Confessions of a Hypocrite. Or, Kathleen, The Failed Minimalist


In my last post, I talked about why I strive to live a minimalist lifestyle.

The trouble is, I have a hard time putting it into practice. (Shocking, right?)

I’m not much of a shopper or anything (I’m too cheap); my struggle is with letting things go. Once I’ve got something, I want to hang onto it for the rest of my life, in case I ever need anything like that.

(“What if someday I NEED a glass bottle that shape? What if someday I NEED an ill-fitting navy t-shirt?!”)

For that reason, if you were to walk into my house, I’m sure you wouldn’t remark, “Ahh . . . a minimalist lives here.” I have way more stuff than necessary, despite my habit of waxing eloquent about how more stuff is a burden.

Here are just a few of my points of hypocrisy.

  • Our house has tons of storage space with closets on every level and a basement storage room lined with shelves. All of them are always full.
  •  I claim to be a barefooter, yet I own multiple pairs of shoes. OK, lots of shoes. Mostly sneakers. I own three pairs of Chuck Taylors alone! Who needs that many Chucks? (Incidentally, I own exactly one pair of heels which were worn once for about fifteen minutes).
  •  It’s true that I’ve hardly purchased a single baby item, but I did take every free item I could get my hands on, even if I already owned similar items. I still have most of them in my basement, even though I know I’ll likely never use them. I even bought a second used crib, even though we weren’t using the first one!! What kind of problem do I have?
  •  For baby carriers, I acquired no less than two pouch slings, one ring sling, one Moby Wrap, one Snugli carrier and one Ergo carrier. And I still kinda wish I had a mei tai.
  •  I’ve been putting all of Lydia’s outgrown clothes in a box and keeping them, even though I don’t know (a) if we’ll ever have another baby (though I hope so!); (b) if we do, whether we’ll have another girl; and (c) if we do, whether the clothes will be in the right season.  All those variables together add up to a really poor case for hanging on to outgrown baby clothes.
  •  BOOKS. I own shelves and shelves of them. It’s an absolute waste of valuable space in our home. I’ve kept essentially all of my books from university though I probably won’t ever look at 90% of them again in my life. I hang onto them with the foolish terror that I might need to reference one of them again someday. And of course I keep buying new books.
  •  I also have a weak spot for kitchen utensils and appliances. I want to own one of everything. Just this year I added a Kitchenaid mixer, a pasta maker, and an ice cream maker to my repertoire. I still want a grain mill and stoneware. And I have piles and piles of Tupperware containers.

So there’s just a short list of some of the things I hoard, even though in theory I try to practice minimalism.

How about you? What kinds of things do you buy, collect or keep that you know you could do without? Why do you think you do it?

(Whenever I can, I try to explore my own failings and hypocrisy in relation to the things I talk about here.)

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  1. Hey … we’re having a yard sale getting rid of tonnes of aforementioned type of items. Wanna come over? ;)

  2. Wine glasses! I’m not sure the last time we used more than 1 or 2 wine glasses at a time and yet one shelf of my cupboard is full of them.=( I too like kitchen appliances and keeping things just in case. But my mother in law does the same thing and we were able to do a lot of things for several weddings for very cheap! That makes it harder to get rid of stuff too.

    • I know: the rare occasions when keeping stuff comes in handy encourages to always keep everything! It’s not always a great thing! And I can totally understand the wine glass thing. Just in case!

  3. Kathryn says:

    I’m with you all the way. Although earlier this week, when my immersion blender bit the dust and my kids did something with the beaters to my handmixer–they’ve not been seen since, I did remember that I had a brand-new handmixer in the back of the pantry. Big yay for saving it.

  4. I think it’s smart to save baby clothes, at least until the next baby comes along. If you don’t need the clothes, you can get rid of them; if you do need them, you don’t have to try to find clothes while hugely pregnant. I thought my girls wouldn’t be able to share baby clothes since the older was born in May and the younger in December. Lo and behold, we had a very warm spring, and everything fit the baby.

    • You’re probably right, Arliss; but I figure that if I give the clothes away, I can guarantee that they’ll get used, while if I keep them, there’s only a chance they’ll get used. But I know it works out well for a lot of moms!

  5. The problem is that I almost always do find a use for all the stuff I hoard, which makes it even harder to get rid of them….

    And I’m with you on the books. So many books. Books in every room of the house. But maybe I’m okay with that. I think I want to create an environment conducive to and encouraging of reading, that says words are valued, and with plenty of treasures for children or visitors to find. I know I spent many an hour as a child reading random books I found on my parents’ shelves, and many of those stories have stuck with me even now.

    I think I’m too much of a Depression-mindset packrat to really be a minimalist, but I am really, really trying to do the minimalist-baby thing. We haven’t bought or registered for anything yet because I’m trying to figure out the bare minimum we can get away with, and then find the very best of those things (I liked your posts on the topic, though our list will probably be different). But my mother-in-law has already started buying T-Rex presents and I’m not yet 20 weeks along…sigh.

