That Minimalist Roommate: Part One

IMG_2291Welcome, first of all, to a new series on The Live Simply Blog. For a while I’ve tried to keep my posts relevant to anyone who is trying to live a simple life. This is something I will still strive to do on the whole, but once in a while I’d like to talk to the minimalists among us. Hopefully this will provide greater encouragement to those of you who identify with the “less forgiving” side of simplicity, and at the same time perhaps offer a bit of a peek into a life that many of you don’t currently live.

So without further ado, here’s How to be a minimalist in a house full of non-minimalists. (or, How to not alienate your roommates/family/friends without compromising your lifestyle.)

I’m a minimalist. I’ve talked before about my wardrobe, my kitchen, even my books. I love living on as little as possible. This, I find, creates a very clean, open, stress-free environment for me. I do not, however, live exclusively with minimalists. My husband is definitely 100% supportive of my lifestyle (a fact for which I am extremely grateful!), and the people with whom I am about to share a home are well on their way to experiencing the freedom of simplicity. But of the four of us, I am definitely That Minimalist Roommate.

Any of you in a similar situation understand how awkward this can feel. I’m about to move into a four-bedroom house, but I only need one bedroom, one bathroom, and a kitchen cabinet of it. When we move in I’ll help unload a moving van, but none of the stuff inside will be mine, and very little of it will get used by me. Don’t get me wrong: my roommates are not consumerist hoarders – far from it. But the fact remains that I have chosen a much smaller, more mobile lifestyle, and will be facing a home situation where maintaining that lifestyle may be a tiny bit challenging.

So here are four “rules” I hope to implement in the future, for the sake of everyone’s sanity and happiness:

1. No judging.

This is number 1 because it is the most important. I will make a conscious effort to never pass judgement on my roommates for their choices. This is sometimes difficult for minimalists and advocates of simplicity because we make our choices based on well-being. If this was something superficial, like a paint color preference, there’d be less of a problem. But we choose simplicity because we genuinely believe that it is a healthier lifestyle. For this reason, I want to be vigilant with regard to my thoughts toward my roomies, keeping in mind that they are not doing anything wrong by living the way they do.

2. Create a haven.

For a minimalist, clutter can be a big trigger for stress and unhappiness. For this reason, it’s important for a minimalist who lives with non-minimalists to have a safe place – a haven that is decorated, furnished, and maintained in a way that is healthiest for them. For me, this will be my bedroom. I’ve spent a bit of time mapping out my space in my head. I know that this will be a place I can hide if I want to.

3. Use your own stuff.

I have a very limited kitchen inventory, but I will still only use what is mine, even when I have access to a fully-equipped kitchen. Here’s why:

  • I will stay on top of my own good habits. I have learned to wash and put away each item I use as soon as I’m done with it. If I see my own plates in the sink, I will be reminded to take care of them. If I use my roommate’s plates, I may let the dishes slide as they “blend in” with everything else in the sink.
  • I will be better able to stay in touch with my inventory. When I buy a new coffee mug, I’ll use it. When I find that my cabinet is getting full, I’ll purge. I won’t have as much opportunity to let “stuff” sneak in over the course of the year (as it does) because I will be using my things all the time.

4. Acclimate.

There are some things on which roommates must compromise. My choices are not one of them. As the only minimalist in a house of four, it’s only fair that I be the one to acclimate to my surroundings. This is not to say that I shouldn’t expect my roommates to respect me (which won’t be an issue – these people are awesome) but it does mean that I need to spend some time out in the living space with them, clutter or no. I can’t allow myself to become a hermit who never leaves her room. Doing life together means putting our differences on the back burner and finding common ground. I don’t want our house to be split down the middle.

So there you have it. Four rules to live by. I’ll update you all occasionally on how this new adventure is going! I’m genuinely excited. The four of us will do very well under the same roof. I think.

In the meantime, what do you think? Have you ever had to live in a situation where your roommates had different priorities than you? How did you handle it?

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8 thoughts on “That Minimalist Roommate: Part One

  1. I love that you’re writing on this topic.
    I once lived with a non-minimalist. To be honest, it drove me nuts. This was even BEFORE I made the decision to adopt a simplistic lifestyle!
    She had so much stuff in such a tiny townhouse that I felt like I was drowning in it. Things like teddy bears next to the microwave, food or products in cabinets that had expired up to FIFTEEN years prior, and a dining room table that was rarely–if ever–functional due to the piles of miscellaneous items that got dropped off on it.
    So, I did what YOU will be trying to avoid doing: I stayed in my room 99% of the time while at home.
    At the time, I didn’t realize it, but I think a lot of the problem was that I was beginning to feel like I was suffocating underneath my own possessions as well. So, her mess on top of mine just dang near sent me to the crazy house.
    I wish I had been living like this all along!
    I have to say, though, I AM thankful for the experience with my non-minimalist roommate because I truly believe it helped me get to where I am now.
    Love your blog! 🙂

    • Please don’t ever view yourself as a problem! 🙂 Everyone is at a different stage in their journey, but stages don’t make one person better or worse than another. If you decide to begin to simplify, we’ll be here! And welcome. 🙂

  2. I love this: “doing life together means putting our differences on the back burner and finding common ground.” As we have moved toward minimalism, we have had more and more people in our home (sometimes for dinner, sometimes to hang out, other times to live temporarily). We have learned it is so important not to judge, especially when a homeless person moving in has more stuff than we do. We have also learned that providing a totally judgment free environment gives people a taste of how wonderful our lifestyle is, and they start asking questions. I’ve learned to be prepared with the “why” behind what we do at all times… And to always start by building relationships, sharing life, and finding common ground 🙂

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