How I Got My Husband On Board With Minimalism

How I got my husband on board with minimalism
Just for a change of pace, I asked my husband to answer a few questions about our journey to minimalism. I was the one who started the decluttering, and though he was supportive, it was about 5 years before he started decluttering on his own and taking a minimalist view on life. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s ok.
The fact is, I didn’t set out to convince my husband, or manipulate his way of thinking. And that is probably why it worked. If we purposely try to lead people into a different way of thinking, it generally backfires. Be the example. Allow the changes that you are making to inspire. Be patient and understand that it’s a personal decision, they have to come to it on their own.
The following is from my husband, Brian:
When your wife first started decluttering and you created the yearly decluttering chart for her, what did you anticipate the outcome being? I figured it would just be a bunch of misc papers and junk items… not necessarily my junk items. It reminds me of a line from George Carlin: “everyone else’s stuff is junk, but my junk is stuff.” In hindsight, if everyone else saw my stuff as junk, should it really have that much value with me?
How long was it before you really got “on board” with living minimally? It wasn’t any one particular event, it’s kind of like the process of decluttering, it took quite a while and over time I was willing to get rid of more and more stuff.
What benefits do you see to minimalism? More space. More freedom. With having less stuff, it meant there was less burden, it gave me more motivation to be present with what is going on in life currently, rather than always living in the past. I appreciate my wife taking the lead in this, I think I would have just continued to hang onto things and I hadn’t realized before, just how much time and energy went into taking care of stuff.
What made you decide to “let go” of your college textbooks, high school t-shirts, baseball cards, comic books, etc.? I was disappointed to find out that my collections of baseball cards and comic books had no monetary value, I had saved them as an investment, but so had everyone else my age. There was no demand for them over the last twenty years and I didn’t want to hold onto them for the next fifty years “just in case” they gained in value. When I finally decided to let go of the comic books, they were just sitting in the basement collecting dust. I thought they were cool, but I never read them anymore, no one did. The problem was that they had been important to me growing up and I didn’t just want to throw them away. In the end, it was easier for me to give them away or in some cases even trash these items rather than to try to sell them for $.10 here, $.25 there.
Did you ever get frustrated with the amount of stuff leaving your home? Not necessarily the amount, but some of the items. Some things are hard to let go of, even if you know you need to. Just in general, things that have fond memories from my past were hard to let go of. I had trophies from high school and college that I took a lot of pride in at the time, but that was 20 years ago, at this point in my life, I don’t want to brag about something I did in highschool, I want to celebrate things going on in my life currently. I figured if there was nothing in my life to celebrate currently, I needed to change that.
What are your thoughts on keeping things for “just in case” reasons? Very rarely do those “just in case” things come up. It’s easier, and much less time consuming to just purchase what you need when you get into one of those situations. I had my grandfather’s tools from his shop, and I got those when he passed away. They carried a lot of good memories for me, because I remember being with my grandfather while he was tinkering in his shop. But they were just sitting in my garage, I had to come to grips with the fact that I don’t ticker in the garage like he did, so I let them go to someone who could put them to good use. We have a couple friends who do a lot of woodworking and they came through and picked out the things that they would use. For them, it was great, because old tools were built well and for me, it’s nice to know that they are in the hands of someone who appreciates them the way my grandfather did.
Do you have advice for those who want their spouse to declutter? First, declutter your own things. Lead by example. Talk about your reasons. Once you’ve completely gone through all the items that you don’t need his input on, start with things that he cares about least of all. If there are boxes of books in the basement, ask if you can get rid of those first, rather than just going for his current collections.
Try bartering- if he has 5 broken down lawnmowers sitting in the garage, ask him to compromise by selling/trashing those and just getting one new lawnmower.
Utilize the “5 Why’s” and work through items that are difficult. Talk about the difference between the person you are (hobbies, work, how you spend free time, etc.) and the person you want to be: the fantasy self. No amount of lawn care equipment is going to make you have a fantastic yard if you really don’t like doing yard work. It’s ok to let go of those aspirations, get rid of all the gadgets and just pay the neighbor kid to mow the lawn.
What are your questions for Brian? Ask him in the comments below.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I created a FREE Facebook Group - feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group and I share videos each week on YouTube


  1. Jaclyn on 05/05/2015 at 5:33 pm

    THANK YOU for this post!!! I’m new to the decluttering/minimalism mindset and am sometimes frustrated when my husband isn’t on board. Recently I gave up trying to change him and just focused on my own junk. Now he occasionally gets rid of something of his. That and this post make me hopeful for our future!

  2. elle on 05/06/2015 at 4:58 am

    Thank you so much for your post! I have been waiting for this!!!! It Is so great to hear your husband side and how he began his minimalist journey. It is very encouraging.

  3. sarahh on 05/07/2015 at 3:16 pm

    Such a good article! My husband is an art teacher so his half of the basement and garage is full of stuff he “uses.”I have been de cluttering for 2 years and finally feel like I am getting close to being done. My problem is that I already feel like I am compromising and I don’t know what to do. I have the bedrooms and main floor and half the basement de cluttered to a tolerable level . Now that I feel my stuff is done, I find myself I am eyeing his piles every time I walk past them to do laundry. Most days I can deal but if something else is stressing me put and I go down there I feel completely overwhelmed and hopeless. How can I reach him without damaging our otherwise good marriage?

