Now that we have lived in our house for a year and a half, it seems like every cupboard and closet needs to be decluttered and reorganized. I just went through the children’s books last week and have two big boxes of books to donate.
I have been thinking lately about where I lie on the spectrum between being a minimalist and a hoarder.
The post below was originally shared in May 2015, but I wanted to share it again since it’s what I’ve been mulling over lately.
What do hoarders and minimalists have in common?
Admittedly not a lot. In fact they are pretty much at opposite ends of the “stuff” spectrum. The lifestyle of a hoarder would drive a minimalist insane. Likewise, a true pack rat would go bonkers in a minimalist’s world.
Hoarders and minimalists have at least one thing in common: Frugality.
By definition, frugal is:
Not all hoarders and minimalists are frugal.
While individual cases and motives vary, I think the mentalities behind hoarding and minimalism both demonstrate key components of frugality.
The Frugal Hoarder
Painting the image of a hoarder (or “pack rat” to put it more gently) isn’t hard, thanks to television’s exposure through shows like Hoarders and Extreme Couponing. The extreme situations that make it to the screen, however, are definitely less frugal than your average pack rat mentality. Set aside the extremes and picture a pack rat that you know and love.
Frugal hoarders accumulate stuff that they feel may possibly be useful to themselves or others at some time in the future. They have a difficult time getting rid of anything because they are afraid they will want or need the item in the future.
Whether it was given to them for free or purchased on a great deal, frugal pack rats take pride in how little it cost them to acquire the goods. The low price itself is often the sole justification for bringing the items home.
Looking at the definition above, frugal hoarders feel that getting rid of something that could possibly be useful would be wasteful. They believe that saving stuff is saving money.
The Frugal Minimalist
Minimalists hit frugality from a different angle. Instead of focusing intensely on the economical expenditure, they are economical in the use of things. Minimalism, as far as stuff is concerned, is defined by William Morris’s quote, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Minimalists are also not wasteful, another classic component of frugality’s definition. Instead of preventing waste by saving everything like a pack rat, minimalists avoid acquiring things that would not be used. To a minimalist, having something that isn’t useful is wasteful, not only because of the money spent, but also the space it takes up, the maintenance costs and opportunity cost (what else your money and space could be doing).
Frugal minimalists save money by just not buying much. Their purchases are intentional and well thought-out. They believe they are saving money by not saving stuff.
Where are you on the spectrum?
Most people aren’t one extreme or the other. We all have different priorities and tendencies, but we probably lean one way or the other.
You might be a frugal hoarder if…
…you find yourself justifying clearance purchases with “I might need this someday.”
…you can find plenty to buy at any given garage sale.
…you buy more at the thrift store than you donate.
…you buy multiples because the deal is just “too good.”
…people call you when they are moving or downsizing to see if you want their stuff.
…you hang onto your children’s outgrown clothes for potential future children.
You might be a frugal minimalist if…
…you get rid of potentially useful things to save space.
…you shop with a list and stick to it.
…you donate more to the thrift store than you buy.
…you only buy what you absolutely are sure that you need.
…you love giving away useful items to friends.
…you pass along baby clothes right after a child outgrows them.
I would say (and my husband would agree) that I lean toward the hoarder side of frugality (and his tool collection would reveal the same thing about him).
For example, my newborn daughter is wearing clothes that my 7-year-old daughter wore seven years ago. Those clothes have traveled 3,500 miles with us in those seven years. Thinking about the space that they took up for those seven years and the effort of moving them across the country twice, makes the minimalist mindset sound appealing.
Still, I have a hard time passing up “free” things that may be of use in the future, even if I have to store them. And when it comes to food, I believe in being prepared, which is why I prefer to call it stocking up rather than hoarding.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with all of the stuff in your house or you feel like you’re always cleaning but nothing ever seems clean, then you probably have a clutter problem. If you’ve tried to declutter in the past but have gotten burned out, then Step-by-Step Decluttering will be great for you! After listening to the audio-book, I was totally encouraged and motivated to get to work. Sarah gives clear methods and strategies to work through the decluttering process without feeling overwhelmed.
How about you?
- What kind of frugal are you?
- Have you had experience moving to a different spot on the frugality spectrum?
Free when you subscribe!
Get frugal inspiration and financial motivation in your inbox every week, plus you'll also get the Guide to Getting a Month Ahead Financially for free!