When Decluttering Turns Into A Family Argument

family conflict

So, I arrive at my clients home, a family of three who I have been working with weekly for almost a year now and I can tell right away there is tension in the air.  The mom and dad are arguing and the 12 year old daughter is downstairs sobbing.  The dad is yelling at mom saying that she should not have said those things to their daughter.  She doesn’t say a lot but is able to say that she is tired of not being heard in this family.

Dad is saying that he wanted to make things nice for her for Christmas and he bought her a new tree which was in the living room upstairs.  He said he thought he had done something really nice for her.  She is saying that she wanted their daughter to help her but she was bored and was easily distracted by other things.   Mom said she actually wanted to put up the tree they already had and wanted it downstairs.

Working with families comes with its own challenges.  Everyone has a different idea of how they want things to be and their vision for how they want their home to look.  Each person can be really struggling with their own issues of disorganization, focus and overwhelm.  Family members tend to want to please each other, can be quite protective of each others feelings, and generally want to keep the peace in the family.

But what happens when expectations are not quite met, progress doesn’t happen as quick as one would like and emotions get in the way of wanting to move forward.   Tempers can flare up and I am sure the tendency is to want to avoid this from happening and of course avoiding can be easier that dealing with all of this uncomfortable stuff that comes up.

Here are some great strategies for families:

Be a Good Role Model – Keep in mind that you can really only work on yourself.  It is never a good idea to expect others to do something that you are not doing yourself.   For example, if your bedroom is a war zone how can you expect your child to clean up his or her room.  As you work on your own stuff and your own situation others will see what you are doing and that you are serious about wanting to make a change.  They might feel more motivated to help or want to follow your example.

Work with your children or other family members – Offer to help by being there for your family member without judgement or advice about what they “should” keep or “should” throw out.   Ask your children what they want for their space and respect their wishes.  Encourage them to trust their own ideas and intuition about how they want things to be.  Be careful about saying things like “but I gave you that last year for Christmas, you don’t want to get rid of that, do you?”

Negotiate and Reward –  There is nothing wrong with a little bribery, I mean negotiating, with a child or your partner about keeping a space cleaned up, following through with chores or working on a challenging project on their own or together as a family.   An allowance is always a welcome reward as well as a family outing or special dinner together, etc.

So, how did my family do?  Well, they came together as they took turns talking about their feelings, expectations and frustrations.  This family is very caring towards each other and committed to making their home a loving and peaceful environment for themselves.  There were some tears and then hugs and in the end they were able to compromise and get the holiday decorating done and come together as a family once again.

About Kim

Kim Tremblay is a Master Organizer and a Clutter Coach. She has worked with individuals helping them clear the physical and emotional clutter from their lives since 2008. Kim founded and co-facilitated a Clearing Clutter Support Group which has helped hundreds of individuals to make positive changes in their lives. Kim is currently working virtually with clients helping them to clear the emotional and/or physical clutter from their lives. Kim is available to speak to your group about all things organizing.
This entry was posted in clutterer, De-Clutter Your Life, decluttering, families, goal setting, Inspiration, organizing over the holidays and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to When Decluttering Turns Into A Family Argument

  1. Sometimes challenges are overt with family members yelling at one another, and other times they are more subtle. I had an experience recently with a client. During this particular organizing session together, she focused and worked very hard to declutter and organize her home office. When her husband returned home, she was excited to show him the positive outcome. Instead of being supportive, he was very negative and barely acknowledged the room’s transformation. Her heart sank, and so did mine. I felt sad for her. Before I left, I made sure to reintroduce positive, supportive language so that we could end on a high note rather than with the negativity her spouse had introduced.

    While this isn’t a regular occurrence with clients, I have experienced these types of conflicts before. One spouse is cynical and frustrated. No matter how much their spouse changes, they continue to hold them in a negative light.

    • Kim says:

      Wow, that is so awful Linda. Was she working on his stuff or was it just hers? I am sure there are layers there of hurt and resentment. When couples have different ideas of how things should be or there is no communication it can be so easy to have misunderstandings. So important to be able to discuss these things beforehand but not always so easy to do.

  2. Seana Turner says:

    I’m reading Linda’s comment and thinking that sometimes a person’s negative response has nothing to do with the thing to which they are responding. It comes from inside. All your advice is so helpful. Being calm and starting with yourself can send powerful messages. Today I worked with a man who invited his wife in at the end to “Tell us how great it looked.” She took the clue and said all the right things, showing the power of a family member’s encouraging words. Sometimes we really are right in the middle of a situation, and WE need to keep calm and be the encourager.

    • Kim says:

      Hi Seana, Yes, so true about the negative response having nothing to do with the thing they are responding to. There are so many layers and from my experience a lot of people do not like change. I would like to say mostly men but I am sure some women don’t like change either. It can feel very uncomfortable for a space to be more open or empty.

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