Moving in together at the start of a marriage or as a next step in a committed relationship requires effective communication and compromise. Sharing living space when one is accustomed to managing his or her own space and belongings can be unnerving. Decisions and plans need to be made mutually.
While my significant other and I both embrace minimalism, we apply the principles in ways that work for us as individuals. Discussion and acceptance of one another’s differences are critical. We each place different values on the things we’ve collected over the years and hold different priorities.
While I may be happy to clear out half of my wardrobe, it is insensitive of me to assume that my partner is willing to do the same, or that he will do it as quickly as I would like. One of us may be happy to give everything away, while the other is more enterprising, wanting to try to make a few dollars.
Tips from a Minimalist Couple
Planning ahead can help you avoid the chaos and conflict you may have experienced in previous moves. Here are some tips—from a minimalist couple—on how minimalism can assist with the transition:
1. As you pack, purge.
When we decided to move in together, we had the advantage of time. I knew three months in advance that I would be leaving my apartment and moving into his house. This allowed plenty of time to sort through my things and decide what to keep, toss, sell and donate. It also gave us time to identify furniture and other household items of his that could be removed.
Even if you are on a tighter schedule with your move, make the effort to eliminate worn out items and things that you no longer need or use as you are packing. Don’t carry the physical and emotional weight with you into your new dwelling, thinking you will sort through things once you are settled.
Expect some emotional triggers. Items bring to mind memories of people and events, some pleasant and some painful, even if you don’t recognize it right away. It was healing and cleansing to let go of items linked to past relationships in order to start fresh. Not only photos and mementos, but everyday items can elicit emotional reactions.
Offer your excess, quality items to family and friends, but be careful not to push. Make the offer and if it isn’t accepted, donate. We made arrangements with several community agencies where we planned to drop off furniture and other large household items, during the window of time that we were renting a moving truck. Make the most of the transition time to clear out the clutter.
2. Be creative.
We walked through the house, room by room, with a list of my furniture in hand to try to determine where things would be placed. We took a careful and deliberate look at each room, what furniture it contained and what pieces we actually needed and liked. Think about using furniture in different ways or eliminating the need for some pieces.
Thanks to minimizing our wardrobes, we were able to eliminate a dresser. We both had our own concerns about fitting our things into one bedroom, but after eliminating the dresser and other clothing items, we soon discovered a happy and less cluttered space.
We donated a bunk bed that his son had outgrown and replaced it with a bed left over from my son’s exodus to college. We used an antique blanket chest of mine as a TV stand and a library table of his as a desk for me. As unnecessary paperwork was shredded, a four-drawer filing cabinet was no longer needed. We moved it to the garage and repurposed for better organization there.
Two six-foot bookcases full of books were minimized, allowing me to add my limited collection to our new, combined collection.
3. Remove duplicates.
It’s quite possible that you may both bring the same (or similar items) into your mutual living space. You may not realize this until you begin to settle into daily life together.
The kitchen is a location where a couple will likely have duplicate items. At first the drawers and cupboards were a source of consternation for me because they were so crowded and it was difficult to find things quickly.
We eventually went through one drawer and one shelf at a time and when encountering duplicates, decided which one to keep and which one to give away or toss. We will likely repeat this process after more time passes to eliminate items that are not being used.
For example, how many pots, pans and skillets do you actually use? How many wine glasses do you really need? Did we really need twenty beer glasses stored in the freezer? We boxed and are storing extra dishes, pots and plan, glasses, and silverware, in the basement for our teenage boys’ future use. If they choose not to take it, we’ll sell it or donate it.
4. Establish minimalist routines.
The start of a new living arrangement is a great time to establish new habits. We agreed upon a collection spot in the basement for additional items. Clothing, books and other items are collected and a list maintained for tax time.
We’re in the process of developing our shopping routines. Think about where you will maintain a list: individual or combined; on paper or using an app? How often will you shop? With clothing and other belongings, consider a one in, one out approach. As minimalists, shopping to us is a task, not a leisure activity, so we aim to be efficient.
I am pleased to report that minimalism made what could have been a stressful and chaotic move, into an easy transition and new beginning for us. Our home is actually less cluttered even though we’ve combined two households.
We each face individual challenges and our opinions vary, but we mutually desire open space, peace and unstructured time and less waste and clutter. We happily continue our minimalist journey together.