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Living With a Hoarder? 12 Tips When Clutter Causes Tension at Home

Living With a Hoarder? 12 Tips When Clutter Causes Tension at Home


Do you prefer clutter-free spaces and want to enjoy the benefits of a decluttered home? What happens when you’re living with a hoarder and dealing with clutter in your home is stressful and difficult? Here are 12 tips on what to do when clutter causes tension at home.


I love clutter-free and simplified spaces, so much so that I write about it and share my thoughts on this blog.

I share the message of simplicity because I know, first-hand, what a difference it can make in juggling the daily demands of running a home whilst raising a family, working full time and generally getting through and enjoying life.

It’s not easy, is it?! Many of us feel overwhelmed and overburdened so we look for ways to make things easier. This is how I first learnt about simple, intentional living and the benefits of a decluttered home.


Clutter in our home and life affects us both physically and mentally and I’d love for everyone, including all of my own family, to try it too.

But, and there’s a big but, not everyone feels like I do, including my husband and kids. And this is a situation where many people struggle. We can decide we want to declutter, to simplify and unravel our complicated lives, we might even take a few tentative steps in throwing out some clothes we don’t like or fit into.

And then we get stuck.

Stuck because the rest of our family don’t understand what we’re doing, aren’t on board with the idea, don’t want to get rid of their stuff and just feel anxious and uneasy about what we’re trying to achieve, let alone how we’re doing it.

My family is a case in point! I love clutter-free spaces. My husband is a hoarder, finds it difficult to get rid of or let go of anything. My eldest daughter is messy and unorganised and my youngest daughter has plenty of stuff yet her room remains clean and tidy!


For those who don’t want to simplify their lives or create a clutter-free space, it can be difficult to see how getting rid of stuff and living with less can actually improve our lives.

Those who are most successful at decluttering have taken the time to understand WHY they want to declutter, WHAT they want to achieve or change and HOW it’s going to help them in the future. Clearing clutter and getting rid of things just because it’s popular or you’re bored on a rainy Saturday afternoon, won’t set you up for long-term decluttering success.

So, if decluttering was never on your radar, doesn’t feel like a priority at the moment or even something you’d particularly thought about before, it can seem a strange and extreme way of bettering your life.

Add to this the common concerns that many of us having about getting rid of stuff.

  • What if I need it some day, should I keep it just in case?
  • What if I can’t replace it?
  • What about the money it cost to buy it?
  • What if I miss it?
  • What if I declutter something I later regret?
  • What if I feel wasteful or guilty?
  • Why should I get rid of stuff when so many people in the world don’t have enough in the first place?

All of these are really valid and good decluttering questions to ask and it’s important to think these through and come to your own conclusions as you start to declutter. Decluttering is about focusing on what you’re gaining (more time, space, freedom, bandwidth, energy and more) instead of what you’re giving up.

But these are really tough questions, even if you DO want to clear your clutter. So you can imagine how difficult they are if you DON’T want to or aren’t ready to yet!

Living with a hoarder


Another challenge of decluttering when others in your home have clutter, is that we all have different views on clutter. Let me explain by telling you about my family as an example!

I’m naturally neat, tidy and organised.

I prefer simple over complicated in every area of my life, by choice, well before I started simplifying in a big way. I love simple meals, simple décor, simple wardrobe.

Decluttering and simplifying has been a relatively easy process for me personally.

My husband is a hoarder.

He can find what he’s looking for, even if it’s buried under piles of paperwork or tools. He keeps everything, from receipts dated years ago, to parts of old electronic equipment, to tiny off-cuts of wood, to old fishing and camping gear that we haven’t used in years.

Although I’m convinced he would be more productive and organised if his things were decluttered and organised, on the surface he appears to be far more stressed after decluttering when he’s thrown stuff out, sold, or donated it. He loves his stuff.

My eldest daughter is messy and unorganised.

