Practicing Minimalism with a Hoarder

Image originally post on Instagram

Let’s be real: I will never be a minimalist. Would I love to live in a house that is easy to clean and has no clutter because nothing unnecessary is purchased, things no longer useful are given away, and everything has a place? HELL YES! But it’s not going to happen.

My husband is a mild hoarder who grew up very poor. He made his living, keeping, fixing, finding a market for, and selling the things other people would throw away. As a result, we live in a house paid for and built out of things other people would or did throw out. Not everything is useful, he also has a collection of break pads he started pulling off cars in the late 80’s when he stopped working for other people and two pairs of completely warn through converse so old they were made in the USA, that he will NEVER get rid of. Our 700 sq ft houseboat has more tools, books, comics, kitchen equipment, and miscellaneous item than most McMansions because he is most comfortable when he is surrounded by the thing he “might need.”

When reading and talking to people about minimalism, I hear all sorts of reasons why it’s “not for me.” Some people really like have 30 pairs of shoes waiting to be worn, or having the exact right frying pan for the job. Some people would rather have 300 books in physical form taking up two full walls in their house than transfer to an e-reader. And that’s okay.

This doesn’t mean that the value and lessons of minimalism are lost on people like us. It doesn’t mean we can’t learn an immense amount from it. Like most “isms”, I don’t believe that Minimalism is an all or nothing proposition. We can take the components that inspire us to be better people and apply them to our lives.

Minimalism at it’s core is about focusing on your priorities and cutting out clutter and noise that take away from those priorities. I propose that we can apply this theory to parts of our lives instead of the entirety of our life. This begs the question: where do we apply it? The simple answer is another question: What piece of your life gives you the most anxiety, stress, displeasure and the least reward, therefor distracting from your priorities?

If is food, clothing, exercise, transportation, car maintenance, socialization, work? Can you limit your options and put a system in place that reduces the clutter, stress, and energy output of these areas? I bet you could.

For me it’s getting dressed. The simple act of getting dressed for Odd Salon*, which I do twice a month every month, can reduce me to tears. I’m overwhelmed by the matching or intentional mismatching of colors and textures.I’m baffled by accessories while being strangely drawn to them.

6 months ago, literally laying on the ground crying, I decided I need a system. I limited my options and produced Odd Salon uniform. I have two choices: black pencil skirt, with black tank top or long sleeve tunic and boots, or skinny jeans with black tank top or long sleeve tunic and Chucks. For six months a decision that I hate has been made for me. For six months getting dressed for Odd Salon has been simple and stress free.

I started applying this to other occasions for which I have to get dressed; going to work, going to other lectures, going on a hike, working on the houseboat, meeting friend for dinner or drinks. Pretty quickly I had a uniform for everything. It became drastically apparent that I didn’t need — or wear — 80% of my closet’s contents, so I hosted a clothing exchange and gave them all away.

I am a clothing minimalist.

If you could implement minimalist practices in just one area of your life, what would it be?

*Odd Salon — a twice monthly cocktail hour lecture series focused with the tag line “learn something weird” that I founded with my two best friends in 2014.