How To Live With Someone Else’s Clutter

Living with a non-minimalist 

Photo by Luca Laurence on Unsplash

When you minimise your own possessions and you’re the only minimalist in a household, you will inevitably start to notice other people’s stuff. You will have all sorts of ideas in your head about what should go and what should stay. 

Why does your husband insist on keeping that set of weights when he hasn’t worked out in years?  

Why does your daughter have so many shoes?

Why can’t your room mate just throw away their bulging collection of ragged t-shirts? 

Surely they can see the mess they’re living in. Why won’t they understand the benefits of being a minimalist? If only they would stop and listen to you! 

Unfortunately, nagging, preaching or removing their stuff without permission will not only cause them to hold onto more stuff in an act of defiance and security, but can end up driving a wedge between you and the people you love. 

Everyone has possessions which are important to them for a variety of different reasons. Maybe it’s for security, perhaps they grew up with nothing, maybe they grew up drowning in stuff like I did. Whatever the reason, you should never badger and pester someone to get rid of something they’re not comfy doing so. 

My husband, son and I share a house with my parents. The only minimalist in the house is me, so for the longest time I felt frustrated by what I considered to be clutter from other people. 

It seemed that no matter how much of my own stuff I got rid of, they accumulated even more. I became hyper aware of everything that was coming into the home, especially since we all share a kitchen and bathroom. 

Where was I going wrong?

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had turned into a preacher of minimalism. I was so encouraged by my new outlook on life that I wanted everyone else to experience the joy, and I wanted to minimise even more.  Suddenly, every marketing tactic was clear to me, every needless item on a store shelf, every meaningless trinket left on my shelves. 

It’s so easy to fall into this ‘I know best’ mindset when you’re feeling so renewed and energised from such a lifestyle change. But that attitude didn’t do me any favours, and it won’t do you any. 

It’ll strain your relationships and do the opposite of simplifying your life. 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I had many disagreements with my husband and parents. Nothing I said seemed to work and I was getting fed up. But in the end, it wasn’t worth the heated arguments. 

Then I remembered that I was doing this for myself, and that pushing for results from others was stressful and counter-productive. Everyone around me had their own stories, and it wasn’t fair that I was interfering. So I stopped. And I realised how overbearing I had been and that the message of minimalism was being lost. 

To my surprise, after a few months, not only did my husband start actively supporting my new lifestyle, he identified some clothes he no longer wanted. Even my mum had a random clearout and filled several charity shop bags. 

Think about the last time you were shouted at or lectured. Were you angry? Did you feel inspired to do what the other person wanted? 

I thought not. 

But don’t worry. As human beings we’ve all been there.We want something from somebody who refuses to play ball and become desperate, convinced that we know best. Of course, all that serves to do is drive people away or cause them to rebel. 

The best way to persuade someone is to always be friendly and sympathetic, and to lead by example. Minimalism is one of those concepts that’s better observed over time. 

Once people see how much happier, lighter, and more relaxed you are, and how much more time and space you have, you’re much more likely to see a gradual change. The keyword here is gradual

If you’ve come so far in your minimalist journey, you’ll know that change doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a few months. 

It’s a learning process where decision-making skills are sharpened and mindset is improved or altered. 

You’re even more likely to persuade the ones you care about by spending that extra time doing something you love, or spending time with them.

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

Everybody wants more time in their day, and everybody wants to feel important. 

Whatever you do don’t pester someone or suggest to them what should be kept and what shouldn’t be. How can one sharpen their own decision-making skills and feel empowered if the decisions are being made for them? 

When I was a child, there were times my mum despaired at my toy and magazine accumulation, but when she screamed and shouted at me about it, I held on even tighter because I felt like my stuff was important to me. As a spoilt only child, I was defined by my stuff. 

In the end it doesn’t matter if you’re twelve, twenty-eight, or sixty; if you get spoken to badly, nagged and preached at, there will be rebellion instead of results. 

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand them, but most of all, live happily with your own values. If people like what they see, they’ll soon follow. 

Just remember, that not everybody wants to be a minimalist, and your goal shouldn’t be to convert them, but to demonstrate a simpler way of life and bring out the best in yourself and everyone you meet. 

To Summarise:

Don’t nag

Don’t shout

Don’t remove other people’s stuff

Don’t preach 

Don’t forget what minimalism is all about

Do be understanding

Do be friendly

Do be patient

Do be sympathetic

Do lead by example

Do focus on you

Do remember the true meaning of minimalism 

The meaning of minimalism? To remove excess stuff in your life so that you can enjoy an abundance of whatever is important to you

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash



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