Managing Chronic Illness With Minimalism

If you have a chronic illness I can’t stress how beneficial a simpler, minimalist lifestyle can be for you.

I was diagnosed with both Fibromyalgia and M.E in my early twenties- conditions that cause chronic pain, fatigue and other debilitating symptoms. Before I became minimalist, cleaning and tidying was a nightmare. So was making decisions. I was frequently exhausted, burnt out, and upset. I couldn’t keep on top of the housework, devote as much time to my son as I wanted, or even see friends. All of my energy was going on maintaining my stuff.

You want your higher energy days to be focused on the things which are important to you such as career, hobby, family, and self-care.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

When you have an energy-sapping condition you want to make the most of the days where you have more energy, and not waste it on all-day cleaning and tidying marathons. Neither do you want to be burnt out with your schedule or with endless decisions.

Since adopting a minimalist lifestyle, it has changed my life for the better and helped me to manage my condition much more easily. While minimalism isn’t a cure, I now live a slower, more peaceful life and have less bad days than before.

Below are some of the minimalist ways which helped me to conserve energy and live life at a much slower pace:

Remove your excess of trinkets, books and other miscellaneous objects. By having hardly any trinkets to dust under and cutting my books down by 85%, dusting is now a cinch and takes five minutes as opposed to half an hour cleaning under and around everything. Downsizing the amount I own has also made some furniture redundant which has given me lots of floor space and made vacuuming much simpler.

Owning less also means that rooms rarely become messy, and when they do, it’s quick and easy to go around and put things back where they belong. You’ll never need to worry about your home looking a mess for visitors, or turning people away because you’re too embarrassed.

Decorating in soft, simple colours reduced the assault on my senses, which frequently get overwhelmed. Whites, greys and soft pastel shades are far easier on the senses than bright, bold colours. When you choose more neutral colours, it’s also easy to match objects and stick to a colour scheme.

Downsizing and curating your wardrobe will decrease the amount of laundry as well as make it easy to put clothes away and see what you own. It also means less decision fatigue and spending minutes in front of the mirror unsure if to wear the blue bag or the grey, jeans or cargos, and whether red suits you afterall.

You’ll only be left with those clothes that you love, for who you are now in the present.

Consider a simpler hairstyle which will be easier to maintain. When you have a chronic illness getting washed or maintaining your hair can be difficult. You can also buy 3 in 1 shampoo and body wash to save you time, space and the number of times you reach across for different products. You’d only need to use it once, rinse and be done.

When you go out, take a very light bag with only the things you need such as keys, wallet and phone. My personal haul I need when I go out is my wallet, phone, keys and laptop (my laptop is very light and portable). As a parent, I remove my laptop when I’m with my son and put in spare clothes and wet wipes instead.

Consider the type of bag you take out. I’ve found that I’m more suited to backpacks as they distribute weight evenly and reduce the chances of a pain flare up. By getting a backpack, you don’t have to sacrifice style or look overly casual; there are loads of backpacks out there from leather, to chic, to simple and elegant.  You can even buy 2-in-1’s that change from backpack to handbag on more formal occasions.

Minimise your wallet and spend less time fumbling around at checkouts, and looking for receipts. We live in an age where an app exists for almost everything, so if possible use an app instead of a physical store or loyalty card, and throw away unneeded receipts. In fact, with the invention of services like Apple and Google Pay, you don’t always have to take your wallet and can rely on your phone, instead.

Order shopping online instead of going to the shops. This might mean you miss out on cheap and reduced foods that have minor defects or are close to the sell by date, but it will save you energy and time.

If you go shopping, make a list and stick to it. This will prevent you from wandering up and down random aisles, draining your energy and buying more than you need.

Declutter your schedule. If you’re one of those people who says ‘yes’ to everything or can’t say ‘no’ to friends, it’s time to learn how to decline. People are more understanding than we imagine, and if they aren’t, you should think about what value these people are truly bringing to your life. I’m not saying to never do anything for anybody (that would just make you selfish), but looking after yourself is paramount.

Remember, the things you do for others don’t have to be physical. Being a good listener or taking the time to call someone can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Declutter toxic people from your life. By that I mean, people who only take from you without giving back (not talking about physical objects here), people who’re never interested in your feelings or what you have to say, and people who consistently bring you down or make you feel guilty.

If you know anybody like this, I recommend evaluating your relationship with them and either reducing the time you spend with them, or phasing them out completely. This is by no means, easy. You attract the kind of people you want in your life, only when you love and respect yourself and your time.

Consider altering your job or career. I could no longer cope full time, so I made the painstaking decision to only work part time. If you’re chronically sick you may have to reduce your hours or talk to your boss to reduce the number of or sort of responsibilities you have.

The financial implications of this kind of decision are huge, even if you have a supportive partner. However, when you’re living with less and become more mindful about your buying habits, you only need worry about the true necessities such as food, rent, and other essentials.

And when you realise you don’t need stuff to make you happy, it will be much easier on your mind and soul.

Cut out social media and delete all distracting apps from your phone. I fully deleted my Facebook account and put far more value on speaking to my friends face-to-face instead of my screen. As a result, I found I no longer needed an expensive phone contract where I was paying £38 a month.  Instead, I now pay less than £5 a month- the price of a tea and a cake.

It helps when you realise you don’t need the latest model of phone to live a happy life, because we aren’t what we own. We are what we do and how we act.

Take time to sit in pure silence and read a book or just enjoy doing nothing. With the ‘always connected, always busy’ culture, too many people have lost this vital skill to take advantage of being idle and in the moment. It’s amazing how much digital noise, constant exposure to screens and constant busyness can drain your energy and wreak havoc with mental health.

Once you adopt this practice you will realise how rejuvenating it can be, but it takes practice. This is because constant exposure to stimuli such as screens and digital devices will rewire your brain for the need to be doing something at all times.

Take time to show gratitude. It’s so easy when you have a chronic illness to see all that is wrong in your life, but if you take the time to appreciate the things that you do have, you will find you feel much happier and need far less to be happy than you originally thought.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Take charge of your relationships with your stuff. When your stuff no longer owns you, you can put more energy into relationships with people. With improved relationships, the people in your life might also learn to understand you more – this is even more important when you have a life-altering illness.

Realising you don’t need lots of stuff to be happy and that you don’t need to earn thousands to live a comfortable life can reduce your stress levels and in turn, reduce the number of flare ups.

Simplify meal times by buying versatile ingredients that will go with most foods, and preparing meals the evening before. Investing in a slow cooker can save you effort, as can swapping cooking days with other members of your family. Choose simple meals over complex, gourmet events and prepare meals the day before.

Be careful that you don’t get caught up in ordering takeaway meals every couple of days. Not only is it incredibly unhealthy, but a major drain on your finances.

Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

Now, be aware that the list above is not exhaustive and not everything in it will necessarily apply to your situation. Everyone is unique with individual circumstances, but I assure you that by adopting at least some of the aforementioned minimalist ways, you will start to notice a difference.

If you need to talk to me about chronic illness or have some nuggets of wisdom, please leave a comment and I will reply within 24 hours.



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