Minimalism is a Spectrum (and other things I learned from watching Marie Kondo)

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I’m taking a break from watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo because looking at this one couple’s clutter is stressing this minimalist out!

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I will say I’m enjoying this show so much. I still stand by what I’ve said in previous blog posts about my reservations with the KonMari Method. As a minimalist I find it a little squishy and in the end people still have way too much stuff. But the people she’s helping aren’t minimalists: they’re pack rats (hoarders?) who need help. At the end of the episode, whether they got rid of everything or just a lot, the couples she’s trying to help seem happier, lighter, and way more peaceful. Marriages get mended and parenting doesn’t seem as daunting. When I started my very first purge, I was still left with a whole lot of stuff. It took make ages to get to where I am now. These people aren’t at the end of their journey; they’re at the beginning.

Also, this show made me realize I’ve been folding clothes wrong my whole life and I now need to refold everything!giphy-1

It also got me thinking that minimalism is a process, and kind of a spectrum. Someone at the beginning of the decluttering process will look a lot different than someone who’s been at it for years and years. It doesn’t make that person’s experience less important. It takes courage to let go of things you’ve held onto that are weighing you down and taking up space. I get messages from people all the time who are excitedly taking a load of stuff to the thrift store or recycling center because they finally took the plunge and rethought their ownership. They’re proud of themselves, as they should be!

I’ve also learned that minimalism can be cyclical. You go through times where you’re on a purge marathon, getting rid of EVERYTHING. Other times you find yourself slipping into old habits, buying things because it feels good and then regretting it (and believe me, if you live in an RV and you buy something you regret that item will have no where to hide until you deal with it!). Even now there are times when I fall prey to the sentimental trap, reluctant to give up certain items (sometimes really stupid items) just because I have a lot of great memories associated with them. But if I give into that, I will quickly get snowed over with possessions and be right back where I started! I just took two small bags of stuff to the thrift store.

Living in an RV has forced me to learn that a tiny amount of possessions in a teeny tiny space can still feel cluttered! If we moved our possessions into a normal sized house, it would seem bare and VERY minimalist. In our RV, it feels like we might have too much! It doesn’t take much to make a mess!

It also got me comparing the KonMari method to other notable minimalists that I follow. Indulge me, if you will, as I humorously rank them in order of intensity and level of ownership.

Level One: Marie Kondo.

Does the possession spark joy? Then by all means keep it, even if you never use it, it doesn’t fit, it has holes in it and you already have five. At the end of the process you’ll have less stuff, but you might still have a lot more than you need, use (or actually want!). Level one focuses mainly on tidying up possessions, but might not focus quite so much on digging deeper emotionally or mentally.

Level Two: Joshua Becker

De-own! And don’t just let go of your possessions, let go of guilt, debt, and unhealthy relationships! Level two is all about enjoying life instead of reorganizing it. Give experiences instead of gifts. Get out of debt. Get rid of the things you don’t use, want, or need (not just the things that don’t spark joy!).

Level Three: The Minimalists

The Zen masters of the Minimalism world. All you need in life is a toothbrush and a black outfit and an openness to let go of your identity and all preconceived ideas about what you’re capable of. Rethink everything, including yourself. Level three is basically minimalist Nirvana, no one ever really gets there.

This is probably an unfair generalization of all three groups. As you might guess, I fall pretty soundly in the Joshua Becker camp. A minimalist home doesn’t have to be a cold, lifeless one. If you want your life to include hospitality, then by all means keep a stack of plates (instead of just two or four).   But minimalism should also be about more than simple ownership. It should be about saying “No” to unhealthy cultural expectations and “Yes!” to margins and meaningful experiences.

Where are you in your journey? Still at the start, covered in clutter? At the beginning, with your joyless items in a bag destined for a thrift store? Or a few years down the road, enjoying the freedom of a capsule wardrobe and working on getting out of debt? I’m four years down the road, still learning and changing things to fit the life I want to have. Where are you?

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