The Magic of Minimalism for Mental Health
[An excerpt from the book, Buoyant]
I have consciously chosen to live a minimalist life because, after separating with my partner of 10 years some time ago, I realised that I had fallen into the trap of attachment and that there was very little “stuff” that I actually needed or even wanted. This was another great buoyancy-inducing treasure I discovered on the disruptive journey of awakening.
Every six months I look around and throw out, give away or sell whatever I haven’t used, don’t particularly care about or realise I just don’t need.
I began to notice that every time I let something go I felt lighter emotionally—that it was easier to feel calm in a simpler, decluttered environment and that I found I had more and more focus on what was truly important (which, as it turns out, is very little other than our interactions with other people, our sense of self, our enjoyment of life and our contribution to the world around us).
These days I genuinely enjoy everything I own, because it’s truly useful and I’ve chosen it very carefully and purposefully.
One example of this is that I chose plates and bowls that I really love—and these are the only plates and bowls I own, so it’s brings a subtle pleasure at every meal. I also figured out the one type of business shirt (and a couple of colours) that looks the very best on me (you might wish to get the assistance of a stylist for this if you’re unsure)—so, even though I work from home, I never have to wonder about making good visual impressions with clients when I hop on video calls during the day.
The Practical Benefits
Beyond the basic benefits of decluttering, simplicity, confidence and focus, there are some fantastic practical benefits, like the fact that…
- I can move house without needing to spend a lot of money on removalists,
- there is much less to dust and clean,
- I can live in a smaller space without feeling crowded out by furniture,
- I can afford to live in a nicer neighbourhood or apartment because smaller spaces cost less,
- I save time and mental energy making needless decisions (e.g. I don’t have to struggle each day figuring out what to wear—I have a minimalist closet with 2 types of clothes; work shirts and casual t-shirts),
- I don’t waste time and money buying clothes or anything else that I may not use very often, and
- I feel free to take off and travel (all of my things would easily fit in a friend’s garage or shed, or a cheap storage space if need-be).
Minimalism for Mental Health
The greatest benefit of minimalism is improved mental health and emotional buoyancy.
It sounds extremely cliché, but it’s like being released from The Matrix of commercialism, consumerism, attachment and the delusion of stability and “safety” that we think having a bunch of “stuff” brings us. Releasing the need for “stuff” makes it easier to prioritise things that are genuinely important and more fulfilling (for example I can spend my money on travel to visit friends and family more often, rather than getting a new couch or paying off a big TV, etc) and it offers a sense of increased clarity and spaciousness—a rare commodity in our increasingly crowded world.
If ever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious, I highly recommend beginning the process of culling useless stuff.
It doesn’t have to be anything significant at first—most people freak out if they think about getting rid of larger items like furniture. But, as you let go of a number of smaller things (that you’ve no-doubt stashed away for some unknown “rainy day” that never comes, or for some strange nostalgic reasons that you only ever re-visit when cleaning up and only then recall why the hell you kept those things!), then you start to need less storage space and less display space… So then perhaps you realise you don’t need 3 tables and 2 bookshelves—one of each will do just fine.
When you’ve dealt with the majority of little things, then you can start to tackle the bigger stuff.
Maybe you have a whole spare bedroom full of furniture for when a friend or family member comes to stay once a year? You’ll find that you could just as easily give them your room and sleep on the couch (or vice versa if you had a decent pull-out couch) and you could then immediately sell that extra furniture and potentially downsize your whole space to save money on rent.
Anyway, there are endless numbers of ways that you can start to minimalise the unnecessary aspects of your life and create the possibility for more of what’s truly important—these are just some basic examples. But hopefully you’ve seen the value in this approach and can muster up the courage to start today and open up a whole world of freedom for your mind and your life.
You see, it’s important to remember that having lots of “stuff” is not an issue within itself, but when your “stuff” has YOU, then it’s due for review!
Time and time again I see how we externalise our sense of self through our outer reality, and how that attachment causes mental dissonance, experiential disorder and emotional dis-ease.
We often don’t realise it, but thanks to our upbringing and many other cultural influences (particularly modern marketing messages), we fall into the trap of misleading ideas like “only when I have this, then I can feel that“—but the truth is that we don’t need external things to feel internal bliss.
We just lose ourselves in the lie that alignment is “out there” rather than “in here” because when things do line up in a positive way externally, then we allow ourselves to more closely align internally with the good that we always are in our highest, most-natural state of Self.
P.S. To find out more about accessing your natural state of bliss, I recommend reading this blog post.
Also related: Minimalism: if not for our own sanity, for the world.