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I share a bedroom with my younger sister, she is currently 15 and I am 20. Recently I have been becoming very stressed out with the clutter in the room. I begun cleaning out my own belongings, following the KonMari method of disposing of things that no longer spark joy. This is going really well - I have removed a lot of my own clutter and am still working to improve it.

However, it's quickly becoming obvious that my sister is a large cause of a lot of the clutter, so much so that she's metaphorically shooting herself in the foot with the sheer quantity of unused and unwanted things that she keeps around.

One example of this is our desk. On the desk, there is a pile of her old school books, and also a pile of her clothes that she doesn't wear or no longer fits. Mixed in with these clothes is occasionally pieces of her school uniform, or kit for P.E. (exercise class, gym, whatever you want to call it). Because of the sheer quantity of things piled on the desk, she cannot use her desk for school work, and instead does all of her school work sitting on the bedroom floor. She is unable to put her schoolwork away, because the storage space we have next to the desk is also filled with her old school work, along with miscellaneous stuff that I don't know what it is but it's her stuff.

Another example: she sometimes plays video games with her friends. There is a space next to the TV that would be ideal for her games consoles, however they cannot go there as this space is filled with.. more clothes. a big ol' pile of them. Her drawers are filled up with more clothes that she doesn't wear/don't fit her - her main clothes pile that she actually to wear the clothes out of seems to be over in a different part of the room. (Until I sorted through my clothes again this month she was using MY clothes drawer as a footstool while gaming, which really annoyed me).

As much as I'd love to throw all of her stuff in binbags and say "Hey, if you want anything out of there take it out before I take it to the tip!" I think this is inappropriate (plus the konMari book says not to mess with other peoples' stuff). However it's really causing me some stress - I can't use storage because it's filled with her stuff that she's not even using. I only ever see her do 3 or 4 things in our room, play video games on her (floor-located) consoles, use her tablet (or a combination of the two), or do schoolwork (on the floor because the desk is full). So even the drawers and piles filled with miscellaneous stuff are useless. It's not a simple case of a few cups here and there - there's a whole corner of the room that I don't even know what's under it!

I've spoken to my parents about this, but they've basically just said that they can't get her to do anything either. She's used a variety of excuses to me (largely "I don't feel like it" which, how can I even do anything about that?? and also "mum doesn't want me to throw anything away" which I know full well isn't true). I have tried things like offering to work together on cleaning and sorting the belongings, and this has just not convinced her. Recently the mess has been really getting to me and it's caused some bickering between us, which I feel isn't helping my cause. So what I'm really looking for is a good interpersonal way of getting her to do it which won't result in her responding in personal insults (which has been the only way she's been communicating with me in the past week or two) or my parents getting mad at me.

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    I'm not sure I understand the situation-- is your sister's clutter getting in the way of you doing things you want to do in your room, which you want to fix so that you can use your space? Or are you wanting to nudge your sister towards a more clutter-free life? – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Nov 13 '18 at 16:39
  • @Upper_case both. Right now our room is just piles of stuff with around a square meter or two of floorspace. Id like her to reduce her clutter so that both of us can use the room for something that isn't lying in bed or piling things up next to each other. Even sorting my own stuff out has been difficult because I can't get to some of it when her stuff is in the way, and because the storage is filled with random stuff I don't have anywhere to put the things I do want to keep! – Styxal Nov 13 '18 at 17:12
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    Have you made any attempt with her to split up the room so you can keep some part of it the way you want? – DaveG Nov 13 '18 at 19:36
  • @DaveG well we sort-of have areas where we both put our own stuff. I have my bags and stuff piled up in front of the bookshelf, and a few pairs of worn-once jeans at the end of our bed (we have a bunk bed). I also have 2 drawers to myself and the storage in the bedside table. The problem is that her piles always begin to spread into my stuff and across the floor. If I want to get into the wardrobe, for instance, I have to climb over a ton of her miscellaneous junk that she doesn't even care about, and also push her consoles to a different spot on the floor. It's annoying. – Styxal Nov 14 '18 at 8:59
  • To clarify my bags are only in front of the bookshelf because there is nowhere else to put them - I'm aware they're in the way if you want any books from the bookshelf, if I could put them elsewhere I would. – Styxal Nov 14 '18 at 9:02
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I think that it is your sister's responsibility to clean her share of the mess, it's just common courtesy if you are sharing a room.

My brother and I shared a room for much of our life (also a 5 year difference), and we had a few similar instances, though nothing as extreme as you describe.

That said, there is very little you can do to press the moral obligation upon your sister. From the sound of it, she doesn't care that she is causing you distress, or she doesn't understand. If she is throwing around insults, I'd reckon the former is more likely.

If this really means a lot to you, I would recommend you sweeten the deal. Offer to do the dishes for a week if she cleans out all of her garbage. In my experience, there's a good chance something like that will work.

