Many times when you start something new, your family isn’t ready to start with you. Going it alone is fine in the beginning when you are excited, curious and digging into your new challenge.
The struggle occurs when you discover the benefits and want to take things further. Take simplicity for example. After a few months of decluttering, and shortening your to-do list, extra time and space inspire you to go a little deeper. If you want to take the next step and downsize or pay down debt, you need your family on board.
I know from personal experience that it’s not your job to convince your spouse/partner/children to change. Not to mention, the convincing, begging and pleading approach is not effective. It’s much more powerful to be an example. If you want people to see the joy in less, be joyful with less.
Even though this works in many situations, including mine, that is not always the reality. I’ve heard from people who have been hoping for a change from their partner for more than a decade. Some people go it alone because their husband/wife/partner will not get simple with them. I can imagine that this is a lonely, frustrating place to be, and while I don’t have real life experience here, I hope the following recommendations will be helpful.
When no one will get simple with you …
If your conversations about simplicity have been focused on your partner getting rid of their stuff, it may sound more like nagging than encouraging. Invite them to read an inspiring blog post about simplicity or a book like Your Money or Your Life or Simplify.
Try a different approach and instead of saying what you want, ask your partner what they want. You may want the same things, but because you’ve been focused on getting there, you missed the connection.
Appreciate the little things
Has there been slow progress? Notice the little things and make sure you appreciate the tiny steps that your partner is making, even though they aren’t as fast or in the exact direction you had planned. Be encouraging and gentle. If his/her attempt at simplifying is met with your suggestions for doing it better, motivation to continue is lost.
Love it or leave it
I’m not recommending the end of a relationship, but suggesting that you choose to love or leave the conversation about simplicity. If after 10 years, there still isn’t the slightest interest, it’s time to accept that things may never change. Take an honest look at the decade long struggle. If it’s always a battle and causing you and your relationship unnecessary stress, let it go. Find simplicity in your own way and focus on the things that you do love about your partner.
Look at the big picture
Is this struggle really about simplicity or is there a bigger issue within your relationship? Even when the two of you are not on the same page, you should be able to reach a place of mutual respect. If not, consider asking for help.
People over stuff
Make sure your arguments and conversation are about things that really matter and have the potential to improve your relationship. Fighting over measuring spoons or the right number of shoes to own isn’t productive. Focus your simplicity conversations on the benefits, on how you want to live your lives, on what things would look like between the two of you if you weren’t dealing with crushing debt, overtime, and clutter.
Develop your own simple space
If you live with a hoarder, or someone who can’t let go and won’t support your desire for simplicity, create a minimalist sanctuary. Develop a simple space that is all yours. It might be a corner in your bedroom, or a small room or other space in your home. Spend time outside too. Take walks and appreciate the simple beauty surrounding you.
Connect with like-minded people
You may not live with someone who supports your journey, but there is support available. Simplicity blogs were a great inspiration to me in the beginning and still are. For stories on slow, small, and simple, check out:
- Rowdy Kittens
- The Connected Life
- Zen Habits
- Hands Free Mama
- The Minimalists
- Slow Your Home
- Becoming Minimalist
Read books and attend events that support a simple lifestyle.
Your partner’s resistance to change likely comes from a place of fear. Change and uncertainty can be really scary, especially when your partner is changing without you. Be open and kind and remind them that you love them and that the new simple life you crave includes them and supports your relationship.
One person in the relationship may always want more simplicity, but come together on love. If you can’t, the struggle isn’t with simplicity or stuff, but something bigger that deserves your attention and action.