OK, we all agree that stuff is a problem … now what?

September 28, 2020

Discordance is a big word to describe what can be a big problem—a lack of agreement or consistency, typically inside a relationship. 

And stuff discordance is how I describe that lack of agreement when the issue is “stuff” and there’s friction and possibly even conflict between you and the people you share space with.

If you’re arguing or fighting over stuff, you’re in a state of stuff discordance!

And if you’re just seeing this for the first time, this is Part 3 of a series … so you can catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2  here.

Ok—you’ve sat down with the other people who share your space and you’ve had “the talk.” And even better, you’ve all agreed that things could improve.

Congratulations! The hardest part is over.

Now all you have to do is collaborate on a solution. Easy, right?

I say collaboration instead of compromise because compromising always feels like everyone loses something. Which short of a war, is the last place you want to end up.

I’d much rather aim for “win, win” as the best outcome.

When done right, collaboration takes everyone’s buy-in into account and results in a solution that everybody is excited about.

So, how can you collaborate when opinions are all over the map

Just follow these three simple steps and you’ll see.


This sounds simple, and it is, but it’s not always easy. Which is exactly why it’s important to do … and do first.

When everyone agrees that clutter or stuff is causing problems in your space(s), you then need to state what that problem or those problems are.

You can’t collaborate on the solution until everyone is working on the same problem. 

Make sure everyone agrees that the problem you’ve identified is the right one to solve.

After all, it’s no use going out and buying a new basket for the mail if not everyone agrees that having a central location for the mail is creating complications or conflict.

So, make sure that when defining the problem, it is personality-neutral and not focused on anyone’s specific behavior.

This should never be a covert, passive-aggressive way of controlling one person by not naming them and then engaging everyone else in your secret posse.

What we’re looking for is something like: “Because we don’t have an agreed upon home for the mail, it often ends up on the first surface whoever brings it in can find, and then important items sometimes go missing and bills get paid late.”


Now that you all agree on the problem you’re solving, it’s time to get everyone focused on a solution that has universal buy-in.

This means a solution that everyone weighs in on and agrees to, NOT a “my house, my rules” or “because I’m the boss” demand.

There are a few different ways to get at this. Use The Organizational Triangle® as a litmus test for which ideas will and won’t work. Does someone’s idea involve more than one home for everything? Since it fails the triangle test, keep brainstorming.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say the thing that REALLY gets on everyone’s nerves is that the whole family likes to charge their phones in the kitchen BUT not in the same place. 

As a result, too much counter space is lost with random electronics and other people will sometimes unplug someone else’s device, move it and then the owner can’t find it AND it’s lost its charge again.

In peak charging times, you’ve got plugs and wires everywhere, which the puppy is only too happy to chew on when he can.

So what’s the solution? 

Using the principles of one home for everything and like with like, create one charging station for the whole family that is easily accessible to everyone AND makes sense as a location, with enough space for everyone’s devices. 

That station should live where it’s out of the way of frequent kitchen activities like cooking and eating, but where everyone can reach it easily and quickly.

Everyone but the puppy, anyway.

The important thing here is to involve everyone in the decision. 

No one wants to be told what they have to do. They want to be in on the decision-making process. Even if the final result isn’t their first choice, they will at least understand why.

And as a result, everyone now has a stake in maintaining the new location and supporting each other in successfully making the transition.


Once you’ve landed on a solution that will work for everyone, like a single charging station in one room, involve the whole group in implementing it.

This is an opportunity to delegate, which is inclusive AND takes work off your plate at the same time.

So, in our charging station example, you might delegate some tasks to your kids, like researching the smallest, most durable charging stations and then presenting their recommendations to the rest of the family.

You could even let them purchase the winning device and any additional cables online—and then set it up and give the family a tutorial on how everything works.

This level of inclusivity does two things. 

It allows everyone involved to feel personally committed to the success of the solution, and it also makes everyone feel heard and respected.

That’s a good thing whether you’re a parent, a spouse, a roommate, or a colleague.


Solving the problem of a messy house or a sloppy office is a great opportunity to practice group problem-solving. Collaborating on the solution for even an issue as small as a home for the TV remotes has a huge impact on the nature of relationships.

The way you do anything is the way you do everything, so considering all perspectives even for seemingly trivial issues around the home is important. 

Remember that the first time you do this, you’re laying the groundwork for future collaborative problem solving which should get easier each time you do it.

When you create a culture that not only feels inclusive but IS inclusive, problems get solved fast.

And when you need buy-in on major issues, like a relocation or something else that may be unexpected and impacts everyone, there’s already good will “capital” you can tap into to quickly get everyone onboard and moving in the same direction.

Do not underestimate the precedent this creates for any larger, more complex conversations, and how this demonstrates your commitment to an environment of mutual respect.

This doesn’t mean that everyone will always agree, but it does mean that every time you need to solve a problem, you have a method you can use to collaborate on solutions that benefit everyone.

Using a communal process for communal issues is a win, win for all parties. 

The people who share your space—including you—will be better for it and less likely to have individual “stuff” issues as well.

All of this may be easier said than done, of course. A blog article is a great place to start, but it may not be the most effective solution for some complex or entrenched problems. 
That’s why I created a special masterclass just for folks who often find themselves in a conflict over stuff. Join us on October 7 to rescue your sanity, tidy up your space(s), AND improve your relationships, all at the same time.

Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!