I’ve always been somewhat of a minimalist myself, so my own experiences probably aren’t a good representation of the whole. After all, me being more comfortable and less agitated when my living space is small and devoid of clutter could just be my personal preference.
Let’s face it, most people love their stuff. From furniture and clothes to books and holiday decor, many consider their possessions to be a fine collection of a life well lived. However, recently everyone has been talking about how reducing possessions can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Downsizing, decluttering, and divesting have become all the rage. Tidiness gurus like Marie Kondo and Joanna Gaines as well as dozens of celebrities have touted the joys of minimalism. So, could it be true for more people than me? Could carrying fewer possessions through life actually have a positive effect on mindset and mood?
You Don’t Have to Be a Minimalist
Through my work at Simple Life, I’ve met dozens of people who have transitioned into cottage homes from something larger. Many folks start out not knowing if they can “actually do it” – they aren’t minimalists or even tiny home enthusiasts. They are just regular people looking for a way to live a more stress-free lifestyle.
It’s been amazing to witness first-hand people getting happier by living lighter. I can see it in the way they walk and talk. Our residents – my friends – are more relaxed, more content, and happier after choosing to downsize and live with less. My work has caused me to become a full believer that less really is more and having fewer possessions can help relieve stress for almost anyone.
Beating the Overwhelm
I recently talked to one resident who was particularly overwhelmed by the prospect of downsizing. She lived in a large house for over 20 years and although her accumulated possessions were a source of major stress, when she looked around, she felt so inundated she couldn’t even see a place to start.
As she remembers it, one day she got so fed up she pulled open the nearest drawer and dumped everything out on the floor. She sorted the contents into three piles; keep, donate, throw away/recycle. There was one thing in the ‘keep’ pile, one! A snapshot of a trip with a friend from years gone by. The rest went into the throw away pile.
And just like that, she had started. She experienced a huge sense of relief. It took her about four months to fully downsize, going through each room and taking it one step at a time.
She recalls that some days were pretty boring, but some days were exquisite. Throughout her journey, she uncovered some very special pieces, photos, and memorabilia that had been buried away for years. At the same time, she donated items to people and places that needed them.
Looking back, she says she can see the process of downsizing was truly cathartic. Her stress and anxiety lifted a little more each day as she methodically rid herself of unneeded possessions. Now she is careful to surround herself only with things that truly bring joy. As she says it, “Marie was on to something!”
Four Biggest Stress Relievers
My friend drilled down on four specific things she believes relieve the greatest amount of stress for her now.
Downsizing to a Smaller Home
Less clutter isn’t the only source of stress relief; the actual size of her new home makes a big difference. With less space overall she has less to manage. Her home has fewer rooms to clean and a more compact yard. She expends less time and money maintaining her home and property, and more on experiences that make her happy.
Fewer Things in Storage
It was driving my friend crazy that she had a large house full of stuff and she was paying for a storage unit. Looking around her house caused overwhelm she says but visiting her storage unit almost brought her to tears. Reducing her possessions enough to get rid of the storage unit and have all her things inside her home greatly reduced her anxiety.
More Control of Personal Finances
My friend was never a great accountant and keeping track of her expenses and filing taxes every year was always a major stressor. Through downsizing she came across documents that she knew she had but wouldn’t have been able to place.
Now those items are organized and easier to access when requested. Plus, the process helped her get rid of bills and financial statements that were almost as old as her grandchildren.
Becoming Aware of How Your Space Affects Your Mood
My friend said it best. “Just as clutter is self-imposed, so is self-appreciation.” Now when she thinks of taking care of herself – reducing stress – she thinks of her overall health, her mental health, and her physical space.
She says she now encourages others to create a life that is peaceful and organized and the stress will find there is nowhere to hide in your house or your life!
Do you think reducing stuff can reduce stress? How do you keep your head – and you home – clutter free? Share your secrets for the benefit of all!