When You’re Not Married to a Minimalist


My husband and I have different tastes and interests and hobbies. It’s part of what makes our relationship tick along: we’re often introducing each other to new things. He’s the night owl musician, I’m the early morning athlete. Over the years we’ve both taken a stab at the others hobbies and now he is a runner (first half marathon completed in the fall!) and I have learned (and now mostly forgotten) how to play a song on the guitar. He’s taken me to some great concerts – Springsteen in Seattle, Paul Simon in Vancouver – and I’ve gifted him workout clothes.

My night owl musician, now runner, is not a minimalist.

He’s not an avid consumer either but the paring down of our possessions has been driven by, and executed by, me. He’s been supportive, extremely supportive, but he’s quite content to own five sweatshirts and I’ve been unable to get him to part with a few. Probably because of the shirt incident. We still have a large DVD collection and added a few titles over Christmas. I’d like to sell the entire collection, start fresh and just purchase digital copies from iTunes. I respect that, while he is supportive of my simplifying, he’s got his own will and vision. That vision includes a DVD collection and some books and five sweatshirts.

So how do we make it work? I’ve left his office to be what he makes it. We’ve done one purge of books and electronics but it’s slowly molting back into its former self. For Christmas my husband was gifted a beautiful and ergonomic Aeron chair from his mother. I was very supportive of this gift. Chris works at a desk for 8+ hours, five days a week. A chair that helps him keep good posture would be good for his back and neck. He’s been using the chair for three weeks now and his former chair is still in the office. It’s now being used as a business mail receptacle. I’ve hinted several times that it could be quickly sold on Craigslist or given away.

So I avoid going in the office. I avoid looking around too much. I’m not the one working in it 40+ hours a week so if he is successfully handling the clutter piles, which he is, I let it be. I think this is a good lesson in patience for when my son is a bit older and wants to have his room be his own domain. You can’t control other people, just yourself.

There is a lot of good that comes from not being married to a minimalist. Despite Chris advising me otherwise, I put a sweatshirt in the donation pile because it was large an unattractive. The one sweatshirt I did keep was a Lululemon hoodie: comfortable and mildly fashionable. Henry has had a series of colds that leave my wardrobe with shiny snot epaulettes on all of my clothing. With my small wardrobe, I was getting tired of constantly changing shirts. I rescued the donation sweatshirt and have been using it as my version of the modern woman’s housecoat. Thanks honey!

If you’re leading the minimalist charge and have a partner you are dragging – possibly kicking and screaming – into it, here is the One Room strategy:

My partner/spouse/roommate is an avid shopper/collector and prefers packed rooms to open spaces. This will be a tough road for you. Ask for one room that you can make your own. Take out half the furniture. You should be able to do a cartwheel in the available floor space. Unleash your inner minimalist and go bare bones, simple artwork, not a lot of furnishings. While some of us think we can’t live with less, everyone is attracted to tranquil spaces. You’ll probably find your rommate/spouse/partner sneaking a few quiet moments in your space.

My partner/spouse/roommate isn’t a pack rat but is wary of the whole minimalist thing. Leave them one room as their untouched space. As you pare down the rest of the rooms they’ll come around.

There is a reason show homes look the way they do. We’re attracted to clean lines and open spaces. No one sets out to have overstuffed rooms and drawers full of old bills and pennies.

I spent the weekend moving furniture out of our bedroom. We have a home sized bedroom set that we have crammed into our condo sized bedroom. As we have a lot less clothing now, we no longer need all that drawer space. With less furniture we can now see the southwest view of False Creek – no more tall dresser blocking it. We’ve doubled the amount of visible floor space. I could tell my husband was excited about the new space, and on-board with the plan, when he started asking about smaller bed side tables.

Is your partner on board with decluttering or trying to live a simpler life? If they’re not, how to you keep your household happy while fulfilling your living with less desires?

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    • maia says

      Can you give them a drawer? When you only have three rooms in a cramped apartment – even a cluttered closet starts to make me insane…am a bordering on “massive control freak” if I allow him a cupbord?

  1. Chris says

    Sheesh. You should ask your husband to take you to some concerts by musicians under the age of 60. And also:

    1. Perhaps it’s not that your mate isn’t a minimalist, but rather that he is busy, disorganized, prone to procrastination, or some combination thereof;
    2. Perhaps the chair is not just a business mail receptacle, but also a spot for guests to sit when they want to come in and watch YouTube versions of the William Tell Overture with Daddy.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Please take me to some concerts of musicians under the age of 60. Except, I don’t like to stay up too late so they need to wrap it up before 10pm.

      You’ve been great with all of it. Even when I tossed your lumberjack shirt.

