MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: How to Inspire Change

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

Winston Churchill 

I might be a fanatic about minimalism.

Maybe you are too, so here's a friendly warning:  It's easy for a fanatic to alienate people from the very point of view she wants them to embrace.  We see it often in discussions of religion and politics, but it can happen any time people have firm opinions about a subject.

I've been guilty of all of the following behaviors from time to time.  I try hard not to fall into them, but as you may have discovered during this election season, it is sometimes hard to keep your opinions to yourself.  So these are simply words to the wise.

5 Alienation Techniques

1.  Offer your opinion when no one has asked for it.

Enter a family member's cluttered kitchen or encounter a co-worker's cluttered desk, and you may be tempted to offer tips that would help them clear the excess.  You may sincerely want to help them, but it's likely they won't see it that way.  If you want to increase the likelihood that they won't pay attention to your ideas, go ahead and share even if you have to interrupt your previous conversation.

2.  Offer to help them "clean up."

Unless you're talking to a child under the age of 8 or so, offers like this will be taken as an insult, no matter how carefully worded or how much you sincerely want to help.  If the fact that you have to move a pile of papers or a load of unfolded laundry in order to sit down doesn't bother them, try not to let it bother you.

3.  Share statistics about how much clutter the average person lives with, or how much it hampers their everyday lives.

The average American home contains 300,000 items, and I've been in a few that make it easy to believe that number.  Clutter makes it harder to clean our living spaces.  It increases the time we spend looking for things we've mislaid and the likelihood we won't find them.  It makes daily life more difficult.  But inserting that information into a conversation isn't going to make your listener suddenly anxious to declutter.  It's more likely to make them roll their eyes and dismiss you as a fanatic.  (After all, who else walks around quoting obscure statistics?)

4.  Nag them into decluttering.

This is the most common method used by roommates and spouses.  Be the squeaky wheel that gets a response by complaining regularly about their stuff being in the way.  Make sure to use words like "junk" and "garbage" when referring to their belongings.  If you faithfully use this technique, not only will they stop paying attention to your ideas, they'll be openly antagonistic toward them.

5.  Adopt a superior attitude.

Making clutter or its lack a matter of virtue or morality rather than habit or mindset is a sure strategy for driving a wedge between you and another person.  Even if you truly believe that dealing with clutter can help your friend rise above stress, fatigue, depression, fear, and other issues, behaving as if they're some poor slob who just needs to get it together is sure to keep them from ever seeking your advice or assistance.

I've described techniques that won't help you win friends and influence people.  As much as I hate to say it, the most likely way you can help someone close to you who has a problem with clutter is not to give them a copy of my book Uncluttered (paid link).

Instead, the best thing you can do is to be the example of someone whose life is better because you've dealt with clutter in your own home, office, and schedule.  When you exhibit energy, resilience (paid link), and peace, friends and family may ask your secret.  That's your opening to share what the pursuit of minimalism has done for you.

I presume you're here at Maximum Gratitude Minimal Stuff because you're ready to find out if minimalism can benefit you.  You are why I write this blog and my books.  Thank you for reading.

Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash


  1. This is a perfect example of "Be the change you want to see" so that others can see it in you.


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