Q: My husband’s father died over a year ago, and we still have his things in storage. I keep pushing to get rid of them because I hate to pay for storage. He says he isn’t ready. What do I do?
“Not ready” is kind of a loaded, and vague, statement. We need to lean into why and seek understanding versus resolution. Why is your husband not ready, and have you asked him that?
The reality is if you push him too much, he will either pull away from you or you’ll end up in a dispute. My guess is that has already happened, which is why you are writing to me.
The other reality is to pay for storage costs you both money every month. We see this a lot when we work with clients. Almost every client has a unit full of “stuff.” Right now we’ve got a client who’s moving stuff from a storage unit in one state to a storage unit in another.
I want to emphasize that just because he’s struggling doesn’t mean you can’t push. But pushing doesn’t always mean using force. Instead, you can do it with seeking understanding.
Money links directly to the unit, so you think the unit is the problem. But him making the decision is the real problem, and that has nothing to do with the money. If this were a decision to be made solely on the money you pay for storage, he already would have made it. But that’s not his motivation.
Let’s find out what that motivation really is. Ask him open-ended questions like, “Help me understand what’s keeping us from resolving this?” He may feel overwhelmed and not know how to tackle it. Or maybe he’s just tired. Especially if he cleaned out his father’s house – that takes a huge emotional toll, and he may not want to dive into that painful work again.
Think of it this way – something there is more costly than the money. In his head, he’s going, “It’s totally worth $500/month for me not to have to deal with this.” It may not even be a conscious thought. But if you can quantify that, then you can start to look at options.
So, here’s what not to say: “You need to take care of this, it’s costing us $500 a month to pay for storage! It’s crazy, here it is on our bill again.”
Instead, push this way: “This unit is clearly a big thing for us. How can I help? Would you like me to go with you and help sort through it?”
You can set a deadline – say, the next 30 days. You can create a plan – suggest that you go together every weekend for three hours and knock it out. Remind him that you can see this is difficult for him, and you understand.
When the weekend rolls around, he may waffle about going. If that happens, say, “Avoiding this is no longer an option, we’ve agreed to settle it. I’m moving forward with this.” Go and start to empty the unit on your own.
Now, don’t do this in a pissed off way. Ask him if he’d like to write a list of things he knows are in there that he wants to keep. If he says he can’t remember, then that’s a great reason for him to go with you.
The reality is that maybe he’s holding onto it because it’s the last thing that connects him to his dad. Someone important to him died. This isn’t about you, but it does have implications for you. Welcome to being married! Ultimately, the healthiest thing you can do is to make a conscious decision not to be bitter about it.