (first time in the 10 years we've lived here). My husband's "stuff" got wet. He's since moved most of it and thrown out a lot of it. We're still working on it, but it only took one moment, and a flood, for him to realize what I tried for years to tell him. Junk doesn't belong piled up on the floor for spiders to crawl in! Oddly, our meat freezer, new washer and drier, water heater and his many (very useful and important NOT junk) power tools were NOT ruined. Even his tools that were wet (drills and power saws!) were salvaged! Nothing necessary was ruined, floors are fine. No mold. Junk is gone. All the glory to God.

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