Clutter in the home can contribute to stress in a relationship! That's the word from Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who says that's especially true if one partner sees "treasure" in piles of clutter, while the other sees piles of "junk!" Dr. Hallowell says couples who argue about clutter are often really arguing about who's in charge, and unless couples address their clutter conflict, it can spell doom for the relationship. For example: An argument about dirty clothes on the floor may, on a deeper level, be an argument about feeling controlled. Dr. Hallowell says most couples learn to compromise on clutter, because a certain amount is considered "okay." It's when the clutter spreads, and takes over, that it becomes as damaging to a relationship as problems with money, intimacy, or kids. That's because for some people, a disorganized house is a big red flag that home and family are not a top priority. For example, a pile of clutter could be a sign that one partner cares more about their possessions than their relationship. It can also create conflict if the clutter is from a previous relationship, like your old wedding album from your first marriage. That may make your partner feel like you're hanging onto that person and haven't fully embraced your new life. So, how can you and your partner manage a clutter conflict without destroying your relationship? When you argue about clutter, psychologists say what you're really arguing about is something deeper. So, here are some tips to help you resolve your "clutter conflict," from psychologist Dr. Ann Tublin: * First: Understand that clutter problems are normal. In fact, they're often learned in childhood, from a parent with overflowing closets, or newspapers all over the kitchen. If you grow up that way, you think it's normal. * Next: Identify the clutter "hot spots" that cause the most stress in your relationship. For many couples, it's the entryway, where everyone drops their stuff. But when that's the first thing you see when you walk in, it sets the tone for the whole house. Another problem spot is the bedroom. It's supposed to be a calm, restful place, but visual clutter heightens stress. Also realize that some clutter has a deeper meaningful to the other person. For example: If they hang onto piles of books, and you want to get rid of them, to the book hoarder it means giving up hope of ever having enough free time to read them all. So they're not just giving up book, they're giving up hope. * Finally, if you're still arguing about clutter, talk to a therapist. The reality is that clutter can be as damaging to a relationship as problems with money, intimacy, or kids, and an expert can help you and your partner show that the relationship comes first, before any possessions.