You’ve discovered the more in living with less and you want that for your family, too. If you could just get them on board with your crazy minimalist journey.
You may have just started, or you may have begun simplifying years ago. Maybe you’ve read up on ways to reduce your wardrobe, you’ve tossed the expired medicine from 1995, and pared down your living room decor.
You have discovered that minimalism is a way to reduce the debt, stress, anxiety, and depression that the burden of clutter can create. And better still, you’ve discovered that minimalism helps you live a more fulfilling life.
You’re ready to dive in deep so you can cultivate more meaning in your family’s life. But here’s the thing, they don’t see it like you do (obviously).
When I started simplifying six years ago, I was met with resistance from a few family members. Through mistakes I made, I quickly learned all the things that didn’t work and didn’t convince them to get on board. In fact, my attempts to convince them cast their eyes further away from seeing my point.
I never want my journey to simplify to become a wedge between me and what I value most, my relationships. When we have compassion and understanding for those we live with, we can hope to meet somewhere in the middle.
If you’re ready to convince your family that minimalism is right for them, try one of these six things that worked for me:
1. Stay with your own stuff.
I think most of us know we need to start with our own stuff. But I’ve found it’s best to stay with your own stuff, especially when family members feel defensive and resist the change to purge. Stay focused on your stuff until they decide to join you. Hopefully it’ll be this year!
2. Prioritize your “no’s”.
It’s common to spend a ridiculous amount of time de-owning all our excess. After all, most of us have spent a decade accumulating it. And we’re going to have to give a lot of no’s to other things if we want to get the job done. I’ve said no to many inconsequential activities like watching television and mindless web surfing on my phone — so I could say yes to my minimalism and build better habits. Give your no’s to the least fruitful aspects of your day. Let go of the things that bear no purpose or joy and you’ll have more time to cultivate what does matter.
3. Meet their needs.
What are the most meaningful things your family enjoys receiving from you? What’s the one thing that makes each member of your family feel loved, seen, and heard? Meet their need (at least once a day). Maybe it’s a hug in the morning, or an intentional greeting upon their arrival home. Maybe it’s keeping your monthly date night, exercising together, or serving a home-cooked meal around the table. When we keep those few things that are meaningful to our family, they’re less likely to feel ‘put out’ by your journey to become minimalist.
4. Keep your finger down.
In the beginning I did some finger pointing about our stuff (not cool, I know). I wanted my husband and children to get rid of things right away, while I still had stuff that needed to go. Finger pointing just leaves us going round and round. And as my grandmother always told me, “Every time you point your finger at someone else, there’s three more fingers pointing back at you.”
5. Share your why.
Share with your family why you want to simplify. Tell them the more part about owning less. Help them understand that you want to simplify your home (and life) so that you can spend more quality time with them. Give them specific examples. When I first started de-owing, I would tell my kids (sweetly!) that we would have less time at the playground because it took us so long to find what we needed to get out the door. Maybe you want to more family camping trips, more carefree Saturdays together. Whatever it is, share that why with them.
6. Bring on the compassion.
Get your family talking about other people — and what they can give to those people. I’ve shared the Thankful Thread Challenge with my children for the last few years. Conversations about the photos from Where Children Sleep has helped change their perspective and open their hearts. My family and I are fortunate to have more than enough and giving has been one of the most gratifying aspects of becoming minimalist. When my kids see me raise money for orphans, they want to give too. Draw their attention to the needs of others and encourage them to give.
It’s important to remember that people, even the ones you love and live with, may think you’ve gone off your rocker on this journey to minimalism. They may feel alienated and react defensively to demands to let go of their things. Telling them what to do with their stuff might only result in more bricks being stacked on their wall against minimalism.
And as I remind myself, “When you must choose between being kind and being right, always choose to be kind and you’ll always be right.”