Uncluttered and minimalist aren’t the same

Some people are happy living in a minimalist space. I recently read a blog post by Derek Sivers that described his home:

I live in a little pre-furnished apartment with no stuff, and I love it this way. I have no books, knicknacks, decorations, and really no personal items at all. Just some minimal clothing, my laptop, headphones, and not much else. All the kitchenware and furniture just came with the place, and will stay here when I leave.

There are certainly benefits to owning fewer things. Derek moves every year or two, so owning very little makes those moves easy for him. Owning less stuff also means there’s less to collect dust, which can be important to those with allergies. And you can choose to rent or buy a smaller home, thus saving money. Of course, you also save money by buying fewer things — or you might spend the same amount but find you can afford to buy things of higher quality.

But many other people would feel unhappy living as Derek does. They would agree with the woman who created the website entitled Stuff Does Matter, where she wrote, “Stuff has the power to nourish us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.”

And you certainly don’t need to be a minimalist to be uncluttered and organized. If everything you own has a home, can be found when you need it, and makes you happy (or serves a vital purpose), you’re doing just fine.

Some people like a house or apartment that’s sparsely furnished while others enjoy filling their homes with art, books, music, mementos, cherished collections, etc. That’s a matter of personal preference, and people on either end of the spectrum can be organized.

Of course, having fewer things can make it easier to get organized and stay organized. It’s easier to find a place to store everything when there isn’t as much to be stored. It’s easier to put something back into a closet or drawer that has plenty of empty space than into one that’s close to full. If you want to do any home projects such as painting the walls or replacing the carpet, those projects will go quicker if you don’t have as much to box up and move out of the way — and then move back and unbox.

On a now-defunct blog I’ve had bookmarked for years, someone wrote about his approach to his possessions, which he called mediumism. As he explained, “I buy only what I need, but I have no desire to live with just 100 things. I watch very little television. … I still plan to keep my 32-inch LCD for now.” If minimalism feels wrong for you, maybe mediumism will resonate.

Just remember that the idea behind uncluttering is to have a home that pleases you and supports you in achieving your goals. That may mean you own 150 things, 1,500 things, or 15,000 things. There’s no magic number — there’s only the answer that’s right for you.

3 Comments for “Uncluttered and minimalist aren’t the same”

  1. posted by Dorothy on

    “If everything you own has a home, can be found when you need it, and makes you happy (or serves a vital purpose), you’re doing just fine.”

    I would posit that’s the definition of minimalism.

  2. posted by SkiptheBS on

    My unachievable but desired ambition is to have my home furnishings all fit inside one another like Japanese cube furniture, in such a way that I can fit it all in my truck and on one tow-behind trailer. I could change locations at will, subject only to affordability.

  3. posted by CA on

    Hum… I like this way of thinking.

    I’m a naturally organized, fairly minimal person. I like white space and clean surfaces. But I like to have everything I need on hand. Even if those needs aren’t immediate, I know that if I get or keep something for “someday” that day will eventually come.

    How I keep those “someday” things to a minimum is my “1 box” system. I.e. — I like to sew so I have 1 box for fabric. I may pick up a couple of yards of a fabric I like even if I don’t have an idea what I may use it for. When that box is full, no more. But when the mood strikes to sew something new, I have what I need without a trip to the store.

    Works for me.

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