12 Practical Tips to Turn Your Partner into a Minimalist
One of the questions I am most frequently asked (and maybe the hardest to answer) is, “How do I get my spouse to embrace minimalism?”
Many people find themselves on a journey to minimalism, experiencing the life-giving benefits of owning less and living more, only to look beside them and wish their partner shared the same vision.
It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
You can see how this change might benefit not only your shared spaces but also their personal well-being. Yet, despite your best efforts, the change you desire never happens.
Of course, if I had all the answers on “how to get your spouse to do everything you ever wanted,” I’d probably be writing different books.
But I thought it might be helpful to sit down and come up with a list of practical ideas that could help you navigate this difficult, but all-too-common terrain.
12 Practical Tips to Turn Your Partner into a Minimalist
1. Begin With Yourself.
Showcasing the benefits of minimalism through your own actions is the first and most compelling argument that you can make.
I realize that setting an example sometimes only gets you so far. But any conversation about bringing about a positive change in someone else’s life needs to start with our own.
2. Share Success Stories.
Sometimes hearing about the transformation in other families or individuals can be the inspiration your partner needs.
These stories can range from general ones like, “I was reading today about a guy who minimized his possessions and began traveling full-time,” to close personal anecdotes such as, “So I was just talking to Rachel about their plans to downsize.”
3. Offer to Help.
Rather than pushing them to declutter, extend a helping hand. Doing it together can make the process less daunting.
In almost every relationship (even when both parties agree) there is going to be one partner more excited about the minimizing. That is you. So offer to help in specific ways. “Would it help if I took the first pass at your closet and pulled out a few suggestions of items I think you could discard?”
4. Initiate a No-Buy Challenge.
See if you can talk your spouse into a 30-day experiment of some sorts with a specific goal in mind. For example, take a look at your monthly credit card statement and determine how much you could probably save if you bought nothing this month. And then offer the idea coupled with the reward.
For example, “If we went the next 30 days without buying a single thing, we’d save enough money for that weekend at a resort with the kids you’ve been talking about. Would you like to try it?”
5. Celebrate Small Victories.
Every item decluttered, or every positive step taken, is progress. Celebrate it as positive reinforcement.
6. Communicate the Benefits.
Keep sharing the positive changes you’ve noticed since adopting minimalism. Whether it’s peace of mind, more free time, or financial savings.
Returning to these in a manipulative way (which I know is sort of the point of this list) can get annoying to someone who doesn’t want the change, I’m sure. But I think you still can, and should, be quick to point out the benefits wherever you see them.
7. Compromise and Bargain.
Here’s a harsh reality that I often try to remind people who are frustrated that their spouse or partner won’t become more of a minimalist: “Keep in mind that there are almost certainly changes your spouse wants you to make in your life that you’re not budging on as well.” I typically mean it as a way to reframe the conversation—and sometimes to spark greater humility if required.
But maybe there’s a way, given this reality, to strike a mutual agreement. If you commit to a change in your life at the same time you are asking him/her for a change in theirs, this give and take might create a sense of balance and motivation.
8. Set a Relevant Time Frame.
This isn’t always applicable, and it might be more motivating to others. But if there is an upcoming event happening at your home—like a move or graduation or even a wedding—use it as an incentive to declutter or adopt minimalistic habits.
9. Turn It into a Game.
A little friendly competition never hurts—especially if your spouse or partner enjoys a challenge. See how many days in a row your spouse can find one thing to get rid of every day or try the 30-Day Minimalism Game.
If a game works just because it’s a game, awesome! If you need a prize at the end, keep reading…
10. Reward the Effort.
Set milestones and celebrate with rewards, whether it’s a special dinner or event—or even a certain thing that they’ve been wanting. I’m not usually a fan of buying more stuff to celebrate getting rid of stuff, but if we’re trying to motivate someone who wants nothing to do with minimalism, helping them see the connection between buying less and achieving goals might be a helpful demonstration.
11. Seek Middle Ground.
Maybe they’re not ready to declutter their whole wardrobe. But would they consider starting with just the closet? Additionally, you could look for agreement in “common areas” of the home (like living room, dining room, kitchen) where other members of the family spend considerable time.
12. Find Professional Help (if necessary).
It’s also important to recognize when the reluctance to let go of possessions goes beyond just a preference or habit. Hoarding is a genuine disorder, and it can have deep-rooted psychological causes.
If you believe your partner’s behavior might lean towards this, I’d recommend reading more about it or seeking guidance online. Sometimes, understanding this disorder can make a significant difference. And if required, seeking the help of a professional therapist or counselor is a responsible and loving step to take.
And although it should go without saying, it doesn’t. Empathy, understanding, patience, commitment, and love form the foundation for every long-lasting relationship. They are also crucial as you navigate this journey. Start there.
Love and mutual respect should be the foundation of every discussion. While it’s beneficial to lead a minimalist life, it’s even more essential to maintain the health and happiness of your relationship.
You may not love all these ideas, and I think I’m okay with that. But maybe you’ll find 1-2 ideas that you haven’t considered or tried before. Or maybe even this list will prompt a different idea that you can try.
Either way, I think that’s wonderful. I just want to be as helpful as possible. I do believe that, with some of these practical steps applied to your specific circumstance, you might find a way to converge your paths, drawing you closer in more ways than one.