Be Patient for Change (With Yourself and Others)


One of my many writing projects is a book about how we got out of debt. As I piece together a timeline of numbers and milestones, it’s been interesting to see the process, how it started, how it kept going. How some of the changes we made took a long time. Some of the changes were scary and intimidating and I remember how I often wondered if this was the right path. If we were pushing ourselves and making hard changes that we would soon regret.

It’s also reminded me of how resistant my husband was to some of my more radical ideas in the beginning.

The first response to cutting our $90 a month cable package and selling our DVR was, NO WAY.

Of course, it was hockey season and the Canucks were doing well. And we had a lot of movies stored up on the DVR. Movies that would of cost us a lot to rent. But Movies that were rarely found the time to watch.

Despite the emphatic no from my better half, I had planted a seed. And a few weeks later the topic came up again and he said, maybe after hockey play offs.

Another month passed and by then we decided to just try it out. We would cut the cable and sell our DVR at the end of the playoffs.

We tried it. And we liked it.

Cutting cable set us up for the big one: getting rid of our car.

That was also met with resistance. I showed Chris some spreadsheets, how much the car was costing us in insurance, maintenance and fuel, and what we would save if we sold it, used ZipCar or rented when we needed to and rented out our parking spot. By my calculations we could save several thousand dollars a year plus whatever we got for the car.

Again, the seed was planted and the idea grew.  At some point in the summer we said yes, we were going to try it. It took us a few more months to make it a reality. It’s now been almost two years since we’ve owned a car.

Now I think back and it wasn’t that my husband was resistant, it’s that he needed time to process the change. I’d been sitting with the idea for weeks before I sprang it on him. I was also proposing things that would impact him more than me. I’d spent a lot of time not owning a car. I’d also been without cable for long stretches in my childhood and adulthood.

If he had turned around and asked me to give up meat or to move to the suburbs, I would have had a hard time saying yes immediately.

The last two years have been full of change for us: for my husband even more than for me.

He’s made a dramatic career change and moved overseas.

Despite logging 15 years as a musician that toured through North America he has never lived outside of the Greater Vancouver area.

I did my undergraduate degree in the US and spent four years of my 20’s moving between London, Ontario and Victoria, BC. All of my five siblings have lived in another country or moved cross country. My parents are immigrants. Moving abroad isn’t that strange for my side of the family.

My husband has been exceptionally resilient and exceptionally open minded with all of this change. With me getting rid of our stuff and our car and the cable TV.

Be patient with your spouse and family. I remember so well the manic energy I had for decluttering and cutting our debt and bills in the beginning. I thought about it constantly. I schemed and planned and made goals for the week.

And then I expected my husband to psychically absorb all that planning and reasoning when I told him we needed to get rid of the 85% of his wardrobe he never wore. He didn’t need to hurry up and change, I needed to slow down and be patient.

Anyone else been frustrated with slow change and how long it can take to get family to agree to try new things?

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  • You make a very good point! I have seen a marked change in myself and my partner in this respect since we moved in together a few years ago. I understand where he’s coming from when he insists that “having things is nice” because that’s how I used to think; and he now better understands where I’m coming from when I express my dislike of what I consider “clutter” and unnecessary possessions. It’s definitely made for a more harmonious living arrangement and how we approach Our Stuff.

    • My husband was really able to relate when I started gently pointing-out clutter in our home. Now my husband will stop and ask – what is all that? Or, what’s all this stuff for? It’s great that he is on board with that!

  • i love the peeks you give us into your marriage and family life- the real “nuts and bolts” of living in harmony. If your not relationally peaceful, even the most serene environment is chaotic. This is something I’m working on.

    • I could write a month’s worth of posts about how he’s helped me change and grow. I’m a nicer more patient and more relaxed person because of him. He’s the best choice I’ve ever made. I am so thankful every day I decided to go on a date with him even though I was really tired and burned out on dating at the time. Score me :)

      • I think it is time for a “how we met” story on this blog! =)

        Love this topic btw, I really need help being patient when I get a new idea – I immediately think it’s brilliant and get frustrated when husband is not on board! I’m saving this post as a reminder to me!

