Why I’m NOT A Minimalist

posted by Andrea | 02/26/2014

why i'm not a minimalist

When people learn what I do for a living, they often assume I’m a “minimalist” and can’t stand any amount of STUFF in my home and life.

However, that is absolutely not true at all.

I actually LOVE stuff — just as long as I have a place to store that stuff, money to pay for that stuff, time to clean that stuff, and an actual use for that stuff.

No, I don’t buy stuff just to buy stuff.

No, I don’t bring stuff (even free stuff) into my home unless I have a use for it AND a place to put it.

No, I don’t hoard extra stuff “just in case”.

But I DO like SOME stuff.

I like extra pillows and blankets on our couches, chairs, and beds.

I like old-fashioned and antique decorations on our shelves and counters.

I like pictures on our walls.

I like toys — as long as we play with them and have a place to store them.

I like books — as long as we read them and enjoy them.

I like clothes — as long as we wear them and feel great in them.

I like kitchen gadgets — as long as I use them regularly.

I like my extra freezer and pantry stockpile — as long as we actually eat the food.

However, as I mentioned above, I ONLY like this stuff IF we have the time, space, money, and energy to take care of, store, buy, and use this stuff.

If you ask me, minimalists are essentially the exact opposite of hoarders.  If you look at the definitions of both, I think you’ll agree:

Hoarder: Someone who gathers or accumulates much more than necessary or essential. (source)

Minimalist:  Someone who owns or offers no more than what is required or essential. (source)

Obviously, if I had to choose to be either a hoarder or a minimalist, I would most definitely choose the minimalist route — but neither option is really how I would ideally want to live.

While I’m always intrigued by people who live in teeny tiny homes with only the basic life essentials, I’m also a fan of “everything in moderation”.

Just as hoarders often live their life obsessing over KEEPING everything, minimalists can tend to live their live obsessing over PURGING everything or doing without things that could make their lives simpler, easier, and more convenient.

While I don’t think we need to live excessively extravagant lives, I do enjoy my stuff. I enjoy using tools that help me to simplify, I enjoy having extra food and toiletries on hand just in case we run out, and I enjoy all the extra space we have in our house!

If you come to my house, it will almost always be relatively neat and organized. We won’t have mass amounts of dirty dishes piled up on the counters, we won’t have excessive amounts of paper shoved in every drawer and file, we won’t have toys, games, and books covering every surface, and we won’t have clothes lying all over the floor (unless Nora is helping me with the laundry).

Yes, we have plenty of that stuff, but only as much as we need and use, and only as much as our home can comfortably hold.

While I definitely lean more towards the minimalist side of the spectrum than the hoarder side, I also like my stuff and enjoy having a “warm, cozy” house instead of a more “stark, sterile” home.

I will still keep all my white though! 

What are your thoughts on minimalism?

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32 comments

  1. Gina, a book dragon

    02/26/2014

    I like a place for everything and everything in its place but am on the hoarder side of moderation so don’t have room for everything.

    Love the picture of the shelves!

    I am working at purging but it is very hard.

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  2. Beth

    02/26/2014

    I think minimalism is in the “eye of the beholder”. What amount of “stuff” is required to be considered minimalist is different for each person. Those extra items of stuff that you and I have that give us joy and lend to our comfort, can fit into the definition of minimalism. I love your perspective though, regardless of definitions!!

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  3. Leanne

    02/26/2014

    I think you should only keep what you use and maybe a few things of deep sentimental value… my mother passed away when I was 18…so, I have several of her things in a Rubbermaid tub… I don’t use them, but I am “connected” to them…
    as we get ready to move, I will probably do a major purge of my boys memory boxes (way too many art pictures in there) and my kitchen…if I don’t use, its gone!
    I think both issues are a matter of self-control… the self-control to not buy it all…or to get rid of it if its unnecessary…
    the other issue is stewardship… God owns everything…we own nothing… and frankly, we should be willing to part with whatever He asks us, too! including our possessions and our money!
    our homes should be places where we can minister to people… if its too crowded with “stuff”, you can’t do that…
    this was a great post :-)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I love this perspective Leanne!

    Good luck with the move and happy purging :)

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    Julie H Reply:

    An idea for your boys’ memory boxes: I keep a few art projects and then I just take a photo of some of the others, so they can still see what they made without it taking up physical space. :)

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  4. Nicky

    02/26/2014

    It is tricky to define hoarders and minimalists in terms of owning more or only what is essential.
    I have a friend who was foced to flee her home country and seek refuge in another and could bring only what she was wearing with her. She would now be descibed as a hoarder but her excess of stuff, which to me looks like clutter, makes her feel safer. Both of us actually have alot more tha is essential to survive.

