What do you do when you have embraced minimalism and the people who live with you are reluctant to do so? What can you do to motivate your loved ones or roommates to get on board? Is that even possible?
I have been obsessed with simplifying for years. In 2009 I tried The Compact for a year and did not buy anything new with only a few exceptions. My husband has been supportive of my efforts, though he hasn’t completely embraced them. He already deplored shopping, and when I announced that I was going to buy nothing new for a year, he thought it was a great idea. When I invited him to join my experiment, he looked at me and said, “I already do that. You are joining me.”
I got a little miffed because he had the luxury of not buying clothes and other “stuff” because I did the shopping for him. He is also the kind of person who has a hard time letting go of stuff he has acquired even when he no longer needs it. I thought that he would cry uncle in the middle of my Compact year and realize how much I took care of him. He did not. Instead my husband went happily about his business, and if he went shopping for anything besides groceries, I never knew about it.
Simplifying Can Be a Solo Journey
So my journey toward a simpler life has been mine alone. As a couple we value experiences over things and we usually think hard about most purchases before adding anything to our home.
But when it comes to decluttering and purging old items that we just don’t use anymore, I am on my own. My hubby has had no interest in constantly culling through his closet or papers to get rid of what he no longer uses.
So I have worked hard to respect his space and things, working on my own clutter, trying to reduce what I have while leaving his stuff alone. All in all, it has worked pretty well. He doesn’t have a lot of stuff, but his organizational methods are a bit scattered, and it doesn’t bother him one bit.
His way of doing things has helped me work on my patience. I realize that our living space is not mine alone and I can only live by example. Right now I am reducing all of my papers. Granted, my papers have been hidden in file cabinets, but why do we even need them? If I scan most of my documents, then we can donate my file cabinets and make more space, which will make me happy.
“New” Ideas to Simplify from the Outside
A couple of weeks ago my hubby came to me very excited and said, “I just learned this new way of figuring out what clothes you actually use. You just turn the hangers around backwards, and then as you use clothes from the hangers, you flip them back around. After 3-6 months, you figure out which clothes you actually use by which hangers are turned around to the normal position. I am going to do that. It totally makes sense.”
I just stared at him for a moment before asking, “When did you learn this?” He looked at me and answered, “I don’t know, recently on some podcast…I think. Isn’t it great?”
“Yes, it is great.” I replied slowly. When I first started reducing my clothing I employed that exact method. In fact, I reversed my hangers a couple of different times. I talked to him about how great it was and how surprised I was by how many clothes I didn’t actually wear. I think he was listening. I’m sure he nodded or said “uh-huh.” But memory being what it is, he forgot. Likely, right after I told him.
When he heard the same advice from another credible source that was not his wife, he was in a different place in his life. He was ready to hear it. And most importantly, it was not being imposed on him from inside the home. It was his own idea.
And when I told him that I had mentioned the hanger reverse trick years ago, he told me that he didn’t remember, shrugged and apologized. “I really can’t wait to try it,” he said again. And I am not one to stomp on his enthusiasm for decluttering.
Why the Messenger Doesn’t Matter
I share our story to give hope to those of us committed to decluttering and simple living. You may have significant others, children or other family members who do not share your enthusiasm. That’s to be expected.
Forcing our loved ones to jump on the decluttering train does not work out well.
Living by example is a better way.
It doesn’t matter from where your loved ones learn their lessons to move toward a simpler life.
If you feel like they are never going to get on-board (and it is still important to you), see if you can find relevant information from people THEY respect for an outside perspective. Allow your loved ones to digest it on their own time.
Because if we push too hard they will resist and then resist some more.
So it’s best to stop pushing and live by example.
For now I am looking forward to seeing how many hangers are flipped back to their original positions at the end of my hubby’s hanger experiment. I might even volunteer to take the clothes he no longer wants to our local clothing closet.