Everything in life works better without clutter. But some minimalists take this too far and try to exist with the absolute minimum number of things they need to get by.
Does it matter how many things you own?
It certainly does matter if you get to the level of hoarding behaviour, where you have so much stuff in your home that you can no longer function normally. Up to 5% of people in the western world are now thought to be in this situation, and the numbers are increasing each year.
It also matters to around 30% of the population who, according to a survey conducted at About.com, say they avoid going home because they have so much clutter.
In fact, only 6% of people surveyed claimed to live clutter-free. Everyone else has more things than they need and is struggling to some degree to keep their home tidy, organized and as they want it.
Is minimalism the answer?
The message of minimalism is excellent. It’s clear the world needs to consume less. But the practicalities are challenging and it tends to attract people who are obsessive, compulsive, or both. I know of one person, for example, who got so enthused by the idea that she now only has one plate in her kitchen. If a friend comes to dinner, they have to bring their own plate with them.
But the main problem with minimalism is the basis on which decisions are made. I believe that each of us is here on earth for a purpose, and the possessions we keep around us need to reflect this — not so little that we can’t do what we’re here to do, and not so much that we are burdened and held back.
At some stages of my life I needed very few things, and at other times I have needed more. Twice in my life I have made such major course corrections that I got rid of everything I owned and started again. But this wasn’t driven by the wish to consume less. It was in order to follow the integrity of my higher calling.
Why minimalism misses the mark
Limiting the number of things we own in order to opt out of consumerism seems very admirable. But it misses the mark. It addresses the problem at the level of results rather than the cause. It does not take into account that we are spiritual beings incarnated in human bodies, and if each person were to follow their purpose, they would naturally have just the amount of things that they need and no more.
Consumerism and materialism are, in fact, symptoms of how spiritually disconnected modern society has become. Limiting how many possessions people have in their homes is not a cure for that.
There’s no quick fix for this situation, but there are ways to develop a more conscious relationship with your home environment and your possessions so that they can help rather than hinder you in your path. The first essential step is to clear any clutter you have.
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Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2016, updated 2019