Moving in with my non-minimalist roommates has been a real experience. To the credit of everyone involved, we’re all still happy with each other. Seriously though, we’ve managed to communicate, compromise, and coexist (yay for accidental alliteration!) very well.
I have to say though, this first week and a half has really thrown our differences into sharp contrast. I don’t regret for a moment my decision to move in with our friends, and I believe that we’re going to have a fantastic year. But there are some undeniable sacrifices that a minimalist must make in a roommate situation that the average person doesn’t encounter. Inspired by some very real events, here’s a (hopefully) helpful perspective to help my non-minimalist readers understand how this move looked from a minimalist point of view.
I present to you: Moving week: roommate-ing from a minimalist perspective, or How it looks from over here.
Imagine with me that you (a minimalist) have decided that you’d like to share a home with a non-minimalist friend. You’ve both discussed it and agreed that living under the same roof would be great for both of you. You recognize that there will be certain sacrifices and compromises, but in your mind, the positives will far outweigh any negatives. So you make the plans. Find a house. Sign a lease.
Then comes moving day. You spend very little time packing up your things, as you’ve designed your inventory to be easily mobile. But your roommate needs a lot of help packing up their stuff, and as you live nearby, you pitch in. You spend a full day working on packing and moving their things.
Upon arriving at the house, you settle into a bedroom and a bathroom, and it’s understood that you can be as minimalistic as you like… in your own personal space. You cannot, however, extend your lifestyle choices to the rest of the house, as your roommate has boxes of decor and miscellaneous possessions that overflow from their room into the shared spaces. They don’t have more stuff than the average person, but they have much more than you’re used to living around day-to-day. Because of this, your roommate gets to set the tone for the living and shared areas by default. It’s not malicious – it’s just a fact of your new life.
Your roommate hangs their pictures and curtains in the living room, but you don’t have decor to contribute. Your roommate puts up a bookcase and fills it with their library, but you only have half a dozen books, and they get lost in the mix. Your roommate puts their dishes in the kitchen, but your light inventory fits in one small cabinet. Everything you see is someone else’s belongings because yours aren’t enough to make a contribution to the space.
Up until now you’ve lived in a clean, clutter-free, organized atmosphere. You’ve gotten used to having an empty kitchen sink, a clothes washer that only runs once a week, and simple, functional decor on the walls. You’re more than welcome to be a minimalist in your room, but by virtue of your small footprint, the rest of the house will not be minimalistic, or even very much yours.
Over the duration of your lease, you’ll get used to seeing a sink full of dishes nearly every day, hearing the washing machine and television running a significant amount of the time, and having to work and live surrounded by other peoples’ clutter. You know that the choice to move in with these friends was the right one, and you greatly enjoy their company. But for as long as you live with non-minimalists, the shared areas of the space will never quite feel like home.
So there it is. If it sounds dire, be assured it isn’t. My roommates have made every effort to make me feel at home, but it is a result of my life, rather than a result of theirs, that causes me to feel like the shared areas aren’t fully mine. Minimalism is an extreme lifestyle, and one to adopt with eyes wide open. I’m looking forward to finding the equilibrium between my minimalism and my roommates’… normalcy? No matter what the challenges, minimalism is worth it to me!
I’ve gotten my perspective in “print,” but the other three members of my home have stories to tell too. Be on the lookout for our cooperative chronicle “Forest Four the Trees” coming soon! I can’t wait for you all to meet my wonderful husband and roomies. It’ll be a wild ride!