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How Minimalism Shifts Mental Health From Muddled to Mindful

I went to Target the other day by myself.  I decided against the in-store Starbucks, plopped my purse in my cart and began my retail therapy. According to popular 'mom culture,' it would be the stress relief solution to all things motherhood. Yes! Sign me up. 

I started at the Dollar Spot (don't do that, btw, bad idea) and some things I didn't know I "needed" jumped into my cart.  I imagined myself in all the scarves and ran my hands across the softness of the PJ's. Then I remembered I had a list somewhere and actually had to find some stuff. It wasn't long until I began feeling overwhelmed with the absurd number of options for everything from toilet paper to throw pillows. 

"I'm tired. I guess I should have gotten the latte," I thought, as I snapped out of 'Target hypnosis,' dragged myself to the checkout and back to the real world. 

I drove home feeling concerned about how our culture came to be wandering aimlessly through the giant aisles looking for the next item that will make us happier.  

We recently watched the documentary Minimalism and I had a major a-ha moment!  Only a few days earlier I was scrambling around picking up toys, tidying dishes and putting away clothes. I was stressed and exhausted and suddenly realized how ridiculous it was that I didn't just sit and relax. I was spending way too much time taking care of All. The. Stuff, thinking when it was tidy "enough" I would be satisfied. It wasn't working. And the thought crossed my mind,

"What if we just got rid of most of our stuff? What do we even need all this for?"

Then we watched the film and I knew the way I viewed what we need, have, and want would never be the same. 

Our journey into less being more is beginning to transform our relationships with our things, our home and each other.  I'm sure I'll write more in the future about the why's and how's of all that. But, I want to be clear about what minimalism really means and why it's important. 

Most people associate it with Marie Konmari. And while she has been an influential voice in the movement, there is much more to it than her method and principles. 

So, here are a few thoughts to get you started and some of my favorite resources to learn more.

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Minimalism Is

A Lifestyle

  • While much of being a minimalist focuses on stuff, or lack there of, it's not really about material items. Being minimalist is truly a deliberate mindset and lifestyle choice. It's about not having what you own define who you are. It's about mindfulness and self-control. For families, it's about demonstrating to our children conscious consumerism and the value of sustainability. It's about showing respect for the Earth's resources and understanding that if everyone has only as much as they need the abundance of nature provides more than enough for everyone. 

Whatever Works For You

  •  There is a misconception that minimalism as a lifestyle works for some but not for everyone. But, the beauty of it really, is that living minimally means doing whatever works for you. For us, it means changing how we do things a little bit at a time. I subscribed to Mighty Nest to get good deals and automatic shipments of natural-living products. We started washing our dishes by hand to save energy and to be more mindful when we clean up at the end of the day. Because minimalism is a mindset it's reinforced by the snowball effect of one positive change after another. Because it brings peace of mind we feel less stressed. The less stressed we feel the more changes we make. The more changes we make the better we get at knowing what works and what doesn't. It's not a change that happens overnight and there is no right or wrong way. 

Creating Space

  •  I know I can't be the only one who cleans when she's stressed. It's a natural response. When you shift your mindset to realize that needing to clean and tidy is the cause of the stress, it becomes a lot easier to minimize what you have in your sight and surroundings. Creating mental and physical space is a beautiful process. I've experienced it with my writing that as I pare down visual clutter and stuff I need to tidy, I can get my words out more clearly. When we decide to become minimalists, we create that space, knowing if we have less stuff, when we come across something we truly need or that speaks to us we have less guilt about making purchases. We open ourselves up to the possibility of being able to own materials of great value we may not have been able to afford otherwise. When our minds are less stressed, we increase their creative potential. 

If you're ready to learn more about what it really means to be a minimalist and how to get started, here are some super inspiring resources! 

Joshua Becker, author of Clutter Free With Kids, and others has a rapidly growing following, insightful perspectives and practical tips on his blog, Becoming Minimalist

Minimalist author and powerhouse female entrepreneur, Allie Casazza, just launched The Purpose Society membership service. She'll focus on one topic per month giving members practical action steps and empowering support to live with more intention and less stuff. Even better, 10% of membership fees go toward International Sanctuary, an organization dedicated to ending human trafficking.  

I'm always looking for suggestions for how to create more space and time for enjoyment and giving to others. Share in the comments what's working for you!