I often can’t see the floor in her bedroom for the jumble of clothes, books and other teenage mess that’s emptied out on it. Her desk is no better and the bookshelves and wardrobe are overflowing, haphazard and untidy. Every now and then she’ll do her own room reset and put things away, close boxes, shuffle papers around and sort out her growing collection of beauty products.

Her room is her space and I respect that but I feel it’s also my job as her parent to guide and encourage her to keep it clean and tidy. You can read more about how to help kids and teenagers declutter and keep their room clean and tidy.

My youngest daughter is a hoarder like her dad but neat and tidy like me.

I think she’s an interesting example of how we all have different clutter thresholds – the amount of clutter that we can comfortably manage and look after. Her room still has quite a bit of stuff, but it’s beautifully arranged and always clean and tidy.

I rarely, if ever, have to help her deal with it and she manages her stuff and room with no problems at all.


I think it might be helpful for you to see that, even as someone who loves, lives and writes about decluttering and simplicity, I’m also totally aware that it’s not right for everyone all the time. More than that, it’s not about decluttering to perfection, to create a Pinterest-worthy showhome, or making you and your family live with less than you need and want.

If clutter is causing you tension at home, I promise I’m not here to add to it!

There is no judgement here and absolutely no directive that clearing your clutter is what you should do, or the only way, to make life easier. Taking a look around my home and chatting to my husband and kids about my love of clear spaces vs their preference for stuff might show you that!

Decluttering is just one tool at your disposal for a simpler life, that’s all. There are many other tools in the toolbox which you could use instead.

Living with a hoarder


From the questions I get from readers, one of the biggest challenges for many is how to get your family on board with decluttering or how to live in a home where you want to be clutter-free but the rest of your family holds onto clutter.

I thought it might be helpful to share my own thoughts on living with a hoarder, tips and experience if this is something you also struggle with in your home.

1. Understand why there’s a problem with clutter

We hold onto clutter for a variety of reasons, not just because we haven’t got around to throwing it away.

There are different types of clutter and it can be highly personal and emotive and we hold on to it as a metaphorical security blanket. Telling someone who’s struggling with a hoarding disorder or who has a strong emotional attachment to stuff just to get rid of it because you don’t like their clutter isn’t a constructive approach.

Getting to the root of why they’re feeling like this would perhaps be more helpful. What does their stuff represent? How does it make them feel? Does it support them or burden them?

2. Honest and open communication

When you prefer a clutter-free home but your family has clutter, it can cause frustration, tension, resentment, confrontation and arguments. Then this creates the double-whammy of relationship problems AND a home full of clutter.

Acknowledging that your different approaches to clutter can cause tension in your relationships is important. Sweeping it under the carpet, along with the clutter, can cause this tension to fester and build over time.

Talk to each other, communicate your feelings and explore ways to tackle your clutter together if you can.

You could share your feelings around the clutter in your home and how it’s affecting you. Try explaining why:

  • You never invite guests into your home because you’re embarrassed by the piles of clutter everywhere
  • You can never relax and switch off because the clutter around you makes feel overwhelmed and distracted
  • You don’t have a quiet, clear space to study, listen to music, enjoy a hobby, read, meditate or even just sit with your coffee without having to move stuff to sit down and put your cup on the table
  • You’re worried what will happen if you have to move home or if your stuff is going to be a burden to someone else dealing with your affairs once you’ve gone
  • You can’t keep the home clean because you can’t get behind and underneath all the clutter

These are just some common concerns. Maybe you have others?

3. Go slowly

I was really enthusiastic when I first began decluttering. I powered through the house getting rid of things at the speed of lightning without really thinking about HOW I was doing it.

One of the first decluttering mistakes I made was to ask my family to do the same. Of course they didn’t. They just thought I was bonkers, wasteful or needed to get a better hobby! They didn’t understand the long-term goal.

I went all in, expecting them to follow suit as I thrust an empty box or rubbish bag in their hands to fill in the next 5 minutes so we can give their stuff away. Too much, too soon. And not a slow, walk-before-you-run, gentle, informative introduction to ease them into the idea.

