How minimalism helps me handle my mental health
If you walked into my room a year ago, you would have seen piles of papers and books on every surface. There was a huge pile of clothes that I consistently needed to put away and an even bigger pile of laundry that needed to be done. There was no space under my bed, which was really the only storage I had. Plastic Tupperware was littering the floors. These were all filled with half-finished craft projects, old textbooks, and random papers I didn’t know what to do with.
My whole life my father told me, “the state of your room reflects the state of your mind.” Much to my chagrin, this has proven to be true. When I lived in a cluttered room, my mind was cluttered. I couldn’t sort through many of the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing at this time. My anxiety was at an all-time high, and I couldn’t figure out why. All I knew was that I had chest pains that were so strong I would mistake them for heart attacks.
I was given a very strong Xanax prescription by a doctor, and it wasn’t working. I quit jobs I loved for reasons I couldn’t understand, and I severed friendships because they were too hard for me to keep up with. I couldn’t handle any kind of responsibility. There was little voice in my head that was telling me I was screwing up my life and I would never be able to repair what I was doing. I was out of control, spiraling, and in need of some serious help.
But then I discovered something called “Minimalism.” This word is a hot buzzword right now, but most people seem to misunderstand the meaning behind it. The basic premise is that you get rid of any and all items you don’t need and try to live a life with less. Many people jump into it thinking they’re going to get rid of everything they own so their house looks cleaner. Others become competitive about who has the least amount of items. But the actual point of minimalism, the thought process behind it that makes it successful, is all about intentional thinking and decision making.
Minimalism looks different for everyone. Someone might approach it as being able to live out of a backpack. Another might just see it as getting rid of their junk drawer. Regardless of how you approach it though, the concept is the same. The items you own have to add value to your life. This can be through adding joy or having an essential and intentional use. Anything that doesn’t add value is clutter, and that clutter is pacifying you.
The biggest thing I have minimized in the past year is the number of clothes I own. I went from about 300 items (including socks and underwear) to around 35. That wasn’t the goal, it just happens to be the amount that I currently own.
I simply sat down with all of my clothes and got rid of any of them I didn’t like. Maybe the style wasn’t for me, or I bought it on a whim. Maybe I loved it but it was too small and I was simply keeping it hoping that one day I would fit in it again. It could have been ratty, or I could have had three of the same thing. Regardless of the reason, if I didn’t find value in it I donated it. I’ll be honest, once you get started it’s kind of impossible to stop.
Something beautiful about the process of minimalism (I call it a process because you never truly finish being minimalist) is that once you declutter your space you are left with the clutter in your mind. This is where the true healing happens. There will be no distractions in your space to keep you distracted from your brain.
This can be overwhelming, but I found that this was exactly what I needed to embrace my struggle and change what I previously thought I could not. It gifted me the time and courage to start journaling, which is something I’ve been finding value in recently. It also led to me feeling encouraged to start writing again because I now live somewhere that inspires me everyday to be the creative person I desire to be.
I’ve since moved out of my old bedroom, but now when you walk into my room it’s entirely different. I have a desk I use as a workspace instead of storage. My bed is always clear and ready for me to crawl into it when I so please. My closet fits all of my wardrobe comfortably, without bursting at the seams or wrinkling all of my clothes. The square footage of my room this past year has gotten much smaller, and I now share the space with my fiancé. Yet it feels neater, lighter, and is a place I truly love spending time in. Furthermore, I’m a happier person and I can enjoy a more curated life with people and items that truly have value to me.
My life isn’t perfect since transitioning to minimalism. My anxiety didn’t just disappear, and it can still be crippling at times. I still struggle to not fall behind in school. My laundry hamper is never empty.
I’m also not a perfect minimalist. I still own a lot of things and I know I have more decluttering to do in my future. But now I have the tools to not only get rid of the items I don’t find value in, and I have the bravery to approach and even tackle some of the issues in myself that I want to work on. Minimalism has given me the chance to keep growing, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Photo by Imani Clovis