Author | Morgan Paixao
This week’s blog post is inspired by my upcoming IG Live discussion with insta friends and fellow minimalists, Chelsey (@dearchelseyb) and Ema (@minimize_my_mess) along with our guest speaker for the week, Stacy (@babeandbungalow_)! We’ll be offering each of our perspectives on the topic of relationships and minimalism. So what exactly does that mean?
Probably what comes to mind when you hear ‘minimalism’ is aesthetic or minimalist design, but that’s not the minimalism we’re talking about - we discuss practical minimalism, which you can read a whole other blog post on here! To give you the brief overview, practical minimalism is a lifestyle shift, a way of viewing our belongings from a critical lens, keeping only what is loved and necessary. When you’re starting on this journey, it can be so exciting (albeit a little daunting too!) and maybe not everyone you live with or talk to are into the idea of decluttering down to the essentials.
I work with a lot of young families and have encountered scenarios where partners and kids aren’t totally jazzed about the idea of going through their things. So how do we navigate this?
Giving your loved ones grace is so crucial in the beginning stages of a full home declutter. If you push too hard, they’ll push back harder, leaving everyone frustrated! Put yourself in their shoes - there was probably a time in your life where if someone sat you down to go through all of your things and pushed you to get rid of them, you would not have responded well. An important thing to remember here is that you should not make any decisions for other members of your family, you all are doing this together as a team!
While I definitely do work with families where both partners are excited and ready to go, that’s not always the case. That being said, there has to be some level of openness in order for the decluttering process to work long term. If one partner is totally and adamantly opposed, then you have to find the source of that emotion before beginning. It’s just not going to be fruitful if you’re hitting a brick wall at every turn. However, when there is hesitancy but an open mind, that’s something you can work with! Again the key here is to be gentle with your partner and not push them so hard that they shut down.
I always like to offer the option of coming back to a particular item if it’s too difficult in the moment. Sometimes a little bit of time can offer a lot of clarity. Show them empathy and grace for the spectrum of emotions that may come up in the decluttering process.
I love working with kids when it comes to decluttering. We tend to think kids are going to react a certain way - that they’re going to be upset at the prospect of giving away some of their toys (even if they aren’t played with anymore). But the reality is, when this reaction happens (and it doesn’t always) it’s coming from a fear of change. They are used to things a certain way, even if that’s a cluttered way. So, the idea of suddenly shifting the landscape of their space, and their home as a whole, is very unsettling to them.
One thing I really love to do when working with kids is think about how we can make their space more enjoyable for them. Yes, decluttering your kid’s room is going to make things feel much less chaotic for you as the parent, but when we look at things from their perspective, how much more enticing is this idea of decluttering if there's something special waiting at the end? For example, I might say, ‘If we make room in this area, we can create a special hideaway for you to read and play!’ - I can pretty much guarantee if there’s anything fort-like with pillows and fairy lights involved they will be on board! Kids love special spaces just for them!
It’s also important to mention that kids are incredibly influenced by what’s going on around them. So if you have a child that’s showing a fear response to decluttering, don't work on their space yet. Work on yours and the communal living areas first. This gets them used to the idea and interested in what you’re working on. I see this so often, by the time we get to the kids’ rooms, they are on board and excited about making their space better. Because, really, kids are so adaptable, they’re amazing! All they need is a little time and for you to lead by example.
So now you’ve done all that hard work with your home occupants, but how do you navigate extended family, gifts, and holidays? It’s a tender subject for sure, especially when you bring in family dynamics and histories. In my experience this process needs to be even more gentle and slow than when working with your own internal family. Here are a few tips to make that transition:
Suggest gifted experiences - especially ones that can involve said family members. For grandparents wanting to give to their grandchildren, a parks pass or day trip somewhere fun will create wonderful memories. There’s definitely a way to go about these suggestions that says, ‘we appreciate and love you’ rather than a blunt ‘we don’t want any more stuff’.
Have a conversation - being honest with your family and friends will work towards strengthening the relationship and mutual understanding. Explain the process you've been going through and how it's been helpful to you.
Accept the gift and move on. If in the end you are still receiving physical gifts that don't align with your goals or values, it's best to receive the gift with gratitude and move it on. We tend to think that we need to hold on to something for a certain amount of time before it's 'okay' to move it on. But really, the act of receiving the gift was the gift itself, so if you know right away it's not something you want to keep, send it off to someone who would want and use it.