Whether you realize it or not, clutter causes stress and can put a strain on your relationship with your spouse and children, relationship expert Dr. Michelle Callahan says. “Clutter robs your home of peaceful and romantic energy and instead fills it with disorganization and anxiety,” she says. Dr. Callahan offers advice on how to get rid of clutter in your home and relationships.

Your bedroom is meant to bring feelings of relaxation and romance, Dr. Callahan says. “If an item isn’t contributing to those feelings, move it or lose it,” she says. Make sure all items are in their necessary places and not creating a mess in your bedroom. “Keep the kids’ things in their own rooms, and use an organization system to keep your personal items stored out of sight,” Dr. Callahan says.

When you and your spouse create a vision for how you want your home to look, you are more likely to work toward achieving that ideal and less likely to accumulate clutter that’s not part of the vision, Dr. Callahan says. “The clutter won’t go away unless you both have a unified goal of a clutter-free home,” she says.

Regardless of who’s creating the clutter, it affects both spouses, Dr. Callahan says. “The items that become clutter are usually purchased with money that belongs to your family, and clutter takes up space that the two of you share,” she says. “Talk to your spouse about the clutter in your home. Try to understand where it came from and develop a considerate, relationship-promoting solution to getting rid of your clutter.”

Establish a budget that will help you limit the purchases that create clutter. “Sometimes clutter is disorganization; other times it is overspending,” Dr. Callahan says. “Creating a family budget will help you realize when you are buying things that you don’t need and can’t afford.” She says you can increase your motivation to stick to the budget by making a list of the benefits of spending less money on your clutter collection and ask yourself, “What can my spouse and I do with the money saved?”

Since you can’t tackle everything right away, make a plan and create a schedule for decluttering each space in your home, Dr. Callahan says. To make tidying up easier, she recommends dividing each space into smaller spaces. “You can organize in less time than it takes you to become discouraged from finishing the task,” she says.

Consider how clutter creates stress in your life and in your relationship. “Clutter causes people to feel anxious, disorganized—like the walls are closing in on them and they have no space to relax,” Dr. Callahan says. “Ask yourself, ‘Is keeping clutter really worth it?'”

As you get organized and clear out your clutter, you and your spouse can share a small celebration for a job well done, Dr. Callahan says. Try making some money by selling your extra items online or at a garage sale, and use the proceeds for something special that the two of you can enjoy, she says.

You and your spouse can experience the wonderful feeling of sharing with someone in need by giving away useful things that have become clutter in your home, Dr. Callahan says. “You can give away your things to a friend who you already know would love them or to a nonprofit that provides services to people who really need those things,” she says.

Make organizing a fun game that your children can play as they learn how to keep their toys in order. Help them decide what to save and what to give away, Dr. Callahan says. Also, get your friends involved in the decluttering process. “You can invite friends over to help or simply keep you company while you get organized,” she says. “You can even agree to swap help.”

If you or your partner have been trying to get rid of the clutter in your lives for years without any success, you may need some help, Dr. Callahan says. Hoarding may be an outward sign that you need to see a psychologist or counselor, especially if you’ve been struggling with unpleasant emotions or difficult experiences for a long time.

From Peter Walsh’s Oprah Radio show “Couples and Clutter” © 2009 Harpo Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.