Go slow otherwise you’ll build walls of confrontation and resentment between you and your family, alongside the clutter that’s already there. A decluttering mindset doesn’t happen overnight.

4. Open discussions and a gentle approach

Because my first approach didn’t work, I soon changed tactic. I encouraged decluttering slowly, one little item at a time. I didn’t force it, I didn’t argue or set unrealistic expectations. I trod really gently, using encouraging words, tone and actions whenever my family showed the slightest bit of inclination to declutter (or even just talk about it).

Open discussions, offering to help, to ‘organise’ instead of declutter (not the same but the word ‘organise’ often feels less finite and scary than ‘declutter’), praise for tiny decluttering steps (a pen that’s run out of ink, a gadget that no longer works).

5. Find ways to compromise

Compromise became a cornerstone of how my family deals with clutter.

My home and the areas of it that are more in my domain are clutter-free. High traffic areas, the rooms that we all use regularly, that I’m the one that usually ends up cleaning, or that guests will see, are clutter-free.

Conversely, the shed, the kids’ rooms and my husband’s wardrobe are not clutter-free. The reason for this is that these are not ‘my’ spaces and we all deserve to feel at home in our own domain.

I think clutter-free is best but I’m not going to force this on anyone, including my family. I’m hoping they’ll learn this for themselves over time in a far more profound way than just following my instructions!

That being said, there are some rules. Their spaces need to be looked after and to be mindful that others may use or be in their spaces too. And, of course, the same is true of my clutter-free zones. Compromise works both ways.

Living with a hoarder

6. Consider practicing tough love

This next tip might be a little controversial but it’s about practicing some tough love. To make change, overcome challenges or just make things happen, sometimes we need to be firm. Setting out ground rules, expectations and, in this case, the way you want your home to run.

This is part of good parenting and how our kids learn and develop through structure, boundaries and routines. But, you can’t ‘parent’ your partner or your actual parent. So, tough love might look different.

It could be helping your partner become aware that they have hoarding issues, or supporting your own parent(s) to accept they need help in clearing clutter to downsize, or even just keep the home clean.

Homemaking, decluttering and household maintenance isn’t just about what your home LOOKS like, it’s about what it FEELS like to those living there and how we promote respect and responsibility for our home and our belongings.

7. Work together to design your home

Your home should be inviting, welcoming, safe and supportive to you and your family in whatever way you need it. When clutter divides you physically and emotionally, walking in through the front door might just make you feel anxious, stressed and overwhelmed instead.

Your family unit needs a base to welcome you home at the end of the day, launch from at the start of the day, to study, laugh, eat, entertain, relax, rest and sleep.

Chat with your family about what ‘home’ means to them, what they want it to look and feel like, and work together to design your home for your family.

You could think about:

  • How to make decluttering fun
  • How to reward yourself after decluttering
  • What activities you could enjoy at home that you can’t do now because of the clutter
  • Come up with an action plan including where to declutter and plan it into your schedule
  • Consider new room layouts, zoning rooms for different activities
  • What storage and furniture you might need
  • What colours, styles and décor you’d like
  • Tips to help you declutter other people’s stuff (with and without their input and depending on the situation)

Use teamwork to declutter your family’s home so you all feel involved, motivated and played a part in the success! Simplify Your Home can help with this.

8. Don’t declutter for them

One of the biggest lessons I learnt was to not touch their stuff. There are some exceptions such as stuff belonging to little ones or if you’ve been asked to declutter for and on behalf of someone else.

In general though, I prefer to let my husband and kids declutter their own stuff. Not only does this help them practice their decluttering skills and get confident with being able to let stuff go, but it also avoids the inevitable arguments that you decluttered something they wanted to keep.

Not decluttering their stuff means you’re respecting their right to choose and empowering them with making their own decisions. The flipside is that you hope they return this with respecting your right to want a clutter-free home!

