Things I identify as: a minimalist. Things my partner, Paul, does not identify as: a minimalist. For example, I have read more books in the month of January than Paul has read in his whole life, yet if you look at our shelves you will see only a few that are actually mine. Living with someone who has differing values can be frustrating. When I decided to journey down the road of minimalism, Paul was not down for the ride. He assumed minimalism was just a trend or another fad I was going to follow for a few days and then give-up and I naively thought if I started ridding our home of what I deemed unnecessary items that he would have no problem with it.
I was fully ready to go through my items and pair down to the things that mattered. I had been reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts and TED Talks about minimalism so I was ready to make the hard changes towards of a simpler life. Paul had not been doing the research and therefore when I started decluttering our house, he felt it was almost a personal attack. He was not ready to part with all his estate-sale trinkets or all of his late father’s possessions he inherited. The more I tried to push him the more stubborn he became. I became so frustrated with him that I would shut down or we would end up in fights. He felt I was not respecting him or his things (which I wasn’t). When I finally stopping nagging or trying to force him I noticed the steps he started taking on his own towards simplicity.
Paul is still not a minimalist. However, he has decluttered a lot of his items and has made habits towards a more simpler, meaningful life. We have had long discussions and our values align now more than ever before. Through all my mistakes of trying to force him into minimalism, there are a few things I have learned and wish I would have implemented sooner. In order to save you and your roommate, friend, sibling, parent, spouse, partner, etc’s sanity I recommend the following:
- Do not try to change them. Trust me I tried. I tried to convince, plead, argue and even threaten Paul to become a minimalist and my tactics did not work. You cannot convince someone to partake in something, especially a lifestyle change, if they are not ready (like the religious groups trying to convert you by knocking on your door). Trying to force my partner into minimalism was like trying to bathe a cat. It lead to multiple unnecessary arguments and strain on our relationship. People do things when they are good and ready on their own terms, not on yours.
- Do not get rid of their things without permission. I repeat, DO NOT GET RID OF OTHER PEOPLE’S THINGS WITHOUT PERMISSION. It may come as a shock, but people do not appreciate when others get rid of their things without asking. As a bad minimalist, I am guilty of doing this with Paul’s stuff. I have no trouble deciding what things other people should get rid of and am happy to toss it out for them, no problem. Needless to say, Paul was (rightfully) pissed when I got rid of his belongings behind his back and this (of course) lead to arguments. Everyone’s journey into a life with less is different and it is so important that the owners of the possessions decide what is worth keeping and what is worth parting with. It is not our job to worry about other people’s things so mind your own business.
- Do lead by example. This has proven the best way to inspire someone to live a life with less. When people see you living your life with more time, more money, and more joy they will undoubtably want to know how they can have these things as well. The more I kept quiet and just assessed my own life, purged my unnecessary items and set new goals, the more Paul started joining in. Just the other week he purged a huge portion of his DVD collection, something he had previously stated he never would do. When I kept focus on my own life, Paul saw the changes in me and reassessed his decisions. Like my dad always says “Preach always, but speak only sometimes.”
- Do discuss points of view. Be open with your partner (or whoever) about why you find meaning in a minimalist lifestyle and talk about the importance of a life with less stress. Discuss what you want your future to look like. Can selling some of your items or downsizing your house save money for a better future? Can removing toxic people from your life improve your relationships with the people who matter? Also, if there are disagreements about lifestyle, is there a compromise? Probably. Discussing what we wanted from our lives and for our future was the best argument for minimalism I could hope for. When we decided what we wanted, minimalism was an obvious road to take to get there and sparked the decision to create our budget.
- Do be patient and let that shit go. Like I said above, people make decisions in their own time, not yours. Waiting for someone to come around to minimalism can be frustrating, trust me. The less I focused on him and his things and focused on myself the more he changed. It took years and it is still a process. I know that if I just wait instead of nagging him he will make the decision on his own without argument and resentment, even if it is not on my timeline. I let go of feeling like I needed to change him and in turn he changed himself on his own.
Living with a non-minimalist when you are one is stressful. It is tempting to grab a garbage bag and start filling it with all their crap or try to change their habits, but that is not your job. Your job is to focus on you and the changes you are making towards a healthier, happier life with less. When you turn the focus inwards you will be amazed at all the outward changes in your life, including the changes you inspired for those around you.