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How to Live With a Pack Rat

You need to be respectful of your significant other — and all of the stuff that comes with him.

It’s easy to define someone else’s stuff as clutter and toss it willy-nilly because you have no emotional connection to it. That Dick Cheney bobble-head your friends gave you as a gag birthday gift may be one of your prized possessions, but your spouse might think it’s a kitschy eyesore.

Partners should approach decluttering with compromise and respect, says professional organizer Pamela Hertel, of Sheboygan Falls, Wis. Neither party should be held hostage in their home by the other’s mess. By the same token, it’s unfair to impose an unobtainable standard of perfection on your partner.

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“You have to believe that this house is a home for both of you,” Hertel says. You may like to keep everything out of sight, while your partner may need visual cuing, with everything laid out as a reminder. In a shared space, such as the kitchen, perhaps the neatnik can accommodate the clutterer with attractive countertop containers. Identify spaces and places in the home where each of you can be free to organize—or not—your way. Those might include a dresser or desk, an office or a “man cave.”

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