In the chance that this doesn't work, I don't know what to tell you. Your sister seems to be very aggressive when the topic comes up, and responding kindly to that will not get you anywhere quick. Sure, Ghandi and MLK managed to make peace work in the long run, but they sure as hell suffered for it.

Quick story time:

When I was a little kid, I never wanted to clean my room. It turned into a garbage heap after a while, and my mom couldn't get me to clean it up. So, she made the smartest parenting move I've ever seen. She cleaned it herself. She got rid of EVERYTHING that wasn't in its proper place. Threw it all in trash bags, sent it out to the curb. I was allowed to take 3 things out of the bags to keep, everything else was thrown away. I lost many good playing cards that day. I was furious for a while, but I sure as hell learned my lesson. Now, whenever my room gets too messy, I come home to find a plastic trash bag on my bed. It's a silent message from my mother: "Either you do it yourself, or I'll do it for you"

IMHO, I think the best course of action, if your sister won't negotiate, is to just start doing it for her. Even better if she is present when you do it. If what you say is true, she will get no sympathy if she tries to run to your mother for help. Tell her exactly what my mother conveyed to me: "Either you do it yourself, or I'll do it for you"

If you do this, you accomplish two things. You get a clean room, and you show your sister that she can't walk all over you. I'm the younger sibling in the equation, and I can say 100% that sometimes we need to learn that lesson.

The KonMari method you describe sounds like a good method, to be sure, but I don't think you should subscribe to it religiously. It sounds to me like your sister needs a metaphorical slap in the face.

P.S. If you want to do this without actually throwing her stuff out, try to hide it all in the attic or some other place she won't look, when she is not around. This way you can get the same effect, but she won't blow up as much from losing her stuff.

P.P.S you should 100% run this method by your mother beforehand, if you decide to go with it. It will work much better if she is on board. Feel free to use me as a testimonial if you need to.

  • For now I'll see how it goes with suggesting to her that we both put together some DVDs we don't want, to sell them, but this idea is definitely on the table for if it still doesn't work out after that. – Styxal Nov 19 '18 at 12:01
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While Cubemaster’s method seems quite effective, it also seems quite confrontational so I thought you might benefit from an alternative (after which you can still use Cubemaster’s method if it fails).

I’m not saying it’s your responsibility to keep the peace (if your sister is routinely insulting you she certainly doesn’t seem to do her part) but you are sharing a room (and you are sisters) so maybe it’s worth it to try a more cooperative approach first.

I think your sister would enjoy having a decluttered room but the long-term rewards don’t outweigh the short-term efforts in her mind (in a word, procrastination). You could try and sit down with her and tell her how you feel about all the cluttering (with the usual spiel of non-judgmental I-statements) and sincerely ask her whether she would prefer a clutter-free room (and maybe you can subtly mention some ways in which she would benefit from it – you listed some good ones in your post here already). If she says yes, suggest to clean together and have her pick a date and time a few days from now. Have her get her agenda/planner and write down your appointment (and treat it as such). This way, the cleaning effort is also distant, much like the rewards (which are only marginally more distant this time). Hopefully, this also circumvents the “I don’t feel like it” excuse since even if she doesn’t feel like it now, she doesn’t know how she will feel at the time of your appointment, at which time she will already have agreed to clean the room. Then, when the time of your appointment is there, work together to clean the room. Of course, if she refuses to keep your appointment you still have Cubemaster’s threats, but I think there’s a good chance she won’t if you approach this as a cooperative effort and help her. In other words, be on her side. Maybe you can teach her this KonMari method (I don’t know it, but it seems to have helped you quite a lot) or show her how to sort (and throw out) her stuff in a different way.

This may feel like undeserved hand-holding, but I think it could really help her which might appeal to you since you care about your little sister (hopefully).

I’m suggesting this because in the past I have put off many tasks (a bad habit I still am prone to) and when I still lived with my parents sometimes one of them took interest/pity and helped me by making an appointment and assisting with the procrastinated task much like I described above. The best example is when I was putting off boxing my stuff to move out. I had found a tiny apartment close to the college I was going to shortly before and now I had to plan the move. I didn’t have a lot of stuff to move and I was genuinely looking forward to living on my own, but somehow I still didn’t take action. After a while my father simply told me he would rent a van and pick up my boxes and me at a specific time on a specific day. At the agreed time, I stood outside with my boxes feeling immensely grateful.

  • +1 for you, good sir/madam. I don't think I stressed enough that my method is really best as a last resort, your way will probably be a better starting point. It seems we are the angel and the devil atop OP's shoulders – Cubemaster Nov 16 '18 at 14:13
  • After I removed some books from the bookcase, she has begun to clear out some of her bits of paper which was a really good start. I sent her a message today to ask her if she'd mind if we went through the DVDs together tonight, I think that you're right, that she'll need to see the immediate reward for doing it, so I've suggested that we sell them after so she can have a little extra cash. Hoping that'll help move it along a bit :) – Styxal Nov 19 '18 at 11:19

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