So, why not make a start decluttering your own items and see if this triggers others in your home into trying the same? Declutter your clothes, your toiletries, your books and any other personal items.

9. Share the benefits of having less clutter

If you feel that your family is gradually getting closer to being ok with decluttering, it may be helpful to explain why you wanted to do this. My husband couldn’t really get his head around how clearing our stuff would make our lives happier – until I explained it to him.

  • I don’t have much spare time and I certainly don’t want to be spending my precious free time clearing and cleaning. So, decluttering means I have less stuff to move, clear, tidy, organise and clean.
  • Having less stuff also means it’s easier for me to find things, I waste less time, I have more free time for doing other things that I want to do.
  • I can invite a friend over for coffee without a quick panic tidy and clean before they come round.
  • I can easily make dinner because my kitchen is clutter-free and I know exactly what ingredients I’ve got in the fridge and cupboards. My life is easier and more enjoyable having less clutter.

The benefits of having less clutter far outweigh the challenges of decluttering and getting rid of the odd one or two things that I might need (but could easily borrow) in the future. Although it’s not quite as simple as that, this is the heart of why I like a decluttered home.

Explaining this to my husband and how more free, calmer, less stressed out and happier I feel as a result, is a massive factor in why we agreed to reach a happy compromise between us. For example, my clutter-free home and his decidedly cluttered shed! He can also see the benefits for himself in how I am every day.

Your partner might be inspired when they see how quickly you can find that email you need, how confident you look when you get dressed in your favourite pieces from your capsule wardrobe or even how fresh and clear your bedside table looks in comparison to theirs!

10. Acknowledging the power of our stuff

In many ways, stuff is just stuff, it’s just physical items that take up space in our homes. For many of us though, stuff also represents people, places, experiences, emotions and memories so that stuff can also hold power over us because of how we think about it.

If you’re reading this as a hoarder, struggling with stuff and it’s overwhelming, or you have mental health or physical challenges that make it difficult for you to declutter and take care of your home – it’s ok.

11. Supporting yourself in other ways

Decluttering isn’t actually the end of the story, and I wanted to mention it now in case you think that it is.

Decluttering could help but it’s not the only thing that can help. So too, could just be raising your awareness of how your environment impacts your health, how you look after yourself, your mindset, your routines and habits, your goals for the future, what you do for rest, relaxation and leisure, your friendships and emotional growth.

If you can’t find a way to compromise with your clutter, or others in your home aren’t ready, willing or able to embark on their own decluttering journey, can you reframe your thoughts and focus on something else? Some examples could be trying a new hobby, learning a new skill, strengthening friendships, getting out of debt or changing career for a better work-life balance.

Clutter may still stress you out and get you down, but it may not be totally yours to control. Instead of focusing on the clutter you can’t control, can you focus instead on what you CAN control for a life that’s simpler, easier and more fulfilling?

12. Trial and error

As an aspiring minimalist, or just a lover of clutter-free spaces, living with others who have clutter can be tough.

I don’t think there’s one single solution for what’s really quite a complex problem apart from a willingness to have open and honest conversations about how you all feel and what strategies you can try to find a middle ground.

Trial and error, a long-term game-plan and loving compromise are probably key.

BONUS TIP. Don’t try to change others

You can’t change other people, you can’t make them prioritise something just because you tell them to. Just because you’ve explained the benefits of decluttering, it doesn’t mean they’re going to jump on board that train too.

As the saying goes ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’, until they decide to do that for themselves. In the meantime be kind, compassionate, gentle and encouraging.

Living with a hoarder


I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips or thoughts to share. Do you like clutter-free spaces but live in a home of hoarders. How do you manage clutter in your home or is it a struggle? Leave a comment below!

I hope you found this article helpful. Just remember that you don’t need to be totally clutter-free. Perhaps just a little bit less clutter may do for now.

Family, home, and loving supportive relationships are worth far more than any amount of clutter.


Here are some more articles for your next step…


I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!