Minimalism for Couples – Getting Rid of Stuff

You love each other more than your stuff, right?

Giddy with enthusiasm you declare your intention to be a minimalist living happily with less stuff. Your significant other sighs and leaves the room. Now, what?

Take heart, even if your announcement was met with apathy or downright antagonism, you can make progress and at some point, you may be able to entice your spouse or partner to join forces with you.

When I proclaimed during dinner one night that I wanted to be a minimalist, my spouse expressed skepticism and probably hoped it would be a passing fancy that would fizzle out. That was not to be. I was and am serious about owning fewer belongings and living more lightly on Earth.

That was eighteen months ago.

I am a serial declutter and a neat freak and my spouse is a collector and has a more relaxed view of neatness. Not exactly a recipe for minimalist domestic harmony. Yet, now, we are both committed to minimizing the things we own in a way that suits us individually and as a couple.

No, a miracle did not occur.

We were able to reach this point because we love each other, we want to stay married, and we are both concerned about the environment and keeping Earth habitable for our children, your children, and everyone else’s children.

In part one of this two-part post, you will have an opportunity to read about how we went about divesting ourselves of things we no longer use, want, or enjoy. I like to think that my patience, diplomacy, and creativity smoothed the way for my spouse to get on board. The second post will cover what I consider to be the most challenging aspect of minimalism, acquiring less stuff, forever.

After reading these posts, I hope you will feel empowered to minimize your own belongings regardless of your spouse or partner’s level of support and that you will endeavor to encourage him or her to embrace minimalism at a level that you can both live with going forward.

You are Here

Like eating a healthy diet, being a minimalist living happily with less stuff is a lifelong pursuit that begins wherever you are in your life’s journey at the moment you decide to do it.

Unfortunately, my children were young adults before I realized that our society’s constant quest for more stuff is harming people and our planet. I regret my contribution to the problem but I cannot erase it. I can and did resolve to live with fewer material goods starting from where I was in my life in November 2016.

At that time, having been together for over three decades, my spouse and I had amassed thousands of possessions from cars to soap dishes. I had honed my shopping skills for many years and I was a card-carrying member in good standing of “Shoppers and Consumers of America.” My engineer lighting designer spouse had constructed a prototype shop in our garage and had a sizable collection of small and large parts and bits of this and that (I admit some of it has come in handy over the years).

Here we are a year and a half later well on our way to minimizing our possessions and transforming our relationship with stuff.

Pause and take a moment to reflect on why you want to be a minimalist and where you think you and your spouse or partner are on the minimalism continuum. If he or she seems resistant, be patient and start with your own stuff.

Your Stuff is Your Stuff, Right?

Technically, anything that is used or worn only by you, gifts you received, items you inherited, and things you brought with you when you began living with your spouse or partner are your belongings. You should be able to give away, sell, donate, throw away, or recycle your own stuff, right. Well, yes, but I suggest you keep your spouse in the loop and ask his or her opinion before jettisoning certain items.

Bookcase Filled with Books
Bookcase Filled with Books – Photo Credit iStock-clu

For instance, ask how he or she feels about you giving away a souvenir baseball hat or a pair of earrings he or she gave you. If there is an objection, keep that item for now and circle back to it at a later date. Let your spouse or partner know that you plan to donate your book collection to the local library and ask him or her if there are any books he or she wishes to keep. Make sure you mention that you are planning to sell your grandmother’s china in case he or she is more partial to it than you thought.

As space opens up in your closets and drawers and on shelves and furniture surfaces, you may see ways to reorganize the remaining items to make them easier to find and use or to rearrange them to look more attractive.

Once your spouse or partner realizes that you care about his or her opinion and are not likely to demand that he or she get rid of a favorite hammer, casserole dish, or yearbook, he or she may relax and be willing to work with you on minimizing some of your shared material goods in say the kitchen or garage.

Kitchen Capers

Our first joint minimizing effort took place in the kitchen. As the family chef, my spouse has dominion over the kitchen so I knew I needed to tread carefully.

Kitchen Canister Set with Botanical Flower Illustrations
Our Kitchen Canister Set with Botanical Flower Illustrations

My goal was to make the process as easy and painless as possible for my spouse so I suggested we tackle a small number of items at a time over the course of a month or so.

I cleared a section on the kitchen counter to act as my staging space.

Each day, I took everything out of one drawer or cupboard and laid the items neatly on the counter and then cleaned the empty drawer or cupboard. We looked over that day’s collection together and decided what to get rid of and what to keep, separating the items as we went. Later, I placed the items we agreed to get rid of in a donation box, the recycle bin, and occasionally the trash, then I neatly put everything else back.

During these daily bouts of minimizing, I reaffirmed that we could keep whatever my spouse wanted but I also lobbied for getting rid of stuff I thought was unnecessary or no longer needed.

For instance, I do not think the 4-piece canister set, as beautiful as it is, is necessary. My spouse wanted to keep the canisters so we did. I prevailed on the food processor that was hardly ever used. It went into a donation box. Not everything required negotiation. We easily agreed to standardize on one type of leftover food storage container in several different sizes.

