Oh how I wish I could start this post by telling you it’ll be okay, that living with your maximalist parents will all work out and they will stop making you crazy with all the stuff they’ve accumulated (and continue to accumulate).
But this is life; real life, and others (especially parents) generally don’t comply with our wishes when we want them to. You can try to convince them until you turn blue but it’s usually all in vain.
The reality is: people have free will. Parents have a set way of doing things which is usually the result of how and when they grew up. My dad, for example, is a baby boomer and grew up with very little. He was part of the scrimp, save, and be uber frugal generation. And as you can guess, it’s caused him to hoard and stockpile everything and anything because he thinks he’s going to lose it or it’ll all go away. There is of course, a certain amount of sentiment attached to some of the things he has accumulated. So between a fear of lack and oodles of sentiment, he never wants to toss anything.
Let’s just say my parents have two of every small appliance in the kitchen. You know, because it was on sale and you never know when the current one will break.
It can be uber challenging living with parents that have an entire basement full of things that they haven’t looked at in years. These things simply sit and wait to be used, sold or thrown away. They collect dust, mold and all manner of disgusting basement type smells. Oh, and did I mention the abundance of spiders and spider webs? Yuck!
Confronting parents about an entire basement full of stuff that makes you twitch at the sight of it is pretty close to starting World War III. Here’s a small example of how not to deal with a maximalist parent from my personal archives:
“Dad, what is all this stuff?!” You really need to get rid of all this crap. You never use it, you never look at it, and it’s just sitting here rotting, taking up the entire basement.”
“I don’t have time! I don’t have time to sort through all of it! Please stop it; I don’t want to talk about it. You worry about your stuff and leave all of this to me. Stop bothering me about it.”
Any of this sound familiar? Maybe you’ve had similar chats (arguments?) with friends and family over your newfound love of minimalism and their opposing lifestyle of maximalism.
It can be tough living with others that a) don’t understand your lifestyle, and b) have an insane amount of stuff that makes you throw your hands up in frustration. Or, in my case, want to light a match to all of it. Yep, I’ve been there. Not only have I been stressed by all the crap I accumulated over the years, I get stressed seeing all the crap my parents have accumulated that’s taking up the entire basement. In a 1500 sq. ft. home, that’s 800 sq. ft. of unnecessary, stress inducing stuff.
It can be really tough. It can grate on your nerves every time you see the excess. It can make you feel overwhelm even though none of it is yours to really worry about. Living in the same home with maximalist parents can get to you.
So how do you make them understand your love of minimalism without stepping on their toes or saying something you’ll regret?
How To Live With Maximalist Parents
Remember whose home it is.
If you happen to be living with family/parents, it’s important to remember whose house you’re in. After all, their house, their rules. You’ll need to remember that you can only do so much. I agree, it may be tough seeing all that stuff but you have to tread carefully.
Tell them your “why”.
Why are you doing this? Maybe it’s to rid yourself of debt, to stop being a spender, or to live a happy, stress-free life.
A little understanding goes a long way. Don’t start out by trying to convert them, help them understand your new way of life. You’d be surprised at how some open hearted communication will slowly get them thinking that maybe getting rid of the stuff is the way to go.
Don’t whine, complain or shout at them (like I did).
Instead show them the benefits. Use a PAIN point to help them understand. For example, I told my dad that I’d like to help them sort through all the stuff, help them get living space back, and potentially earn some extra money to put toward their retirement.
Take it slowly.
With minimalism and simple living, it’s a process. It just so happens that you’re farther along in the process and they’re just beginning. Remember that it may take a little time to help them understand why you’re doing this. Some people take longer to let go of things.
The idea is never to force your new way of life on others. After all, you can bring a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink. The same principle applies to family, friends and your significant other. You can’t force another person to do something they don’t want to. You can offer guidance, support, and your enthusiasm toward your new way of life for inspiration but that’s it. They have to eventually discover it on their own and when they’re ready.
So although you may be surrounded by endless boxes, piles of junk paper, and needless clutter, you may have to suck it up buttercup and learn to live with it for the time being. After all, it’s their house and their life. Free will is the cornerstone of being a human. Give them time and they may come around.