My artist husband is filling our lives with clutter

Dear Richard,

My husband and I have been happily married for nearly 40 years. He’s an interesting, funny and good man, who works hard. So far, so good. The problem is he is incredibly untidy. I don’t just mean he leaves the lid up (funnily enough, he never does) but he leaves a trail of destruction everywhere he goes. He is an artist, so collects things the rest of us throw away; his ‘collections’ have filled our small cottage.

My concern now is that I have increasingly poor mobility, and I am in constant fear of falling over something. I love my garden, but even outside is filled with rubbish, and I barely went into it at all last year. So, is it too late to change him? I would hate to become a nag, as he is a lovely bloke, but now we are retired, I am looking ahead to a chaotic old age and genuinely fear for what would happen to him if I die first, or what on earth I would do with all this junk if I am frail and alone. Suggestions gratefully received!

— Petra, via

Dear Petra,

I sense you’re offering your husband some kind of special dispensation because he’s ‘an artist’. Phooey. Clutter is clutter. Lots of us accumulate it and reach the point where active ‘decluttering’ is called for. In your case, it sounds well overdue and, frankly, a matter of domestic health and safety. Time to act.

The good news is you don’t have to do it yourself. Google ‘decluttering services near me’ and dozens of local firms will pop up. Let him know you’ll be calling one in two weeks’ time, say. There may be things he uses in his work: OK, they need to be in his studio or study, or shed, or wherever he works. The rest of the house is your space too, and you need to feel safe and peaceful there.

Be kind but firm. It’s simply unacceptable that you feel in danger in your own home and unable to use your own garden. And there’s no need to worry about being ‘a nag’. Spring has sprung. Time for a spot of spring-cleaning, Petra!

You can find more of Richard Madeley’s advice here or submit your own dilemma below.

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