Getting Decluttered with Your Significant Other

While my husband and I have many things in common, such as our ability to relate absolutely every situation in life back to an episode of Seinfeld, we are really very different people. I dream of living the expat life, while he’s quite satisfied sticking close to home. I tend to be rather impulsive, while he’s much more strategic. He can tidy a room in a matter of minutes, while I tend to wander aimlessly from corner to corner like a distracted, lost puppy looking for a snack. Ooh, Cheez-Its. 

This is why it came as a big surprise when we both took to minimalism within just a few weeks of each other. Over three years ago, I went minimalist in one uncharacteristically decisive move, and immediately gutted my wardrobe in an afternoon. When my husband arrived home from work that day, I paraded him around our bedroom, showing off my heaping donation piles as if I were sharing with him what he’d won as a contestant on the Price is Right“Look at all this stuff we don’t actually need?” 

He was skeptical at first, but within just a couple weeks, he too dove in headfirst and somehow managed to eliminate even more clothing than I did. It was a month of surprises for both of us.

His jaw dropped when I,the typically “spendier” of the two of us, implemented a strict family spending freeze. And I almost fainted, watching as he added his old high school polo shirts to our donation pile. Yeah, that’s right, I said high school. Both of us looking at the other in shock, thinking to ourselves, “Who are you? And what have you done with the person I married?!”

Here’s the thing though. While yes, we both got on board with minimalism almost simultaneously, we didn’t always agree on what should be considered “clutter.” In fact, to this day, we still don’t always agree.

Take for example, our armoire-vintage coffee mug standoff.

In our bedroom we have an enormous armoire. Regardless of the fact that it’s well over half empty, we’re likely never, ever, ever going to get rid of this monstrosity. Trust me, I’ve tried. But for reasons I find ridiculous, my husband insists we keep it. I hate that armoire.

Now, if you head into our kitchen, and open the cabinet above our coffee maker, you’ll find a relatively small collection of adorable, eclectic coffee mugs. Now, it’s important I point out that if this article were written by my husband, that last line would have read, “… you’ll find an abundance of the most horrendously gaudy, mismatched coffee mugs on the planet.” He’d prefer we ditch most of those mugs, but for reasons my husband finds ridiculous, I insist we keep them. My husband hates those coffee mugs.

If you’re sharing a space, getting your partner on board may feel like the holy grail of becoming a minimalist. It’s easy to assume that once you turn that corner, you’ll be set, and on your way to living clutter free, forever. Amen. But in my experience, that’s only just the beginning. 

Yes, both of you working together toward the same goal is remarkably helpful. However, anyone who’s ever taken on even the smallest home improvement project knows the devil is in the details. You’re not going to always agree on the best way to get the job done.

Whether you’re considering minimalism, just getting started, or knee-deep in donation piles, here are 3 strategies to help you navigate the rough waters of decluttering with the person you love:

1. Choose Fewer Battles

Don’t swap your clutter for conflict. It’s just not worth it. 

The people in your home are far more important than eliminating the excess stuff. The fewer battles you take on, the better. Minimalism won’t reduce the stress in your home if you’re constantly arguing about what should stay and what should go.

There are moments when I feel getting rid of that monstrosity of an armoire is a battle worth fighting, but it only takes a moment for me to remember, it’s just not worth it.

2. Circle Back

If there is an item, or more likely items, in your home you can’t agree whether to keep or donate, opt to set it aside and circle back later. Sometimes a little more experience living with less can help. Continue working through some of the simpler areas of your home, strengthening your decluttering muscles together. There’s rarely an item that needs to be eliminated emergently. That is assuming it isn’t leading to an infestation of some sort.

Drop the debate and keep making progress in the areas of your home you can agree on. Remember, this is about creating a space where your whole family can better thrive, and that often takes time, patience and a whole lot of a grace.

3. Move at a Pace You’re Both Comfortable With

My husband is a really fast walker. It’s not uncommon for him to turn around and find that he’s either twenty yards ahead of the rest of us or we’re all half jogging, and somewhat out of breath, trying to keep pace with him.

You can only journey as fast as the slowest member of your family. It didn’t matter if my husband made it to Space Mountain at Disney World in record time, when the rest of us were still working our way through the crowd. When it comes to decluttering your shared items, moving at a pace that works for both of you will reduce the number of conflicts and ensure you both have enough energy to keep moving forward.

Keep in mind, your partner may be entering into minimalism with slightly more hesitation than you are. Work together to find a sustainable pace you can both keep up with.

If Your Significant Other Is Anything but Minimalist

I’m very aware how lucky I am that my husband agreed to implement minimalism in our home as quickly as he did. That’s just not the case for everyone. In fact, the question of exactly how to get your significant other on board with minimalism comes up a lot.

I’ll tell you this, nothing I said got my husband on board. You’re never going to nag your loved one into a life of less. They first need to witness the benefits and decide for themselves. If this is something you really want to pursue, if you’re ready to eliminate the clutter in your home so that you can spend more time and energy on the things that matter most, it’s vital that you start with your own stuff first.

Don’t use your spouse’s disinterest as a scapegoat either. Leave your shared belongings alone for now and implement minimalist principles in the areas of your home unique to you. In time, don’t be surprised if you find they’re more drawn to your minimized areas within the home, than their cluttered ones. Simplicity can have that effect on people.

Thinking about what you entered……..
You are in!

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