  • Oh, I needed to read this today!! My husband and I struggle with this a lot!! I have to remind myself that he grew up with nothing, sometimes not knowing where his next meal was coming from, and all the ‘stuff’ is a buffer for him against that time. I have realized that the more I push him, the more he holds onto things. But he is slowly starting to declutter. Just the other day he threw away a box of unused graduation announcements (he graduated 15 years ago!). Baby steps, right??

    • Baby steps. I have a lot of baggage from my youth, not the physical kind, and it takes a long time to even scratch the surface and start to let go of it.
      You have the right idea, just continue to be supportive and patient.

  • Thank you for the reminder that some things take time. I find myself frustrated sometimes because I see friends and family buying things and I secretly want to scream “That is useless junk!!! Why are you buying it?” I have to remind myself that not everyone embraces simplicity or is at a point to face there clutter.

    My husband was a hard sell when we started this journey. He comes from a long line of people who like to keep their “treasures”. I think he saw reason when the box full of his 30 year old stuffed animals was presented to us to give to our newborn. We took pictures, paid some homage by looking at each one and remembering their importance in his life and then they were ceremoniously tossed in the trash.
    Honestly, the more I purge the easier it gets for me but I have to remember that it needs to be gentle and respectful for people in the early stages.

    • That’s awesome. When we got married all that my husband had was a sweater-sized box of keepsakes….and I had four HUGE tubs! I was definitely a hoarder at some early point in life. He is great about clutter and pairing down, esp. since we started talking about it. Stay positive :)

    • So true, gentle and respectful are so important. That old sweater may just be an ugly never worn mess to me but it could be the only physical tie someone else has to a loved one. It takes time.

  • Oh. Wow! You have just hit the nail on the head! My husband is often convinced that I’m obsessed with money…but I think it’s that I’m just always thinking, rewriting and refiguring numbers to make this one-income stay at home mom work as best as possible. It’s really that I want the best for us. We have a bit of debt and it isn’t credit card. We should be able to be debt-free by November 2013, although sometimes my husband really thinks we should just take the four years to pay-off the car rather than knocking it out in two. I’m still trying to find the balance between extra car payments and having enough money for misc. expenses each month. It’s a process…but every extra payment, even just $40 on debt is progress that we would have never considered in early marriage just three years ago!

  • Great post. My husband and I alternate between pushing the other a little farther than is comfortable. We both find reminding each other that “we’re in a war on clutter” makes it clear that we’re ultimately on the same side – rather than against each other.

  • When I suggested we sell our too big, too old, too EXPENSIVE house at the beginning of this year, my husband said nothing. Then I suggested it again and again, as he was paying bills or calculating out how much a repair was going to cost. It wasn’t until March that he came bursting out of office, probably after a bit of time with the bills, that he requested I call the Realtor. We had only owned the home for a little over 2 years and the market has only gone down more since our purchase. I made it my life’s work to create a beautiful, decluttered home that when prospective buyers viewed, they could really imagine their own lives in the house. We ended up receiving 8 offers and sold for significant about over asking. We found a small, practical house nearby to purchase. Our new mortgage is a quarter of our last one. Our new home, although is much smaller, is perfect for our little family. Our friends, peers specifically, thought we were nuts. “Smaller?” they would question, “how will you manage?” Less stuff, that is how. We have had 2 garage sales, multiple trips to our local donation center and a few piles of “free” on the curb. Slimming the toys was hard, slimming my tchotchkes is still ongoing and my husband has warmed nicely to the idea of less is MORE.

