My partner has a lot of physical clutter in her life. I have relatively less. We've been living together for almost a year, and it's slowly driving me insane. Please hope me have a productive discussion about this with her. Yes, this is going to be one of those
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posted by anonymous to human relations (43 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a guy, she's a girl. We're in our mid-20s. I went from sharing a large 2br apt with one roommate to the both of us living in her midsize 1br. This is due to her commuting situation -- she doesn't own a car or have a driver's license, so she has to live near her work. I can, and do, commute, so I was the one who moved. I'm not a big fan of clutter, and have relatively little in the way of possessions. I prefer to have clean, open, organized space in my home. I did know about her clutter going into the moving-in phase of the relationship, but I wasn't aware of what a negative reaction I'd have to living in it. We've both lived with roommates before, but this is the first time either of us has lived with a significant other.
Our apartment is filled with her possessions, many of which are packed in cardboard boxes. I won't list everything, but suffice it to say that there's about 6'x12' of space in our bedroom occupied by these items, most of which I've never seen her use. They're mostly toys from her childhood, clothes and other things her parents/siblings gave her which no longer fit/aren't used but have "sentimental value," and magazines and other papers, also from childhood. One whole closet is filled with boxes to hold the unboxed items, which she's saving for the next time she moves. On top of this, she has several boxes of documents that are potentially useful for her work (but I've never seen her reference), and a huge book collection (as in, a 20' wall of bookshelves). I don't really mind these, but it adds to the feeling of "too much stuff, too little space."
I've made an effort to de-clutter my own possessions to help with the overall situation, but the proportion of stuff I own relative to the proportion of stuff she owns is so small that there's not much impact I can have. Aside from my desk, a dresser, a small work table, and my clothes in the closet, there's not that much of my stuff here! I got rid of one tupperware bin of hobby supplies to achieve a 50% reduction in the number of my tupperware bins, but this is about a 5% reduction in the total number of similarly-sized containers in the apartment as a whole.
I've floated the idea of culling the lesser-used bits of both our stuff, or renting a small storage unit for the things we don't use day-to-day (I've even volunteered to pay for it), but she won't have it. I've also floated the idea of moving into a larger apartment in the same complex (rent is relatively low here, we both have decent-paying jobs, and we could each be paying less individually than we were paying before we moved in together, if more than we're paying now). She won't have this either because she's had too many previous roommates leave her in the lurch before, and is unwilling to take on a more expensive lease than she can pay alone (even though she's seen how I paid for the remainder of my lease after moving out of my old apartment, since I'd committed to doing so). She won't even consider scanning and archiving those documents which she no longer needs in physical form, even though her use-case for them is primarily making copies (which would be no lower-quality if printed or copied from a printout rather than the originals).
I feel very hesitant to push further than I have on this situation because, if we move to a larger home with room to store this stuff in the future (or, though I hope not, break up), I don't want to be the one responsible for having pressured her to throw out her mementos. At the same time, I want to be able to stretch out in my own home without tripping over the stuff!
There's some added baggage here because I feel like I'm the one doing most of the compromising -- I moved out of a comfortable apartment that was walking distance to my work, and exchanged it for a 90 minute car+train commute. I've suggested that we look into moving somewhere that is equidistant (time-wise, at least) from our respective places of work, but this is impossible because there's no convenient public transit route to her place of employment from anywhere that's any more convenient to my place of employment. She says that I should be okay with this, because it was originally my idea that we move in together, but she doesn't like the idea of me moving out again, either.
So, with that background, does anyone have success stories in dealing with a similar set of challenges (either in changing how I think about it, or in helping her understand why I want more physical space in our home, or both)? I love her, and I want to be with her, but I'm realizing that this feeling of having no space is getting close to deal-breaker status for me, and I want to find some way for us to resolve it.