Rebekah's bedroom
I've learned from watching Oprah and Peter Walsh that maintaining a clean home is a family effort, but my husband has no idea how to keep anything clean for more than a day. When I do clean, it usually is only a week before it looks like a hellhole again. My husband will come home and throw his clothes on the floor. I end up feeling depressed and defeated.

How can I encourage my husband to participate in cleaning and maintaining our home?

— Rebekah

Thanks for the e-mail and photos, Rebekah.

In a family, the organization of a home, just like the raising of children or the important decisions of where to live or how to spend your money, is a team decision. The problems you are having with clutter are not so much about the stuff but more about you and your husband not agreeing on how to live together and maintain what you own.

To have an organized and clutter-free home, you need to honor and respect the space you have. It's the same in a relationship—you need to honor and respect each other.

You and your husband need to take some time out to talk about what you want from your home. You need to establish some basic routines for maintaining your spaces. No clothes on the floor, pick up up after yourselves, put things away when you're done with them and so on.

If you're feeling defeated and depressed, you need to speak honestly and openly with your husband about this to turn it around—for your own sake and for the quality of your home and your relationship.

— Peter
Lois' bedroom
My husband died almost four years ago, and I need to move on in life and also reduce my bedroom full of clutter. In my closet [are] my husband's Cub Scout uniform, my prom dress and two sets of silver. There are various old pictures under the dresser and a jewelry box from 1970 on dresser with old stuff in it (including my Brownie pin). It's never used anymore, as I have a new jewelry box. There are also various scarves from high school (1968) and whatever else I have never found a place for or simply thrown away!

My question would be how to stretch a small room???especially the closet. It is so outdated the racks pull out and the wood door sticks! Whatever you could do to help would be appreciated, as I seem to not be able to accomplish much myself.

— Lois

Lois, I am very sorry for your loss but also very excited that you can see that it's time to move on by dealing with the clutter that fills your home.

There are two things here that I think you need to address.

First, you have to accept the size of the room we're talking about—in other words, you only have the room you have. As you're decluttering, it's important to accept the space limits that the room places on you and to decrease the volume of stuff in the room so that the room is not overcrowded.

Secondly, stuff has power. Especially when we have lost someone close to us, it can be hard to separate the memory from the object. Use a digital camera to take photos of items that you'd like to remember but don't need to hold on to—especially items like clothing. You can upload these photos to a site like and have them made into a beautiful photo booklet.

Consider giving other items to family members who'd value a memento of your late husband or even donating items to someone who would value and use them.

With smaller items like brownie pins, consider framing these wonderful things in a shadow box so that you can proudly display them.

As you say, it's time to move on, and in every case where I worked with a family to deal with a deceased member's items—treating things that you're keeping with honor and respect and letting go of the rest—I've seen the family put grief to rest and gain a wonderful new perspective on life.

— Peter
Ruth's bedroom
I have lived in my condo for 14 years. I have had much challenges of managing my paper, especially my mail.

I live with a roommate, so I try to respect the common areas, so I end up taking my paperwork—whether it's from work, church ministry or just personal financial and junk mail—into my bedroom to read, sort or file. I do have a long commute to and from work (1.5 hours each way). So it's good in a way that I can catch up on reading some of my paper stuff like magazines, newspapers, etc. However, it is a tiring commute, so I just don't bother recycling them after I finish reading and take them into my bedroom.

I would appreciate any hints and helps. Thanks!

— Ruth

Ruth, it sounds to me that you have a busy life with a tough commute and a lot going on in your life. However, you need to commit to keeping your living space clutter-free and organized so that your home becomes a haven and a relaxing place for you rather than a place that stresses you out.

When it comes to the paperwork, you need first to establish a "mail zone" or mail center in your home where all the paperwork lives. At the moment, it's all over the place and has invaded your bedroom! On a desk or somewhere similar, set up a mail tray for paperwork that needs attention. Invest in a
shredder to dispose of any paperwork that has sensitive personal information on it. This is where you have stamps, your checkbook and other items needed for bill paying. This is the zone where paperwork lives and nowhere else.

Additionally, you give time to what you think is important. So, moving forward, you need to commit a regular time each day to dealing with paperwork—as that seems to be the main issue for you. Try committing just 10 or 15 minutes every day when you get home from work to dealing with mail and other paperwork. By establishing this routine, you'll then make organizing a part of your daily life.

— Peter


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