I get a lot of question from people who want to help their significant other, family and friends declutter. Helping is awesome as long as the person with clutter wants to declutter and asks for your help (with a few exceptions described below.)
So, below, I compiled a short guide on how to help others declutter.
How to help children (0-2-year-old) declutter
Obviously, children in this age group are little too young to look after their surroundings so it's up to you to keep their habitat clean, safe and organised.
If you feel that your children have more than enough toys, you can donate them. Or rotate the toys so they have a set number of different toys to play with. This way they have a fresh supply of toys all the time. Keep the excess toys away from the play area.
How to help children (3-10-year-old) declutter
Declutter, organise and clean together with children in this age group. They are old enough to understand the concept of clutter, and they should be made responsible for cleaning after themselves.
The best way to teach them how to declutter is by being a model yourself. Children this age often copy what their parents (and daycare teachers) do. Show them how you declutter and organise your home, and tell them how good it feels to live in an uncluttered home.
When you declutter with your children, make it fun and bonding activity. Also, try to get their consent before getting rid of any of their stuff within reason.
How to help tweens and teenagers declutter
You can ask, encourage and offer to help declutter, but they won't do it unless they feel like it.
If they show interest in decluttering and getting help from you, help them and make sure you let them decide what to keep/toss and how to organise their own bedroom. Otherwise, just leave them alone and don't intervene unless there are some health and safety hazard issues.
If your children have their own rooms, treat the space as a different dimension within your home. Don't enter their rooms without consent. They won't appreciate your snooping around. (I bet you wouldn't either.)
If you're worried about your children hanging out with the wrong crowd, being bullied or having other problems, talk to them instead of spying on them.
Instead of leaving their rooms alone, let them know that they're not to leave any of their clutter outside of their rooms. My daughter seldom leaves her stuff outside her room; but, when she does, she knows to expect a delivery from me. I open her door without entering her room, and unceremoniously dump all her stuff on her floor.
How to help your spouse declutter
Do you live with a clutter-laden spouse like I do? While my husband is much better now, compared to 20 years ago, regarding clutter accumulation, I have accepted that he will always have more clutter than I would like.
There are two things I did to help him reduce his clutter. First, I went to the source of clutter, and I made him promise not to buy anything unnecessary, and if he were to buy anything that costs more than a few hundred dollars, he would need my approval. I still need to remind him of this rule from time to time because he really does love to shop.
Some expressed that I was being a tad overbearing, but financial matters are family matters. His money is my money so I have the right to say how it is spent.
Second, I made sure he saw me while I was decluttering my stuff. I also made sure to tell him how much lighter and less stressed I felt after I got rid of my clutter. I was selling him on the wonderful effects of decluttering.
It took several years, but my tactics worked. He asked me to help him declutter his office, so I digitised most of his paper documents and created a paperless office. Also, he decided to get rid of some items that I didn't even ask him to declutter.
In summary, you can't declutter for your spouse, but you can do it with them. You can show and teach them how it's done, but it is not right to get rid of their stuff without their consent.
How to help your parents declutter
Are your ageing parents needing your help to get rid of some stuff? Or they don't think they need to declutter, but you think they should perhaps for health and safety reasons?
If your parents asked you to help them declutter, you could help them sort their items into different categories (e.g., toss, donate, repair, sell, etc.) and carry decluttered items to charity, dumpster or host a garage sale on their behalf. (My workbook will give you an instruction on how to do this.)
If your parents are not warm to the idea of decluttering, you must wait until they're ready. It is their stuff, after all.
Do they hire someone to clean their place regularly? If you can, clean their place yourself instead of hiring a professional cleaner, and as you clean, ask your parents if they need to keep the various object that looks like clutter to you.
Ask them what they use it for, how often they use it, and do they like having it there? Don't tell them that they should get rid of it; just keep asking in a neutral tone. If you sense them getting annoyed with your questions, stop asking. But when you return for another cleaning, you can ask the questions again.
Once they become used to your questions, and if you think you can get away with it, talk about the benefit of decluttering. Don't suggest they should declutter, but offer to help them if they ever felt like decluttering someday.
Again, don't declutter their stuff without their consent.
How to help your friends declutter
Have your friends asked you to help them declutter? And you said, "Yes, of course!" because you care about your friends. Your friends are lucky to have you as their friend.
Unless they're specifically asking you to take a lead (for example, because you have lots of experience in decluttering other people's places), let your friends guide you how this will be done. Ask what they want you to do, and don't suggest what to do/declutter unless they ask for your opinion. And leave judgement at home.
Make sure to take a break after a couple of hours or so, have a cup of tea/coffee or water and discuss the progress thus far and plans after the break. Just remember it is not a good idea to declutter more than five hours in one day.
If you like, you could help them carry decluttered items to a donation station, a dumpster or help them set up online ads to sell items.
So, to sum up, the most important thing to take away from this post is this: their clutter, their choice. You can help, but you should not be calling the shots.