When you think of the words “decluttering and minimalism” what comes to mind? Do you envision a picture perfect white room with thoughtfully placed objects? For me a specific visual doesn’t come to mind but purely how putting the actions of those words have led me to the way I feel presently.
I still remember it clearly even though it happened a while back. I was sitting in my room in front of my desk getting ready to journal and suddenly I became extremely overwhelmed. All of these “things” I had accumulated for the purpose of journaling and writing which were supposed to bring me joy gave me a strong feeling of angst and confusion. Feeling this way for days then weeks, it was hard for me to pick up my pen and write in my journal. Instead of feeling a sense of comfort when going into my room, I felt a sense of dread. Rather than using the time I had available to write and process, I would constantly be focused on cleaning, organizing, making room, and maintaining keeping the dust off of all the objects in and on my desk. These waves of negative feelings soon manifested into something more intense which was what you would call a mental breakdown.
I have dealt with anxiety and depression for a while now. It may be extremely surprising to some because I am pretty good at hiding it from those who don’t know me very well. I think it stems from being part a culture/background where it is considered shameful or a sign of weakness to admit you have any sort of mental issues and you should internalize your feelings. I therefore had created what I thought was this picture perfect world in my room where I could hide and nicely package those feelings away much like I had done with all my artifacts. These immense feelings eventually became paralyzing and I knew I had to do something about it. I decided to declutter my belongings. I didn’t know it at the time but my gradual process of decluttering went hand in hand with a part of my mental health and continual path to healing. I emphasize “gradual process” because while in that moment of exasperation I literally wanted to just throw everything away, I knew I had to be gentle and thoughtful with the process.
Some humble thoughts about the process:
Decluttering and minimizing your belongings shouldn’t make you stressed: This means don’t compare your home/room with minimalist photo accounts online. Everyone has a different lifestyle and needs. Some of you have kids, pets, (or both), which simply requires that you have more “stuff”. Others of you just truly love and use all your belongings and that is ok too. If you are feeling content there is no need to inorganically push yourself to get rid of stuff to match the aesthetics or keep up with the minimalist trends that you see on social media. Ask yourself why you want to declutter. What is the purpose? How will it be beneficial in your own life?
Make it gradual and gentle: The process of decluttering can be both physically and mentally taxing especially if you are thinking of doing it all in one go. Instead of focusing on the end result or as another task to check off your list, think of it more as a lifelong practice where you are checking in with how your possessions make you feel. If you notice from the pictures of my desk I would occasionally share, I didn’t go from having a large collection to nothing. It became less and less as time went on as I was able to really process and decide what I was comfortable with letting go. Start with one room going section by section. If you haven’t used a particular item in more than a year, chances are you will never use it and perhaps it’s time to release it. Many of the items that I held on to “just in case” that I donated or got rid of, I now have no memory what of those items were. (Which reaffirms that I actually didn’t need it).
What changed after I applied this practice in my life:
Calmness and Clarity: Surprisingly or not surprisingly, having less clutter has been a huge stepping stone on my path to healing with my mental health and overall well-being. More open space on my desk, in my room, and living areas have provided a calming environment where I can focus on writing and processing my thoughts and feelings without disturbances. I no longer have the distraction of having to maintain, organize, or clean all the clutter and can utilize and enjoy my desk and rooms for their intended purpose.
More time: The reality of how precious time is, who and what we invest our energy towards hit me like a ton of bricks a little over a year ago. One of our family members got diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic cancer and it made me aware more than ever the fragility of life; how life can be like… a vapor. Having less clutter has given me more time to focus on the things that truly matter to me. This has resulted in having more bandwidth for self development in areas that nurture my physical and mental well being, more time to spend focusing on family and friends, and more time for moments of peace, stillness, and just being.
Many will say that decluttering and minimalism is the act of having “less”, but what I’ve learned is that it’s not really about having less, but it is about having “more” space tangibly and mentally for what truly matters in life.
ps. A little thank you to Wakako for encouraging me to share more about my personal struggles. I have found that instead of holding on to those feelings so tightly, sharing them provides a sense of release and helps us to realize that we are not alone on this path called life.
Text and photos by: Eunice
Bk Artifacts featured in the story: