When You are a Minimalist, but Your Partner Isn’t

*This is my guest blog post for An Organized Life. Please check out her amazing website and say “Hi.” She writes about everything organizational, and has a beautiful website full of great tips! You can also book consultations with her! Her page is definitely worth a read!*


My husband is a hoarder.

Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic. But as a minimalist, it often feels that way. Let’s be honest. When you are a minimalist but your partner is not, the difference of opinion can drive a wedge into your relationship. As for me, living with someone who is not a minimalist has been a challenge, but I have found a few ways to cope. Despite my wonderful, messy husband, these are five of the tools I’ve learned to maintain an organized home.

Fix what you can fix

A while back, I was reading book called What Color is Your Parachute. The author was telling a true story about a woman he counseled who had MS. She was very upset about her condition and unfortunately had a huge setback in her health because of her depression. The author said to her “Do you want to change your condition?” When the woman answered yes, the author told her, “then change what little amount you can. Even if it’s only five percent, change it.” The woman took his advice, and her MS symptoms began to subside. She later on became a model in NYC, all because of that small inkling of guidance.

Honestly, it was some of the best advice I had ever read in a book, and it got me thinking, “What about my life do I have the control to change?” I realized that there was quite a lot I could change.

So now, I pass on that small bit of advice to you. Fix whatever small amount in your life that you can… even if it’s just five percent. If you don’t like the way your bedroom floor looks because your partner keeps leaving all her clothes lying around, then pick them up and put them in a hamper. If your boyfriend is a collector and continues to flood your home with his clutter, try to find an option to give his things their very own place… Something that looks nice and works for both of you. But take my advice: never move your spouse’s things without their knowledge! I learned this the hard way when I wrapped up a bunch of my husband’s HDMI cords and Wii remotes and threw them on a shelf out of sight. All the cords became tangled and the Wii remotes died. Needless to say, my hubby wasn’t very happy with me.

Never throw out/donate your partner’s stuff

I was recently talking to an acquaintance of mine who was telling me how angry she was that her husband won’t throw anything away. According to her, her spouse even keeps shirts with holes in them because he finds them comfortable! Then she told me she started throwing out her husbands’ things behind his back, starting with his holey shirts. I asked her if he’s noticed, and she laughed and said that he hadn’t yet.

As minimalists, it’s hard to remember that things that are insignificant to us are important to our spouses. Even if we find no value in a holey shirt, it’s possible that our partners do. So my advice is to never throw away or donate anything that doesn’t belong to you, unless you have permission.

This is rule I have broken myself, although not on purpose. Years ago, I was purging my house of all the things we no longer used. Our church was having a yard sale to help a family in need. I was rushing to get everything finished, and long story short, I ended up donating EVERY SINGLE PAIR of my husband’s jeans, except the ones he was wearing. I’m still not exactly sure how I managed it. I do know that if I would have slowed down and had more respect for my husband’s pants, the incident probably wouldn’t have happened. Although he was not happy with me at the time, we are able to laugh about it now.

Give your partner space

I believe that in order to keep a happy relationship, our partners need their own space. If feasible, and if your partner is okay with it, encourage them to set up their own hangouts where they can enjoy themselves in peace. Help them surround themselves with their hobbies and things they love. Remember that your house also belongs to your partner, and it is his or her right just as much as yours to have a space for themselves. Honestly, it’s not a bad thing, and you kill two birds with one stone. You’ll get some quiet time to yourself, and a lot of your partners’ “clutter” will have its own space.

Don’t give up

It is very easy to become defeatists when we feel our partners are messing up our beautiful homes or ruining our minimalist lifestyle with their seemingly endless amounts of junk. But my advice to you is never give up on your lifestyle. It’s worth it in the long run.

Two years ago, I went down south to visit my aunt. As usual, her house was sparkling. I jokingly asked her how the house was so spotless with my uncle living there. She laughed and told me that it hadn’t always been. Apparently when they were first married, it was a struggle for her to keep the house clean. When I asked her what she did to improve the situation, she told me that she just kept cleaning. Eventually my uncle adapted to her lifestyle and started making efforts to keep the house clean himself. So the moral of this story is don’t give up. Just keep living your life, and it’s possible that your spouse will also enjoy it with you someday as well.

Don’t try to change your partner

Hopefully, your partner knew about your lifestyle before you became involved with each other. But even if they don’t respect it, or they are new to the concept, do what you can to keep your minimalist lifestyle your own without interfering with your spouse’s. Don’t try to change them or force them to conform to your way of life. Even when it gets hard, remember that they are still the same person you fell in love with. Even if – worst case scenario – your partner never becomes a minimalist and your house stays messy forever, let’s be honest, what’s more important? The way your house looks, or building a healthy relationship with the one you love?

When you are a minimalist but your partner is not, the difference of opinion can drive a wedge into your relationship… if you allow it to. When things get frustrating, just remember a few main points: fix what you can, give your partner space, don’t give up on your lifestyle, and be sure to respect your partner. That way, you will show him or her that you love them for who they are. Although the minimalist path may be bumpy for you and your significant other, don’t worry about it! You both love each other and things will work out if effort is put forth. You got this!

Do you struggle with this topic? Have you learned any other ways to cope besides the ones I’ve mentioned? I would love to hear some more tips! Please don’t hesitate to send some feedback! Thank you, everyone, for reading!

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