If you’re in a relationship, your significant other probably thinks you’re a keeper but may feel differently about your stuff.
Chances are, your love would unfeelingly chuck your precious box of old letters, shelf of knickknacks or plastic tub of childhood teddy bears if he or she could get away that move, a new survey shows.
In fact, the survey by SpareFoot found that a whopping 90 percent of Americans in a relationship admit that if they knew there would be no consequences, they’d get rid of some of their significant other’s possessions.
On average, in that ideal scenario, Americans in a relationship would junk 27 percent of their significant other’s belongings, the survey found.
I Love You, But Not Your Stuff
“People have different styles when it comes to clutter,” said Edward Hallowell, a New York City psychiatrist and best selling author, “For some people, clutter is just unacceptable — it’s disgusting and revolting — whereas for others, getting all neat and tidy is repressive.”
So, it’s no surprise that some people in relationships decide to take clutter matters into their own hands. In fact 56 percent of American men and 38 percent of women say they frequently have to stop their significant other from throwing out things they want to keep, the survey found.
An Indianapolis brand strategy director and devoted neatnik, Jesse Ghiorzi admits he’s thrown out stuff his wife Chelsi wanted to keep — mostly papers — but it didn’t cause a catastrophe.
“I’m sure we’ve not been able to return an item because I tossed the receipt, or missed out on some Extra Bucks at CVS,” he said.
Gonna Take My Things and Go
But when tossing stuff crosses the line into items that are important to the other person, it can lead to relationship trouble. In fact one in three Americans (34 percent) and nearly half of millennials (49 percent) said they would break up with someone if that person got rid of a sentimental item they owned.
Throwing out something that’s meaningful to someone can lead to discussions about respect in the relationship, said Esther Boykin, a licensed marriage and family therapist, author and host of the podcast With That Being Said.
“It’s never a good idea to go behind a partner’s back and get rid of something,” she said.
Tackling Clutter Together
If you’ve got clutter issues causing chaos in your relationship, here are 5 tips on how to work together to fix the problem:
- Have a clutter talk. The key to coming to a truce on clutter is to sit down and have a heart to heart, Hallowell said, adding that it’s a good idea to approach clutter as a psychological issue rather than a moral issue. Discuss each of your feelings about stuff and what past experiences led you your current views. “If you take that approach, you can start to understand each other and avoid having a big struggle for decades,” he said.
- Remember that it takes two. In many cases, a person who’s complaining about their spouse’s mess might also be causing clutter in the home, said Cyn Coulouthros, founder of the tidying site TurboTidy.com. For example, a wife who gripes about her husband leaving stuff on the kitchen counters may discover that she’s filled all of the cabinets with seldom used dishes and containers, taking up all the prime storage real estate, Coulouthros said. So, before pointing a finger at your significant other, take a look at your own clutter. “Decluttering is really a process of self-awareness,” she said.
- Make space for clutter. “I’m a filer, my husband’s a piler. I’m a concealer, he’s a revealer,” said Leslie Josel, a professional organizer in the New York City area. The clutter isn’t sentimental stuff or even the albums he loves to collect. Instead, it’s random household items. “It’s old wires and plaster and light bulbs I don’t even think we have the light fixtures for anymore,” she said. The couple copes with their opposing styles by designating a space for his stuff in the basement, Josel said. So, set aside space for each person to use as they wish, and strive to make common areas clutter-free zones, she said.
- Chunk it down. If there’s stuff that’s bugging you, and you want your significant other to organize it, store it or get rid of it, start small. Gather up to 10 items, move them out of the cluttered area and ask if your loved one will spend just five minutes going through the stuff and making decisions, Josel recommends. Letting them know the task won’t take long makes it less overwhelming, she said. “Chunk it down,” she said.
- Warn before you toss. Tempted to toss that growing stack of unread magazines in the living room? It’s not OK to do so without asking. However, it’s perfectly fine if you give your partner fair warning, Hallowell said. “You can say if that pile isn’t gone by — and set a date — I’m going to make it gone,” he said, adding that you should explain the mess is driving you crazy. You might be surprised: “They may say, ‘Fine, great, get rid of it. I don’t want it,” he said.
- Ask about the meaning behind the stuff. When someone wants to hang onto possessions, it’s often about more than just the stuff, Boykin said. It may be easy to understand why someone wants to keep their grandma’s old china but not as easy to see the appeal in 10 years’ worth of old Sports Illustrated magazines, she said. But, maybe it was their first magazine subscription given by a favorite uncle, she points out. “There may be an emotional story around the item — a memory, nostalgia — that doesn’t always translate to others,” she said.