Are you a Minimalist or a Pack Rat?

Are you a minimalist or a pack rat? hoarder clutter

You know, I think collecting things is very instinctual. That’s why we buy so much useless stuff and clutter up our homes. It’s so difficult to throw things out and many people would rather rent a storage unit to store the stuff they don’t even use anymore. It’s just human nature to collect things.

Here is our subject today – RB40 Jr. He has been collecting sticks and rocks for a while now and they’re his pride and joy. Whenever we go out, he’d pick up some sticks and swing them around. By the time we get home, he’d be attached to the stick and would want to add it to his collection. In retrospect, it was a bad idea to let him bring that first stick inside…

Actually, his stick and rock collection has been pared down quite a bit. We’ve been insisting that he take a stick when we leave and we’d only let him bring one stick back inside. Sometimes the stick gets broken and then he’ll just toss it. Anyway, the collection is much smaller than it used to be and the sticks are hardly in the way now.

Minimalist Lifestyle

What is the minimalist lifestyle? Basically, minimalists try to minimize the number of things they own. It’s really logical. Why not just keep the things you use and get rid of the things you don’t really need? You’ll save money because you won’t buy a lot of stuff. You won’t need a big house, garage, and storage unit to put all those things in. Cleaning and organizing will be a lot easier with fewer possessions and you can spend money on quality instead of quantity. It sounds good from a logical point of view, doesn’t it? I’m sure Mr. Spock doesn’t have many personal possessions.

If it’s so logical, why are all of us such pack rats? It’s just human instinct to hoard everything. I can see it from our kid. He’ll pick up anything that looks interesting to him and bring it home. He’s got all sort of random stuff in his toy chest – acorns, coins, a rivet, balls, toy cars, stickers — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s natural to bring more stuff home for your collection.

Well, we are not exactly minimalists either. I see much more than 100 items just by looking around in our home office. It’s just really hard to throw things out. We’re pretty good at not buying new things, but if you don’t throw things out the place will inevitably clutter up. Mrs. RB40 has been trying to sell some of our old stuff on craigslist, but they are not moving very quickly. The buyers are so flaky.

Okay, Mrs. RB40 just reminded me about the grandparent. They send us all kind of stuff. My mom also picks up water bottles, Frisbees, CDs, and all sort of freebies from the events around town. My dad is coming to visit soon and I’m sure he will bring a ton of stuff from Thailand. Last year he brought a huge suitcase full of Thai food ingredients. We still have curry paste and dried noodle from that visit. It makes them happy, though, so I’m not going to say anything.

Anyway, our main defense against clutter is the one in, one out rule. We’ll just replace stuff instead of buying new things. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to gifts and free stuff… We’ll probably need to sell, donate, and throw away quite a bit of stuff to clear out our clutter.

What about you? Are you closer to a minimalist or a pack rat? I feel like our place is getting more and more cluttered lately. What’s your strategy for keeping the clutter down?

Are you a hoarder? Minimalist pack rat


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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

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35 thoughts on “Are you a Minimalist or a Pack Rat?”

  1. Just about every month, I look for something in my house to sell that I no longer use. And you know what? Most of the time I find 4-5 things! We are all natural hoarders (to an extent) and if we do not consciously get rid of stuff, we will be left with a huge house and a bunch of crap (you know, like 95% of the population)!

  2. Only true minimalists in America are hippies. Everyone else are hoarders who hoard different things. Some hoard material things. Other people such as myself and your readers like to hoard cash and investments to increase our net worth when we clearly don’t need anything close to the figure we have in our minds to live a good life.

  3. A few years ago we got rid of *everything* that I hadn’t used in three years. Once we get our old photos and things scanned, we could just move with everything in a backpack, if it came to that. Also, own nothing of any real value in our house (2K SF). “Things” are of little value to use. It’s a monastic existence and it’s a great feeling.

  4. This post made me smile – my 3 year old boy scolded me a couple days ago for having a rock in the house… my husband and I are geologists… there are lots of rocks in the house, just currently most are hidden since we’ve got two toddlers in residence. My son is really into sticks – but we make him leave those on the front porch.

