Minimalism & Marriage | Getting Your Spouse On Board

 

So you're happily spring cleaning. You're elbows deep in junk. You've got the windows open, you're in your groove and singing a happy tune. Boxes and bags are piling up next to the garage, ready to be hauled off and you're already feeling lighter knowing you'll never have to clean around that stuff again.

Enter stage left: your spouse.

They're suspiciously eyeing those boxes. Nope, now they're opening one up to discover an old baseball glove. *reverently sets it aside* Then they spy that trophy from elementary. Then they yank out the George Foreman grill you haven't used in years but have been keeping "just in case." Then they come over, stomping all over your paring-down progress, incredulous that you would throw such treasures away.

Chin up, buttercup. This is the "for better or worse" you promised each other.

An unyielding partner isn't always the case. Some spouses are elated that you've jumped on the minimalist bandwagon and are ready to ditch the clutter. But others are not so open. This could be due to lack of communication, sentimental attachment to possessions, or deeper issues like past trauma or OCD. When dealing with the latter, tread lightly. Seek support for your partner. But if it's a matter of communication, begin by sharing your enthusiasm and why you're excited to own less. Help them catch the vision. Pursue this life change together and use it as an opportunity to grow deeper in your relationship.

And most importantly, listen to any concerns they have. Like, really listen. I've had people sell me things before and I legitimately have a dozen+ worries and reasons not to buy it. And then they proceed to railroad me, dismissing every one, not hearing my heart, not hearing my hesitation. They're not interested in me - they are interested in winning. They are interested in being right. They are interested in making money. They want to convince me at all cost, and it shuts me down fast. Don't be that person. You've all been in that situation. This is not time to put the boxing gloves on. This is time to take the boxing gloves off, sit side by side for a heart to heart and then hopefully take those boxing gloves to the thrift store. 

Spouse is on board? Awesome! Go get 'em! Hold each other accountable and ask the hard questions, giving honest answers. Are we really going to use this again? Do we actually need this? Bag it, put it in your trunk, and get it out of your house ASAP.

While you'll make major headway together, roadblocks are inevitable. Or if your spouse is still not sold, there's hope.

The bad news? When you live with someone you share stuff, and you don't get to call all the shots on shared stuff.

The good news: you can control your stuff. 

Start there. Begin sifting your own - your clothes, shoes, accessories, products, office supplies, books, etc. Once they see the difference (e.g. the empty space on your side of the closet, the ease with which you get ready, the time you save by not looking for things) it will likely be enough for them to get on board.

Here are a few tips I'd advise when bringing minimalism into your marriage...

Tip 1. Don't touch their stuff. Bad idea and the fastest way to raise their defenses. Wait for them to tackle their own junk when they're ready.

Tip 2. Walk the talk. Don't go preaching if your closet is bursting and you're scared of your junk drawer. They'll never take you seriously. 

Tip 3. Find common ground. When it comes to shared spaces that you're antsy to declutter, you can nicely ask, "Can we both agree there is too much stuff in _____ drawer/closet/cupboard?" Most likely they will acquiesce and let you do your thing. You get to work your magic, they get to enjoy the magic, and boom! One space is changed, along with their perspective.

If you've embraced the minimalist life, patiently waited, and your spouse is still not interested, accept that minimizing some is better than none. You may not get to ditch their duplicates or control their side of the closet, but you can enjoy the sifted side of yours. In the end, minimalism isn't worth your marriage. 

There is a line from Joshua Becker's The More of Less that I absolutely love and will end on: 

Don’t love things - or even the absencse of things. Love people. Especially those who are closest to you.
— Joshua Becker