I get asked this frequently, and it’s important to consider our motivation in asking, “How do we get our spouse on board with minimalism?”
For myself, I wanted to blame my husband for the state of the home. Was he messy? Yes. Did he leave stuff out everywhere? Yes. Did he collect weird random things? Yes, Oh, so many!
But so did I.
The house wasn’t a mess because of him. Some of it was, some of it was the kids, and a lot of it was me. Getting him to fix his habits is a pretty hard ask; when he lives with me, he sees my habits too.
But what do we do when we’re ready to make a change?
1. Talk to them
I say this because I don’t talk. I have to work at sharing what is on my mind.
And how can my husband know I want to embrace minimalism if he’s never heard me talk about it?
Sitting down to watch youtube videos together or watching the Minimalism documentary “Less is Now” is a great place to start.
The videos that inspire me are minimalist home tours to see how people live and what their homes look like. Here’s our home tour.
If you have children as well, include them in the conversation.
Think for yourself:
- Why do you want to embrace minimalism?
- How would your everyday life change from what it is now?
- What would you do with the extra time?
- Would that change the things you talk about?
- How would it help you save money?
And when you have some concrete thoughts yourself, share them and ask everyone else in the house what they think.
What would they want to do with their free time and money?
It’s also important to talk about how clutter makes you feel. Our motivation for embracing minimalism often comes from feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.
So it’s important to let your spouse know that clutter has a negative impact on your life and your mental well-being. And in embracing minimalism, you are aiming to eliminate a lot of the stress, the arguments, and whatever else you have noticed is tied to all the stuff.
While talking with them, let them know that you will not get rid of their things without their permission. (This should also apply to children unless they are too young to make that decision.)
Then determine together where things should be stored.
One of the most significant “rules” that helped me keep a tidy house was to limit only communal items to the communal spaces.
For example, the living room is a communal space, so personal items should not be stored there.
This is not a place to store my painting supplies or seed collection and this is not the place to store Brian’s tools or work boots.
It meant that I either had to get rid of some of my craft supplies or get rid of things in another area of the house so I had a place to put the items I truly wanted in my life.
After all the communal areas were decluttered, the house was easier to manage. And it didn’t bother me as much that Brian had boxes of comic books in the basement, and the stress of all the hobby supplies was no longer in my face.
If you are married to someone who loves their clutter:
Decide together what space should be theirs. Can they have the garage? The basement? A spare room? If possible, it needs to be a place that is entirely theirs, and you don’t need to access it. Then they can have their things the way they want them, and you don’t have to see it.
With your spouse having their own space, you are free to maintain the common areas of your home the way you want them, you can relax in that space, and your spouse won’t feel anxious about your decluttering journey.
3. Work on yourself
We can only change ourselves.
It’s easy to blame other people: “I can’t keep a clean house; my husband collects too much stuff.”
Ok, so your husband collects stuff, and that’s hard.
But you can declutter your things.
If you’ve already talked to your husband and devised a plan for where he can keep all his collections, then the rest of the house should be free to be decluttered.
If he is not happy about it, remind him what you talked about, your motivation, and what you need to do for your mental well-being.
I don’t recommend sneaking around and tossing things, but if they’ve already given the go-ahead with the common areas, it might be easier to take out the trash and drop donations off when they’re not home.
As I was decluttering, if I came to an item I felt my husband should give input on where it goes, I would set that aside and talk to him about it.
In our home, I do the majority of the cooking, which meant I could sort the kitchen and make all the decisions there, and it wouldn’t impact him.
The garage was a different story, and I had to wait for him to see the benefits of owning less before I could declutter anything in there.
Remember to keep the focus on yourself.
You are seeking the help, wanting a change, and ready to do the work to make those changes.
Since you are reading a blog post on how to get your spouse on board, my guess is that your spouse probably doesn’t care about the state of the home.
He didn’t even notice that the surfaces were covered, it didn’t bother him to step over stuff on the floor, and the dirty dishes in the sink never concerned him.
It was me.
I wanted that change.
We can play the victim and bemoan our spouses’ messiness, or we can decide to work on ourselves and do it for ourselves.
This means we’ll be doing many household chores ourselves in the beginning.
Is that fair? No.
But if you look at it from their perspective, and the house has been in a messy state for years, and suddenly, you jump out and demand that they do the dishes twice a day?
Will that feel fair to them?
So, you lead by example. And after you work at it for a while, talk to your spouse again. Ask them what they think of the changes. Share how having certain areas cleared has helped you feel calm. Let them know you would like to be involved in the daily tasks, and talk about what that would look like on a typical day.
Talk about setting up a system – who cooks? Who cleans up after? And when does that happen? How often should the toilet be cleaned? When will that take place?
If you need an outline of what tasks to do every day and every week to maintain a home, I have a complete set of editable checklists right here.
One of the ways I got myself to follow through with changing habits, was to make them easy. Stupid-easy. If you want to know the 3 habits I focused on, click here.