This blog post isn’t easy for me to write. It’s difficult to be vulnerable, but I am so passionate about the topic of mental health and the effects clutter has on our mental health that I wanted to share my own story.
I have struggled with anxiety my entire life – or at least as long as I can remember. Even as a young child I remember being worried or nervous about all sorts of things. I learned in my late teens that controlling my environment eased some of my anxiety. I guess it was at this young age that my love for organization and order germinated. I learned that the less I had to take care of, the less chaos there was in my life. Less chaos equals less stress and anxiety.
As I grew up and older, slowly over time more and more responsibilities and things piled on me. First it was getting married, and learning to manage not only my things, but my husband’s things as well. Then our daughter came along, and two more children after that. The responsibilities and the THINGS kept multiplying. I suppose it was a mercy that I only added to our chaos a little at a time, however it was like that analogy of a frog in a cool pot of water that began to get hot and boil over time – so that it wasn’t noticeable.
When our youngest son was a toddler I started struggling with severe anxiety symptoms. My doctor labeled me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and prescribed Xanax, which I could take when the symptoms were unmanageable. I was able to cope like this for several years, until my anxiety reached a point where it was affecting my everyday life. The journey that ensued is a whole other story, but ultimately I ended up seeing a holistic doctor and discovering that I had multiple food sensitivities, exasperating my anxiety. I was thankful to have answers, and with diet and supplements I have been able to manage for over 8 years now.
Several years ago, I began to learn about minimalism. I read blog posts and books, I watched YouTube videos, and listened to podcasts about the subject. I was so intrigued. I’ve always liked the idea of living with less. I remember when our kids were very young, I told my husband that I would happily sell everything and move across the world if the opportunity arises. That opportunity never came along, but I have always had this thought that we could live with less. Unfortunately, my husband and two of my kids like to keep things – as part of a collection, or hobby items, because we might need it one day, or simply because there is sentimental value to the items. I am learning to just be an example by minimizing my own things, hoping they will see the benefits.
The more I learned about minimalism, the more I learned of the benefits to mental health. I don’t know if I would have avoided the struggles I had with anxiety by becoming a family of minimalists, but I’m confident that having less to manage would have relieved some of the stress and anxiety I was experiencing.
There are times when I feel frustrated or disappointed that I didn’t learn about minimalism and how to implement it into the lives of our busy family of five earlier, but I recognize it is all part of my journey. It’s never too late to make changes in your life. We could get caught up on focusing on everything we missed from not making changes sooner, or we can make those changes and allow the new ethos to guide us moving forward – continuing to become a better version of who we are. Even though two of my kids are now young adults, I can still talk to them about the principles of minimalism, even if I didn’t teach them through my actions while they were growing up.
I hope my candor has in some way inspired you to evaluate your life. Are your things and the responsibilities that come along with those things causing extra anxiety in your life?