Minimalism and mental health

Who isn’t trying to start the year with a declutter?

You’ve read all the lukewarm criticism and thoughts about Marie Kondo’s Netflix show and every other Youtube video or Insta-story is about sparking joy right now.

This blog isn’t adding to those tabasco takes but simply about how minimalism (aka living with less/simple living) can be helpful in 2019, from a person who isn’t a white man or living with a mattress on the floor, rope sandals and two plants.

But first, let’s hop into why I’ve been doing this for the last 4 years. I packed up 80% of my life and moved to Cape Town in 2014. During this stage in my life, my housing situation wasn’t always stable. I moved six times in eight months and along the way I lost 2 IDs, some clothes and books.

Moving around a lot makes you aware of what you really don’t need and how silly it is to keep shit you don’t use. The time period between 2014 and 2016 wasn’t the healthiest for me in terms of home life, work and relationships. In fact, everything was pretty horrible.

So getting rid of stuff and starting my donation drive was a way to a) gain control of my life and b) give back to others. The less shit I had, the better I felt. I’ve decluttered even more stuff, completed a shopping ban and a no-spend week. I’m a lot less anxious when my environment is clean, clutter-free and #aesthetically pleasing.

But a lot of due criticism towards minimalism or simple living is:

  • whew, the privilege
  • that it’s championed by men who had the option to walk away from their wealthy jobs to “find themselves”
  • black and brown people have BEEN living like this
  • how is this accessible for most people?
  • but I like my stuff?

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to this. I don’t think it’s the answer to everything and I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live. I just know that when my life was in a spiral, being able to control and purge my environment (and not take it out on my body) was a life-changer.

Minimalism often can and will look very different for people with different funds, but that isn’t a reason to completely reject the concept. There is so much more to minimalism than just stuff and I believe everyone can take away something positive from the lifestyle regardless of how much money you have.

Janell Kristina
Janell Kristina

Another turning point was seeing a YouTuber I follow (video down below), who uses minimalism as a tool to manage a depressive episode. Their particular brand of simple living is a bit extreme for me, but it was reassuring to see someone using a concept to help manage their life.

The Bad Minimalist

However, decluttering can become harmful when taken too far. There’s a lesser known MI known as Obsessive-Compulsive Spartanism, where OCD sufferers may give away items they need, like a bed or chairs or a fridge.

No one is telling you have to have 2 books, 10 items of clothing or a mattress on the floor. But you can figure out how to create a space you love that’s functional for you.

I’ve written about how I declutter and it’s how I got my stuff down to an amount that makes me happy. But overall I hope you feel lighter in 2019, and figure out whatever the hell sparks joy for you.

Hope this helps.

xA

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