Although it can be very frustrating to live with clutter, and even more frustrating to try to declutter without success, it is important to realize that pressuring another to reduce clutter rarely has long-term benefit. And it usually comes with much relationship stress.
Yet, your concerns deserve to be heard and responded to. It is tough to be held hostage in one’s own home by another’s clutter. It is tough to visit a loved one and see the unsettling conditions in which they live. It is hard to make decisions about whether to avoid or confront, given that either way there is likely to be conflict.
The best approach usually is to be as non-judgmental as possible while clearly stating your concerns. It is fair to share your feelings as well, but do this when you have confidence you can remain calm and clear.
Here is a five step approach to consider when you decide to confront someone with a clutter problem:
1. Explain to the clutterer the extent to which the problem exists. Many clutterers live with a sense of denial, preferring to believe that their home may just be comfortably messy, but still normal. For example, you might say “This house is the messiest house I have ever been in.” Don’t attack the person; focus on the environment. Make “I” statements (such as “I feel…”, “I think…”, “It is my opinion…”) and avoid “you” statements which sound blaming (such as “You are so messy”, “It’s your fault”). Don’t exaggerate, but state your truth firmly and stick to it.
2. Explain how the clutter makes you feel. For example: “I am saddened by this clutter", “I am so frustrated to live like this”, “I am worried for you and our health and safety”, “It embarrasses me to let anyone see this”.
3. Identify your decision that the situation must change or there will be consequences. DO NOT TAKE THIS STEP UNLESS YOU ARE READY AND ABLE TO FOLLOW THROUGH. EMPTY THREATS ARE DISEMPOWERING. For example, you might say “If this doesn’t change, I’ll have to leave this environment for my own peace of mind” or “I won‘t be able to visit you here any more”. Notice that you are not threatening to abandon the person, but to leave the environment.
4. Offer to help. Offer to get help. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT SO THAT THE CLUTTERER CAN FEEL SOME DIRECTION AND A SENSE OF HOPE.
5. Tell the person to take a day to think about it. Bring up the issue again the following day and discuss their response. Be prepared to act soon. FOLLOW THROUGH.
Clutter To Comfort can help you prepare for this process, by offering personal and confidential consultations to help you discern the best course of action in helping your loved one. Couple’s and/or family sessions are available to assist in creating healthy dialogue.