Thursday, June 25, 2009

Respecting Other People - and Their Stuff

old tennis shoes

That's your husband's? No, we can't throw it away without his permission. --me, many times, with many clients.

As we de-clutter our homes, it's not unusual to find something a partner or spouse is keeping that seems silly to us. When I work with clients, we might set aside things to ask someone else about - assuming we even have permission to touch that person's things - but just tossing something out is not an option.

Here's a cautionary tale from Steve Almond in the June 2009 Real Simple:
Consider the donnybrook I got into with my first serious girlfriend. We had just moved in together, and in an effort to "clean up the place," she tossed out my favorite sneakers. I will grant you that they had multiple holes and were perhaps malodorous. But I had bought these shoes in the Old City of Jerusalem and had worn them to climb Masada and wade into the Dead Sea. ... Those shoes were a part of me. I never forgave her.

[photo by endora57 / Kathy Neufeld, licensed under Creative Commons]


Margaret said...

hello - I am planning on moving into my boyfriends home - we will get married. He has three kids and a HUGE HUGE house. Probably 3200 square feet of STUFF - tons of STUFF and the kids have stuff EVERYWHERE. ESPECIALLY CLOTHES! How do I even BEGIN to de-clutter, when it isn't even my stuff?

Jeri Dansky said...

Margaret, unfortunately you really can't declutter, in the sense of getting rid of anything, unless you've been given explicit permission to get rid of someone else's stuff.

It sounds like you'll want to sit down with your boyfriend and discuss your concerns, and see if you can reach some agreement as to how to address the stuff-everyone issues in a way that works for everyone. If this is a touchy subject, you may want to involve an expert third party to help you negotiate such an agreement.