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The “I Hate Your Stuff” Rug reflects the challenge of living with someone else’s things when our tastes, needs and habits differ.

Because sometimes you just want to sweep the ugly stuff under the rug and save yourself a lot of arguments…

Our personal things are important to us. They express who we are, enable us to do the things we love, and create happy memories. But it can be challenging to live in homes surrounded by someone else’s stuff. Maybe it’s even stuff that you secretly hate. And as we find ourselves making do with smaller living spaces, we can only expect the things we surround ourselves with to become even more of a source of friction. So, what do we do when we have to live with other people’s stuff?

40% of people say that they live with things they hate, but can’t throw them away because they belong to someone else.

“My wife hates it, but I’ve had this sofa since I lived on my own. I won’t let her throw it away and it probably causes the most arguments in our home.”– Raminder, recently married, India.

Our research shows that people struggle to live with other people’s belongings due to a limited amount of space, or differences in style, preferences or use – but a significant number of people find it hard to talk about. This means there is a “cold war” in many homes based on the various things each household member brings into our space.

“If we do fight, we do it silently. For me, my plants are my weapons; I put a plant on someone’s ugly piece of furniture…” – Home Pioneer Christopher, co-living with friends in Germany.

Choose country

There are some things in my home I hate but I can't throw away, because they don't belong to me

When the past becomes the present

“Though I agreed to let him save those love letters a few years ago, I am still unhappy every time I see them.” – Yin Chen, married, with 13-year-old child, China.

Our research shows that personal items – the ones most likely to be kept hidden away from partners or family – are strong links to the past. Objects that carry emotional or personal meaning cannot possibly be shared with others – and they can sometimes come to represent a painful divide between people in their own homes.

40% have thrown away something that belongs to someone they live with, without telling them, and 27% didn’t think the other person wouldn’t notice. What’s more, 1 in 10 do it to deliberately annoy the other person.

How we deal with stuff we hate, but they love

“Straight talking requires courage. But talking and deciding together is better for both of us.” – Home Pioneer Izumi,living with her parents and children in a multi-generational house, Japan.

Having an open discussion about the things we hate, but others love, seems to be key. But not everyone goes down this route… We have heard extreme examples of people running to catch up with the rubbish collectors, or going back to the charity shop once they realise the significance of the thing they have thrown away to the person they love. That said, 1 in 10 still do it deliberately to annoy the other person! So why is it so difficult to learn to live with other people’s stuff?

42% think it’s awkward to talk about the things we own at home.

This means many of us live with compromises, which makes us unhappy. Or we argue over assumptions, because our agreements are not clearly set. So how can we use this knowledge to make our lives at home a little better?

“As a person who likes to do design or décor or whatever, I felt a little defeated. I’m like, ‘I’m not even going to bother trying to make this place look the way I want it to look’, so I was like, ‘I’ll just save it.’” – Celina, living with different people in a communal apartment complex, USA.

Can we learn to live with stuff we hate, but they love?

“There is no such thing as shared things, only shared spaces.” – Psychologist Roy Langmaid.

Our research shows that almost everything we can see and touch in our home has an “owner”, whether we are conscious of it or not. The best way to achieve harmony in the home – despite living with the stuff you have – is to encourage a mutual appreciation of each other’s things. It’s about creating shared value, not shared ownership.

“There needs to be some effort from the partner, or the new person, to stamp their own value on these possessions. This will help create a more harmonious life at home, while accepting that something can be ‘mine’, but also feel like ‘ours’ at different points in our lives.” – Researcher Professor Russell Belk, expert in material cultures.

Home pioneer voices

“I've also tried to stress the importance of limiting what we own to other family members, so they might make decisions to eliminate unnecessary items.” – Jennifer, USA

“I'm lucky in the sense that my wife and I have made our home together. But I also think we are good at discussing and reaching compromises that are acceptable for both parties. I think however, that I'm more tolerant than my wife and that my things receive significantly more criticism than hers.”

“My advice is to choose your battles, but to stand firm if the item really bothers you that much. But again, it comes down to the respect and understanding between the people sharing the space.” – Christian, Denmark

Looking for ways to beat the battles at home? Learn from the Home Pioneers here

Explore the other battles.