Jana and I are messy people. It’s a fact. My desk is covered with letters and bills (and cameras and whiskey bottles and an egg timer), clothes are scattered about the room, the bed hasn’t been made...ever. . . and the far corner is still dominated by totes of unpacked things. The kitchen is full of dirty dishes, the garbage needs to be taken out, my car hasn’t been washed in months, and Jana can’t find her phone charger.

We’re not the poster children for minimalism.

Minimalism, as a category, is a Big Thing on the internet. It’s the intersection of cool pictures, motivational writing, anti-consumption, and cool pictures. It’s attractive, it’s ‘budget friendly,’ and it motivates people to get off the consumerist merry-go-round. Anyone who wants to live with less stuff and more meaning has probably read a minimalist blog.

Trying to actually live a minimalist life can be hard, though. A lot of the clutter that fills our lives is born from necessary redundancy, and reducing what you own can actually be an expensive proposition. When you’re working an entry-level job and trying to pay off student loans, you can’t afford things that will last you a lifetime.

Case in point: I would absolutely love to reduce what I own. Maybe not to just 33 things, but to own no more than what I use. The problem?

If my phone breaks, I can’t afford a new one. But the burner buried somewhere in the bottom drawer of my desk will do in a pinch.

I’d get rid of the shirts I don’t wear, but when three of my shirts lost buttons last week (my dryer is eating them!), I had to break out one of those ‘backup’ shirts for an interview.

I know I own too many backpacks, but I still have them because, when I was moving, I used them to transport my things instead of buying more totes.

I’d get rid of the pots and pans I don’t really like, but because Jana and I work the hours we do, we can’t always stay up on the dishes the way we’d have to.

Do you see how it goes?

The Rules of Being a Messy House Minimalist

Now, despite all of that, I still do try to be minimalist. I avoid buying things I don’t need. I don’t value myself based on what I own. I actively work to reduce my possessions and my footprint to include only what I need. I collect memories, not things.

When Jana and I moved to Wisconsin, all we had was what fit in our cars. We’re going to do the same for our next move, with hopefully even more space left over. With that goal in mind, and knowing that we’re still too young, poor, and disorganized to actually hit the minimalist ideal, here are our rules for Messy House Minimalism:

  • If you can’t fix it, get rid of it.
  • If not having it could put you at risk in an emergency, keep it.
  • If it’s a cheap way to relax, keep it.
  • If you want it because you could use it, don’t get it.
  • If waiting will cost you money, do it now.

And that’s it. We obviously have a lot of redundancy to get rid of, things to streamline, and storage systems to figure out. We still need to figure out a better cleaning schedule. We still need to figure out this ‘organization’ thing that everyone’s talking about. But when it comes right down to it, we like what we have and we can take it with us wherever we go.

Are you a Messy House Minimalist? What parts of your life are you still trying to get a handle on? Let us know!