Too Messy to be a Minimalist?

A friend sent me a Facebook message a week or so ago with a video of a girl who “Tried Minimalism for a Week”. If you want to check it out, it’s on my Facebook business page (dated June 18).  She interviewed Ryan and Josh, The Minimalists, to better understand what a minimalist lifestyle means, and then set off on her 7-day journey.

She packed up everything she owned except a few things she really needed.  I have always wanted to find a client who would be willing to try packing all their possessions and living without most of them.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if next time you move, you only unpack things as you need them instead of unpacking everything whether you need it or not?   I wonder if you would discover that you only need 20% of what you own?  That’s the Pareto principle, or 80/20 rule.  It translates to, “using 20% of what you have 80% of the time”. It applies to everything from clothes to digital information.

I was interested to learn, from watching the video, that this girl found she enjoyed the freedom of living with a lot less material items, but she says near the end of the video, “I’m too messy to live with such few items”.  Wait a minute . . . what was that?  I am trying to understand how being messy means you need to have more stuff.  I can only assume that having less stuff doesn’t make you less messy.  Interesting . . .

I always thought that if you were a messy person and you had less stuff, it would be easier to keep things tidy. A few years ago, I read a super-interesting book called Messy No More, which gave me a much better understanding of messy people.  Not so easy for a super-neat person.  Neat people have trouble understanding why anyone would want to be messy.  Apparently being messy can serve a purpose.

I think the purpose it serves is that it gives the messy person control of their environment. Many of my messy clients live with neat people, but some of them live with equally messy people. Neither way seems to be a good one.  When messy and neat live together there is a constant battle, and the neat person almost always ends up trying to keep the messy person’s stuff tidy which causes them to become resentful.  When two messy people live together, it’s almost as though there’s a competition to see who can be messier.  Either way, I wonder if each person is trying to show that they are the one who controls the situation?

Somehow messy is usually seen as bad, but a messy person wouldn’t agree with you.  I think some people are proud of their messiness, and that’s how they identify themselves.  And most of the time they can find their stuff, eventually.  If your messy environment serves you, then who am I to say you need to change it?  However, if it causes you to lose things, break things, buy things again because you can’t find what you have, or it is coming between you and someone important to you, then maybe it’s time to consider making a change.

I still maintain that having less can help you become a tidier person or at least make it easier to put things back to tidy when they get messy.  I know, I know, being tidy is more work.  You may very well be right about that.  In order to keep things tidy, you do have to stop and put things back where they belong throughout the day.  You need well-designed storage and a system in place before you can keep things tidy.  Or, you could simply get rid of most of what you own and then it would be less work, wouldn’t it?

Do you have messy stories or experiences?   What was the situation, and what was the outcome?  Do you consider yourself a minimalist now or are you happy to hang on to your comfortable lifestyle?



0 thoughts on “Too Messy to be a Minimalist?”

  1. Interesting thoughts, Jane. I consider myself a minimalist but have lived as a messy person with too much stuff and a messy person with less stuff. Now, I’m neat, but I can’t say I live a minimalist lifestyle. It appears that my husband and I do – on the surface.

    But secretly, squirrelled away in clever storage, is a whole lot of stuff that has never been needed in 15 years or marital bliss. Becoming a minimalist can be a long process, especially when you’re in a relationship with a recovering “just might need it one day” partner.

    The minimalist in me sobs hysterically over the enough-dishes-for-thirty-people-although-we-would-never-seat-thirty-people collect and the 147 pens (no, didn’t actually count them) just in case we run out.

    It’s a process and the more people in the home, the more of a process it is. I agree that it does seem to be about control and letting go of it, perhaps more so than the actual letting go of stuff. I believe minimalism is (or should) also be about letting go of needing to control the other person and their stuff.


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