Alice, I Want to Kon-Mari & Declutter But My Boyfriend Doesn't

Alice, I Want to Kon-Mari & Declutter But My Boyfriend Doesn't

Ask Alice
Jul 18, 2016
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Allard Laban)

Dear Alice,

In the next few months, there might be chance for my boyfriend and I to move to a bigger place (it's not entirely certain yet, waiting for the landlords' reply). I wanted to take that opportunity and Kon-mari my place, since it seems unneccessary to take all my superfluous stuff to the new place. Also, I have felt like I'm drowning in things for quite a while but have so far not known how to master the situation. So all in all, decluttering would feel very relieving, no matter whether I move or not.

I'm not great at throwing things away but after having read Marie Kondo's "Magic Cleaning", I feel like this might be a way for me. The main problem seems to me that my boyfriend is very reluctant to let go of stuff he has hoarded for a long time (stuff like CDs we never listen to, books that were gifts that he never read, cables, documents etc.). I love him very much and don't want to make him feel like I force him to throw out things, but it seems like the entire process of Kondo-ing our place is a bit pointless with all his stuff still being there afterwards.

I tried to talk to him about it but he gets very defensive and says that to him, all the things he owns have meaning and he loves having them, looking at them and that they remind him of events, persons and so forth. I really don't have the heart to press that matter much further, but it still feels like this way, the decluttering would only be half-hearted. But maybe I should start anyway and he might follow my lead? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Thank you,
Longing for less

Dear Longing,

For sure, a decluttering project is better as a shared endeavor and I hope you can get your boyfriend on board. But if you can't, I think you should forge ahead on your own.

First, let's talk about how you might help your boyfriend see the benefits of letting go of some of his stuff. Start by simply asking him to read Kondo's book without asking for a commitment to join you in decluttering. Together, talk about his reaction to the book and whether any of the ideas in it resonated with him.

You mention you are trying to move to a bigger place. Try appealing to his practical side — he is essentially paying rent for his stuff. If he keeps acquiring things without shedding them, he's going to need to keep moving to bigger and bigger places and paying more rent for it.

If you picture your future together as a couple, remind him of the need to make room in his life and, quite literally, his home for new experiences, memories and the physical things related to them. Unless you keep moving to bigger spaces (see above) you won't be able to buy new books, new music, new clothes, etc. without discarding some of the old.

Try identifying what underlies his emotional attachment to his stuff (past scarcity, a security blanket reminding him of happy times, laziness to take action to get rid of things, etc.) and try helping him understand and think about these reasons and whether the need he thinks his stuff is filling can be satisfied in another way (perhaps through very practical means such as digitizing his music).

If his mindset remains unchanged, you should take on decluttering yourself. It might be annoying to feel like you're doing the work that you'll both benefit from, but one of the finer, and I think more important points, of Kondo's book is that decluttering not only makes your home look tidier and run more smoothly, but it means there is less for you to take care of. Even a good closet decluttering will leave you personally with fewer clothes, shoes, accessories to clean and maintain.

An impending move seems like an ideal time to dive into decluttering - good luck!

p.s. Readers, have you been in her shoes? How did you handle it?

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