One very hard lesson I have learned over just this past couple of years is that when I tidy stuff up it has to be for me and not my spouse or anyone else who lives in my home! Too often I would look for appreciation and encouragement from my spouse and when it was not forthcoming I would feel incredibly hurt and discouraged. It wasn’t until I realized that it was foolish of me to be expecting someone else to provide confirmation of my self-worth that my attitude changed.
When you start to tidy/declutter/clean you must do it for your own satisfaction. I suggest that instead of trying to tackle a huge task, choose one specific area and work on it until it is as ideal as you can get it. A small area is best if you are feeling really overwhelmed. Instead of looking at an entire room, look at the top of a dresser or bathroom vanity.
Agree with yourself to only work on that small area. If you want to tidy a dining room table and there is just too much stuff on it, I suggest you agree to clear enough space for one person to sit and use the table top. Too often it is looking at the huge task ahead that cripples us into doing nothing instead. Use your own judgment for the measurement of satisfaction or ideal.
If your spouse feels anywhere near as bad as I do at times because of the mess then I can understand their frustration. It is just as difficult for the person living with clutter/hoarding as it is for the hoarder, believe me! It may even be harder but as I cannot put myself in my spouse’s shoes I cannot say for sure. All I know is that there are many days when I struggle with the desire to just run as far away from the mess as I can get.
I can’t emphasize this enough – you must do this for yourself and not others. YOU take pleasure in your progress and celebrate the wins no matter how small. It is one of the toughest battles to pull a house out of clutter and back into normalcy because it is not just a physical act – it is highly charged with emotional and mental anguish.
One of the issues for the non-hoarding spouse is that they can only see the ‘big picture’ and therefore won’t notice the small details the way you do. If you can work on one area and totally clear it of excess and maintain it, maybe your spouse will start to see things a little differently.
Unfortunately, it is quite possible you have a rough road ahead of you as improvement won’t happen overnight. Every single day I have to resist the temptation to just take everything that I can’t stand the sight of and toss it in the trash. I spend more time ‘shuffling’ stuff from one room to another than I do actually eliminate because I have gotten rid of everything that I deem ‘trash’ i.e. recycling/unwanted clothes/donate items. I now have to deal with the ‘good’ stuff, much of it to be sold because that is the only way my spouse will allow it to leave the house.
I empathize with you if you are the hoarder but being the one living with a hoarder I can easily see your spouse’s point of view because I live it every day too.
One small step at a time. Just keep on working away at it. The mess didn’t just suddenly appear overnight and so it won’t disappear that quickly either.