How to Declutter as a Couple
Learning how to declutter as a couple is a great way to save space and make some extra cash for your travel fund. It’s also a unique way to relationship-build as you curate your stuff, and life, together. Take on our Couple’s Decluttering Challenge to tidy up.
Hint: it’s a fun, competitive way where you both win (but really, there’s a winner!)
decluttering as a couple
Our Decluttering Journey
I never met anyone with more stuff than Ryan.
When we met, he owned a pickup truck, motorcycle, boat, and snowmobile ($6k altogether). He had nearly $7k worth of fishing gear (both for summer and ice fishing), another $2k of hunting gear, and $3k worth for a trailer, tools, and spare parts to maintain his toys. Plus, a pet chicken named Martha (priceless).
And this was all for a new college graduate with tens of thousands in student debt.
*Note: this is where Ryan wants me to share that all purchases were second-hand and he fixed everything up with his two bare hands. But this is where I counter-note that he owned FOUR modes of transportation.
Now, nine years later, Ryan is the environmentally friendly minimalist pushing me to live in a tiny house on wheels with him — and, no, this is not open to a vote, Duo Lifers!
Outside of having so much money locked away in toys, how did this massive consumer become a decluttering minimalist?
This guide and decluttering challenge break down how to overcome these differences so that you and your partner can reach your goals, focus your energy on the stuff that matters to you, and building a healthy foundation on how you purchase things and tidy up in the future.
How We Decluttered as a Couple
You and your partner will inevitably have different decluttering, organizing, tidying up, and purchasing styles. Plus, there’s a chance that when you meld your households, you will also have two of everything — with each person possibly preferring their own set.
However, decluttering as a couple not only streamlines your day and better utilizes your space. What’s more, is it helps you put more focus on the things you cherish and need. As unbelievable as it sounds, taking on a decluttering challenge with your spouse or partner can be a relationship-building process. It’s an opportunity to keep items that resonate.
For Ryan, it took time for him to get on board. What helped the most was that we moved around a lot, especially internationally. This meant that every few years, we had to evaluate the entirety of our belongings. It became apparent what things no longer fit with our traveling lifestyle.
However, not everyone has these same motivating opportunities. Alongside the moves, our hobbies began to change. While he loved snowmobiling with his friends, it wasn’t something we normally did together nor something he often did alone. So, he sold his snowmobile, and whenever he had a guy’s trip, he borrowed one. We put that extra cash towards strengthening the hobbies we did more frequently, like hiking and skiing.
No, this doesn’t mean that Ryan slowly gave up his identity as we morphed into a couple. He just realized that he didn’t always need to buy when he could borrow or rent, especially on infrequent hobbies. If you’re wondering, Ryan kept his boat, fishing, and hunting gear but still downsized and decluttered considerably even within his stuff.
We are big advocates of Marie Kondo and her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. One of her central tenets is that you don’t organize bit by bit. You thoroughly have a once-in-a-lifetime clean and implement a plan of how you’ll purchase, store, and purge stuff systematically in the future. After your big organization project, you shouldn’t have to do it again except a few tidying hours here and there each year.
You’ll find that a decluttered life helps you maintain a clear head and overcome analysis paralysis over small and large life decisions. Additionally, this Couple’s Decluttering Challenge will earn you money that can be put towards something more meaningful than the spare shower curtain.
The Couple’s Decluttering Challenge
This Couple’s Decluttering Challenge won’t just help to pare down any unnecessary stuff but will help you focus on the few things you own that “spark joy” and make you happy and proud. After this challenge, you’ll be able to look around your neat home and feel content.
For Ryan and I, this means having our few favorite, handy, and cherished items out on the countertops, from our French press to our Vitamix to our mortar and pestle. You can have this feeling too. What’s more, you’ll make money and have some fun with a little, friendly competition.
Step 1: How to Decide What to Sell
As a rule of thumb, if it’s something you haven’t used in the past six months, sell it. We understand that some items are seasonal and some are sentimental, but remember that quality is more important than quantity. If these are items that are only used occasionally (like a steamer), you can borrow from a friend or rent one for the few times you need it.
For decluttering clothing, our favorite decluttering tip is to turn all of your hanger hooks inwards. Every time you wear a clothing item, hang it back correctly. If after six months you haven’t touched an item, it’s time to sell it.
