March 14, 2014

Frugal Family Friction

"What? You want to simplify your life? No, please dear - say it isn't so!"

What do you do when family members consider your simple life or frugal ways to be too unconventional, controversial, or worse? When they continue to bring gifts against your wishes? When their values clash with your own? What is the best way to deal with such conflict?

A recent anonymous commenter on NBA's Simplicity page shared the struggle of shifting to a simpler lifestyle while getting conflicting messages from family.

The reader said:

"I am trying to simplify my life and teach my teenage girls that there is nothing wrong with good, clean and simple living. 

Problem is, my mother is driven by the size of her bank account and constantly hounds me and her granddaughters that a big bank account, mountains of debt, high credit scores and credit limits are as important as air and water.

Has anybody had problems with close family constantly butting into the simple world you want? How did you get them to stop?"

Have you experienced any friction from family members concerning your simple life? If so, how have you dealt with the situation?

Do you argue? Avoid? Submit?

Or have you been able to communicate your way to a genuine acceptance and compromise?


  1. I'm blessed that most of my close family is of the same mindset as myself and for those that are not, they do not become argumentative or overly pushy regarding my choices.

    However I do have friends that look at me rather askance. Especially as I whittle further down with what I own and espouse my eco-conscious choices when asked (currently I am trying to slowly replace my synthetic fabrics - clothing, sheets, rags - with 100% organic products. And less of them! One in, two or more OUT).

    There have been comments as well. For example, I once became rather minimal (it was grand), but somehow things crept back in and the house started filling back up! As I pare down again (rawr, so frustrating!) I get sideways commentary about "My, how this house keeps changing" and "I like this much better than when it was practically empty."

    Solution? Ignore it. Or discuss your journey, at least put it out there because sometimes some people surprise you. Those who seem like they would never agree may nod their heads in slow, dawning realization. Mind you that is not always the case! :) But, ultimately, be confident that your path is your own and use their contradicting opinions as a way of making sure your viewpoint doesn't become narrow. We are all on our own unique travels and each person's journey has a lesson in it for someone else, right?

    1. Adge,

      My family is also not a issue, even though we may not be of the same mindset. Lifestyles among the siblings range from ultra-luxury to rural homesteading to the simple life in the big city. More of us live simply than don't.

      My parents raised us in what amounted to a simple living environment, and I came to love it. My dad was not a materialist - love was what he ran on. My mom continues to live according to the same values on which I was raised. She supports and understands our desire for simplicity 100%.

      Such support is invaluable, and it is important to pay that forward for the benefit of others who may be in unsupported simple situations.

      The last paragraph of your comment is an excellent guide to using your lifestyle to educate and illuminate, but without being a fanatic which ends up being counter-productive. A narrow viewpoint is to be avoided at all costs, and if we all act as teachers and learners together, we can avoid that outcome.

  2. Anonymous3/14/2014

    This is a great post! I'm anxiously awaiting a lively discussion assuming I'm not the only one who is getting pressure to buy things I don't want or need.

    My current set of friends seem to really want me to have what they want and want me to have the kind of home they have which is full of 'things'.

    I have been submitting to the pressure when I am out thrift shopping with friends who are chronically fixing up things, changing their d├ęcor and putting so much stuff in a room all I see is chaos.

    What I'm doing about it is attempting to be mindful of my goals to live simpler and making a real effort to stop impulsive spending. I am still going with friends when they ask, but I am not instigating shopping trips.

    Would love to report I am doing well with ending impulsive spending, but not so much. I do have moments/days/even weeks that I stick to my plan. So easy to buy stuff at thrift/consignment and yard sales because "it's only a dollar or two." And some of the "stuff" is so darn cute! I enjoy seeing stuff and love the fellowship of going with friends...but this is seriously interfering with me reaching my goals.

    I also argue in a sense as I try and "explain" my desire for a simple life. People just blankly look at me, like something is wrong with me....and almost immediately start 'suggesting' things I could do to spruce up the room which always requires me to go find and purchase more 'things'.

    Awareness and visualizing red flags might help me disengage with the encouragement to buy more things for the home.

    Recently, I got my living room de-cluttered and simplified. I am getting the "room looks empty" comments like there is something wrong with that or worse something wrong with me.

    I'm in a cycle, caught in it...working to change my behavior. It might mean less time with friends as I get into trouble when I go thrift shopping with them. I'm in the discovering my behavioral pattern and looking for new ways to socialize phase of this. Getting my living room de-clutter has been a huge help. It makes me desire simple much more.
    Thanks Gregg! This is really good.

    1. Terri,

      Since Linda and I have been actively reducing our possessions for years now, I have had ample time to think about the transition to that minimal emptiness. To me it feels less claustrophobic, a feeling one can get in even large houses if they are packed full of things.

      I think sometimes there is confusion between the fact - "doesn't want stuff", and the perception - "is too poor to buy stuff", or "too weird to want stuff". We are all so programmed to acquire at all costs and ignore the consequences, that it is inconceivable for most people to believe that anyone wouldn't want more stuff.

      But as you point out, choosing simplicity while in a culture of consumer complexity can have an effect on the social life. If loved ones don't understand now, perhaps they will in the future when conditions require all of us to live simple lives. Actually, I do believe that future has arrived.

      In the meantime us early-adopters are giving others food for thought. We provide evidence that it really is possible to be happy with slower, less-cluttered lives.

      With your insight and drive, and the help of like-minded supportive people (like here on NBA), I am confident that you will build the simple life you desire. Congrats on the living room de-clutter.


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