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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.