Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sandy Kreps of Modern Simplicity. She is the author of Fresh Start: 31 Days to Simplify, Declutter and Rein in the Chaos.
One of the biggest issues people face when deciding to simplify their lives is this: Can I simplify my lifestyle if my spouse or family doesn’t want to? How do I pursue a simpler life when my family won’t help?
I was very fortunate that my husband has been on board with simplifying since the first time I mentioned it (my kids are a different story). While the majority of the purging, organizing, and schedule maintenance falls to me, it is helpful knowing he supports my efforts. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.
I’ve talked to husbands who were adamant that their homes not change one iota, and I’ve talked to wives who refused to let go of anything. It can be a tough issue when you are the one who is overwhelmed and struggling to find a clearer path.
Here are some tips I have found helpful to deal with this disconnect between partners:
Find Common Ground. It is rare that a spouse or family member is completely inflexible about simplifying. Often times, it is the fear of what they might say that hinders progress. This is why an honest, open discussion about your household’s possessions, needs, schedule, and goals is so important. Focusing on what you as a couple or as a family want out of life can take the stress off of the decision to get rid of that old VCR or stack of unread books.
Focus on the Positives. List out the benefits of simplicity. Keep the list in a place that gets noticed. Focusing on the benefits will remind everyone of the positive changes you are seeking. Getting rid of a time commitment that’s not important to you can make room in the schedule for a regular date night or family time. Cleaning out the garage means you can park your car in there. Selling some dusty collectibles can bring in money to pay off debts.
Seek Input. Remember, people don’t like to feel like they are not being given a choice. If you want to get rid of something that’s a shared possession, such as a TV or a car, put it up for a vote and respect the decision that comes from it.
Start Small. But make sure you start. Simplifying is not a race, and the more you make it feel like one, the more stressed and combative your partner will be. Your home, your schedule, your life didn’t become cluttered overnight, so don’t try to declutter it in one frantic weekend. Take your time and be deliberate with your purging. Not only will you make more thoughtful decisions, your family will have time to get used to the changes little by little.
Start with Yourself. You can’t change anyone, only yourself. So focus on the stuff that is yours – your wardrobe, your desk, your schedule, your stuff. The best way to change the hearts of those around you is to lead by example – forcing the issue will not win you any allies. If it belongs to someone else in the house, keep your hands off.
Sandy Kreps is a green living/simplicity writer and graphic designer. She blogs at Modern Simplicity, which is dedicated to simple green living with a modern style. She just released her first book, Fresh Start: 31 Days to Simplify, Declutter and Rein in the Chaos. You can also find her on Twitter.
Image: Tampa Band Photos