  2. Laura :) says

    This is really timely for me. I’m going through 30 Day Clutter Bookcamp from Minimalist Packrat and am seeing my husband’s clothes horse tendencies for the first time!! :) I could tell he was impressed with I got rid of about half my clothes and I thought he might do the same but it’s been about 2 weeks and nothing has happened.

    I’ve kept mute about his stuff through the whole thing, but I do show off the places as I declutter them. He’s quite happy about it so I am hoping realllllllyyyyy hard that he follows suit in due time!!! He’s been pretty good about the amount of stuff I’ve had over the years, so I feel I owe him time to deal with his own stuff now.

    Great post, thank you!!!!!!

  3. Momma Jorje says

    So glad to read your guest post on Hobo Mama (will comment later, from home)! I am trying to minimalize our lives, but the goal is to get into an RV. We have moved into progressively smaller spaces and now live in a 1 bedroom apartment. The 1 bedroom houses my weekends-onlty 12yo daughter and the boxes of stuff I am still working through.

    This means that I can’t give my husband a ROOM of his own. He has, however, thinned down a few DVDs and invested in DVD books so that his collection will be travel-ready. As a former pack rat, I have amazed myself time and again as I go through old junk. I foresee a few bumps in my own road, but I still find the entire process exciting!

    I look forward to reading more from you and will add you to my BlogRoll once I get home from work.

  4. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says

    I enjoyed reading this, even though it’s kind of reversed for us. My husband’s much more the purging sort, and I’m the reforming packrat. It’s good for me to be married to him because, as you said, the example he sets is attractive and has converted me. Unfortunately, just because he’s not a packrat does not make him uncluttered or a neatnik, so we both have a ways to go. I’m hoping that every space we clear out and pare down continues to inspire us to make the rest of the place match!

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thanks, Lauren. I appreciate getting the chance to write for your readers. Looks like you have a great following.
      Isn’t it nice that we’re not carbon copies of our spouses? It’d be pretty boring. As long as they’re supportive it doesn’t really matter what the differences are.
      Good luck with the declutter!

  5. frugalveganmom says

    This is exactly the trick that’s worked for me – I can’t stand looking into a drawer or cupboard and having it all disorganized, and not knowing what’s in there.

    My husband tends to “clean” by picking up whatever is laying around and stuffing it into the first available concealed space.

    So now we have several drawers and a closet that I just accept will be messy, he can shove stuff there if he likes but knows I’ll be unhappy if I find random stuff in other places where it doesn’t belong!

    • theminimalistmom says

      That used to be my way to clean. Pick up random stuff and shove it in a drawer and forget about it. It was a lot of work to go through it all so I am determined to not let it happen again. It’s also easy to not accumulate junk drawers when you have way less stuff!

  6. Minimalist Wannabe says

    That’s probably my biggest hurdle…

    I’ve never “decluttered” things that were his or came from his family without his consent. Like you, I just don’t look at his office!

    That said, because he feels safe and knows that I will always respect his stuff… He’s more open to a certain measure of minimalism being introduced in his life. I won’t lie, it’s a bit of an uphill battle at times.

    It feels like its a probation period to see if he takes to it or not. LOL

    • theminimalistmom says

      I really believe everyone wants to live in a tidy, less cluttered home. The thing that gets in the way is the strong message from advertisers, friends, ourselves, etc that we need lots of things. Who doesn’t like walking into a nice hotel room where the drawers are empty and the room isn’t overly furnished?
      Good luck with the probation period. I’m sure you’ll be winning him over to the ‘dark side’ soon.

  7. tara says

    Thank you for this post today. I was off from work all day yesterday and did a medium sized purging of the spare room, kitchen and my toddler’s clothes. I need to do another round, but I digress.
    I have a spouse who says he is supportive of our move to minimalism but he keeps buying more stuff!!! I needed the reminder that it does take time, even for those of us that want to go minimal.

  8. Karen says

    Good post. Like you said, we can only chose for ourselves, not for others. In our married life, my dh has been a ways behind me in many areas of change, and resists more if I rant and rave about it rather than just quietly live it and let him chose for himself. I’m a slow learner, but learning none-the-less to do as I believe is right and let him chose if & when he ever changes.

  9. Roberta says

    Great post! My husband supports decluttering efforts, and we both love the feeling we get after dropping off a big donation to Goodwill, BUT — he also loves buying stuff, and he is really into gadgets of all sorts. Hmmm, I know I can’t change his love of eBay and electronics, but maybe I will propose a “one thing in, one thing goes” policy, that might appeal to him.

  10. Claire says

    I know this is an old post, but I’m still going through reading them all. My husband is totally into my minimalism, but so long as I don’t touch his stuff. He’s not a pack rat, but he’s attached to his things—even things that he doesn’t like, didn’t buy, or never uses.

    Thus far, I’ve just been touching the community things, my daughter’s things, and my things. I’m hoping that as I pare down the rest of the house, he’ll decide to follow along. I’m sure it’ll be a tough road, but he did put a few of his DVDs into the sale pile. It’s a start.