Finally, if you and your partner disagree on whether or not an item should go, just let it stay. There shouldn’t be any shame or judgment if one person loves a certain item, no matter how bizarre it is to you. Remember, this exercise is to help improve your life and to create a home and space that you both love. It’s not about causing stress or rehashing why a grown adult man owns a pair of sweat shorts from Walmart (ahem, Ryan). If you’re not sure, keep it and revisit in six months.
However, if you think one person is hoarding more than necessary, talk about it and try to understand why. Compromise is critical when tidying up as a couple.
Step 2: Make it a competition.
While unorthodox, decluttering your home as a competition spurred us on to downsize before moving to Ecuador. We tried to sell everything (yes, everything! I literally sold a mop) and we kept a tally to determine who was in the lead.
Set a deadline of one month and sell away! If you don’t have one month, at least settle for two weeks. You’ll find that a lot of items go over the weekends so ideally, you’ll want to get in as many as possible.
Bonus: It’s a lot easier to let go of some items when you can make a small profit by selling them. You can also think of your item as going to a new home where it will be used more.
Step 3: Know Your Marketplaces
We highly recommend selling on Facebook Marketplace. It can be done through Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps on your phone or on your laptop. The benefits of Facebook Marketplace vs. Craigslist is that you can check out people’s profiles, filter closer locations, and rank in a buyer/seller rating system to prevent bad business. Too often on Craigslist, we would get inquiries from people far away, and you don’t want to waste time coordinating or filtering. Plus, Craigslist is creepily anonymous.
Note that we did find value in using Craigslist for our higher-cost items, including selling our $1500 Tempur-Pedic mattress on there. Just note that with Craigslist comes a lot of spammers. Be careful and be up front that you will only accept cash and pick up only from the get-go.
Step 4: Set a Reasonable Price
Before selling an item, take a quick look on Amazon.com to check what the full, new price is. Then, take 50% off if it was in ‘like-new’ condition, and 75% off if it was used. If we didn’t get any takers after two weeks, we would lower the price.
Pricing can be challenging. It’s inevitable that you’ll agonize over if it’s too high or too low. You’ll likely receive offers that are far lower than your asking price, hoping for better to come along. That’s why we’ve set a one-month deadline because one week might not give you enough offers to know if you’ve listed a good price. Don’t worry if you “lose” a buyer. There’ll be more.
Trust us. This is not a lot of work. And it’s about to get way easier with step 5.
Step 5: Leave It On Your Doorstep, Literally
When you’re selling items, coordinating amongst potential buyers takes up too much time. That’s why should pick a person who could pick it up that day — not tomorrow or this weekend, even if they messaged first. Then, tell them you’ll leave the item on your doorstep and to slip the cash under your doormat.
Never, out of the hundred or so items we’ve sold has this strategy gone awry. We lived on a walkable bar street in downtown Fort Worth. No one ever stole an item, and every item was also always paid for.
No stress, no worry, no face-to-face meeting. Keep it simple.
Step 6: Unsold Items? Time for a Yard Sale, Friend Giveaway, or Donation
There’s nothing more eco-friendly and green than recycling and reusing!
Step 7: Decide How You’ll Purchase and Purge Items in the Future
As a couple, sit down and decide how you’ll maintain your newly organized and tidy household. The simplest rule to follow is for every new item in, take an old item out. That means if you’ve upgraded or purchased a new sweater, an old sweater has to be sold or donated.
The goal of this Couple’s Decluttering Challenge is to create a permanent habit and lifestyle on how you keep and manage your possessions, together. If you need to re-do this challenge next year, then it’s time to repeat Step 7!
In our experience, completing this decluttering challenge will teach you to appreciate the material items that you own. It will also teach you to be more mindful of new material items that you bring into our life. As decluttering challenge graduates, we no longer buy anything that we don’t absolutely need, which leads to more saving as a couple. When we do buy items, we spend more time researching and deliberating. Therefore, the products we buy are top-quality, last for a long time, and come with a sense of pride.
Happy decluttering and tidying up as a couple!
If you want to learn more, here are a few of our favorite decluttering books:
What did you think of the Couple’s Decluttering Challenge? Let us know in the comments below, and we especially want to hear the best item you sold! In your new-found calm and spacious home, try our Couple’s Yoga Challenge next.
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Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “happiness engineers.” After eight years working as corporates engineers internationally, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — leading couples to engineer their best lives. The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship, as a couple.