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  5. Daniele

    02/26/2014

    Great post! I try to keep to a similar philosophy. As a homeschooling Mom of 4 kids still at home, I realize we have more ‘stuff’ than if they were in school and not around most of the day. Yet, it’s all things we use — there is a purpose for our stuff, and we have space to store it.

    Great reminder, and I appreciate this post!

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  6. Jill

    02/26/2014

    I’ve always loved your blog! Your style is SIMPLE, but not minimalistic! =) 2 of my 4 kiddoes are off at college, so I’m taking the opportunity to simplify too! I shared my simplifying journey on my blog…it was a 90 day challenge! My house has never looked better!

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  7. Jennifer

    02/26/2014

    I’m glad you addressed this. It’s something I’ve been thinking about.

    I think minimalist advice can be helpful in thinking about needs vs wants, the source of real happiness, and how to let go of things. HOWEVER, I feel that living an entirely Minimalist-with-a-captial-M lifestyle can slip into the same kinds of problems that a cluttered lifestyle can, namely that ‘what to do about stuff’ becomes an obsession. I notice that when I go through phases of purging, my mind is always preoccupied with asking ‘Could I do without this?’ for everything in my home that I see and use. That’s practically useful for getting rid of things, but I really don’t want it to be my whole lifestyle. I don’t want my life to be dominated or defined by what I don’t need, any more than I want it to be dominated by what I have – either way is a means of being dominated by stuff, I feel.

    Our home isn’t minimalist, because although we love our white dishes we also love our special mugs that are mismatched but all have meaning to us. They fit in our cabinet and we like them, so they stay. In those cases, I feel it’s more important to be enjoying what we have than obsessing over whether or not we need it.

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  8. Donna G

    02/26/2014

    I had been working on reducing the amount of stuff we had before my husband passed. Now, I am trying to keep a good balance between sentimentality and practicality. I have given many of his things to people who will use them or who appreciate them, but I confess to struggling.

    Where do I draw the line? I certainly do not want to get rid of things with huge meaning, but do I need to keep sales awards? I already went through a massive shredding period because of privacy issues and old client files, and found that I needed something just last week which was no longer available because I shredded it. I can figure it out, but it’s taking a good chunk of time.

    And the whole mug thing has me wondering. Not a one of our mugs match, because we got them in our travels. I have way too many, and I only use the huge ones on a regular basis for my one (!) cup of coffee. The others are stuffed in the cabinet, and maybe six or seven are used by guests or when I want a cup of tea. But I can’t get rid of them, at least not yet.

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  9. vera

    02/26/2014

    I think my perspective is that of a simplifier…I want my things to have a place, even things others might see as clutter. The struggle is to find the balance between having nothing and having everything. As long as it doesn’t make my life more complicated physically, emotionally, etc., I will find a place for it. :-)

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  10. Emily C

    02/26/2014

    I think this

    “I like toys — as long as we play with them and have a place to store them.

    I like books — as long as we read them and enjoy them.

    I like clothes — as long as we wear them and feel great in them.

    I like kitchen gadgets — as long as I use them regularly.

    I like my extra freezer and pantry stockpile — as long as we actually eat the food.”

    is basically a description of minimalism! Most of the minimalist blogs I’ve encountered reject that whole ‘count all your possessions and don’t have more than 100′/live out of a backpack with one pair of knickers thing, and would define minimalism as living with what you need and use, and no more than that. So when you say that you don’t want more books than you enjoy, and no more toys than Nora plays with, and no kitchen gadgets that are never used, I would call that a kind of minimalism. Of course that doesn’t mean that you have to call it that ;) I just wanted to point out that plenty of people who would call themselves minimalists have comfy, fully furnished homes and KitchenAid mixers and full freezers too! :)

    [Reply]

    Maria Reply:

    I agree. As long as you need it, use it, want it and can AFFORD it (and not go into debt) then that’s o.k. However, if you become obsessed with acquiring stuff just to fill some kind of void, then you have a problem.

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    Kristi Reply:

    Agreed!

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  11. Kristi

    02/26/2014

    Andrea,
    Respectfully disagree on this one. I understand that you looked up the definition of minimalism, but I think (as with anything) there are varying degrees on both ends of the spectrum. I consider myself a minimalist, or working toward becoming one, but do not obsess over purging, nor do I not own an object of mere beauty. I like this thought: Minimalism encourages one to not own items unless they are useful or found to be beautiful. I live in a small home with four growing children and an extremely busy schedule. We have found that simply organizing, does not cut it for us. As the children, ages 7, 9, 12 and 15, grow and needs shift, we simply do not have time to be organizing and reorganizing. Our goal is to live with less in a smaller home, so that we are more focused and intentional about spending time and traveling with our kids, while we still have them in the nest.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Kristi,
    Thanks for your comment — I think you might be reading into this post a little too much. I never said that I think minimalists are “bad” — just that I personally would not consider myself a minimalist. I’m also not a vegetarian, a feminist, a lover of spicy foods, or a fashionista — but I don’t think it’s BAD to be any of those things.

