My partner thinks that we have too much stuff, she even calls me a “hoarder.” I think she is overly controlling of our space-always wanting everything perfect. I want to have 15 framed photos even if she decides we only have room for 13! I know it isn’t a really BIG problem, we are quite happy together! But how should couples compromise around space?

Boy, this is a very common issue I’ve never been asked before!

Clearly, it is a perpetual issue. I would encourage you to have an area (room, floor, basement)  where you can keep those things that are most important to you to have and display. Let’s your partner have a clear space (room, floor, basement) of their own as well.

Then, with one area, make it a “compromise” area. If it’s not a power struggle, talk about what you want in that common area and what you are willing to let go of and keep only in your own area. Let your partner do the same. Why this item? What does it signify about your relationship? Why is it important to keep in a common area?

Do you know why your partner likes the space the way she does? Can you take her side and argue convincingly why she wants it with “less stuff”?  Can she do the same for you?

Giving your loved one labels like “hoarder” is never conducive to a productive dialogue. Some people just love to be surrounded by their stuff and some like less stuff around them. If she allows 13 photos, and you want 15, clearly both of you are reasonable people. If she has really wanted only one, and you wanted 15, the differences would be starker.

Some people simply can’t concentrate with many items filling their space. For others, a sparse room makes them uncomfortable. That is why having a room of your own is important in every family, even if it’s not an entire room, but a “space.” Both of you need to have some comfort in your home.

Word has it that James Taylor and Carly Simon when they were married, each had a wing of their house, decorated dramatically differently. In the middle, was a room they shared, with elements of each’s style.

Sometimes, even if you don’t own a mansion, you have to keep separate areas to enjoy your separate tastes. And if you can’t compromise on 14 photos, maybe this issue has a deeper meaning for each of you that you’ll be advised to explore.

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