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“Each relationship nurtures a strength or weakness within you.” -Mike Murdock

Thank you! Newsletter reader Ileane sent in this great question: “How do I get my husband to clean up his parents’ memorabilia that’s laying in boxes in our downstairs useable area?”

Many clients and students ask how they can “get” their spouse or children or boss or partner…or even themselves to “do” something. There are 2 seemingly obvious answers that I have heard or read other organizing and management experts say:

1. Speak your need/desire clearly and make it known that this must happen.

2. Do it yourself.

Both answers can work, but they are not the most Joumorous option. Years ago I offered Clutter Counseling for Couples (because I love alliteration 😉 I didn’t start out with this service, but over time I offered it because so much of what I was doing was dealing with couples and their frustration over STUFF. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that there are 7 levels to Joumor– STUFF is the most basic and Relationships is the highest. However, basic things are also often foundational, and when a couple fights (or, even worse, doesn’t discuss it at all) about foundational or everyday things, the ramifications can reach all parts of their relationship. Couples with clutter reported:

  • Lack of generosity/warmth
  • Inclination to spend less time at home
  • No sex or low quality sex
  • Sleeping in separate rooms
  • Fighting that never got resolved
  • Resentment
  • Aggressive behavior such as throwing their spouse’s stuff out or breaking it
  • Complaining to others or their children about the spouse in front of them or behind their spouses’ backs

Here’s the thing. You can’t “get” someone to do something, even yourself. You can try to force it, but outside of violence, forcing usually doesn’t work. And even if they do clean up those boxes of memorabilia, before you know it, there’s something else bothering you…so instead of “getting” him/her to do something, how about inspiration instead?

In Joumor, “It’s the thing itself and something else.” People can feel angry about their spouse’s pile of boxes and it can be pointing to feeling disrespected, blocked, and even disgusted in the relationship. It’s not a guarantee, but these things often go together. In Joumor, we focus on dealing with the most literal and tangible level first.

Do not condemn the clutter in your neighbor’s eye until you have examined the plank in your own.

So what to do if you are feeling frustrated, turned off, or even angry with your spouse? (This also holds true for anyone you live with- roommates, children, and parents as well). Focus on yourself. We often translate our frustration at ourselves onto others. You may not have old boxes of memorabilia scattered around the floor…but did you book that flight you’ve been putting off? Did you pay your taxes? Did you submit the information for that refund?

As we shift our focus onto closing our own energy drains such as the above examples, we start to notice a few things:

  1. We feel better.
  2. Those things that kept bothering us are complete and we have peace, or even a void, where they once nagged at us.
  3. People around us *may* respond differently to our desires, even without our asking.

Clutter attracts clutter and the opposite is true. If you are a cluttery mess, don’t be surprised that the people around you are, too. And don’t blame them for it. Examine your own clutter before even thinking of asking others to change. Once you have addressed all open energy drains, don’t be surprised when your spouse or child starts doing the things you want without you asking. And if they don’t, you’ll be a lot calmer and more compelling when you do ask.

Ideally, you are in this relationship with someone you love. Remember that. And you want them to be at their best. So seek the best in yourself first, and don’t bother discussing your expectations until you have modeled what Best looks like. In the case of relationship clutter, in many cases, less is more, and clutter-free connection is the kind of memorabilia we’d all like to keep.

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