    • Hi Katie! As for books: I do want to hang on books that might have a chance of inspiring Lydia some day, but there are plenty on my shelf that will never do anybody any good!

      And I think we probably have to give some grace to grandparents . . . they don’t understand how their gifts are going to clutter up our homes; they just think about the smiles on those grandbabies’ faces!

  6. Baby carriers are addictive, aren’t they? Before my daughter was born, I researched and decided wraps would be best for us. A friend made me a stretchy wrap (like a Moby) and I loved it, for about a month. Then Ana was getting too heavy for it so I purchased a woven wrap. Ana didn’t have head control but hated facing in, so I asked about slings and a friend gave me a Nojo (padded ring sling). Ana loved that, but the padding got really hot for both of us, so I made us a regular ring sling. So that makes two wraps (one stretchy one woven) two slings (one padded one not), and I am currently sewing a Mei Tai. Oh, and we have an Ergo for my husband to carry Ana in. LOL. I love all the carriers we have and they each have their function. I can’t go on long walks with the ring slings because it hurts my back after awhile. But at home I prefer the ring sling because it is easier to get Ana in and out for EC and whatnot.
    Michele recently posted..What I Thought Motherhood Would Be LikeMy Profile

  7. Emily W says:

    I have the opposite problem! I buy too much stuff we don’t really need, just because I like new stuff, but I don’t accumulate things hardly at all. I can’t stand clutter or owning things we don’t use regularly, so I purge frequently (it also helps that we move often and never live in houses with closets). My rule is that if it hasn’t been worn or used in a year, it needs a new home (with a few exceptions for things like family heirlooms, and Brian’s box of childhood Legos, ha). I have to admit though, there are advantages to beign a pack rat. I get carried away and regret giving things away sometimes, or need something I got rid of. Also, I work hard at only replacing things, instead of accumulating. If I get a new pair of shoes, I give away an old pair. It helps to avoid accumulating.

    Anyways, great post! I love the Confessions of a Hypocrite series. It really gives legitimacy to the other things you post.

    • Thanks, Emily! And I think I’d rather have your problem than mine. It sounds like you have a generous spirit. Your method of replacing rather than accumulating sounds wise.

  8. I’m right there with you! We really do try to keep things simple, but every now and then you look around and can’t believe how quickly things have accumulated! I’ve got a big house purge on the to do list this fall!
    Molly W. recently posted..A Good Weekend for Garage Sale-ingMy Profile

  9. My biggest hoarding problem is with sentimental itmes. I’m always thinking, “I can’t get rid of that, my kids will love to see/play with/hold/read/have this someday…’ Yeah. I think it’s because my grandma saved all of my moms things I loved having her old barbies, clothes, books, just about everything and I want that for my kids. But seriously, I can’t keep everything from my childhood and I know my kids won’t want it all as they’ll have their own things! Plus I really really love history (I minored in it in college) so I’m always thinking if I throw something out I’m throwing out my own history and that thought is a bit depressing.
    Bekah recently posted..Review of Garden of Life’s RAW Prenatal. (aka my ‘happy pills’)My Profile

  10. Ooo, also read a blog recently about living simply and the author suggested getting rid of a book after you’ve read it?!?!?!?! I just about passed out even thinking of it. I honestly don’t think I could ever do that. Especially because I like to reread my favorite books over and over. And then over again. So I know what you mean about having shelves and shelves of books. But at least it’s not shelves and shelves of dvd’s.
    Bekah recently posted..Review of Garden of Life’s RAW Prenatal. (aka my ‘happy pills’)My Profile

    • Oh I KNOW. I read a similar post (about giving away books when you’re done with them) and I’ve been struggling with it ever since! In, I’m planning to tackle the issue of books specifically in my next post!

      And I’m with you about sentimental stuff. I loved the few things my mom kept from her childhood; I want to do the same for Lydia. But like you said, I can’t keep everything. So how do you decide what’s important?

  11. I am striving toward simplicity, but I don’t think I’ll ever succeed at minimalism. I actually find it really frustrating because I feel like in order to live how we’d like to, especially in regards to diet (growing much of our food, whole foods, food preservation), we actually need and use quite a bit of *stuff*. I have 4 canners, a dehydrator, two grain mills, a super blender, a kitchen aid, a food processor, two freezers, two large stock pots, multiple smaller pots and pans, plus untold numbers of bowls/dishes/utensils/small electrics. But the thing is – I use almost all of them. I *could* do it with less, but I would be a lot less inclined to get it done and I would be a lot more inefficient. And that’s just in the kitchen. The garden is a whole ‘nother thing.
    We keep animals and I try to keep at least a month’s worth of feed for everyone on hand all the time (given the possibility of natural and man-made disasters, the fact that we live in earthquake country, and the state and federal emergency response guidelines I think it is only responsible to do so. Animals need to eat in emergencies too.). That has to be stored. Plus equipment, bedding, first aid supplies, etc., etc., etc.
    And, like you, I am rather addicted to books. I am okay with donating non-favorite novels when I’m done with them, but books on cooking, gardening/farming, reference, faith, parenting, history, and classics are practically impossible for me to part with. A house without books is not a home in which I want to live.
    So in short, in my experience so far, simplicity and minimalism are not always good dance partners. And I’m conflicted as to whether Jesus calls us to one or the other, I can see evidence of both.
    Lily recently posted..Independence Day Challenge and Homestead Updates for MayMy Profile