  11. Larry says

    As I get older, I am seeking to simplify my life and become more of a minimalist. I buy less now than at anytime in my life and I’m giving or throwing a lot of stuff away. I love it. However, my wife does not share this passion. She is always buying bigger, newer and more; and is always broke. I wish I knew how to help her simplify her life; I believe she would be much happier. Any HELP out there?

    • theminimalistmom says

      Lead by example? It’s a challenge but people can only make the change themselves. One thing you can try is encouraging non-shopping/spending activities. Get in the habit of taking walks together, explore a hobby or socialize (preferable hosting at your home or being hosted to save cost) with other couples and family. Kirsit at OneDressProtest.com has a lot of posts about shopping and how giving it up as an activity has dramatically increased the quality of her life.

      Good luck!

  12. Kimberly says

    My husband refuses to get rid of clothes that are hanging in the closest that he doesn’t wear because he “might wear them again”….he also refuses to get rid of the clothing that he has outgrown.

    So I’m just going to do it for him. I already warned him I’m going to do it. There are definitely things that I will NOT touch (like the ridiculous amount of Army paperwork that he has) but for the most part, I know him and what would push his buttons.

    Funny thing about my husband though…he doesn’t pay much attention. Today, he asked me where our small skillet was. That I threw away probably 5-6 months ago. Haha.

  13. Shawna says

    So…that’s what they’re called. Snot epaulettes. I love it! I have them on my left shoulder. Constantly. And I too love my Lululemon sweatshirt…it endures hundreds of washings without showing any wear and tear. Snot is the enemy of a minimalist wardrobe. But actually, the number of laundry loads a baby requires helps me realize how few clothes I need. I can wash mine with hers everyday!

    • theminimalistmom says

      Yep, snot epaulettes! I have quite a few right now (sick toddler).

      Confession: I don’t wash my clothes that often. I try and get at least 3-4 wears out of them. I take a damp cloth to marks as soon as I can (snot can dry quick!) and most stuff just wipes off easily and the damp spot dries quickly. Right now I am wearing mostly sweaters made of natural fibres and dark rinse jeans. Both hold up well to a light wipe from a rag.

  14. Meredith says

    I read your “great declutter” posts yesterday, and went back on my purging-spree that had fizzled somewhat in the last week. I already have donated about 15 bags of clothes in the process, and I have at last a few more in my carport waiting to make it to goodwill. I got fired up enough last night to do a pretty ruthless purge of my closet, lingere, and unmentionables that I have had since high school. My husband was SHOCKED to see some of the piles of clothes that I was dragging out of our room! I have always been the packrat in the marriage, and I’m suddenly just so tired of living with all of this stuff! I wonder if he realizes that his closet is next….

    Thanks so much for the kick that I needed to get rolling again!

  15. Christina H. says

    I have had this article sitting around my “blogs to read later” board on Pinterest for some time, and finally got around to reading it today! I’m going to try this out on my husband who is so ridiculously against my minimalism it’s crazy haha. We get along in pretty much every other aspect except that he would love to live in a pack-rat two story plantation home and I’m completely fine raising three kids in a small two bedroom duplex (though I’d love a small home on our own land for gardening and to be allowed to put up a clothesline).

    Things have been really hard since he rejects minimalism so greatly. I originally did try to take one room for myself, our kitchen/dining room, but it has turned into a mess because he goes in there once I’m in bed (he works nights) and then bam…I wake up to havoc. Same with the living room. He is also a clothing junkie. Like, holy bejeesus. He owns at least, and this is in no way an exaggeration, 80-100 t-shirts and maybe wears…oh…10 of them? Maybe 15? I was going to send the ones that are too short for him to have a quilt made out of them but then he got all nostalgic.

    Anyway now I’m just rambling. I’m going to see if giving HIM one room instead of ME with one room makes any difference lol.

    • NYClady says

      I feel your pain, Christina. My husband has about 50 or so nostalgic t-shirts. He never wears them. He never looks at them. They take up at least 25% of his closet. But I like your idea of a quilt. What about a nostalgic quilt that shows key portions of each of the t-shirts in a square or something? Or maybe a dozen quilts. Teehee.

  16. J.Lee says

    Yuck, my husband is an electronic thing hoarder. I was a pretty serious minimalist for most of my life (having lived with and cleaned for a hoarder mother), so I really can’t understand why he keeps old wires around. Part of it seems like laziness on his part and disdain for my busy-ness. Part of it is genuine worry that he will actually need it. I’m “this” close to conducting an experiment where I go through his things, place most of the unused bits in a box, tape it and date it and hide it until he needs something. Then I can prove it’s uselessness around the house and he won’t actually have to ever go without until he’s ready.


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