“To discover what matters, we must understand what doesn’t.”
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Words by Katherine Davis
My husband and I have both changed quite a bit since our first date sixteen years ago. We’ve been through multiple moves, three years of law school (for him), one diagnosis of an autoimmune disease (for me), and three beautiful children, so it’s only natural that we should evolve in our own right as well as in our relationship.
In the last few years I declared myself a minimalist. I’ve never liked clutter or developed emotional attachments to stuff, save for a handful of heirlooms, but after years of paring down my belongings and taking stock of the junk I’ve bought in the past, I can attest that a minimalist lifestyle is right for me.
In that same time period, my husband found success at work that allowed him to create a substantial collection of video games, consoles, controllers, and more cords and wires than could ever be untangled by one man alone. My ideal home has negative space, clean lines, and clear countertops, and his has an oppressive wall of games for Atari all the way to whatever the new Xbox thing is called.
The constant in our lives is our commitment to each other, so while it may seem unlikely that a collector and a minimalist could share a harmonious home, in our case it works. We have disagreements like any couple, but both of us possess enough compassion and empathy for the other that we can get past a heated discussion and work to compromise.
Becoming a minimalist is often accompanied by a sense of satisfaction and superiority, knowing that owning less is the only way to true contentment. While I might be positive minimalism is the path for me, I don’t get to decide what makes another person content. Trust me, I’ve tried, but I’m here to tell you that not everyone would be happier as a minimalist.
My husband has always longed for a library full of his favorite books and a den that resembles a gaming museum, and although collecting isn’t something I understand, I do recognize that it’s his passion. Writing is my passion, and lucky for my minimalist sensibilities, it only requires a laptop, a notebook, a printer, and a red pen. But, even as a minimalist, if my passion involved more accoutrements I could still enjoy my desired lifestyle because my choices lead me to fulfillment, not empty spaces. It just so happens that what I value cannot be stored on shelves.
The most important tip I have for couples whose lifestyles don’t align? Zone Defense. Long before I was a true minimalist, we made an effort to designate space for my husband’s collection. It’s a place he can revel in his favorite things, and a place I can ignore when tidying the rest of the house. Does venturing into his office give me anxious hives? Sometimes, but that room is not for me, it’s for him, and I have similar areas where no clutter is allowed because that is my preference.
In his defense, he grew up with rich furnishings, art on every wall, knickknacks and décor for every holiday, and a room of his own to decorate as he pleased. His family has lived in the same house for thirty years, and my family moved every three or four years. Relocating means regularly purging all your belongings so you don’t have to pack, ship, and unpack anything you don’t absolutely need. My parents are not minimalists, but I grew up without a lot of clutter as a way of life.
Welcoming children has made my distaste for clutter more pronounced. I don’t get to tell the kids they should only have three toys each and they should all be neutral wooden sets that don’t beep or talk. Now that they’re old enough to have opinions of their own, they mostly favor their father’s collecting genes and will insist on keeping broken bits of toys or games missing half the pieces. The mess is not my favorite, but we have Zone Defense for that, too.
The playroom is behind the couch in our house, so if I’m sitting down having a cup of coffee and watching the news, there is no clutter in my line of sight. No toys are allowed in the kitchen, either, since I am the cook in our house. You can’t tell a kid that her broken piece of a plastic necklace isn’t worth keeping, because it brings her joy. We do try and steer gift-givers toward experiences rather than plastic, but there are still a good number of LEGOs on the floor at any given time. Just not in the living room, which is my zone.
There are days when I come close to losing my mind when I see a new delivery of games has arrived in the mail, or when the kids mix all the different kinds of blocks in their toy bins into a sloppy but alarmingly sharp soup, but despite my confidence that minimalism is the best way to live an intentional life, I don’t get to decide what brings joy to the other people in my home.
Other than our aesthetic differences, we don’t differ where it counts—our values and hopes for our family. We make space for one another in our home and in our lives and respect each other as individuals. And having seen my husband become a father and caretaker over the years, I wouldn’t put “has few belongings” in the top five requirements for a mate if given the chance to do it all over again.
Not every day is worthy of Instagram, but commitment to compromise has gotten us through sixteen years and blessed us with three beautiful children, and that is a collection I can get behind.
Words by Wisnu
I started my journey as a minimalist in 2018 when I got into minimal design. In 2019, I started to create content with a minimal aesthetic on my Instagram. Since then, I’ve been exploring and learning more about minimalism. I’ve found that minimalism is a broad subject, applicable not only to design, but to all aspects of life.
I’ve been practicing a minimalist lifestyle because it has tons of benefits, for both myself and others. It can be hard to practice at the beginning, especially living with non-minimalists. But I always try to overcome that obstacle.
Being a minimalist is very beneficial for me personally. I’ve saved money by buying only what I need, space by keeping my room tidy, and time by learning to think simply and avoid overthinking.
I’ve also found my pursuit of minimalism to be beneficial for others. When I declutter, I get rid of things that don't work anymore. But I also give my cousins things I no longer use but that can still be useful to them—clothes and shoes, for instance. I am happy to be able to help them with these small things.
Through this journey, I’ve learned that minimalism is not only an aesthetic, but a way of life that brings benefits to oneself and others.
Minimal Memo is a new monthly column by writer Andrew Rocha.
Intentions Speak Louder Than Items
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld says we don’t root for athletes, we root for their clothes. We cheer for famous athletes on our team and taunt them when they change teams. Same athlete, different uniform. Same person, different item.
Many of life’s truths are seeded in jokes, and this one is no exception. Even the proverb, “Don’t put the cart before the horse” warns us about putting things first. But our ears are buried in consumerism, and every holiday the item comes before the intention.
Love is gifted with flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day.
Gratitude is consumed with extensive dinners on Thanksgiving.
Happiness on Christmas has been packaged and sold in retail stores.
Social interactions turn into financial transactions, and we keep score using the pile of things we acquire. These items have a short shelf-life, and an even shorter shelf-life in the hearts of those we care about. Items come and go, while discontent and debt stay stagnant in our hearts and wallets.
Intentionality doesn’t cost a dime, but it does require our most valuable resources: our time and attention. When we invest in these assets, we get much greater returns.
People notice when we’re thoughtful, kind, and caring. They take note when we listen to them and understand what they’re going through. These acts are not only appreciated but reciprocated over time. Friendships form and relationships strengthen, without us spending an extra penny in the process. No matter how old we are or how much money we have, anyone can be intentional.
Anyone can say something nice, but actions speak louder than words.
Anyone can give someone something, but intentions speak louder than items.
A Little More of Less
A few other articles we think you might enjoy…
→ Just Like This by Brittany Olson
→ 13 Overrated Virtues by Joshua Fields Millburn
→ 9 Ways to Improve Your Life Through Subtraction by Joshua Becker
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