    • Good for you Heatherly! We did something similar about 11 years ago when I suggested we sell the 3400 sq ft house to move into a 1500 sq ft condo that was more convenient to both our jobs. Hubby was resistant at first but like your story…he warmed to the idea after a couple of months. We now have a small single family home that we paid cash for and we have no debt. My car is 10 years old and I plan to drive it for several more years.

    • Loved reading this. I, too, long for a smaller house. Our first home was 1,500′ and we were happy there, then somehow after a few years, we thought as our income rose, we were “supposed” to buy up…a bigger house. So we did…four times! Now we have a 4,444 sq. foot homage to suburban sprawl fullof a bunch of crap we don’t need or use…that whole keeping up with Jones’ thing. Well, now we’ve woken up, and my husband is finally on board with my need to downshift and down scale. I miss our little house with its few precious things. And I never liked the Jones’ anyway.

  • I never thought we’d ever get rid of TV, but we no longer have Shaw Direct… we have Netflix, but that is less expensive and less intrusive in our lives than Shaw Direct was. Where we live, it would not be possible to go without a vehicle, not with a family the size of ours…

    We will be learning to cut back further I think. We’ve had a job situation change again, and another baby on the way…

    • I feel the same, Netflix is less intrusive. You have to make a few choices before it’s on and we have very specific tastes in tv so what we watch on it is limited.

  • Its taken 5 years of gentle nudges and subtle hints, but now my husband believes it is his idea to be a bike commuter family. Ive got 1000% buy in, which makes it fun rather than like pulling teeth. Took a long time, but worth it!

    • Nice work. I would love to be bike commuters. Because of the landscape here – loads and loads of hills – it would be a tough grind. Maybe when we move back to Vancouver some day.

  • Ah…you’ve highlighted my biggest struggle. I know I need to be patient, but I also think I need to balance some persistence in there. When I approach my husband with an idea and it is shot down, I’m not good at sticking with it. As a result, it never happens. I get tired of feeling like the family police, or the bad guy. I want to be a team with this and I don’t seem to be making any progress. It’s tiring. I keep saying that perhaps I should wait until the kids are a little older to tackle this problem. But I also want to teach my sons that it is good to “clear our stuff” once in a while so they don’t end up hoarding as well.
    I’d be interested in reading your book on getting out of debt. We make plenty of money, but the more we make, the more we spend. It’s rough sometimes when I feel like we just can’t get ahead because we aren’t working as a team. LOL…I sound like a big sob story. Can you tell your post struck a chord with me? :) Thanks for writing. I really enjoy what you are writing and I love what you do.

    • Thanks, Diana.
      The team part was a big piece for us. I really wanted to track our finances but it took a job change and moving overseas before my husband committed to it. Now he is really enjoying it. And he’s really seen all the benefits to less stuff so now he is actually pointing out things we could get rid of.
      Debt: we had the same scenario. We made good money and yet… we didn’t seem to have a lot sitting around and we had loads of debt. I wouldn’t say we’re cured by any means but we’ve gradually shifted how we view money, how we spend and, the big one, what we think is important to spend money on. I feel like we’ve lost a lot of weight but we’ll always have to be vigilant to not put it (debt) back on.
      The book is more memoir than how-to but it’s candid and honest. We have a long history with debt, me especially, and we got ourselves caught in a terrible cycle. Some days I still can’t believe we got out of it.
      Good luck, Diana. :)

  • So true! I wanted to start chucking stuff months ago, but my husband was so reluctant. It frustrated me, but it also helped me to really sift through my thoughts and come up with good reasons for getting rid of our unused things. And this is what really helped me to come around to true minimalist mindset. Once we agreed that we want our lives to actually reflect our priorities, it clicked for both of us. It also really helped him to see the money come in from what we have been able to sell. He put a lot of work into listing items on Ebay and Craigslist, but the rewards have been great!

