A Vacuum-less Life

A Vacuum-less Life

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked about simplifying and slowing down is: “What if my husband/wife/kids/parents aren’t onboard with adopting this lifestyle? How can I convince them to join me?”

The short answer is: you can’t.

Unless you do it for them, which I don’t suggest as an option because A) that’s not really them joining you anyway and B) getting rid of stuff that doesn’t belong to you is a really great way of pissing people off.

The fact is, you can’t force someone to adopt a new way of living.

What you can do is start making changes to your own life. Declutter your belongings, start saying no, intentionally slow down, change the food you’re eating, start moving more.

You can make these changes, you can start to feel the benefits and maybe, just maybe, they will see those benefits and feel inspired to join you. But also, maybe not.

The key to moving forward with these changes and being content with the impact it makes on your life is to understand this: You don’t live in a vacuum.

Your decisions, your choices, your actions have implications on those around you. If you start simplifying, slowing down, eating different foods, the people closest to you will notice. They might join you, they might be happy for the change, but they might not.

Similarly, the decisions, choices and actions of those around you will have an effect on your life. They might pick up after themselves, they might honour your request to not buy toys for the kids, they might accept that you don’t want to go to the candle party, but they might not.

We don’t live in a vacuum. And yet, wouldn’t it be easier if we did?

We could say no and not care and toss that annoying trinketty crap that clutters our flat surfaces. We could get rid of the toys our kids love but that drive us mad. We could let go of the old, holey t-shirt that is special to our boyfriend, and the expensive yet ultimately unused crystal wine glasses we were given as a wedding gift from a great aunt who asks about them when she visits.

But that stuff is called life. Or, more specifically, it’s called being part of someone else’s life. There are thousands of ways our lives interlink with each others, some of which makes life easier, some make it more complex.

So understand that you do not live in a vacuum. You will meet resistance. There will be friction. You will face challenges. But ultimately you are in control of your own choices and reactions, not anyone else’s.

And in terms of how to deal with this resistance and this friction, my philosophy is quite simple:

Don’t be a jerk. But don’t be a doormat.

Remind yourself to be grateful, to understand that we each have different love languages, to recognise that the world does not revolve around you and your desire to simplify.

But also remind yourself that it’s OK for you to want different things in life. To crave different outcomes. To want a slower home or a decluttered bedroom or an empty space on the calendar. You’re allowed to want those things just as much as someone else is allowed to want their torn, holey t-shirt.

Also remind yourself that you are in control of the choices you make and the reactions you have. You get to choose how these frictions feel. And you get to tell yourself that your relationships with the people you love are not defined by stuff at all. 

So either they will get on board, or they will not. Allow your vacuum-less life to continue on regardless, and enjoy all the moments and the links and the relationships in spite of your differences.

Don’t get caught up on what you cannot change. After all, creating a slower life is about saying no to unnecessary stress, and there’s nothing more unnecessary than stressing about things you cannot change.


In other news, I was recently interviewed by Joey over at Fearlessly Questioning. We spoke about slowing down, making room and how  video games or Walking Dead comics fit into a simpler, slower life. (Hint: they totally do.) Head over here to see the video or check it out on iTunes.

Finally, I’m interviewing Carl Honore this week for my upcoming podcast. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask him let me know in the comments.

Enjoy your week!



15 Responses to A Vacuum-less Life

  1. Walking Dead is TOTALLY about living a slow, simpler life. What would you carry with you? Who do you want to be with? What is superfluous to living? It’s about listening, observing, moving lightly and slowly, embracing silence. Frankly, WD has inspired me to let go of even more than I did before, the “good” stuff that is really unnecessary, and I don’t love or find useful. I post this during the last 15 minutes of Talking Dead. Yeah, it’s real.

  2. Great post Brooke! I think family members will generally be more on board with the idea of simplifying life than not, at least that has been my own experience. So far my hubby, children and one of my parents and a couple of friends have started simplifying a bit more since I have. It is really neat to watch!

  3. Brooke, thanks so much for sharing this with your slow moving faithful.

    It was a lot of fun talking with you and I hope we get a chance to do it again soon.

  4. So true! And actually, unless someone is totally averse to what you’re doing in making your life simpler/healthier/easier, you’re likely to impact their actions, even if it is just a little bit. (But the point is not to TRY to make them change.)

    I notice when I visit my parents’ house and declutter more and more of my old stuff, someone else in my family are does the same thing. I notice that my roommates might give me crap from time to time about having a green smoothie for breakfast, but their frozen pizza consumption decreases.

    It’s all about being positive and spreading positivity naturally – not forcing it.

  5. Your words are so encouraging. Even though I’m tempted to throw my hubby’s stuff away, I know there is my own stuff I need to deal with first. I’m encouraged by little ways my hubby is supporting my decluttering efforts.

  6. This was great. Thank you for the reminder that at the end of the day, the relationships are more important and they’re not determined by our stuff.

    • Thanks Debbie. That’s the biggest thing to me – relationships are the most important and stuff (even though we want less of it and work hard to make it work for us) is not a determining factor in that at all. :)

  7. Most relationship are important to us, but some are more important than others.

    Some persons forget about their family & best friends, just go and play elsewhere with friends they actually don’t know like in the Facebook or any other social networking. But at the end & after all, they don’t care much about you, right ? So who care ?

  8. Another benefit is that you’ll find out really quickly who supports you when you make these decisions. You want people in your life that ask to hear more about your plans or, when they learn about your goals, find ways to help you.