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    Kim Reply:

    Funny, this made me laugh out loud!

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    Sara Reply:

    One of my very favorite bloggers is Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist….you are living what he describes as healthy minimalism, Kristi. I think today’s kinder, gentler minimalism is great!

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  12. Jenni/Life from the Roof

    02/26/2014

    I think I prefer the word “essentialist,” because it includes what matters to you and truly helps your life. Anything essential stays, anything else, ideally, would go, but for me, some “essential” things for my soul include some beautiful things, flowers, high quality items, etc.

    I have to say, though, I like to keep things pared down, because I consider “space” an important item to possess physically and psychologically. Every time I can declutter or free up a square foot of space, I tell myself how much I have gained financially by calculating the cost per square foot our home is worth. Probably a little nerdy, I know, but it motivates me – why pay for square footage that you don’t use?

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    Andrea Reply:

    I like this Jenni — and can tell that you are definitely “left brained” (I am too) I love that you actually think about the square feet of uncluttered space in your home. I can honestly say even I’ve never done that :) I might have to start though!

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  13. Heart and Haven

    02/26/2014

    This post resonates with me. I’ve been working hard over the past 5+ years to simplify our home.
    By doing so, I’ve created more time in my day by not having to clean, maintain, and continually organize items that we don’t need/use. Just like when I worked in the business world, I strived to streamline and improve processes, I now do the same at home. I find it much more peaceful when the house is organized and well maintained.

    Btw, I love your clean & cozy farmhouse!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much!! and yes, I agree — less stuff = more time, energy, etc. I’m actually doing a post about this idea in a couple weeks!

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  14. Kimi

    02/26/2014

    Andrea,

    Please, please tell me where you got the ladders you have leaning on your walls!! I’ve been searching high and low and cannot find those….

    Thanks so much in advance…

    p.s. I LOVE your blog!!!

    Kimi

    [Reply]

    Amanda Reply:

    Kimi,
    I was just going to ask the same question.

    Andrea,
    If you got them off of craigs list what did you search?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    The ladders were from salvage yards and junk yards years ago — probably before ladders were so popular ;)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — thanks! I have an obsession with ladders and have them ALL over my house :) I got most of them from junk yards and salvage stores years ago when we first got married.

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  15. KH

    02/26/2014

    I lean towards the minimalist side too however I think what I really am (and sounds like you are too) is a “clutter free” type person. I like t have some stuff just not clutter. clutter drives me nuts! :)

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  16. Kiescha

    02/26/2014

    Very informative! It’s great to keep only what you need. I use to keep many things for the “just in case” reason. Not good! Trust me….You will forget about it and things will just pile up. Save yourself the headache. Keep only what you know you need and will use.

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  17. Sherry L

    02/26/2014

    I’m with you, Andrea, on the everything-in-moderation train of thought. In some areas of my life, I am a minimalist and a happy hoarder in others. For instance, I love a clutter-less home and purge often to work towards that goal. With 4 kids in the house, I am happy to part with outgrown clothes and toys to keep the kid clutter to a level of controlled chaos. I also like paper clutter filed and out of sight. However, I tend to hoard in the creative areas of my life. I tend to keep supplies around just in case I have the time to work on something in the 15 minutes of “me” time I might have in a day. I’m trying to improve my time management skills so that I can assign bigger chunks of time to a specific project, instead of a little here and a little there to finish it quickly.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I feel the same way — I have absolutely NO photo or paper clutter, but my kitchen has lots of fun tools and gadgets that I use once in a while but definitely aren’t 100% necessary :) My cabinets are still very organized, but I don’t stress about keeping one or two things that I don’t use all the time!

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  18. Suzy

    02/26/2014

    If I had to choose between the two, I would definitely lean toward the minimalist, although I am far from it. I have learned over the years ( the hard way) that having too much makes me feel unsettled. I truly believe “less is more”.The more we have, the more we have to maintain, the more we need to keep track of, and of course the more clutter we have. However, I have learned that it is ok to have stuff we use regularly and to have large lots of educational toys. As a mom of six, we can never have too many Legos, building blocks or Lincoln Logs, etc. I also believe in stocking up on nutritious in-season foods, and never let my chest freezer run too low:)

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  19. Sandra

    02/26/2014

    I definitely don;t like the “stark” image that you sometimes get with minimalism, but I struggle
    with how to get that cozy feeling and how far to go with that without being cluttered.

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