    • Interesting points, Lily. I run into similar problems! I think it’s a different story, though, if it’s all stuff you actually use. You’re not talking about status symbols or entertainment items here! You’re not collecting material possessions to help you feel more secure or important. You make a good point by saying that simplicity and minimalism aren’t necessarily the same thing.

    • Oh wow, what an interesting comment, Lily – simplicity versus minimalism. I’m going to be chewing on that for quite a while!

      We’re keeping all our baby clothes, because I would hate to have to buy new ones if/when another little girl comes along! I figure that we will certainly give them away to anyone who wants them when our childbearing time has come to an end, but it makes more sense for us to get as much use out of them as possible within our family, rather than getting new clothes (even if secondhand) for each child. Then again, we could eventually change our mind on that :) My girlfriend has three boys and they’re stairstepped a bit with a friend of hers with two boys, so they are constantly sending boxes of clothes back and forth. Sometimes she gets back something she loved, sometimes it had been worn out, but that way the clothes are really getting used well! I love that idea!
      That Married Couple recently posted..7 Quick Takes (85)My Profile

  12. I’ve found being a simpleton is so freeing! After my house burned down (mostly), I lost lots of stuff. Than I had to sell most of what I had left to go on a missions trip. So now, all I really have are clothes, most of which I don’t even really wear.

  13. Just wanted to let you know,
    I had a really hard time getting rid of any of my baby clothes from my first born- I wanted more children and didn’t want to have to buy everything over again- but when I finally let them go(the boxes and boxes and bags of clothes) and gave them to someone else who could use them now, instead of saving them for the future unknown, I felt so much lighter. Not only that, but every time I have given away boxes of clothes that my children have out grown, God always shows up with someone else handing me even more clothes that are just the right size for my kids!

  14. Joy Carrera says:

    So happy to stumble on your blog today. I am a missionary who spent 15 years in Brazil and suddenly found out that I needed to move within 6 months and could only bring 10 suitcases (for a family or 5) without raising money to buy everything new once I arrive (and what we tell all new missionaries). No one talks about minimalism. But without this mindset I could have never made the move. I have had to buy some furniture and some other things to set up house but I have been trying hard not to try and recreate all I had in my previous stage of life. How do I avoid going back to a normal mode of collecting? How do I resist buying what other missionaries sell as they leave the country (afterall they brought this stuff from America and its not locally available)? Any tips on maintaining minimalism when the initial purge was more do

  15. I find one of the interesting things with minimalism is how it can mean such different things to such different people. How one person can be happy with their downsizing and still own more than a person who has never even heard the concept before.

    And the best thing to me is that no one is “right” or “wrong” and that it’s totally okay for each person to have their own definition.

    I actually notice sometimes that minimalists can get even competitive “I only have 4 forks, do you really have 10?” which I think in some ways goes against what minimalism even means. Be happy with what you have.

  16. We pass kids clothes around (& toys and equipment.) 95% of my children’s things are hand me downs of some form (& they love getting to go through “new” clothes and pick what they like.) Fortunately (& unfortunately) my youngest 2 are the end of the line and receive everything left over. I have started coming to terms with my hoarding and have been paring down and passing on those they have outgrown or do not like. This past year I did have to finally sit down with my oldest son and talk about it after his complaint of not getting New stuff. I explained that 1- I could not afford the pricey name brand clothing he has the benefit of recieving. 2- if I was to buy all 3 of them a wardrobe, I would not be able to afford the trips and gifts that I had been able to give him and his brother and sister because I had a little extra money. He quickly decided that he liked things as they were. Since then we have implemented an allowance system so he has his own money to buy things he wants if it’s not something I am able or willing to do. I almost think he’s more frugal than I am. He is saving his money very well, and at this time has an goal amount that’s not so he can buy an item, he just wants to save that much.

  17. We have to switch our flat – from a big one to a much smaller one. It’s horrible. I wish I had not only thought about going minimal for years but also started to release and release and release things I did not use for a long time but think I can not give away …

    Conclusion: I am a slave of my possessions, right as you name it. Hard work ahead to regain freedom :)

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