When You're a Minimalist and Your Partner Isn't

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This is something I see a lot. There’s so many couples out there when one is a minimalist, but the other one has a higher tolerance for clutter. That often means you get some differences of opinions when it comes to the state of the home. It can be frustrating for the minimalist when they don’t understand their partner, but their partner can’t understand the minimalist either. Here’s what to do when you’re a minimalist and your partner isn’t.

When You’re a Minimalist and Your Partner Isn’t

Before you go any further, I really want to stress that it’s important to be compassionate when it comes to your partner or spouse. If they struggle with hoarding, or can’t deal with sentimental clutter, then being upset with them isn’t going to make a difference. You might even need professional help if it’s hurting your marriage.

Another thing to keep in mind is that those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. No one is perfect, and you probably have a few problem areas in your life too. Your partner might keep their clothes organized, for example, but have a messy desk. You might have a cluttered closet but it doesn’t bug you when you shut the door. We’re all different.

Here’s some tips to help you cope with the mess when you’re a minimalist and your partner isn’t.

Look into the why

Why doesn’t your partner mind living or working in a cluttered environment? For some people, there are really real or practical reasons that explain behaviour. For example, maybe they don’t know the best way to organize something. Or, like my partner, they like to have the vitamins they need every day on their desk so they don’t forget. Talk about the reasoning behind the clutter, and see if there’s a better way to do it.

Sometimes you can compromise, and sometimes you’ll realize that it actually makes sense to do things like your partner wants.

Have your own space

Everyone deserves a space in their home that they feel comfortable in. That goes for the both of you. Carve out your own area in the home that’s clutter free where you can truly rest and relax. For those of us who spend more time in the home, chances are that means the main living areas.

Likewise, make sure your partner has places they’re allowed to be messy. An office space, their own closet, a portion of a room, garage, their work desk, she-shed, etc. You get the idea. While it might bother you, it’s not fair to try and control how someone else lives.

Relationships are about compromise

Your relationship should always come before the stuff in your home. If you’re feeling like you’re fighting about things, that’s a problem. Assuming your partner isn’t a hoarder and you’re not overrun with stuff, compromise as much as you can. That might mean taking the ugly, cluttered looking books off the shelf and putting them into storage, but still keeping them. For example.

Accept that you’re different

When your spouse doesn’t keep a space tidy, it’s easy to get frustrated and feel like they don’t care about your home. In my experience that’s rarely the case. The truth is: you’re both different. Everyone has a different tolerance for mess and clutter, and some people don’t even see it while others get stressed out.

You and your partner are different people with different tolerances to clutter.

Work with them

My partner is a new minimalist, and before that he was quite apt at collecting clutter. Now that he sees how much work the stuff is to maintain, he’s finding it easier to just let it go. It took almost three years to get to this point, though! Now when we go through stuff we work together and make decisions together.

Minimalism should be a partnership, not a battle. If your spouse is really resistant then keep the steps small.

Start with your things first

Sometimes your partner needs to see the results of minimalism before they can fully embrace it. Rather than trying to fight your spouse on their things, focus on your own belongings. That way you can provide encouragement, but it also doesn’t seem like you’re just trying to get rid of their stuff and not yours.

Don’t fight the sentimental stuff

Sometimes us minimalists forget about other peoples’ feelings when it comes to decluttering. If your partner doesn’t want to get rid of something for sentimental reasons (and again, assuming it’s not overrunning your life), don’t fight them on the issue. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you why they’re keeping it, in the grand scheme of your relationship it doesn’t matter.

How would you feel if someone asked you to get rid of something that was useless, but meant something to you?

Get help

Sometimes having a 3rd party involved can make things easier on a couple. If there’s psychological problems like hoarding, consider therapy together. If it’s more just a case of needing help with the clutter, though, a professional organizer can be a lifesaver. Let them come in and be the ‘bad guy’, rather than the two of you fighting over the stuff.

You might even get some insight that you hadn’t realized, too.

Don’t give up

When you’re a minimalist and your partner isn’t it can be tempting to throw in the towel. Don’t! Odds are, you’re still making a big difference in your home. Keep it up, and maybe your partner will even start appreciating your approach. Minimalism is a different journey for everyone.