    I get really stressed when the house gets cluttered, for me it just feels messy. Now, my husband and I play a game I call “70 in 7” where we each try to donate/discard at least 10 items a day for a week (I’m actually in the middle of writing a post on it!). Then at the end of the week we head out to Goodwill to make a donation. It seems to keep our clutter in control. And then whenever the house starts feeling cluttered again – I declare another “70 in 7” week!

    • We don’t have a front porch so the sticks are inside. 🙁
      Wow, 70 in 7 is pretty cool. We’ll need to clean out our closet pretty soon too. I was just looking at it and a ton of clothes are ready to go.

  5. Minimalist all the way for me. Stuff stresses me out. No need for it. I don’t use half of what I own and I am a minimalist! Hardly watch television.Instead I am actively engaged with life not doing passive things. Have to to say my life has been made up of experiences and not stuff and i can’t tell you how enjoyable that is. When people are on their death bed do they wish they would have more stuff material things or experiences? Do they say “Man I really wish I would have bought more toasters in my life.” No they usually say more time with family and friends or wish I would have traveled more etc. To each their own though.

  6. I am pretty minimalist. I did not buy a television until age 38. My rule for keeping minimal clutter is that if something has not been used for one year, then I throw it out. This way, I have thrown out clothes, books, dvds, furniture, plants, etc.

  7. Some times I think we have to much junk. Every time I walk through the garage or attic. I say we need to get rid of some of this stuff. I try and sell stuff we don’t need on Ebay. We have a small house, so we cannot accumulate to much. That keeps us in check.

  8. We’re probably slightly into the “hoarder” side of things, but only because we keep things that we might use some day. 😉

    We do a good job of cleaning out old stuff though. Just today the garbage truck hauled off 2 old computers (one of which actually still worked but was slooooooow as in 2002 slow), a CRT monitor, a ton of old college textbooks that aren’t worth anything on ebay (statutes books that are updated every year). The completely clean desks we now have and the extra bookshelf space are the motivation and reward for clearing out clutter. The hardest part is tipping the valuable stuff you once paid hundreds of dollars for into the trash can.

  9. I hear you about selling things on craigslist. I’ve tried this several times with bedframes, stoves, etc. but there was zero interest, despite the fact that these things were still in good shape. So, eventually, we had to put it in the free section just to get it out. It went, but still it was a hassle.

    As for clutter, I think we’ve pretty much reached an equilibrium and both of us find knick-knacks and other things like that more irritating than anything else. The only thing we collect is wine, and that doesn’t tend to hang around for long periods of time! 🙂

    • Usually, I just keep lowering the price. You have to be patient and keep reposting. It’s a lot of hassle, but eventually someone will buy it. If you need to get it out quick, then the free section is the way to go. 🙂

  10. Joe,

    Count me in as an enthusiastic minimalist!

    Stuff clutters our lives, our minds, and our finances. Yuck!

    I know firsthand I can fit just about everything I own inside of a Toyota Corolla and still easily have a passenger in the front seat. I could probably fit someone in the backseat as well with some tetris ninja. The only stuff that won’t fit is an old couch and bed, but that can easily be replaced or given away. I recently came back home to Michigan to explore the possibility of moving here and I literally packed everything into the car inside of two hours. Haha!

    The only thing I collect these days is stocks. But they pay me and don’t take up any room in my apartment! 🙂

    Best regards.

  11. I am a minimalist at heart. However, when I got married to my wonderful wife. We started to accumulate “stuff”. We have a deal in place now for large items. If she want to purchase a large item (ie couch, bookshelf etc) then I get to remove one large item. This helps us cut down on the clutter!

  12. I’m somewhere in the middle. I have a tendency to go through my stuff and clean out what I don’t need every half year or so. When I was young I used to collect stamps and coins but I no longer collect those.

