25.3.15

10 Tips for Embracing Minimalism as a Couple

When I speak to or receive emails from readers they often talk about the difficulty of trying to simplify their lives when their partner is not interested or willing to join them. I also get asked how my husband feels about my interest in minimalism. I thought it might be interesting to discuss this here.

Luckily my husband welcomed my interest in minimalism when I first started reading blogs and books on the subject in 2010. As you may know I discovered minimalism at a time when I was at my most stressed. I wasn't alone in feeling overwhelmed by the lifestyle and career choices we'd made and together we began to consider downsizing our lives, living more simply and examining our consumption.   

The hope of somehow achieving a happier yet simpler life through minimalism lured me into tackling years of clutter and reading anything and everything about the subject. Real life stories of people who'd embraced a minimalist lifestyle sustained me through those early decluttering sessions. As I worked through drawers and then rooms of clutter my husband began to follow me by tackling his personal clutter. Although he owned far less possessions than me and has never been an impulse buyer, he'd hoarded possessions since a teenager. Most of it was boxed up: old school reports and exercise books, surplus electrical/music gear, books, cassettes and photos.

Gradually we began to let go of the surplus in our lives. Lightness followed as we both decluttered decades of stuff and we emerged happier, ready to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle. We downsized to a smaller home and both adjusted to new work situations. My husband has had to adjust to a series of changes in his job over the last 5 years and I've eventually found work that I enjoy and has less responsibility. 

Now almost 5 years later we're starting to enjoy the benefits of our simpler life. We don't miss our large home and the time it took to maintain it and we don't regret the possessions we've given up. We both agree that material possessions and status are far less important to us than time for family, health and having fun. 

And we're motivated to further reduce the excess in our lives. We're focussing our attention on living a healthier lifestyle through simple exercise, meditation, simplifying our diet and moderating our drinking. We're learning to say no occasionally to social invites when our schedule gets too busy and to choose carefully the work that we take on (paid or voluntary). We're still tackling clutter. We're now working on some long overdue decluttering projects: our excess computers, paperwork and a few unused items in the loft which remain untouched since moving house almost 3 years ago (ahem).

I know that I'm extremely lucky that my husband supported me when I discovered minimalism and has wholeheartedly embraced each simplifying step we've made since then. We've made some difficult choices and have experienced some difficult situations, but then who hasn't recently?

Our minimalism isn't extreme. We still hold down regular jobs and live in a conventional house but we have a lot less stuff and a lot less on our to-do list than we once did. Our approach to minimalism as a couple is to live more lightly, freely and happily. 

10 Tips for Embracing Minimalism as a Couple

1. Simple Changes. If you're both interested in simplifying your lives agree some easy changes such as spending less on each other at birthdays, having a less expensive holiday or leaving work early once a week. If you envy a simpler lifestyle what baby steps can you take today to make it happen? What could you both go without?

2. Make time as important a priority as money. We all have limited time and limited money. Make discussing how you're going to spend your joint time as much of a priority as how to spend your joint money. 

3. Dream. Keep your dreams alive whether it be to retire early, move house or change your job. Be inspired by others who've made changes. Work on those dreams daily.

4. Plan. Lifestyle changes take careful planning. If you've got a huge decluttering task ahead plan in enough time to make dealing with it easier. If you want to save money for an experience work out a plan to achieve this. If you want to make more time for leisure at the weekend plan how you are going to fit this into your schedule.

5. Gentle persuasion. I've never been vociferous about minimalism at home (only here on my blog) but I've led by example. Sort out your personal clutter first and offer to help your partner declutter if they are clueless or lack interest. They might just get the bug. 

6. Listen to each other. I encourage my husband to stop worrying and he frequently tells me to slow down and stop taking on too much. Sometimes you need someone else to point out that you're losing focus. 

7. Compromise. You may have different ideas about clothing budgets, interior design style or how much to spend on food. Learn to compromise with each other. If your partner is into extravagant cooking encourage them to shop around for ingredients or limit the amount of lavish meals they cook. Likewise, if minimalism is not your partner's style agree that certain parts of the house could be kept tidier than others. 

8. Be accountable to each other. If impulse buying or overspending is a problem for either of you agree to be accountable to each other. I no longer hide impulse buys under the bed and we are both open about our spending. We have budgets for different areas of our lives and we stick to them (most of the time). 

9. Share. Share your dreams, failures and successes. Support each other as not everyone will understand your lifestyle choices. Make a list of simple pleasures to share that cost nothing but time. 

10. Begin. Encourage each other to live life to the full and to put your joint and individual ideas into action. 

Some of these tips could work just as well for single people or between friends. Good luck with your simplifying journey whether it be solo or joint. And please share your thoughts here in the comments section. 

And a happy belated birthday to Hubs whose birthday took priority over posting on Monday. 

Wishing you a belated happy week xo

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8 comments :

  1. I love the graceful tone of this post.

    Personally, I don't think we would be where we are if it hadn't been for Flylady and subsequent decluttering and attitude shifts over the last 15 years. It's 'simply' our silver wedding in May...

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  2. My hubs is excellent at getting rid and de-cluttering, in fact I'm the one who stops him!! He hangs onto nothing really, sensibly develops no emotional attachment to "stuff". I was the one who stopped him chucking out his pile of rock tour t-shirts collected in his younger years (he's nearly 50!) and hence they're now cluttering up the already stuffed airing cupboard. I am slowly getting there though, hopefully! I read a lot of minimalist blogs/stories via the internet and my biggest problem is my emotional attachment. If I could just get over this!! We love camping holidays as a couple and previously with the children when they were young. I am a minimalist camper and love the freedom of living with so little so why can't I carry this attitude forward into possessions/clutter in our home? One day.......!! (Mrs LH)

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  3. I love editing our possessions and while my husband goes along with it, he fears we will have nothing left. I do not discard any of his belongings, but am ruthless with my own and the rest of the house. He just hasn't realized the benefits yet. :)

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  4. I worry about ever being able to downsize because of my spouse's "stuff." It may work if he feels his valued possessions have new, caring owners, rather than anonymously donating/tossing things. So it will take a while!

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  5. This is a such a thoughtful and clear post.
    We didn't know it had a name (or maybe it didn't then?) so we didn't call it minimalism, or anything else really, but it's pretty much describes what we did back in the 1990s when our children were still young.
    And I have to say, life has been so much richer and happier as a result - not just for us, but for our sons as well. So I absolutely agree with you, and would advise anyone to go down this route.

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  8. If I happen to find a new man out there I shall be sure to check his thoughts on de-cluttering first! by the way I saw your article in the Women's weekly, very good! X

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Thanks for reading and leaving your comments. Keep in touch xo