Maximalist to Minimalist: The Surprising Path to Better Mental Health
Shopping used to be one of my biggest vices. Actually, the first blog I had was entitled Sex, Sugar, and Shopping, a rather catchy name for SEO and definitely a win when it came to traffic. However, as my life transitioned so did my message. How could I, in good conscience, continue to push content that I was realizing wasn’t a healthy outlook on life. Sure living by the seat of your pants and indulging your hedonistic desires might seem like fun times when you’re young but one day you wake up and realize that path will only lead you to be fat, broke, and miserable.
Along, with over-eating, and falling for men who meant me no good, I had another huge problem that I needed to overcome in order to move the needle in my life. I had to let go of all the shopping! Retail therapy was absolutely an addiction and often lead to a cycle of over-consumption, debt, depression, and more over-consumption.
When I was walking down Times Square this past weekend it really hit me how so much of our life revolves around consumerism. We are bombarded with messages telling us that we need this and that everywhere we go. There are ads on billboards, ads on bus stops, ads in magazines, ads on tv, ads, on the radio, and ads in our mobile apps. Ads are everywhere. There are even ads in this post cause your girl has gotta eat! LOL
Seriously though, we really can’t escape the messaging telling us to buy stuff. So then, what do we do? How do we break this cycle and switch from maximalism to minimalism? For one, baby steps. Adopting minimalism into my life wasn’t easy but for me, it was a very healthy change. As I decluttered my living space, then my digital space, then relationships, I found it much easier to breathe, to focus, and just be.
Declutter your life!
Decision fatigue becomes a part of our reality when we are constantly having to choose between a deluge of choices and we don’t even realize that having that anxiety being repeatedly induced is wrecking our physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as our financial wellbeing. How many of us are stuck at jobs we hate because we have over-extended ourselves with debt buy things we don’t even need to impress people we don’t even like? How many of us have things in our closets, in our kitchens, and in our bathrooms that we never even touch?
I didn’t think that it would but I’ve found that practicing mindfulness in all things comes naturally to me because I’m very analytical and it helps keep my anxiety at bay. If I take time to stop and think through my actions, including what I purchase, I find that I’m much calmer and able to navigate life in a healthier way than when I was just acting on impulse.
As Marie Kondo says, “does it spark joy?” I ask myself this before I buy anything.
I also go one step further and ask myself will this spark joy next year or a year from now.
Step 1. Declutter
Solving the issue of too much stuff was easiest for my clothes. I want to be as sustainable as possible so that means no fast fashion and trendy clothes contributing to the waste killing our planet. I went through my closet and pretty much got rid of everything. Some I sent off to ThredUp to be sold on consignment and invested the earnings. Other things I scheduled for charity pickup and donated.
Now, I just keep a French-style capsule wardrobe and I rent everything else through my Rent the Runway monthly subscription. It’s a win-win! I get to live the clutter-free minimalist lifestyle, practice sustainable living, and experience the joy and excitement of always having something.
Look for alternatives to purchasing.
For books, DVDs, CDs, and other forms of hard media I had around the house, I sold them on eBay and Decluttr. And what did I do with the money? You guessed it, I invested in. The rest I once again donated to charity. For many of the books I know I love and will want to consume over and over, I purchase as ebooks and read with my Kindle app on my iPad, others I opt for audiobooks on Audible.
For other books that I don’t think I actually want to own, I use my library card to download them on Libby. Libby is great because it’s completely free and you can get books in ebook or audio format.
If I have a hankering for a physical book, and let’s face it there are times when we all want to touch the paper, I just walk to my local library. Many libraries, like mine, will allow you to order your books on their website and just go pick them up when they are ready.
I went through every room, every cabinet, every drawer to figure out what I could sell, donate, or trash. The question that I asked myself was if I lost everything I owned right now, what would I be sad to lose. Everything else I realized was a nonessential item cluttering up my space. For a thorough guide to decluttering, I highly recommend getting the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
Step 2. Plan your purchases
For me, planning my purchases goes beyond the obvious budgeting aspect. I think we need to look beyond do we have the money for something Or better yet for many, can we find the money for it. LOL
We need to ask ourselves:
- Why do I want to purchase this item?
- What is the long term benefit of owning this item?
- Does the benefit of owning this item outweigh the cost of purchasing this item?
It’s not only about money.
Too often we think only about the cost of the things we buy and how purchasing items impact our finances. However, we also need to consider how the items we bring into our lives add value. Are we making purchases simply for external validation?
How much time do you waste in the morning trying to decide between way too many pairs of shoes? How many times have you eaten junk because trying to figure out what to cook just became too much of a mental chore? How many times have you bought containers and organizers to stash away stuff that you eventually forget you even own? Lack of physical space and decision fatigue all add to anxiety. Simplifying your possessions is a great way to decrease stress and improve your overall sense of peace.
Step. 3 Be Don’t Look Back
Minimalism is a way of life. It’s not just simply decluttering today and resuming to accumulate stuff tomorrow. It is a way of navigating life, guided by focusing on what’s really important. You must ask yourself what do I really need and why? Once you’ve done that don’t let the desire to keep up appearances of the need to comfort yourself with retail therapy creep back in. Keep your eyes on the prize. I guarantee you will feel a tremendous burden lifted from your shoulders. Having a lot more money in your bank account isn’t too shabby a consolation prize either.