  • Another factor to bring in to the conversation is when one person is at home full time and another works outside of the home. I have about 60 more hours per week than my husband does, in our home. That’s a heckuva lot of time to step over extra clutter, move it around, and clean it. I know my husband doesn’t spend time in his office at work thinking about how we really should purge the kids’ toys again. But I certainly do, because they are staring me in the face.
    As the full-time manager of the home, I can and do also read and consider our home finances more. My husband thinks about it on the weekends, while I can read articles (like this one) throughout the day or talk to other moms about it while our kids are playing. Therefore my mind churns over it much more than his does.
    All that’s to say- it makes sense that sometimes I am eager to implement a change of some sort, before my husband is quite ready.

  • FAR OUT! Eveytime you post lately it seems to be like you’ve been watching my life for inspiration. (a bit overdramatic but you get the picture). The ‘resistant’ spouse and him living in one area his entire life, personally beingused to change and moving around a lot, the career change, the BIG move…
    I’m excited to say though, that after 6 years my Husband is getting excited about change. He’s now made suggestions that I’ve had difficulty absorbing and actioning. Momentum is happening.
    After a little while we’ve learned to remain open-minded and found that we rarely disagree over what we need to do, we’re just coming from different angles. As you said, it just takes time!
    We’re well and truly on the way to blissful Minimalism and it feels so good!
    Thanks for sharing your life on this blog- it’s been incredibly reassuring for my families sake. It’s good to know we’re not the only ones seeking a significant life!

    • Please excuse my punctuation and grammatical errors- I’ve been up all night with my baby girl.

  • Excellent post. I’ve been doing some de-cluttering and organizing, and it’s causing me to realize just how much I’ve changed over the past 5 years or so. I cleaned out my pantry and am forcing myself to use up the stuff that’s still good – Yikes! It sort of horrifies me to think of what foods I once considered “normal” – instant rice, instant mashed potatoes, etc. Same thing with the bathroom – eee gads! I can’t believe all of the perfume laden stuff I used to slather all over myself without the least concern for what was in it… most of that I just got rid of.

    Anyhow, it’s sort of funny when I look at the influence that CatMan and I have over each other. I’m WAY less concerned about “looks” in general than I used to be, which is such a relief – and I’ve actually gotten him to enjoy fresh vegetables… never thought I’d live to see the day!

    I think you just have to keep making small changes that seem manageable and make sense, and if you just keep doing that, before you know it your life will be totally different and much, much better!

  • Great post Rachel, taking it slowly is so important, even when you’re the one doing the decluttering or life-changing! I have found that sometimes I just need a bit of time where I’m not decluttering or making big changes for my brain to catch up :) I am also sooooooo glad I met my husband: he was a minimalist long before we ever heard the word used in the lifestyle sense and I slowly came round and now I’m the one organising the finances, decluttering and blogging about it (never thought that would happen!), and gently encouraging him to release his hold on his CD collection :) I set up a really simple system to track our finances using an accounting book and my hubby has been so enjoying seeing how we spend our money and how much more we’ve been saving by tracking our finances. We’ve since moved it to googledocs so that he can even add things when he’s at work :)

  • Great blog and a great post Rachel!
    I too have a husband who requires time to get used to the idea of downsizing, decluttering and living on a strict budget. I’ve decided I will spend the rest of this year putting ideas out there as well as ‘being the change I want to see’ by sorting and paring down my own and the kids ‘stuff’.
    I hope that by early 2013 when he starts a new job and we move from a metropolitan area to the outback (Australia) he will be ready for big changes too. I think there is plenty of stuff in our house that does NOT need to come with us and this is the perfect time to look really carefully at what we need and how/if our belongings are serving us.
    Since we won’t have much temptation to buy things (no shops!) we can get our debt cleared and start saving.
    I am looking for a fresh start. A chance to live a different life in a new place with new experiences and a new attitude. I CAN”T WAIT!

  • You hit the nail on the head!! And, I forget of all my in head diliberation and expect my man to just jump on board with my brilliant ideas….slowly learning grace etc. :)

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