  13. I am definitely a pack rat and thankfully, my husband is a minimalist. I remember when we first moved to the US with 2 suitcases each and now we have a house full of stuff – we haven’t had to get a storage unit yet! I love collecting stuff for my hobbies and also tchotchkes from all the different countries that I visited. I also love to collect jewelry but I have cut back significantly since that started to get really expensive when the prices of gold and silver went up significantly.

  14. I can’t really say I’m a minimalist because I have accumulated a bunch of junk throughout the years, but I haven’t bought many things in the last year so maybe if I start getting rid of stuff I’ll become a minimalist… maybe not. I like having a TV in the living room and one in my bedroom. I like having three guitars. Am I ever going to play three guitars at the same time? No, but I already have them and I’m not getting rid of them.

    I stopped buying stuff, but that doesn’t mean I’m a minimalist.

  15. I am more of a minimalist when it comes to furniture in the house, but I do tend to have small collections of things. For example I like collecting watches, coins, and most recently playing cards. I guess it is a balance we need to have in life to avoid getting overwhelmed with too many things.

  16. 1 in, and 1 out, no exceptions! Except for my wife’s side of the closet lol…I would say I’m the type to go through the house and throw things away because I can’t stand clutter where as my wife is like “Well you never know when we could use that.”

    We are still working towards a happy middle ground, after all without her I would have nothing on the walls:)

  17. I am definitely a minimalist, while my significant other is definitely a pack rat. I couldn’t tell you the horror I experienced seeing just all the STUFF he had when we were moving in together. Goodness! It was like crates upon crates of tchotchkes he was keeping “just in case.” Luckily, he did a really good job editing that stuff down to the essentials plus of course the bits and pieces he couldn’t bear to get rid of. And, also luckily, I feel our aesthetics are actually pretty well matched– he brings in color and weird bobbles and I add the organization and clean lines and together it ends up being pretty harmonious.

    • Oh wow, that would be tough. Mrs. RB40 really don’t like throwing things away either. She still have a bunch of stuff from her childhood. On the other hand, I don’t mind throwing things out at all. I’m just too lazy to do it, though. 🙂 We’ll clean out all our stuff when we move. Good to hear that you guys are meshing aesthetically. I just let the Mrs. make all the decision…

  18. Oh I struggle with this too. Our house is pretty minimalist on the floors we live on, but, the basement storage area tells another tale… I’m guilty of keeping stuff forever “just in case!” We don’t buy much of anything, but, like you, we receive gifts, get free stuff, etc! It’s a goal of my to sift through and pare down this winter.
    P.S. Your son is adorable! He looks so proud showing off his stick-and-rock collection 🙂

    • Our next place will have a basement and we really need to avoid filling it up. At least it will be a more convenient place to store his stick and rock collection. 🙂 He is a cutie patootie.

  19. I’m neither. I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle. I tried minimalism but it didn’t work out very well. I ended up spending a lot of money on laundry because I tried having a minimalist closet. My clothes and towels ended up going through wear and tear faster and wore out. It helps to have a diverse closet so your clothes and towels don’t wear out as fast.

    I also like to eat at home because it’s healthier than eating out. I got tired of eating out. I ended up buying pots, pans, spatulas, an indoor grill, a slow cooker, a steamer, a blender, an electric mixer, dinnerware, silverware, and glasses. However I bought them from places like Amazon, Target and J.C.Penney.

    I definitely do not own just 100 things, however I don’t have an excess of stuff and thus I can’t donate or sell my stuff. Everything around here gets used up at some point during the day or the week. I was reading J.D. Roth’s book, “Your Money: The Missing Manual” and in Chapter 1 he has a section called “The Fulfillment Curve” which he got from “Your Money or Your Life.” Basically that graph shows that you can be comfortable without over-consuming. I really liked that and that’s what I aim for. 🙂

    • I’m sure 95% of us are somewhere in the middle. We’re starting to veer toward being a pack rat, though. We need to clean out a bit. We like eating at home too. It’s healthier and much more affordable.
      It sounds like you’re doing really well with your stuff.


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