The A&E show “Hoarders” has prompted many a debate over whether the inclination to hoard is something people are born with, or something they learn.
I’ve often wondered the same about minimalism—and mainly because it’s been part of my psyche for as long as I can remember.
I’ve been told that in my early years, I found it upsetting to have toys, clothes, and other things scattered around me. Apparently, nothing made me happier than putting things “away.” My parents assumed they had an extraordinarily tidy toddler. Looking back, however, I’m not sure it’s neatness that motivated me (I had little interest in dusting or vacuuming), but rather an innate aversion to the distraction of too much stuff. To my young mind, hiding it in drawers, chests, or closets made it disappear.
My earliest recollections of being uncomfortable with “things” center around Christmas. Although I’d be just as excited as the next kid to open presents, the thrill would wear off shortly after they were all unwrapped. Or, more precisely, when I had to remove them from under the tree and take them to my room.
I remember being distraught about where to put everything, and simply shoving the whole pile into the back of my closet—I didn’t even want to see the things I’d been so excited to receive. I’d unearth things one by one if I had the desire for them at a later date; but, I’m embarrassed to say, some of those items would stay out of sight (and out of mind) until the following holiday.
When I grew older, this compulsion to “hide” such gifts turned into a penchant to return, regift, or otherwise discreetly dispose of them. (It’s no wonder that my friends and family now give me nothing but consumables.)
My minimalism took on more concrete form when I became old enough to have a say in my room’s decor. Until that point, I’d had a well-appointed little princess’s room: a beautiful canopy bed, floral duvet and curtains, and entire suite of vanity, dressers, and bookcases. Of course, I wanted none of it. Around my early teen years, I had everything removed save for a dresser, bookcase, and simple bed (just box spring and mattress). I was exhilarated at the transformation, and for the first time regarded my room as someplace I could “breathe.”
I don’t know why I’ve always felt “stifled” by stuff. My parents are neither hoarders nor minimalists, and the household in which I grew up was neat, well-maintained, and had what I’d call a “normal” number of possessions. My behavior certainly wasn’t influenced by any extreme experience or environment.
But while my number of belongings has ebbed and waned with the circumstances of my life, I’ve always felt happiest when I’ve had the least amount of stuff. And disposing of unnecessary items never fails to provide me with a natural high.
So, should I call A&E and pitch a companion series called “Purgers?” (You heard it hear first!) Would anyone want to watch a group of minimalists obsessively cleaning out their closets? Unfortunately, I’m afraid that no matter what dramatic camera angles are used, shots of spare, uncluttered spaces simply won’t have the same shock value. (Although interventions in which well-meaning relatives try to add throw pillows to their sofas might be entertaining!)
I’d love to hear from anyone else who thinks they may have been “born minimalist.” Please leave a comment and let me know I’m not alone!