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My Husband Doesn’t Understand Minimalism

I get this question a lot “What do I do if my husband doesn’t want to embrace a simple or minimalist life?‘.

The family unit in agreement (including children) seems to be a major, if not the greatest, barrier to this lifestyle.

I have written before about how the family is more important than stuff… that is what minimalism is about – people are worth more than stuff.  If it is going to split people up to get rid of material stuff than it isn’t worth it.


I have also heard lots of the following ‘My spouse is on-board now and we are really excited‘, or ‘I sent my wife to your site and she loved the idea’, or ‘My husband seems to think it is a good idea‘.

There are places where a spouse, or other family member, might be totally opposed to getting rid of anything or simplifying at all… but I think that is pretty rare.  What is much more common is ‘what we think’ they might say.

Have you:

  1. Decided you want to simplify your life?  Do you have a reason? Do you have a picture in your head of what you want to work toward?
  2. Have you simplified your stuff?  Your schedule?
  3. Have you talked to your family member about what YOU are planning to do?
  4. Have you shown your family member the benefit the changes are (or will) make for you and them?

There is a good chance that everyone in the family will have different ideas of how to adopt minimalism or what kind of simple life they want.  However, there is also a really good chance that they also want less crazy in the house and in the schedule.  Being overwhelmed and frustrated with clutter is a universal human trait.  (even though we all have different amounts we are okay with)

There is a really good chance that if you complete the 4 ideas above that your family member will be happy and interested.  …I can’t prove it, but just my guess.  Where people get upset and go against an idea is when they are expected to make changes based on another persons opinion.  Often when I get these questions I think I might be hearing:

  1. ‘I like the idea of simple living but I am scared or tired and I want confirmation this is good for my life from my family member.’
  2. ‘I told my family about how great minimalism is and about other people adopting it and they aren’t doing anything about it.’
  3. ‘I told my family member that they needed to clean out ________ because it was too cluttered and that they should get rid of ________but they don’t want to’
  4. ‘I keep telling my family member that life will be better when we simplify but they aren’t initiating any changes.’

I get this comment/question from women the most.  This is interesting to me because, depending on the household, the woman is really in charge of most of the material ‘stuff’.  A husband probably won’t mind if his wife simplifies all her stuff, her cloths, bathroom clutter, kitchen clutter, laundry clutter, kid clutter and more.  They might not like it if their cloths or the garage is cleaned out without them present, but most of the house they probably don’t care.  (it would be a good idea to check before anything drastic is done)

When we started adopting minimalism my husband liked the idea.  We both changed and grew with what we thought we needed as the process went along.  However, most of the de-cluttering was up to me.   I might ask him about a kitchen tool or something the kids wanted to get rid of, but he would say it was up to me.  Not that he wasn’t helpful (my husband rocks ;)) but he really thought most of the house was my say because I was the one to live with (or without) the item in question most of the time.

So, if this is an issue for you take a look at what you have done and how you have communicated.   If one item is in question and they want to keep it – keep it.  However, work with them to create a vision for a simple life you both can agree on and take the steps to start moving the house in that direction.

Love ya all!  Thanks for reading!

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  1. I can’t get a real read on my husband and minimalism. He hates clutter – but is probably the messiest person I know! I talked to him this weekend about getting rid of (more) stuff, and he said he didn’t care what I did. So, I am remembering that, and I am just going for it. We have a huge town trash pick up at the end of the month, and I am trying to get rid of everything. Not that it is all trash, but I just want it out of the house. And as far as my kids go. They seem more relaxed when less is available to them, so I am cleaning out toys (again) as well.

    • my husbands not really neat either… don’t tell him I said that.. I get his final approval on getting rid of his stuff but I pull lots of it out 🙂

  2. My wife has came on board with the idea (I’m disabled,so I’m the “housewife” :p) after only breifly talking about the benefits both on decluttering and downsizing our things as well as “rightsizing” into a small house that we’d own (the larger house we owned that burned last year…we both remember the struggle to keep that drafty place warm all winter,both with utility bills as well as the wood stove with all “green wood”),though I’m not quite sure she reaslises yet that we have been talking about her stuff as well as mine,LOL! The kids? A different story…the oldest is nearly 16 and she doesn’t grasp the idea,the youngest is almost on board but is more along the lines of “better organization” than he is “getting rid of” any of his often unused and neglected things…we’ll see how it goes as we progress. I’m thankful for both your blog and book (I have Simple Living in the Kindle now) as resources 🙂

    • we were just talking about how it was hard to keep our house warm the other day too. I hate the high utility bills but even with the furnace turned up at our old place it was always drafty… lots of the windows faced north. Now it is much easier to warm up and keep the place warm 🙂 …yeah, I am not sure how it would work with a 16 year old… they don’t deal with outside ideas well .. good luck!

