Couple arguing

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

If the space that you and your partner share is cluttered and both of you are fine with that, great. I'm all for shared happiness. But if the weight of your stuff is weighing on one or both of you, it's critical to get it under control. Which comes first—the clutter or the problems?

As far as I'm concerned, it's a chicken-and-egg issue. What I can tell you is that physical clutter and relationship problems seem to go hand in hand, and I don't believe you can fix one without fixing the other. Getting rid of the physical clutter is, as they say, another story, and it's one I've already told in my book It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.

I'll just boil it down to the basics. The clutter-clearing process I use is consistent across emotional and physical clutter.
Couple in living room

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Create a vision for the life you want and the space you share with your partner. Every item in that space should contribute to your vision.
Cluttered, messy room

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Overcome obstacles that prevent you from letting go of items. It doesn't matter if it was expensive or if you might need it one day. If it doesn't serve the vision you have for this life you want, it has to go.
Garbage ready for collection

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Commit time to clearing the clutter, even if it's only twenty minutes and two garbage bags every day. If you stop making purchases and purge a small area of your home daily for twenty minutes, you'll be surprised at how quickly you start to see changes.
Couple talking

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Communicate with your partner about your shared vision. If you aren't both agreed and committed, you won't succeed. Set boundaries and respect limits. You can only have as many books as you have feet of bookshelf space. The same is true for clothes, collections, hobbies, holiday decorations, bathroom supplies, and so on. Boundaries and limits are critical for a healthy and balanced relationship.
Coupe having fun

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Make changes. Only by changing the role stuff plays in your life will you be able to stop buying more things and let go of the clutter that impedes your life.
Happy couple

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Live in the present. Don't hold on to memories that take up so much room that you can't live your life. Don't hold on to an inordinate amount of stuff in hope of preparing for a range of possible futures. Your life right now is the priority. Fix it.
Couple working through tough times

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Face fears. Sometimes clearing away the clutter forces you to face very hard truths about yourself and your relationship. Don't hide behind your stuff. Get rid of it and face the bare truth.
Couple celebrating with a toast

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Celebrate successes. As you clear stuff away, you will feel lighter, as if you can breathe again. Enjoy this together. This is your life.

Take Peter's quiz to find out if your relationship is cluttered.

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