  4. Anne on 05/13/2015 at 10:49 am

    This article is so good! I’m hoping my husband will come around as well. He gets emotionally attached to items. Like the box of wedding favours in our basement, that are not even from our wedding. We don’t need to keep napkins with our friends name on them! Recently my in laws were going to throw away an old trunk, the one his grandparents immigrated to Canada with. It was caved in, musty and the handles were broken. No other family member wanted it so my husband took it saying ‘we can’t throw that away!’ I told him he had six months. He could either restore it or start putting stuff in it, whatever. After the six months he realized he would never do anything with it and even realized his grandmother (passed on) would probably just want him to throw it away too. He gave it back to his mother to dispose of to make it less painful but it’s out of our garage. Hooray! Baby steps!

  5. Gaylene on 05/13/2015 at 11:26 am

    I am well into my decluttering of our house. It has been about a 2 year journey. My husband still is not totally buying in to this. He won’t care if I get rid of some stuff and then other stuff he butts heads with me about and that stuff is usually the silly stuff but he hasn’t taken any interest into getting rid of stuff on his own. I’m still waiting!

  6. Vivian on 05/13/2015 at 6:40 pm

    Hi Rachel, it’s very interesting post. I’m a minimalist mostly, and almost done, but I still have the weakness of magazine collections (several NGs & travel magz) & some books. However I managed to minimize furniture/racks at home in amount & model. But the concern is, that racks/working desk in bedroom specially, in bedroom-turn-to-storage-room, TV rack, is full if not almost overloaded with my husband’s. I have them organized in some level (do some Kondo techniques, use plastic boxes, vertical plastic drawers), but I still see they’re everywhere, far from neat, not enough rack spaces, difficult to restore as they’re somehow a bit cramp in the racks/drawers – – to many stuffs. Some days when the days aren’t going very well, I release my emotional tension by decluttering, it’s the most time when I think I want to get rid of half or 2/3 of our goods/furnitures. If I find my home have more space after decluttering, I feel my cramp heart is not cramp anymore, more space & calmer. The gadgets/charging cables, stacks of DVD movies, just in case goods specially electronic things. Thank-you & best regards.

  7. crys on 05/28/2015 at 1:23 pm

    Seriously needed to read this. I started my journey last year and find myself frustrated that my hubs hasn’t really gotten on board. This gives me hope and reassurance to not push but continue to lead by example and start small. Thank you!

  8. Jessica on 02/25/2016 at 9:14 pm

    Hi all. So I am new to the minimalist journey. My husband travels a lot for work and I am a stay at home mom of 2 little kiddos. I stumbled upon minimalism while trying to find ideas for organizing our new house. For the past 10 years we have had a steady cycle of buy a bigger house, fill it up till we feel like we have outgrown it, then buy a bigger one. I realized that the problem wasn’t the house, we just had too much stuff! Anyway, I’ve been a purge-a-holic for the past 6 weeks. I didnt tell my husband what I was doing. At first, my husband just thought that I was actually cleaning more .. in truth, the more I purged, the cleaner it stayed. He started to ask questions though when furniture that was previously being used to “store things” started to go missing. I then told him what I was up to. At this point, I had not touched a single thing that was his. I asked him to take a good hard look at each room.. what was there? Does he use the stuff ? Does he have duplicates? Can he borrow or rent anything that is only used 1 or 2 times a year.. he was intrigued. He was initially opposed to purging his things, but I asked him to just consider it. I asked him to consider the fact that I am the house manager, and even though he isn’t actively making a mess with his things, I still have to maintain them. I have to dust them, protect them from the kids, move then to clean thier surroundings. I shared how I’d really prefer to spend my time with him or playing with the kids instead of cleaning up clutter. I Did not pester him and continued to purge or organize the things that belonged to me and my kids. The very next weekend I came home from shopping to a massive pile of his belongings by the door. Sometimes those who are reluctant just need to experience the change before taking a leap. I helped him purge even more on the sentimental items by compromising on the quantity. . Of he had a place for every item that looked nice and the kids couldn’t reach, he got to keep it. My husbandtold me his biggest motivation was that I was willing to downsize to a house to half the sizw than the one we live in. I told him if I wanted him to be able to work a lower paying job, then I was going to start living like it, and he had to partner with me on it. SORRY this post is so long. I hope it helps some of you. 🙂

  9. Cindy Hoyt on 07/09/2017 at 10:58 am

    My husband is the type that likes to squirrel stuff away “just in case”. The garage is a good case in point. However, I have been getting rid of lots of my stuff and home stuff over the past couple of years and I’m realizing he has quietly taken note of that and has started to clear some stuff out of his own space. As with most men (like kids), asking or prodding them to do something rarely produces good results. So I guess I could call it the “lead by example” phenomenon. Whatever it is, it is working!

  10. Erin on 07/23/2018 at 5:50 pm

    We just recently moved + it was so nice to rid ourselves of a majority of things. Still, my husband agrees with minimalism…to an extent. I never want to pressure him, but we also do not have a ton of space + I find it hard to commit when we are halfway there.
    He wants to keep a couple of momentos from his childhood/grandparents- they are two big, bulky plastic piggy banks. He also has two stuffed animals from childhood he’d like to pass on to our own kids. I’ve gotten a box for these things, but I just know it is not stuff we need.
    In a practical sense he loves tools + his dad has given him so many. He argues why get rid of car jacks when he’ll use them every three years. We currently do not have a garage + they are big + bulky. He does work on our cars which is nice- I just worry if you keep adding things like this then this collection gets to big. What do you think?
    Glad you two are on the same page!

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