Empty areas began appearing in our cupboards and drawers, which set me to thinking about how we could reorganize the remaining items to make it easy to find and get to the things that are used most. My spouse agreed to try it.

The mixer and blender found a new home in a cupboard that is further away from the sink and the potato and onion bins moved into a more convenient location. We arranged the pots and pans so that you do not need to take out a bunch of stuff just to get to one pan. I stacked the dishes on shelves that you can reach without a step stool.

After getting used to the new locations, my spouse admitted that there are benefits to having less stuff that you can easily find and access. When my spouse volunteered to work on minimizing the stuff in the garage, I knew we had passed a milestone. Yeah!

At some point, whether it takes months or years, our divestment phase will be completed. Sure, as we move through life we will have more things we no longer need but not to the same degree. For us to live happily with less stuff we also need to minimize the acquisition of new materials goods for the rest of our lives. That is what we will address in part two of this post.

Featured Image at Top: Orange and Green Apple – Photo Credit Simone Capozzi

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Vinegar Removes Hard Water Deposits from Dishes like Magic

Author's Dishes, Glasses, and Flatware after Vinegar Cleaning
A Sampling of the Author’s decades old dishes, glasses, and flatware after being cleaned with distilled white vinegar.

Is hard water leaving a cloudy film on your dishes and glasses? Vinegar is an eco-friendly solution that will make your dishes look and feel new.

Like many Americans, I live in an area with hard water, which results in mineral deposits (mostly calcium and magnesium) building up on everything from dishes to showerheads. If this sounds familiar, you probably have hard water too.

In an attempt to counteract hard water deposits, we had been routinely using a rinse aid in our dishwasher but it was not entirely successful. Sometime during the almost ten years, we have lived in our current home, our glasses took on a hazy look and a chalky film formed on our dishes to the point that I could feel it when I was taking pieces out of the dishwasher. Yuk.

Over the years, I did notice that mineral deposits were forming on our dishes and the insides of our coffee mugs had become stained. It just did not bother me, at least not enough to do anything about it, until a few weeks ago.

One Thing Leads to the Next

You know how one thing leads to the next and so on. That is what happened. I am in the middle of a decluttering project and I am trying to adopt a minimalist approach to owning stuff, which means living happily with less stuff.

While decluttering the kitchen, it dawned on me that we would be using the dishes, glasses, and flatware we currently own for the rest of our lives (minimalists only by new dishes when absolutely necessary).

My spouse and I have been using the same dishes since we were married over three decades ago. Most of our original knives, forks, and spoons disappeared or ended life in a garbage disposal so our flatware set is only about fifteen years old. Glassware seems to suffer the most casualties so our current glasses are probably between seven to ten years old.

I figured if we are going to be eating off these plates and drinking out of these glasses for another thirty years or so, perhaps they could use some sprucing up.

In the past, we have used vinegar to remove mineral deposits from our drip coffee maker with good results so I decided to try it on our dishes. It took some trial and error and a few hours, but the results were amazing! Now everything is shiny and smooth and looks almost like new.

I realize that over time, the hard water deposits will come back, but I think I can fit in a few hours every ten years to keep our dishes, glasses, and flatware in good condition.

You can easily accomplish the same thing with a little vinegar, a dish tub, and a sponge.

The Wonders of Vinegar

My first thought was to employ the dishwasher. I loaded it with some glasses, poured in a cup of vinegar, and hit the start button. At the end of the cycle, the dishwasher racks were looking less powdery but the glasses were only marginally improved.

Next, I placed a plastic dish tub in the kitchen sink and poured a couple of cups of vinegar into it and I put a dozen glasses on the counter top. Using a slightly scrubby sponge, I wiped the inside and outside of each glass and around the rim with vinegar. After rinsing the glasses under the kitchen tap, I put them in a dish drainer to drip dry. I finished drying them with a dishtowel and voilà the glasses were shiny and clear and looked almost brand new. Wow!

I briefly considered taking all the dishes, glasses, and our coffee mug collection out of the kitchen cupboards and tackling the project all at once. When I realized it would likely be a boring task taking several hours to complete, I had second thoughts.

My solution was to break up the project by leaving the tub in the sink and periodically returning to the kitchen and doing another batch. Each time, after towel drying the pieces in the dish drainer and putting them away, I took out another stack of plates or a group of coffee mugs and repeated the procedure.

At the end of the day, our dishes, glasses, and coffee mugs were sparkling and clean. I was so impressed with the results that the next day I repeated the process on our serving bowls and plates and our stainless steel flatware.

Refurbishing Your Dishes is a Green Thing to Do and Saves Money

Making anything, including dishes, uses resources and energy and depending on what materials and processes are involved, pollutes the air, water, and land to a greater or lesser degree.

An environmental benefit of refurbishing and using the same dishes for decades is that it reduces the need for manufacturing and transporting new goods.

Interestingly, having your dishes look almost new makes them seem like they are new. Now that you own a practically new set of dishes, you can easily ignore the little invisible consumer devil that sits on your right shoulder constantly whispering “Buy stuff.” in your ear.

We can help the environment and save some money by refurbishing our dishes, glasses, and flatware instead of replacing them.

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