Have you sometimes looked around your room and wondered how in the world you managed to accumulate so much stuff? Do you then proceed to feel overwhelmed by all the stuff around you and start feeling anxious? Decluttering may be just the thing you need to do but sometimes, it is difficult to know how to start.
In our consumerist world, the mindset of “more is better” can be ingrained in us, and subconsciously, we often associate having more with feeling more successful. However, increasingly, it has been revealed that learning to live simply, without the need for unnecessary material possessions, can actually be beneficial for our health and wellbeing.
Living simply does not mean living badly. In fact, quite the opposite. What we want to create is a life that we love where we acquire and hold on to the things that actually give us joy. In so doing, we discern between what we genuinely want from what is just clutter. That way, we create space in our lives for the things we actually want.
Choosing a minimalist lifestyle means recognising that your happiness does not depend on the things you own, but rather, it will be determined by the quality of the relationship you have with yourself and your thoughts. Joy is an internal state of being.
It has been scientifically proven that our surroundings play a huge part in our mental wellbeing; a minimal, clean, and organised environment helps us to feel calmer and more in control. As a rule of thumb, the less stuff you own, the less clutter you’ll have in your space – both literally, and inside your head. This does not mean that you should go ahead and bin everything. It just means you may need to discern what it is that actually adds value to your life.
Dee Johnson, a counsellor and member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) says that our environment can be a representation of our inner emotional state. If you’re in a tough place mentally, seeing the chaos and clutter of a disorganised space often just embeds further feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope, which then lowers your mood further.
When you streamline your possessions and narrow things down to only those you actually truly want or need, you can free up time to focus on activities that are important to you, which in turn enhances your mood and helps you to remain mindful. Minimalism is a great way of practicing mindfulness because it helps you to notice and focus on what you actually need or truly want. It gives you an opportunity to reflect on how you feel and encourages gratitude for what you already have.
Dee gave the analogy of a spa. Spas are generally designed to be clean and minimal because we automatically associate this with calmness due to less sensory overload in our brains so that we can focus on what really matters in the present.
Simplifying our life allows us to focus on the things that really matter. Our possessions can distract us more than we realise, and living in clutter can disrupt us from being productive and attending to the task at hand.
According to Psychology Today, researchers discovered in a 2011 study at Princeton University that clutter can make it harder to focus on tasks. They revealed that the visual cortex of our brains can be overwhelmed and distracted by task-irrelevant objects, which then makes it more difficult to allocate attention to completing tasks efficiently.
Therefore, once you streamline your possessions, you may notice an increase in productivity, as you gift yourself a simplified environment to thrive in.
Dee has observed that there are links between materialism and low self-esteem. Putting conditions on your worth only ever has negative impacts on your mental health. Living in an ordered environment can offer an immediate benefit to our self-esteem by slowing down the production of stress hormones, allowing us to feel more peaceful. This, in turn, brings an awareness of feeling capable and in control in a healthy way, helping to regulate our emotions with mood-balancing hormones like serotonin.
Living minimally will encourage you to spend your money on meaningful experiences, rather than material items that clutter up your home. For instance, rather than spending a chunk of your earnings on new clothes, you may decide to put money aside for a trip you’ve always wanted to take or invest it in something for your future.
Minimalism is liberating in that your time, energy, and even finances can now be focused on what really brings you joy, worth, and value. Choosing to be mindful about the products we buy also supports the environment. After all, the fewer unnecessary items bought means fewer things ending up in the bin.
According to Metro.co.uk, here are some top tips to get started on your journey:
- Start slow. Focus on one area or room at a time. If you’re not quite ready to get rid of some stuff, but know you don’t really need it, collect it into a bag and hide it for a month. If, after a month, you haven’t used anything in the bag, it’s time to get rid.
- Repurpose. It might be tempting to chuck things out but try to repurpose items where you can. Donate unwanted items to charity shops, gift things to friends, or even try upcycling into something more useful for your home.
- Reassess what’s important often. Have a clear-out every few months to stay on top of your possessions. If you find it hard to part with certain items, group these into a designated box. Then, when that becomes full, you’ll know it’s time to go through and assess once more.