I know that I said my next post was going to be about bedrooms (it is), but this morning I’ve been thinking about the other ways minimalism has helped me, which doesn’t just involve the physical stuff in my life. It is of utmost importance to share this because so many people think of minimalism as just being an extreme form of decluttering, when it is about so much more than that. What follows is a deeply personal post which I feel could help those of you who have struggled all your lives with your possessions, with the people in your lives, and/or with yourselves.
I was bullied all through school from the day I started to the day I left, had terribly destructive relationships with some of the most important people in my life, and grew up with horrendous self-esteem. This manifested itself in a myriad of ways, including: over-the-top anger, being quick to defend myself in innocent conversations, allowing others to verbally abuse me (and feeling I deserved it), not having a true sense of identity or purpose (which caused a lot of issues in intimate adult relationships), inadvertently hurting others, and clinging onto people much like I did the stuff I continued to surround myself with.
By the time I went to college, a few years after leaving school, I had made a handful of real friends, entered a relationship, and perfected a mask of being happy-go-lucky, which eventually became a genuine part of myself. I’ve always loved helping others and it didn’t matter how others treated me, so long as they were there in my life. Just like I thought that owning more cool stuff would make me happy, I thought that the more people I had in my life, the more worthy a person I was.
As I went through life, I struggled to hold down jobs due to long-term health issues, fought with my identity, and exhibited inappropriate and negative behaviours which caused friction with the people I loved. Eventually, I got diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum ,which gave me answers as to why I struggled so much at school, as well as having chronic illnesses Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. Many years later, I learnt to manage all of those things, but I still had major issues with accumulating and hoarding possessions, with the people in my life, and with who I was as a person. Even after landing a stable job and having a beautiful son with my lovely fiance, I was a mess. I wanted to be the best parent I could possibly be, as well as being a reliable partner, friend, and co-worker. I wanted to inspire my son, and others. I didn’t like who I was, but I couldn’t see the light illuminating my path , for all my possessions were hiding it.
There were several factors which propelled me towards discovering minimalism; the fateful day where my mum brought all the anchors from my past down from her attic and over to my house, and the deaths of some people I knew. I haven’t spoken about those deaths but I started to think about how people were remembering them and I wondered if they had any regrets in the ways they lived their lives. If they could go back in time, would they do things any differently? Would they have followed their true passions in life? My passion has always been writing, my ultimate dream to be an author of several books, yet everything I had written was hidden away in the attic and on Google Docs. I was too under confident to share my writing, even though I so desperately wanted to help and entertain others.
Thinking deeply about my own life, and about how I wanted zero regrets, I started on a journey of rapid self-growth, reading every self-help book I could get my hands on and completing all the exercises, consistently applying the concepts to my life the best I could. I read books about how to be confident,how to talk to other people, how to heal from the past, how to achieve my goals, how to recover from toxic relationships, how to heal my inner child, how to discover my purpose in life, and how to handle my emotions in a more positive manner. While all of the books I read certainly helped me to a degree, nothing helped me grow as a person half as much as when I discovered and started practicing minimalism. I devoured every book and website I could on the subject, as well as discovering for myself, the amazing long-term benefits of the lifestyle.
As I dramatically reduced my possessions and started to think deeply about what was important to me and why, my true self started to emerge. My true values, my true beliefs, the false beliefs that had been keeping me chained. Once I was satisfied with my new environment, I began true self-growth which was far more rapid than before. I looked at everything from my job, to my writing passion, to my beliefs, to the people in my life, and I started to intensely evaluate those things just like with my physical stuff. Instead of trying to change the people around me, or hoping they would change, I started to change myself. Because, ultimately, the person I was least happy with was myself. I was giving off a negative self-image, and I certainly wasn’t inspiring to others. By being so ashamed of myself, I was allowing others to treat me how I was feeling, so the solution was to start treating myself with and believing myself to be worthy of love and respect, just like everyone else on this planet.
As my confidence and self-esteem grew, I worked on some of my closer relationships, and cut off some which were bringing me down. Cutting off the toxic ones was even more freeing than decluttering my belongings, because suddenly there was more room, and far more time and energy for the relationships that mattered. I was also able to look at the toxic relationships for what they were, and why I was clinging onto them in the first place. The most amazing thing? I felt no guilt for doing so. Because cultivating my self-respect and self-worth, and putting more energy into the positive relationships is far more rewarding. I’ve since, also taken my writing far more seriously and began working towards achieving my dream of being an author and inspiring others.
Without minimalism, I never would have been able to do that.
I still have a ways to go, for true self-growth is continuous, never stopping, even for a moment. Just like the image above, life continues to be blotched with the shadows of challenging times, but I am far more equipped to take those challenges head on, and learn from them. As I continue on the minimalist path, I hope to continue growing and helping others to do the same.