I’m Not a Minimalist (but I live with one)

One of my husband’s favorite ways to tease me is by saying, “You’re totally a minimalist!”

This usually happens when I put something in the donate box we keep in our closet, or when I clean out my craft closet, or when I decide against buying something because I don’t need it.

Here’s the thing, though… I’m not a minimalist.

When I think of minimalism, I think of extreme minimalism (for example, owning only 15 items like Andrew Hyde) and people who live in tiny houses and no-spend living and, to be honest, literally none of that appeals to me.

I mean, I have 15 items within my reach right now. Our ~1,400 square foot house is just perfect for me.

And, if I’m being honest, I can’t imagine not spending money. (It’s a scientific fact that I can’t live without Bath and Body Works scented candles.)

So, no, I certainly don’t consider myself to be a minimalist.

However, I would be lying if I said that I haven’t seen the benefits of simple living (and, sure, “minimalism”).

When my husband was first beginning his journey into minimalism (which he dove into head-first!), he began to question all of our belongings.

Now, please understand that we were married in college and therefore had no household supplies or furniture to our names. Our families and friends were so generous and gave us everything we could possibly need and more: pots and pans, cutlery, dishes, curtains, couches, baskets and totes, and more Christmas decorations than we could possibly ever use.

In fact, our first apartment had an entire closet stuffed from floor to ceiling with boxes and totes. Our second place had a closet that spanned the whole width of the living room, and it was stuffed, too!

For the first few years of our marriage, it was really nice to know that we never really needed to go out and buy anything, because we probably had it in storage.

Eventually, we had a few yard sales and moving sales to try and downsize the amount of stuff we had. Unfortunately, we also loved shopping at yard sales (EVERYTHING IS SO DANG CHEAP), so we probably ended up bringing home more than we got rid of each year.

When we purchased our house, we were overwhelmed with projects and decided to just stash all of our extra things in the garage, closets, and cabinets until we could “get organized.” We had plenty of storage space, so we didn’t even really need to get rid of anything.

We lived with the stuff for about a year before Thomas discovered The Minimalists and decided to downsize his stuff for his mental health.

So, as I mentioned, after totally destroying the contents of his closet, he began questioning all of our items, beginning in the kitchen. He cleaned out the utensils drawer and our cookware cabinet, getting rid of duplicates and anything that was broken or hadn’t been used in the past few months.

Then, he went through his coffee mugs and got rid of most of them. He went through our plastic storage containers and took out everything that didn’t have both a bowl and a lid. I was totally okay with it, because (let’s be real) it meant less dishes to wash!

But then, he asked me to do the same. He asked me to go through my beloved coffee mug collection and get rid of any mugs I hadn’t used recently.

In his mind, they were just clutter that needed to be gotten rid of.

I, however, loved each and every one of those mugs! I loved remembering when and where I got them, I liked having a variety of mugs to photograph for Instagram, and I loved letting guests pick out which mug they wanted to use for coffee.

And, guys, I flipped. my. shit.

I got right in his face and told him that I wasn’t having anything to do with his stupid minimalism, and that he could throw out my mugs over my dead body. That was a bad day. (psst – Thomas wrote a blog post about this situation from his perspective, too!)

It’s probably been about 18 months since that day and, guess what! I still have all of my coffee mugs! I also have a much better understanding of what “minimalism” is and isn’t (although I still envision those most extreme things I mentioned above).

So, here’s what minimalism isn’t (which, by the way, used to be my list of what minimalism is)-

– getting rid of everything you own

– living in an empty house

– never shopping

– never getting new things

– owning a strict, set number of items

And here’s my short list of what simple living/minimalism is-

– being intentional about what you bring into your home

– keeping all the things that you love and get use out of, and getting rid of most everything else

– spending your time doing things instead of cleaning and organizing

– having a relaxing home that you love to be in

– having less items that are higher quality

Now, that’s all well and fine… but it can still be incredibly difficult to live with someone who subscribes to a different way of living than you.

The Good Stuff

Here are some things that Thomas and I have set in place for ourselves. Feel free to borrow or steal our ideas!

We are mindful with our spending.

Any time we are in search of new items for the common areas* of our home (throw pillows, a new duvet, framable wall art, etc.) we go together. We typically know exactly what we want and where we’re going to find it.

We are also exceptionally picky about the items we bring home, because we know that they’ll be there for awhile. When shopping, we tend to ask ourselves:

  • What function will this thing serve?
  • Is it high-quality? How long will it last?
  • Do we already own something else that could do what we expect this thing to do?

If we don’t like the answers to those questions, we will typically try to find another solution or hold off on our purchase.