      • Oh MAN was that old place hard to heat…even going through and trying to winterise the place,it seemed drafty. The electric heat was problematic underneath (duct line issues,regaurdless of what I spent or how many times I crawled under there…),and all we had that last winter to burn was green (unseasoned) wood,it seemed like I was having to piddle with it every 25-45 minutes to keep a fire going,not to mention electric bills in the $700+ range WITH wood fires going. IDK how this place will be bill-wise yet,we only just mooved in 4 months ago. It wasn’t bad to cool during the summer,bill-wise,and the landlord/owner has mentioned that I need to remind him before winter sets in,as he’s going to replace all the underpinning with better insulated stuff…we’ll see.

        • yeah, we love our apartment. Even the bigger apartment we had last winter cost almost nothing to heat… I can’t even remember exactly what the bills were because they never worried me much 🙂

          • That in and of itself (not worrying about it) is simply awesome 🙂

  3. I definitely prefer less stuff than my husband and daughter. My daughter is always squirreling things away “for projects” that never materialize and my husband likes to keep things on hand… even if he never ends up using them or he using them so in frequently that I wonder if there is something else that could do the job. It is all a balance… My son is like me.. he just doesn’t get attached to objects. I try to keep it under control and when they really have accumulated too much I put my foot down and say, “We don’t have the space for this you have to go through it and get rid of what your not using.”

    • 🙂

  4. Diane-BeLIEVE me I know what you’re talking about…I WAS that husband,LOL! I still tend to hold onto somethings,like your daughter,for “future projects”…when our old house burned last year,there were over 300 unbuilt model car kits stashed in and taking over one bathroom-there are over 150 here and now (all bought after settling after the fire,no less). I’m weeding through them,keeping only the ones I might actually build someday (the “someday” that actually comes :p)…but I hoard bicycles too-besides the one my daughter seldom rides,the two my son rides frequently and the three “riders” I keep for myself (one road-ish,one mtn,one cargo) there are way too many “project bikes” sitting at the old (burned) house waiting for a rebuild on the other kind of “someday”…the kind that most likely never come (blushing)…it’s a process,and one wee’ve only just begun 🙂

  5. Good advise on trying to get the others on board. While I have patted myself on the back for doing such a great job – your post has made me look at myself again. A little better communication and cooperation might improve my success rate!

    • thanks! good luck 🙂

  6. My husband is very neat (I’m the messy one). He is completely on board with our lifestyle, but he tends to be a little slower with getting rid of things. I have found that when I bring something up that he is unsure of, we just agree to keep it for another couple of months. The fact that I brought it up reminds him about it, so when I bring it up again a couple of months later, he is usually like, “you’re right, we don’t really need it.”

    It puts his mind at ease that it truly can be removed from our home, and we end up getting rid of it both completely in agreement.
    Works for us!

    • Yes, you said this better than me. This is what I was going for. If we (i.e. readers of the blog) are wanting change we need to do the work. Not pushing work, but taking the initiative to work on it and keep up with where the family is comfortable.

  7. My family just look confused at me. My family are the sort to keep everything ‘just in case.’ I am a single mother, but I have to confess I do think I would struggle to date someone who came with clutter. De-cluttering has had such an positive impact on my mental health I feel going back to clutter would drive me mad. Before I de-cluttered it wouldn’t have bothered me, but now having seen the effects of having less going back would seem a backwards step.

    • yep, I can totally agree 🙂

  8. For me, I have found that a slower process is less scary and easier to accept. No drastic house gutting, here. No sudden changes…Don’t want to scare them away…

    • yep, totally 🙂 It isn’t a change in possessions that is needed as much as a change in thinking and habits. The other will follow 🙂

  9. Laura Laura

    Whenever someone comes to our house, they comment on how it looks so neat and clean and like something out of a magazine.

    All the while I’m thinking (I haven’t dusted in over a week!!).

    This is so normal to me I forget that they are simply seeing less STUFF then what they’re used to.

    My NON minimalist husband came home from a football party with the guys and said “BOY! Was their house cluttered!”

    Give them some time and you will definitely rub off on them. Less stuff means less stress and you don’t think about it until you enter a “more stuff more stress” house. He allows me to do “my thing” and jokes with me about my “fear of stuff”, but when comments like that come out of his mouth, I know it’s growing on him.

    • 🙂 Love it!

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