Clutter nightmare help

mbx5January 21, 2007

Im a newlywed - about 6 months. About 1 year ago my now wife moved in - brought all her stuff.... she never orgainzied her stuff - my basement is basically impassible because of her junk.... upstairs - doodads extreme - not a flat surface w/o doodads.... i am going insane - too much crap everywhere with no organization...


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(Insert joke about the marriage blues here.)

    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 7:38PM
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When she moved in - did you get rid of half YOUR stuff to make room for her and her possessions? Do her things actually have someplace to go?

    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 8:01PM
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Does your wife acknowledge that your home is cluttered and requires organization? Is she looking to make changes? If not, then your issues are bigger than a cluttered home. If so, there are plenty of resources (including this forum) that can assist with strategies for decluttering and organizing. It is an ongoing process that takes a lot of time and effort, with many set-backs (i.e kids) before getting to the "maintenance" stage --

I suggest you talk with your wife about your concerns and see what her thoughts are on the subject, then, together, take things from there.

It can be overwhelming to look at your whole living space as one huge mess.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 8:58AM
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"my basement" or "our basement"?

This is a rough transition time--new home for her, new way to look at the home for you.

Her stuff coming into an existing home, w/ other stuff already IN the storage spaces.

And of course, two decorating styles (doodads), two tolerances for organization and usage of space.

I think there are a lot of things you can do. In all of them, try to make this be about the TWO of you--"our" stuff, "our" shelves, where "we" want things. There are individual belongings, of course, but the goal should be joint.

The first, an easiest, thing that *you* can do is to get rid of some stuff. You brought another whole grownup into the home; make room for her.

Then, once you've done that, you'll have some credibility to encourage her to get rid of some things as well.

As for the "doodads everywhere"--is she a knick-knack-heavy decorator? (my mom is; I'm not, when left to my own devices, though I end up w/ stuff set there "just for now", or someone gives me a candle, so I find it a home instead of immediately sending it to the Goodwill)

That will take some negotiation. You'll need to have a tolerance for some of that; you do want her to feel at home in her home with you, right? But she'll need to accommodate you as well--either w/ some fewer doodads everywhere, or w/ doodad-free zones. She needs to remember that YOU live in the home too, just as you need to make her feel welcome, she shouldn't make you feel pushed out.

(but be careful; for many, many women, they see their decoraitng style as an expression of and extension of their personality)

As for stuff that's really just plain organization--stepladders, Christmas lights, cleaning supplies, exercise bike, laundry baskets, cookware--maybe you can get somewhere if you propose a small joint project to sort through the stuff together. Put the emphasis on improvement, and not on how her stuff is choking you out of 'my basement.'

Good luck--and feel free to come back w/ more info about any specific issues.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 12:15PM
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I agree with the advice above. May I suggest one room to start with? Maybe the kitchen? If you pull everything out of the cupboards, organize all her stuff, your stuff and any new stuff into piles and then pick the best of the items and then put the selected items in their new, mutually agreed upon place and send the rest to good will (or younger brother who is setting up his first solo apartment as I did in my case). Now that space is shared and owned by both of you.

This same idea could be applied to other rooms or subject of the day  camping gear or gardening tools. The idea is to keep the best of what the two of you have and get rid of the rest. This is harder than it sounds and can be a bit emotional. Yes, we kept the beat-up colander because it is the one that he grew up with. Yes, I still have a coat that I havenÂt worn in years, but I got rid of some others. We are still working through our stuff, but each time we do, our house gets better organized and feels calmer.

Good luck. Marriage is wonderful!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 1:31PM
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Assuming you are merging two complete households, this isn't a "my wife is a clutterbug" issue, so much as a "figuring out how to live together" issue.

I too moved into the home my husband had owned for many years. And I had boxes and boxes of stuff that lived int eh garage because it had no home. But it had no home because the house was filled up with "his" stuff, so "my" stuff lived in boxes in the garage. It did not feel like "my home" or even "our home". Anything I put out seemed extraneous, because the space was already filled with his stuff.

