Can You Become a Minimalist if You Are a Hoarder?
Man, oh man. If 10-years-ago-me could see me now….
Minimalism was NOT a word in my vocabulary! 10 years ago I was still very much a self-confessed hoarder. I just loved STUFF. I loved the chaos and the clutter and the dusty knick-knacks poked into all the nooks and crannies of the wonky cottage we lived in at the time.
I held onto the most random of items, happy in the knowledge that I’d do something with them eventually.
Always an art and craftsy type of gal, I had boxes and boxes of paper, yarn, paints, brushes, scraps of pretty things, fabric, pencils, beads, glue, more paper, more pens… and that was just one interest!
Each and every corner of our home was stuffed to the rafters with things. We are a family of avid readers, so books covered pretty much every surface. We love music, and had a collection of instruments hung from anywhere there was space to hang something. I was a collector. I collected fans, I collected feathers, I collected shoes, I collected pretty pictures cut out of magazines, you name it, I had a box for it.
Added to this, our first child was 2, and pregnant with our second, there was an ocean of small person paraphernalia… admittedly I had trimmed it down, starting to form an awareness that most of the things you are told are essential when you have your first child really aren’t.
Related reading: Minimalism with Children
Perhaps this small realisation was the beginning of a broader awareness that the same applies to so many other aspects of life. But the minimalist in me didn’t really start to show herself until a few years later, when we were told that our landlords were selling the cottage.
We were offered first refusal to buy it, but simply didn’t have the money at the time, so set about looking for somewhere else to live. Faced with the daunting prospect of having to pack up all of the collections and clutter I realised something had to give.
Making the shift
We had always loved watching tiny home shows and were interested in alternative ways of living, but with a young family, I wasn’t so sure – it was more a lifestyle that I liked to look at rather than live… or so I thought…
These days we split our time between our 35 x 10 ft static caravan and our self converted campervan. As you can imagine, that called for a bit of an overhaul on our possessions.
I wrote about the downsizing process and what it’s like to live in a small space in more detail here: Downsizing – 5 things I Have Learnt Living Tiny, but what has prompted me to write this is that I look around my home today and I still see stuff.
A work in progress
I see too much stuff actually. I feel in dire need of a declutter. It’s chaos here…
The thing is, minimalism isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a constant. Especially if you have any little aspect or teeny tiny fragment of a hoarder lurking in the dark depths of your soul. And we all start from somewhere.
This isn’t talked about enough. There is this misconception that minimalists just ditch their stuff and never accumulate any more, but in reality, it is something you have to deliberately work at.
Compared to the ‘old me’, I have few possessions. The clutter and collections have mostly gone. I don’t feel the need to hang onto a lot of things, just because.
I know there was a definite shift for me because I no longer like to see a tonne of things wedged into gaps. I like to see space around items that I treasure, I want to be able to take away the excess so that I can see the things which bring me joy. But I still get stuck sometimes:
Recently I was in an online chat and someone asked if there were any minimalists in the group. I didn’t answer, because still, even though it has been almost 5 years since we made the switch to live more with less, I still don’t feel I “qualify” as a minimalist.
The messy minimalist
I look around and I see chaos and all the things I haven’t put away yet, and I think “I can’t call myself a minimalist, just look at all this mess!”
But let me tell you this – being a minimalist doesn’t mean you have all your shit together and live in an immaculate home. It is NOT the same thing! I’m sure some minimalists do (presumably the ones without kids… just sayin’) but I’m equally sure that most of those beautifully sleek and spotless Instagram homes don’t look like they do in those pictures for a vast majority of the time.
People can be messy in all walks of life. The beauty of minimalism isn’t so much that you are always tidy – it just doesn’t take you as long to get everything in order as it would if you had loads of things to contend with.
I am messy. I hold my hands up and admit it. But I am also a minimalist – it’s just taken me a while to see the full transition I have made.
From hoarder to minimalist
Anytime I am doubting my journey, I think back to how much I used to own, to all the things I hung onto for so many years that I didn’t even like. I genuinely find it SO much easier to get rid of things than I used to. If I don’t love it or need it, it goes. If I do say so myself, I have become ruthless about passing on things that I don’t absolutely love.
The crucial part is I now also find it easier to work out the difference, to see how I actually feel about items so I can decide whether or not they add value to my life.
Tips to get you started:
The biggest switch for me was in just beginning. As I said, we were downsizing, which didn’t leave us with much choice – we had to get rid of a lot, but where I thought the process would make me sad and nostalgic, I was surprised to find it actually felt liberating.
I quickly came to see how much all that stuff had been weighing me down. Getting rid of things quickly became addictive, and the more I got rid of, the more I unearthed treasures long forgotten about, not because they were actually lost – but simply because the sheer mass of everything else had distracted me from them.
Minimalism is an intentional curation of items. It isn’t about owning nothing, it is about loving the things you do own. Deliberately choosing things because they make you feel happy. As soon as I reconnected with the things that made me happy it all felt so much simpler.
Commit to getting rid of one item a day for a month and see if you get into it. You can go through your home at random to ‘dilute’ the experience if you want, but bonus points if you go through one room/area at a time to really see the overall change in that space as you minimise.
Related reading: 16 Things You Just Don’t Need!
Dig into your secret storage
Are you one of the 1000’s of people who have boxes left unpacked from previous moves, or things in storage that you haven’t seen in years? Do you even remember what’s in those boxes?
If you have any storage items that you haven’t said hello to in a while, go and reacquaint yourself with them. Chances are, if you haven’t needed/wanted anything from them in all this time, you aren’t going to. Unpack a box and send its belongings to a new home.
One step at a time
You are not going to switch from a hoarder to a minimalist overnight. It takes a lot to undo the habit of a lifetime. Decide on just trimming the excess, getting rid of some of the items you are happy to lose.
While you are adjusting try adopting an interim persona – become a midimalist! Not too much, not too little. Baby steps y’know? Aim to reduce the number of things you possess, but don’t be too extreme about it. I’m pretty sure you’ll decide to keep going once you begin, but this is a good way to trick your brain into thinking nothing is happening, shhhhh… we’re just having a tidy up…
Take it slow. Slim down your clothing, but don’t go full capsule wardrobe straight off the bat. Get rid of things you know you won’t use, but hold on to things you are unsure about. Go through the house regularly to see if you feel any differently about these items yet. You don’t want to go full pelt and get rid of everything, only to regret it later. You have time to do this gradually.
Can you become a minimalist if you are a hoarder? Yes. Absolutely. I am happy proof of that! If you are even 5% interested in living minimally then this could absolutely be the thing that starts turning your life around. I cannot tell you how much my life has changed for the better since I started this journey.
If minimalism seems appealing but intense, then go ahead and start easing yourself in with a midimal halfway approach, and don’t forget to embrace the concept of messy minimalism – you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to find what works for you!
Dip your toe in, have a paddle – I’m sure you’ll be diving in no time!