We have put things off for weeks and even months because we couldn’t agree on them, which just makes it so much more satisfying when we do find the perfect item!

*This isn’t the case for all things home-related; for example, if I’m shopping for something for my office, I don’t wait for Thomas to agree on something because it’s my own personal space. The opposite also applies- his office is for his stuff and I don’t have to approve anything that goes in there.

We have our own money.

Thomas and I have gone through the Dave Ramsey program and Thomas is a certified Dave Ramsey financial coach. We are very big on the concept of “allowance” with our money.

Each paycheck, we each receive a set amount of money to be used however we want. We each also get “personal care” money each paycheck, as well as clothing money as needed. It can be spent or saved and the other person has no influence over how this money is spent.

So, for example, if I was looking for a new piece of art for my office, I would use my allowance to purchase it. If I want to buy a new pair of sunglasses or sandals, I would use my clothing money. Haircuts and manicures go in the “personal care” category.

This allows me to buy things that I want without question. If I want 17 new coffee mugs for my collection, I’m free to buy them, Likewise, if Thomas wants to buy an expensive Lego set or a 3,000 piece puzzle, I don’t even bat an eyelash.

Having our own money gives us freedom to choose what’s important to us, with boundaries in place to ensure that we are still working toward meeting our financial goals.

We mind our own business items.

When Thomas first began his minimalism journey, I was terrified that he was going to try to get rid of all the things in our house. I imagined a bed with no throw pillows; cabinets with 2 plates, 2 forks, and 2 cups; and one toy per cat.

In the coffee mugs story above, you can see that this definitely almost did happen. Luckily, I flipped my shit stood my ground and insisted that my items were mine and that he was not welcome to touch or minimize them.

In the coming days, we settled on the following expectations:

  • Thomas is free to rid himself of anything that is exclusively his (clothes, books, office items, etc.). I am not allowed to argue with anything that he chooses to get rid of. For example, when he sold his [admittedly impressive] comic book collection, I was upset… but he stood his ground and told me that they were not important to him and that he wanted them to go to someone who would really appreciate them. I had to honor that, and I admit that he has never once regretted selling them.
  • He can bring up discussions about common items he wants to minimize (such as our kitchen items: pots, pans, food storage, etc.). We usually come to a conclusion easily (yes, you can clean out that cabinet and let me know if there’s anything you’d like to get rid of or no, keep your claws off the throw pillows) and that’s the end of it.
  • Most importantly, my stuff is off-limits to him. He is not allowed to ask me to get rid of anything that belongs to me.

This works really, really well for us. Truth be told, I was happy when he got rid of a bunch of extra things in the kitchen. It made doing the dishes so much easier! (Does any typical person really need 4 spatulas and 8 wooden spoons or a huge food chopper that was used once to grind up coffee?) I was thrilled when he donated all of his old superhero t-shirts and purchased a more sophisticated wardrobe. And I kind of like how simple our home is now

When all else fails, we compromise.

Let’s be real: Thomas and I are two very different people with different personalities, values, and priorities. We love each other deeply, but we can’t agree on everything. It’s impossible.

So, we compromise.

I can think of several examples of how this has benefited us, and I think examples may be the best way to show what I mean here.

When we were first married, Thomas and I purchased a big, bulky piece of furniture from Goodwill. We think it was originally nursery furniture, but we repurposed it to hold things. It was bright yellow, and we painted it black and then then, a few years later, teal. It has held both books and dishes, and it was even a coffee station in our kitchen.

Thomas hated this thing. It is admittedly not the cutest piece of furniture, but I was attached to it so I didn’t want to get rid of it. I also loved having a space in our kitchen for all of our coffee items to go on.

So, we compromised.

We purchased a small, sleek coffee cart from IKEA and put all of the coffee items on it. The bulky piece was moved into my home office closet and holds extra shipping supplies and out-of-season inventory. We were both happy with the agreement.

Another example (also involving coffee) is my collection of coffee mugs. Presently, they are hanging on the wall in our dining area. Thomas found them overwhelming and cluttered and asked me to move them to the cabinet. I wanted them out on display.

So, we compromised.

We agreed that I could keep my mugs on display as long as I stuck to the confines of the display that we currently have, which allows for 16 mugs. Any other ones I purchase are kept in the closet (although I have been trying to employ the 1-in, 1-out rule for them so they don’t take over our house).

So, there you have it. A minimalist and a non-minimalist can, in fact, live together peacefully and not even rip out one another’s eyeballs.

When you really dive into it, minimalism isn’t that scary to think about. In fact, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s made both of our lives a heck of a lot easier.

Do you agree with my assessment of minimalism and my tips for living with a minimalist? Or, do you have other thoughts or experiences to add? I’d love to hear about them!

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