How to Keep Your Friends from Enjoying the Benefits of Minimalism

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 he 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.

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


5 ways to make sure your loved ones hate the idea of minimalism

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's sometimes hard to keep your opinions to yourself.  So these are simply words to the wise.

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

You enter a family member's cluttered kitchen or encounter a co-worker's cluttered desk, and feel a strong temptation 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 clutter.

The average American home contains 300,000 items, and I've been in a few that make it easy to believe.  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.

However, 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?)

Related article:  The Truth About Clutter

4.  Nag them into decluttering.

This is the most common method used by spouses and roommates.  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 rather than habit or mindset is a surefire 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, anxiety, 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.

How to inspire change

You won't win friends and influence people if you go around on uptight clutter patrol.  And as much as I hate to say it, you probably shouldn't give a copy of my book Uncluttered* to your friend who has a clutter problem, even though it's packed with inspiration and practical advice. 

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you purchase using my links, I may earn a small commission.

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, and peace, friends and family may ask your secret.  

That's your opening to share why you're such a fan of minimalism.

Updated December 2022


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

  2. Lovely thoughts. Thank you!


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