Tip of the Month: Other People's Stuff
Decluttering is hard enough when you're dealing with your own stuff. But what do you do about other people's stuff? Here are two guidelines I'd suggest.
1. Don't get rid of someone else's stuff without his or her permission.
Even if it seems to you that your spouse's ratty old t-shirts are junk, please don't toss them without checking in. The same goes for all the possessions of anyone who shares your home or workspace. It's a matter of respect and trust. You might well feel angry if someone got rid of your stuff without asking you, so it only makes sense to extend the courtesy you'd want to others.
"But then he (or she) will keep everything," you say. Sometimes other people surprise us in their willingness to part with items. But if someone is holding onto too much for your comfort, maybe you can work on setting some rules and boundaries you can both subscribe to. Developing a shared vision for your space - how it looks, how it is used - might be helpful. Bringing in a neutral third party might also help. But going behind someone's back, while it might bring you the short-term results you want, can cause major issues later on.
What about children's items? Obviously, you can't involve a newborn in deciding what's to be kept and what's not. But even fairly young children can be taught to make basic decluttering decisions. Here's author and organizer Rita Emmett's advice: "When helping them de-clutter, give children the opportunity to decide what stays and what goes. If they can get rid of only a few things at first, let it be." She also suggests that when children get new toys, you can "help them select old ones to clean up and donate to a local charity. Children love the feeling of helping others." See Parent Hacks to read how one parent did just this with her 2 1/2-year-old.
2. Don't store stuff for people who have their own homes.
As organizer Lorie Marrero says in her new book, The Clutter Diet: "When children leave home for college, they leave behind many of their possessions and the furniture they were using. ... After they get their first jobs and their own homes, it's no longer appropriate for you to store these items for your adult children."
Or as Peter Walsh writes in It's All Too Much: "It's bad enough when the clutter is your own, but it is totally crazy when that clutter belongs to someone else. Are you a professional storage facility? I didn't think so."
Now, you wouldn't want to just toss this stuff without that someone else's permission. But you can give the person a reasonable deadline to remove the stuff from your space.
Organizing Product of the Month