The Problem with the Word ‘Hoarder’ | minimalism

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on

The word ‘hoarder’ is thrown around a lot in minimalism circles, so much so that I often feel that I’ll be granted the minimalist badge of honour for not exclaiming, like many others “I went from a hoarder to minimalist!”. That doesn’t matter, as competition isn’t what minimalism is, and it’s something I try to stay away from as much as possible since I’m naturally quite competitive anyway! 

But the word hoarder is one I find quite jarring given it’s widespread use, and it makes me wonder if people are actually using the right word. In addition to being used to describe someone suffering from Hoarding Disorder, it’s a synonym of collector, saver, gatherer, accumulator, magpie, squirrel.

We all have collections, and sometimes squirreling things away is good (like red wine for winter nights!), yet I can’t help but think that by using this word, this term, we’re covering up one of the real societal problems which minimalism hopes to ease: excessive consumption and consumerism.

Instead of saying, “I used to be such a hoarder,” would it not be more accurate to say, “I used to consume excessively”?

By using the word ‘hoarder’ we place the blame on ourselves and attachments to things (which is deinitely something minimalism helps) yet ignore the deeper problem: the habit and/or compulsion to buy, replace, keep, renew things which we don’t need, want, or really like. That drive that we, in the Western world, have had hammered into us by society since we were tiny tots.

Without our drive to consume in excess hoarding would never raise it’s ugly head as an issue, and to become a minimalist whilst still bringing things into our lives to replace/repair etc. as we always have means that the clutter will keep piling up. You can then, of course, declutter, but you’re still a consumer.

There is nothing inherently wrong with consumption. Even being minimalist is a consumer activity and philosophy. But being an over-consumer is a problem. It is an issue in our society-at-large. I wouldn’t go so far as to say rampant consumerism is the root of all evils in our world, but it does contribute to quite a few of them: exploitation of humans and animals; the destruction of the environment; the speed at which we are rolling through our natural resources; debt.

I will not say that I was a hoarder. I will say that I was a consumer. I was a normal human being consuming in the way we were all taught to. Now I try to consume less, and more intentionally. I recognise the problems in society and my behaviour, and all I can do is try to fix them and live as sustainably as possible.

The word hoarder, too, I feel, is quite negative.It connotes prime-time TV specials about ‘freaks’, a sense of shame, embarrassment. These aren’t pleasant things, and I don’t think people should necessarily burden themselves with this label. It’s all too easy to look back and be embarrassed about past behaviours, but in most cases it’s nothing shameful: we simply didn’t know. You can’t blame a child for not knowing the three times table if they’ve only just learned to count to ten, so we shouldn’t look down on ourselves for not understanding sooner.

So that’s my two cents. I hope it made sense.
Enjoy your (hopefully also sunny!) day!



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