Be the Change You Wish to See in Your Home

Be the change you wish to see in your home.

Readers frequently ask me questions like:

  • “How can I get my husband to declutter?”
  • “How can you live a simple life with children?”
  • “How can I make my wife clean out her closet?”
  • “How can I convince my friends and family to live with less?”

My response is always the same.

“You can’t.”

Think about all the changes you’ve made in your life. How often were your friends and family making the same changes? I became a vegetarian alone. I started decluttering alone. I’ve lost weight alone. While my friends and family have typically been beautifully supportive, they weren’t interested in the same lifestyle changes I was at the same time. And that’s ok.

I write about living with less, living a healthy lifestyle and adding more joy to your life, not because I want to convince you to live a certain way, but to remind you that you have a choice and to invite you to live your life on purpose.

When it comes to decluttering, the most important thing you can do in a family situation is deal with your own stuff first. Don’t worry about her shoes, their toys or even shared items. Learn from experience and start with your own personal items. Once you are finished with your own items (and that could take days or months or years), enjoy your accomplishment without comparison.

Instead of convincing your friends and family to live like you do, lead by example. Demonstrate the benefits of your lifestyle choices by living fully. Answer questions without preaching, help people without focus on personal gain, and love regardless of circumstance.

Your hoarder husband may seem less attractive now that you live with less, but you didn’t marry him because of how he felt about stuff. Why did you? What do you love about him? Tell him. If your wife refuses to let go of her books, that’s not a deal breaker. Your spouse/roommate/friend/parent/child will be inspired by your journey, but they have to take the trip when they are ready.

Today, my husband eats a vegetarian diet most of the time. My daughter decluttered her bathroom and bedroom one weekend, without me saying a word and then, she said she enjoyed doing it. I didn’t run around screaming, “I knew you’d come around!” but I was so grateful.


  1. says

    Hi Courtney,

    I happily signed up and voted for you, Joshua x2, and Ryan for SXSW. I’ve encouraged other people I know with similar philosophies in life to do the same.

    I’m not going to keep my fingers crossed for you because I think your message and way of presenting it will carry the day.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Thanks Joel! I really appreciate your support. After meeting Joshua, Ryan and Joshua this year, I can tell we will have a powerful message together and have a lot of fun delivering it.

  2. says

    The trouble is while you don’t have your family on the same page they will drive you crazy by cluttering what you have decluttered. I envy single minimalists.

    • Lia says

      I had this issue too, Boo, but they eventually started following my example. It took at least a year before they caught on. Be patient…..

  3. says

    I have more serenity in my life when I remember that I can only change my own behaviors. My actions are the best way to serve as an example.

    After the first round of Project 333, when I donated a LOT of clothes that I had boxed up and not missed one bit, my husband was inspired to start clearing clutter from the basement. I don’t nag him about his stuff (I know how I’d feel if he nagged me!), but it is a pleasure to realize that I’ve influenced him in a positive way.

    This also reminds me to be more observant of HIS actions and behaviors to see what I could adapt, too!

    Good luck with the SXSW proposal…you have my vote!

  4. says

    My grown boys found jobs that allowed them to live comfortably, but in time watching what I was doing they too have begun to cut back and simplify. Both my boys insisted they wanted large homes, but each ended up buying a home that fit their “needs” not their wants. They are cutting cable, getting rid of debt and credit cards and enjoying life more. Seeing one person be happier with less can be motivating to some, at least in my experience.

  5. says

    Courtney, this is such an awesome reminder that we can only control our own thoughts and behaviors.

    And, let’s be honest, most of us would do well to look after ourself before worrying about anyone else’s clutter. (Me included!) After that we would be in a much better position to help those around us, if they need/want it.

    It’s the whole “put your own oxygen mask on before helping others” thing.

  6. says

    I love this post. So many times, people force others to be what they are not. Leading by example will give them that positivity to make them want to do it themselves, but you can make that happen. It has to happen. I quit caffeine last year and my boyfriend goes out of his way to hide it from me (unless he’s being smart and wants to gloat). I told him that it doesn’t bother and that he can have as many as he wants.

    Oh and I voted for you.

  7. says

    Living more simply has changed my life. This is a great message to share with others to remind them of what is important.

  8. MelD says

    Yes, I echo your sentiment.
    Getting my act sorted and decluttering my stuff (an ongoing process still, even after 10 or more years…life, I guess) changed things a lot for me. It gave me space to be me as well as a mom, vastly improved my relationship with my husband and made me a better role model for my 3 daughters. I work on my simplification and minimalist goals every single day as a matter of course.
    My husband isn’t actively decluttering, even now, but seems to have absorbed a lot of my philosophies without really noticing and allows me to put the brakes on regularly – long term, he appreciates that I am not as demanding as other wives he hears about (homes, cars, clothes, jewellery, holidays… that which is perceived to be the “good life”… just not for me!!). He can now see that I am content with less and it gives him hope for our old age and retirement and plans to travel and do other stuff now the kids are grown. (He also doesn’t buy as many shirts since I am so much better at keeping up with the ironing!)
    My eldest daughter tries hard to keep things decluttered but does find it quite hard with a young family. I support her where I can, and the sentiment is there. She’ll get there in the end.
    My middle daughter has embraced minimalism to the extent that she recently moved abroad with her husband with only 2 suitcases. So far they have bought 2 beds, one for themselves and one for guests, both with drawers below to store any clothes and linens. That’s it. They are planning for a low table and cushions instead of sofas, chairs, dining sets or other paraphernalia – this will serve as a desk, dining table and lounge area. I so admire them for doing this at a young age! They know that they will move again in a few years and don’t want to be encumbered.
    My youngest daughter is still a total packrat and in collector-mode but I think she will improve as she gets older – she’s only 16.
    So yes, eventually, they do catch on…

    • says

      Thank you! I needed this exact advise. I’ve been struggling ever since I got married to have my husband de-clutter his stuff that he hasn’t used for years! You are inspirational to just keep going with my belongings and whatever else I can around the house.