How to declutter the house when your partner is a hoarder

If your partner is a hoarder use these tips shared by our experts to help you organize your home

Neatly folded clothes and pyjamas in the metal mesh organizer basket on white marble table.
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Finding the time to declutter your home can be challenging, but if your significant other is contributing to the amount of physical stuff you have in the house the job becomes much more difficult.  

Hanging onto items that are in the house is a tempting and common thing that a lot of people deal with, however, having this hoarding mentality can quickly get out of hand. 

This can be more complicated when your partner is the one that is hoarding items and you are not. This has to be approached with a level of sensitivity and understanding, however, there are many decluttering tips that help in this circumstance, including how to declutter your home when feeling overwhelmed

Experts share their tips to declutter sensitively 

When you are living with someone who is a hoarder, you need to be sensitive and our experts are here to show you how.

1. Set clear boundaries

‘It's essential to have an honest conversation with your partner and set clear boundaries, says professional organizer Diane Quintana. ‘Explain why it's important to declutter and that you need their support.’

Setting clear boundaries allows your partner to know exactly what is happening and allows them to digest the work set out, without being overwhelmed. It is important that once boundaries have been set, you cannot push them either as that will break the trust between the two of you and they will resist further decluttering.

Diane Quintana
Diane Quintana

Diane is a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization based in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned a Hoarding Specialist credential from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization and has co-authored a book called: ‘Filled Up and Overflowing: What to do when life events, chronic disorganization or hoarding go overboard.’

2. Choose a specific area

Start a discussion on one specific area that you would like to improve in the home. If you try and declutter the entire house at once, your partner will find this very overwhelming. Professional organizer Lauren Saltman recommends starting with just one drawer, one cabinet, one countertop, or one area of the floor where items have piled up. 

Keep in mind that if your partner is truly a hoarder, these questions will be very difficult for them to answer. Slowly but surely, you will make progress in helping your partner to declutter and organize.

Lauren Saltman
Lauren Saltman

Lauren Saltman is a professional organizer and owner of Living. Simplified., a professional organizing company serving the greater seacoast of New Hampshire, southern Maine, and Massachusetts areas.

3. Take small steps

Don't try to declutter everything at once, take small steps. Be patient and consistent. Break things down into smaller goals so it feels more manageable. 

It's also important to involve the partner with the challenge so they do not feel that things are being done behind their back. Always ask permission before tackling a pile of things that belong to the partner in question.

Try setting a timer for 20 minutes. Once you are done, reward yourself.

4. Ask the right questions

Ask your partner questions like: How often do you use this? Why do you feel called to keep this? Is this still supporting you? Why do you feel like you need this item? What emotions does this item bring up? 

Theresa Russell, an intentional home organizer says it is important to understand that these questions bring up heavier feelings including potential trauma that has happened in the past.

Theresa Russell
Theresa Russell

Theresa Russell is an intentional home organizer, marriage family therapist, and energy healer. As the Founder + CEO of Home and Heal, she works with purpose-driven women to release mental and physical clutter to create an energetically aligned and organized life.

What are signs that your partner is a hoarder?

Three signs that your partner is a hoarder are:

  • Collecting too many items that they may not have a need for right now and don't have space for.
  • Ongoing difficulty throwing out or parting with your things, regardless of their actual value.
  • Feeling a need to save these items and being upset by the thought of getting rid of them.

If your partner is a hoarder you do not need to worry. Thanks to our experts there are some simple yet effective steps you can try to work with your partner and declutter your home. 

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.