I recently posed a question on my social media, “what comes up for you when you hear the word minimalism?” My favorite response was “not much” because I enjoy a good sense of humor. I got some good responses regarding decluttering, freedom from clutter or zero clutter, letting go of things that cause anxiety, reduce, reuse, recycle, and having a neat and easy to clean home. People talked about being more mindful of our impulses to buy or possess items that are propelled by consumerism and having only what you need and not what you want. Several answers explored the idea of “letting go” of things, ideas, overwhelm, digital clutter and social media. Finally, the theme of intentionality was mentioned in regards to money, time, experiences, people, family, and of course our stuff.
It is NOT just about clearing the physical clutter
There are so many facets to minimalism and directions that we could explore. I enjoyed all the answers my friends and followers provided because I think these responses scratch the surface of how complex the idea can be. I’ve been practicing minimalism myself and conducting my own research on various websites, podcasts, and online groups. What I’ve noticed is that there’s little information regarding the psychological and vulnerable aspects to truly practicing minimalism.
The Deeper Exploration of Minimalism
Minimalism certainly involves the process of taking inventory of your stuff, but also your life. It’s taking a step back and evaluating where you are and how you got there, with the goal of living a more meaningful and intentional life.
This all sounds very nice and pretty on the surface, and I wish it was that simple. But like most things, I’ve found that the journey to minimalism can be messy and painful. There’s value in being able to let go of those items and urges that result in pacifying consumption, but what happens when you’re standing in your dining room and the feeling of emptiness hits? Will you be able to notice and cope with that feeling, or will you find yourself driving to IKEA?
I think the part that’s hard to accept is recognizing that minimalism brings something really vulnerable and scary to the surface – that our stuff and our clutter is simply a guard that prevents you from showing your authentic and true self to the world, and maybe to yourself. What’s actually getting triggered when you’re feeling the need to hide amongst your things and put physical items between yourself and other people? There’s probably a million nuances and messages and stories that we could look at, but at the end of the day, my thought is simple. It can show up in so many different ways, but the ultimate question is “Am I good enough?”
My definition of minimalism is “the art of knowing you are enough without your stuff”
I’d like to take a different look at minimalism through the eyes of a therapist and explore the ways that minimalism can positively affect your mental health while being one of the scariest things you’ll ever practice. My definition of minimalism is “the art of knowing you are enough without your stuff” and I invite you to look at your own life, behaviors, thoughts, and choices over the next few weeks as this series unfolds. For now, let’s start here. Imagine you are standing in your favorite room in your house just the way it is. What about that room brings you joy? Is anything causing discomfort or stress? Now imagine that there’s 1-2 pieces of furniture that you truly find value in, only the decorations that bring you joy or serve a function, and every item is carefully selected resulting in a well curated space. What comes up for you now?