We all know by now why minimalism is good for us. Living that organized, clutter-free lifestyle is alluring to many of us nowadays, and for a myriad of reasons: to free up physical space, to re-discover hidden gems, to curate that pinteresting aesthetic for your living room, and oh, to also save some money. What’s not to like, right?
However, minimalism is more than just a nicely organized drawer and buying less stuff. This year, I took a more mental health approach to minimalism. While I do reap the joy and sense of accomplishment from decluttering and keeping my space tidy, I consider that as more as a momentary ‘high.’ I thought hard to myself on how I can prolong this minimalism high and to expand the joy to other areas of my life.
Less is more.
Less truly is more. This aphorism could not be more true. We live in a world of such abundance (I am mostly referring to developed countries here) - so much is accessible with a simple transaction, yet they never satiate the growing thirst for the next thing.
And how do we combat that? Simply doing the opposite - to have less.
A big component of minimalism is to be happy with what you already have. Whatever you already own is already serving your needs in full capacity. I know media and advertisements try to tell us otherwise, that what you have is not enough, that you will only be complete if you buy this and that. On top of that, celebrities and social media influencers showcasing a lifestyle of materialism sure makes us normal people feel less-than at times.
And don’t get me wrong - I’ve been, and still am, a victim of those messages. I used to participate in the rat race to buy this item and that item, falsely believing that I was on the path to happiness. But after years of buying into it, I noticed I barely moved. As a matter of fact, I was piled on with more need, more anxiety, and more unhappiness.
I started mass decluttering last year as I was preparing for my move from Korea back to the States. I figured it would be best to start throwing things away early to make the transition smoother. That is when I realized I had SO. MUCH. STUFF. Many barely touched. It truly baffled me. A shirt I thought I would wear many times this season, a tube of lipstick I swore would go with everything, a pair of shoes that felt comfortable in the store… the list continues. I was shocked at how much money I spent with the hope of gaining happiness, only to quickly move onto the next thing. In the end, I was able to narrow everything down to just a few staple items.
I took a good look at the staple items and realized these are the items that truly gave me happiness. They never failed to serve their purpose, and I always felt great when I used them. There was a reason why I gravitated towards them all this time.
Ever since then, I tried to stick with what I had and resisted the urge to buy new things, unless absolutely necessary. It started out with the goal of keeping my stuff minimal for my move, however, it spiraled into something more positive. Not only did it help me curb impulse purchases, it also shaved off the anxiety of not having something. I’m now better able to assess what I already have and whether I really need something before buying anything.
It’s liberating to feel like you took back control from materialism, and you are the sole decider in what you need in your life.
To go even a step further, I decided to apply minimalism on my mind as well and started ‘decluttering’ my thoughts. It’s surely not as easy to discard thoughts as it is with objects. But the point of decluttering my thoughts is not to push bad thoughts away completely (because that tends to be very counterproductive) but to be able to point out when I’m feeling a bit turbulent and take action to focus the energy elsewhere.
A great exercise that helps with the decluttering process is journaling. I love doing a ‘mind dump’ in my journal, because it is a) extremely cathartic and b) when you’re pouring your thoughts onto a journal, you are basically freeing up space in your head. You’ll be able to process and organize your thoughts so much better once they’re on paper.
I’ve been doing this for years now, and it has taught me to be more mindful of my thoughts, to prioritize on thoughts that are productive, and I’ve had so much more headspace to create and focus on things that mattered. As a result of all this, I feel like I have a much better grasp of my anxiety.
The biggest takeaway from my learning journey was asking myself “what’s really important in my life?” and “what does (and does not) serve me the best?” - and this question can apply to so many areas. Minimalism can really help us get to the core of what really matters. I truly believe that minimalism can become a powerful antidote to day-to-day anxiety and other struggles.
Because, really, what you have already is enough.