The family and I visited my parents this weekend. My dad really likes to cook and he loves to share his cooking creations with us. That usually means that we visit, have a great meal, and then visit a little more. We usually chat, while my daughter Faith plays or colors.
New newly found superpower
As we sat in the kitchen (it’s an eat-in kitchen in an older ranch style house,) I took a look around the room. My clutter sense started going off the charts. I didn’t even know I had a clutter sense, but apparently this is one of the small super powers granted to those who become minimalists. Like all super powers it’s a blessing and a curse.
In our own home, my clutter sense helps me to stay focused on reducing clutter by ridding ourselves of useless items. It’s been a driving force in fighting our consumerist ways. It keeps me attentive the things we don’t ever use. My clutter sense has a built in six-month timer. It immediately alerts me when an item unused for six months or more comes into range.
Detected by the Clutter Sense
Here are a few things I’ve noticed my newly acquired clutter sense detects:
- Items that are never or extremely rarely used (like foot bath you got for Christmas 8 years ago)
- Items that have not been used in the last six months (like the shirts in your closet that aren’t your favorite, and you hardly ever wear them.)
- Duplicate items (like the 5 spatulas in the kitchen drawer)
- Items that are single purpose that could easily be replaced by a multi-purpose item (like the hand crank cheese grater that is hard to clean, when you have a flat multipurpose grater that works great and is easy to clean)
- Items that are bulky or unnecessarily complex. (Like the food processor you never use, because you just chop with a knife and grate with that same multipurpose grater from the above example.)
- Fad items (Like a lava lamp or pet rock)
- Souvenirs (Like the multitudes of shot glasses, snow globes, or fridge magnets)
- Paper based items (mail, magazines, and books)
- Collections (the matchbook collection, pen collection, antique whatevers)
Those are the things I’ve noticed so far, but my clutter sense is still new. My power is not yet fully developed, yet it’s already very powerful. I’m sure as we continue to purge this power will develop even more.
The weakness of the Clutter Sense
As I mentioned though, the clutter sense has a down side. I have begun to feel uneasy around clutter when visiting others. My parents’ kitchen was full of clutter. There were only two small space on the counter that were not covered by cooking utensils, storage jars and containers, and who knows what else. The free spaces were only temporarily free as they were spaces used for mixing and preparing meals.
As my father began cooking, he left the kitchen a couple of times to retrieve items that no longer fit in the kitchen. He has pots, pans, and spices stored in the adjacent room. I cringed a little every time I saw him leave the room for something that didn’t fit in the kitchen.
I managed to turn down my clutter sense for a while and had an enjoyable lunch. After lunch we found ourselves in their home office. My clutter sense flew off the chart and I imagine it may have cause a brief interruption in the time-space continuum. I felt uneasy and a little claustrophobic. I have a hard time containing the urge to shout about the level of clutter in that room.
I did let it slip that I thought the wicker basket full of probably 1000 pens was considered hording. It was a good sized basket completely full of freebie pens acquired from shows and conferences, all neatly wrapped in rubber bands.
Of course they got defensive. I mean when someone says you are hoarding, it’s hard not to. The responses were “we’ll never run out of pens,” and “there’s nothing wrong with having things.”
In my own home the Big Purge hasn’t reached our office, but I’ve already emptied my cup full of pens. I have exactly two pens in my office; one that I use and one as a backup, to use when my main pen runs out of ink.
There’s nothing wrong with having things
The phrase “There’s nothing wrong with having things” probably deserves a full post. It’s the motto of any consumerist, clutter, or hoarder. It’s their excuse for keeping things that have no use. There is something wrong with it. These things tie us down and limit our freedom. They take up space and cost money to store. For example, the wicker basket holding all those pens wasn’t free. Storage containers, sheds, and U-Store-it places really add up in costs. Excess stuff also adds to stress and visual disease felt when looking at or living in cluttered spaces.
I’m actually very lucky to have such a wonderful wife. Without her, my living space would be more cluttered than it already is, and might resemble that of my parents. Now that we’re purging, it’s getting even better. I look forward to the day when we have guest in our home and we don’t have to do any straightening and cleaning up before they arrive. Minimalism will make that a reality.
Share your superpowers
I’d love to hear from other minimalists. What kinds of things set of your clutter sense? Are there any other minimalist superpowers that I can look forward to?