One of the top questions/comments I hear from people is something like this:
“I would be minimalist, but my husband hangs onto everything!”
“I can’t declutter because my wife doesn’t want to!”
Now…I hear you, I get it. You are sharing your life with a person and you are sharing your home with a person so it’s kind of hard to create a simple home when they are mini hoarders. Correct?
First of all, I have to preface this by saying, I’m a raging bitch. Not even though, I am just a woman who is not afraid to speak my mind. This is largely due to the fact that I got so sick of holding my tongue for so long.
I have been in the relationships where the other person comes home, strips off all their dirty clothes, leaves a trail through the house and doesn’t even consider picking them up.
My belief with this – no one should feel like the only grown up in a house. There should 100% be a mutual respect for caring for the home, even if one of you is home all day.
I am not a woman who just sits around loving maintaining my home – that’s why I’m a minimalist OK…because I freaking hate cleaning. I mean, there are a lot of reasons, but that’s one is at the top of the list.
You deserve to be respected in your home and being with a person who completely tramples you and disregards your efforts is not ok.
This is a tricky topic to tackle while making it clear that I don’t think you were made to be a human doormat, but I’m going to try.
So here goes…how can we make a spouse declutter?
The truth: I was the hoarder-like person when I met Tom. I had a big memory box filled with things like popped balloons and straws. I couldn't even tell a story behind each item because I didn’t always remember.
I had my planners from school – because I thought at age 40 I might want to know what homework I had on January 28 2003. I’m 36 right now and haven’t thought twice about it, so PHEW!
Tom on the other hand basically rotated the same 3 outfits, kept his apartment spotless, and never really bought stuff – except when we met me – he bought me stuff all the time. We’ve talked about it since…basically he felt like he had to be my sugar daddy or I would leave him forever. I thought I had to beautiful and perfect or he would leave me forever. This, my friends, is the result of two seriously wounded inner children who had their dads walk out on them. That’s a topic for another day.
Beyond a few mentions about all the stuff I was holding onto, Tom never really said anything to me over the years.
He would say a few comments – not in a nagging way, but just in an observational way.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you hang onto so much stuff. I’ve moved so many times, I just realized there was so much I never used.”
“Oh my gosh, your side of the closet drives me crazy! All the hangers are overlapping! I can’t even look!”
Those were the few things he said to me…but again…he did so in a light hearted way and always just…let me be exactly as I was.
I did the same thing with him,
“Oh my gosh, you seriously need all of your hangers finger width apart? Why do you have special hangers for each different type of clothing?!”
Over the years, I learned to straighten up my closet, and get rid of more stuff and he learned not to be so uptight about his finger-width-apart rule.
Why? Because for the most part, we just let one another exist as is.
Habits rub off.
If we live with someone long enough, we pick up on their habits. I picked up on his over the years and began adapting them to my life and then we got to a point where I intentionally chose to adapt newer and better habits.
I started eliminating more stuff, I started working less, relaxing more, reading more, studying myself more, learning about things like meditation, mindset, minimalism, money…
And he was annoyed.
I was changing. People don’t like change – especially when their spouse of (at the time) 7 years starts behaving totally differently. It freaks them out.
If you are applying minimalism to your life, starting to declutter and your spouse starts digging in their heels, sometimes just knowing that’s to be expected can be really helpful.
They are merely fearing change.
This is a pivotal time because they may not change with you.
No matter what new venture you take on in your life, you have to know that other people might not come along for the journey.
This holds true for anything. If you took up mountain biking, which Tom has, you have to do it knowing your spouse might not be coming along for the ride. Quite literally, I don’t like going along for the ride. I tried a few times and sometimes I feel like going, but usually I leave that mountain bike trail with my heart pounding and anxiety surging through my brains while he feels totally healed from all anxiety and has a huge smile on his face. Same sport. Different results.
When I go to my musicals, sometimes he tags along and winces during the high notes, while I wipe a tear from my eye. So, I go with friends to my musicals – people who enjoy them with me and he goes mountain biking alone so he can have his time.
Some things we venture on we must know our spouses won’t come along with us.
If you missed last week’s episode on being neutral, it’s definitely one I recommend going back and listening to.
When it comes to clearing clutter in your home, try to allow this to just be your journey instead of something you’re forcing them into.
It’s so easy to go, “Ugh he’s hanging onto so many useless tools” or “Does she really need THAT many shoes!” Rather than turning your eyes to your creepy porcelain doll collection that is covered in dust. By the way, I hope you don’t have that, it sounds like a room full of nightmares.
But hopefully you’re picking up what I’m laying down.
We so badly want to control the journey of another because it’s easier than controlling our own journey.
Instead, allow this to be yours. Start in your closet, start with the cluttered areas and expired products. –You can always use my list of 105+ things to declutter to get you started.
If you are the one who is usually in the kitchen, simply make some room. Don’t get rid of any of their things without asking. Or, ask, open up that conversation by saying, “Hey, I’m trying to make some room in the cabinets so it’s easier to find things, do you use this punch bowl your mom gave us?”
If you want to be KIND OF sneaky – don’t let them touch the item. OK? People are more likely to keep things if they handle the item themselves. It’s like it become an additional limb or something.
OK, that’s all I’m giving you…that one tiny secret. Otherwise, keep being honest and open.
Hopefully, over time as you continue to simplify your life, your spouse just might see the progress you’ve made and be willing more and more to part with things as well.
Don’t book it to their area of the house like the garage or craft room and INSIST that they change it.
Decluttering is a bigger thing than most of us realize. It’s actually quite emotional and we carry a lot of baggage with it. While you might so badly want them to experience the peace and simplicity that you have found, the truth is, you can’t force people to get rid of stuff and more than you can force them to just “get over” their parents leaving them or the pain that was caused from their first divorce.
Some things are just not that simple.
Allow this journey to be yours. Put the focus on yourself and what you can control. Find spiritual teachings and motivational podcasts (ehem….like maybe this one) to keep you centered and focused on your own journey.
Remember, this doesn’t mean they get to actively work against you, trash your house or side step your feelings. If that’s happening, you’ve got bigger issues than stuff. If you need to, seek counseling, talk to a friend —or my personal favorite, get good at hearing your own intuition. So often we don’t realize that the decisions we are making are based on limiting beliefs.
I hate to break it to you, but at the end of the day we are in control of no one but ourselves. How we respond, what we declutter. The longer you trick yourself into thinking you have any say over who they are or how they behave, the longer you put off getting in deeper contact with yourself.