Establish a basic premise. The best way to enter a tough discussion is to establish where you stand at the start with love and understanding. Before you talk about the clutter, talk about what is important to all of you. Discuss what you want the final outcome of this cleanup to be. Agree on ground rules and return to this initial conversation when things get difficult or uncomfortable.
Don't make it personal. As you discuss your hopes and goals for the rooms in your house, make sure you don't start blaming your spouse, partner, roommate or children for the mess. Instead of focusing on whose mess it is, think of it as a group problem that you're going to solve together. Don't use words like "yours" and "mine." Talk about the clutter and challenges surrounding it as "ours."
Don't point your finger at others. The goal is to reframe the discussion away from the item itself to its significance in your lives. Here are some questions to help you make decisions about what to keep without starting arguments or passing judgment.
- Instead of "Why don't you put your tools away?" ask: "What is it that you want from this space?"
- Instead of "Why do we have to keep your grandmother's sewing kit?" ask: "Why is that important to you? Does it have meaning?"
- Instead of "There's no room for all of your stuff in there," say: "Let's see how we can share this space so that it works for both of us."
- Instead of "Why do you have to hold on to these ugly sweaters your dad gave you?" ask: "What do these sweaters make you think of or remind you of?"
- Instead of "I don't understand how you can live with all of this junk," ask: "How do you feel when you have to spend time in this room?"