If at all possible, I think that a clean sweep strategy might be best. Empty out one room - the office, or the living room (might need to leave large furniture in place). Gather up everything of hers and yours that might belong in the room and then move stuff back in - re-decorating as you go so that when you're done, it's "our room", not "his room with her doodads sprinkled on top".

And if she really does have a lot of doodads that you can't stand being on the tables, then build or buy her some shelves for the wall so the doodads can be displayed but be out of your way at the same time.

It took quite a while for it to even begin to feel like it was my home and not just his home - we ended up moving (for other reasons) before I completely felt like it was my home. I can say that moving made it easier because with his stuff in boxes too, my stuff was on equal footing and we were able to use all of our stuff to decorate in a mutually agreeable style.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 4:37PM
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We remodeled and cleared out everything, so now his stuff and my stuff are in boxes, and ya know what? we don't miss it. We lived temporarily in a small apartment and that was a big help. I never was much of a knick knack lady and now its a shame to put anything up--we have lovely newly painted walls and can decide together --what if anything we want to put up.
So everyone's suggestions above work well; but the idea seems to be that if you move it all out --it comes back in different form and its a house for the two of you. We even re-did the garden; just put in new walls and cut down lots of the dead trees and planted in a new and different way. Our seventh anniversary is this year and its taken that long for it to really be our home. Good luck--its an interesting journey, just repainting was like shining a bright light on it all.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 2:14AM
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When we got married, we moved into a rented house and brought in everything from our separate apartments. We had two of everything. Two toasters, two microwaves, two bathroom scales, etc. First, we sat down together and sorted through. We kept the better/newer of each of our doubles OF stuff. Then we carefully stored as much as possible in open shelving, closets, and bookcases. It was a lot of work, TOOK US MONTHS, but we worked together and it is a good beginning for a marriage to work on a project together. Two heads are better than one. Hobby stuff we kept only if it was a current hobby. We threw away or donated a lot of stuff, even his old broken Lionel train set from childhood. Now I wish we'd kept the train stuff. Maybe we could have sold it on Ebay and made some money. As other posters have said, stop thinking of it as "my" house and think of it as "our" house. Congratulations and good luck to both of you!!!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 11:08AM
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If I had to look at the mess, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night or have a feeling of comfort where I live.

I would start by hauling everything you haven't used in one month into a storage area that has a door you can close. That way you won't have to look at the mess.

Each time you both have 15-20 minutes, go through the stuff and find a home for it. If you can't find one, out it goes, either donated, trashed or sold box for each category. Setting a short amount of time will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

This minor issue is going to become a major one if you don't both work at it together.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 5:36PM
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Make a date with her. Take her out to a romantic dinner. bring a calender with you and tell her, "Honey I love living with you but I feel that you arn't comfortable in our home because you havent' completely moved in. I would like to help you make our place OURS. We need to get your stuff out of basement and put away so that we can truely be a couple and we can call this place ours."

tell her that you would like to buy her a china cabnet for her doodads so that they don't get dusty and they are more organized.

then set up a date when you can both clean up the basement and the doodads.

the message this will send to her is that if she does't clean up her stuff, she is not commetted to the relationship.

Most likely what will happen is she will do it herself but follow through with helping her and setting the date will put a time limit on how much longer you have to live with the clutter.

you will have to make room for her stuff. Make sure you have a donation box for things you both havn't used in a year. If you organize together then you will both have pride in your home.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 10:10AM
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You have had so many good suggestions here. I think your wife is probably overwhelmed at the prospect of dealing with all her "stuff." Maybe you could plan to spend a couple hours every weekend working on it with her. You'll have a throw away box, recycle/thrift shop box, and a keep box. The curio cabinet is a great idea too and you won't have to dust all around those doodads.

Do you have any areas (like your clothing, the garage) with which you need help organizing? You could ask to help you too, and that way organizing the home will seem more like a team effort, not just you trying to get her organized.

Good luck. I'm long on advice but short on success in this effort with a family member.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 10:41AM
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