Decluttering: How to Get My Spouse on Board

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Hey Taylor - I’ve been thinking about renting out our basement to bring in a little extra monthly income. Problem is, my wife has loads of old stuff in there that she doesn’t want to get rid of. Any advice for a guy who’s trying to gently convince his wife she doesn’t need all this stuff? - Mario

Hey Mario - Looks like you’re already heeding my most immediate advice, which is to tread cautiously. It’s easy to misjudge the connection someone else might feel to things you view as old stuff, so you want to approach the conversation with care. That said, turning storage space into a money-making rental is a great financial move. Try bringing these points up to see if something sticks.

1. Sell some of your own things. A good starting place might be to show her you’re serious about a little spring cleaning. If you can organize a yard sale or do a donation run with your own clothes and some gadgets from the garage you don’t use often, she might be inspired to throw in a few of her own things. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of letting go of a couple of small items and realizing that undertaking doesn’t create a lasting sense of regret. If you initiate the process, you won’t have to hound your wife and she won’t feel like she’s being pressured. Even if you only end up selling your own stuff, there’s nothing wrong with that.

2. One step at a time. If you’re asking your wife to get rid of years and years of collected storage, it’s no wonder she finds the idea a little upsetting. I’m sure there are valuable items and objects to which she feels an emotional connection. If you lump all those things into the same category, your effort could be perceived as callous. Start with one thing or one small collection; maybe there are old children’s toys that can find a better home or one piece of furniture that could be sold online and open up a lot of space. Letting go of old possessions can be a long process, and allowing for it to happen in stages might be your best bet.

3. Make some trades. Compromise factors into most aspects of a healthy marriage and this situation is no different. If you’re going to ask your wife to part with things she loves, what might you offer in return? There could be some extra housework you can start taking on, or there’s a landscaping project that could be done in exchange for clearing out the basement. If there’s something you can offer that turns the situation into a win-win, go for it.

I understand the urge to get the space turned into a rental as soon as possible, but I think patience is going to be a big part of making it happen. When it works out in the end, it will have all been worth it. Good luck, Mario!