A crusty ex-radical's guide to cleaning and minimalism

November 15 | Guest post by Megan Kinch
A crusty ex-radical's guide to cleaning and minimalism
Last Clean Shirt from shopZeroFoxGiven

You can change. You really can. My parents were hoarders and I lived in activist and or hippie/punk collective situations for about seven years, and now I even have a kid creating extra filth to clean up after. You can recover from being a huge mess and keep your rad politics if you want. Or you can just be a bitter crusty ex-radical like I am, but you can change. If I can do it, you can do it.

Here's my advice for other broke-ass radical types who think that maybe it might be possible not to live in filth…

An ex-radical's guide to cleaning and minimalism

Problem: You can't clean up your stuff because there is way too much of it and your place is tiny because the rent is too damn high.

Reality Check:
Throw out all your stuff. You live in one fucking room (or some other inadequate space), you can't have all the things. The more stuff you throw out, the more real estate you have for what's important: YOU! You need space, not your stuff. It's probably garbage and/or unneccessary anyway.

Problem: You are broke and you can't bear to throw out shit that you paid money for lest you need it and can't replace it.

Reality check:
You will actually save money by throwing out most of your shit. Also, you keep having to buy new shit when you need it because you can't find any of your stuff because it's buried under piles of other stuff. If you have way less stuff, you will actually find the shit you need when you need it, and you won't lose your cell phone or be late for work because you can't find your wallet.

Problem: You have no trouble finding stuff to get rid of, but it sits there in garbage bags or piles not getting actually donated or discarded.

Reality Check:
First off, that shit is not worth anything, so don't even try to sell it or donate it. You know you're lazy and you're never going to do that, because if you were going to do it, you would have done it already. You probably curbed most of it or got it from a dumpster or a free store anyway. The best you can do is have a clothing exchange. But seriously, by the time you don't want clothing anymore, no one else wants it — low-end donated clothing just goes to other countries to ruin their economies anyway.

Problem: No one ever does the dishes.

Reality Check:

You have too many dishes. If there are more plates than the number of people living there, that's way too many. Everyone needs their own cup. ONE cup. You also don't need enough pots and pans to make a formal turkey dinner because who the fuck is making a turkey dinner in your kitchen anyway. Be realistic. Call a house meeting and ditch most of your dishes. And use frikken disposable cups if you have a party. They at least won't shatter and leave broken glass all over the place. If you are the kind of person who can handle having an adult amount of dishes, you are already handling it.

Problem: Cleaning is for bougie normies.

Reality Check:
Poor people around the world are living in spotlessly clean huts with dirt floors. The fact that poor(er) people in North America are drowning in their own stuff is part of the ridiculous materialism of the culture. You don't need it, and your over possession of stuff isn't radical just because you sourced too much stuff at yard sales and dumpster dives instead of buying it new. Being a total mess is kind of infantile, and if you look around the world, people building serious change have also figured out who should do the laundry.

Problem: Your rich friends keep "donating" you stuff.

Reality Check:

I drank the cleaning Kool-Aid. I started reading KonMari, and actually doing it.

This happened to my mom. Her middle class friends kept showing up at her door with old couches. Eventually we ended up throwing out seven(!) couches over the balcony (it was on the first floor). Seven couches in a two-bedroom apartment. Don't let your friends "charity" ruin your life. And think twice before you burden your stuff on a more impoverished friend. They will be burdened with not only the object but it could be that the cost of disposing of the object is out of their reach. Good thing our apartment had a dumpster (which later caught on fire).

I drank the cleaning Kool-Aid. I started reading KonMari, and actually doing it. I started listening to podcasts like The Minimalists and Happier in Hollywood podcasts. I listened to them while i cleaned up my stuff.

And things are finally different.

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  1. This gives me hope! I also am trying to drink the KM kool-aid… I listened to the audiobooks while doing some sorting and found it helpful to drowned out the voice in my head constantly rationalizing why I might need each useless thing someday. I've probably gotten rid of 10+ boxes to donate and a lot went straight to the trash too, but there's still so much to go through! Donating makes it easier for me to let go of stuff and I like to schedule a truck pickup (Salvation Army, Easter Seals, VOA, etc all offer pickups in my area). As a procrastinator, it gives me a real deadline and ensures that the donates don't sit in my house or trunk for months on end. Anyone who is thinking they should declutter AND is considering having a kid…get started now! Trying to deal with your mess while urgently babyproofing is only going to be more difficult! Okay, we covered everything he can reach while crawling around…okay, now he's standing and tearing everything off the bookcases…oh, now he's really good at climbing!

    2 agree
    • ya for sure. I actually think I started this journey when I had my kid and had only one room for my family of 3 in a little house. I realized that if I had no crib (co-sleeping) and no stroller (babywearing) and no formula (was lucky breastfeeding worked out) and minimal diaper accessories (no change table) I could actually make it, and I saved money too. Minimal parenting was a start but there was so much more.

      3 agree
    • property is theft. 😉

      (i mean, there's maybe a debate around personal property and how much personal property is appropriate and…SHHHH QUIT IT)

      1 agrees
  2. As the fellow child of a hoarder, thank you for writing this! <3

    And if you ever want to write another piece with advice on how to help a parent who is a hoarder but in serious denial about it… yeah.. I’d read the hell out of that! Just sayin’ 😉

    2 agree
    • ya um.. .what helped both my parents was when they split up and lived with other, cleaner, new partners, but i dunno if i can recommend that route.

      1 agrees
    • yeah, i actually think there is no point in trying to help… if they don´t see it, if they want it that way, who am i to intervene?
      that is at least how i feel with my parents.
      i try to listen and support my mother morally, because she wants that from me, offer help now and then, with both of us knowing that they don´t want the actual help.
      my dad is fine (i think), but whenever someone trys to intervene he gets angry, so i leave him be.
      i try to work on myself – not getting angry or frustrated with things i can´t change, and work on the issues i am able to change, like my own tendency to hoard… that´s also what helps me to keep an emotional distance – i get it. i like stuff and it does seem to pile up out of nowhere here, too. it´s just that i grew up in a different time, and that i am very much aware how limiting all the stuff is to me that keeps me from filling room after room with ´useful` stuff.

      so yeah, print out a nice poster with "not my circus, not my monkeys" on it, take a deep breath, send them their love as best as possible and walk on, that would be my 2 cents…

      3 agree
  3. Thank you for stating the unpopular fact that most likely, people do not want to inherit or be donated junk. For the longest time I thought that everything and anything I needed to get rid of could be donated, but that's not the case. As awful as I find landfills, not buying useless crap is a better idea than trying to donate useless crap that really needs to be thrown away.

    2 agree
    • Haha, this is why I donate to Goodwill. I get to feel good about "donating" it, even though I know they send about 80% of donated stuff to the landfill and have some shady business practices.

      1 agrees
  4. Moving. Moving is how you get horders to purge. Buy them 10 large home depot boxes per room and tell them they need to make everything they want fit into those boxes.

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