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Minimal Lifestyle, Minimal Stress?

By: Luisa MamaradloMinimal Lifestyle, Minimal Stress?

Stress is a natural part of life. It is how your body reacts to different factors around you which may have either a positive or negative impact on your health. Stress has become so inevitable that people have resorted to different alternatives or methods to alleviate or minimize the existence of such pressure in their everyday lives.

Minimalism has become a trend especially today since the digital age you live in has created an impulse for the young people to buy more to show off. The acquisition of material things has become a measure of wealth or success and consequently, a source of stress.

According to an article in Psychology Today, cluttering and disorganization may be a cause and effect of problematic behaviors. Regina Leeds, a professional organizer for more than 23 years, believes clutter makes noise which keeps you upset and that disorganization leads to waste of time, money, and energy. Although organizers of many shapes, sizes, and functions are available to aid specifically in decluttering, if not used properly or consistently, they may become part of your clutter.

Cleaning consultant Marie Kondo first created a buzz in Tokyo where she introduced the ‘KonMari method’, described as a revolutionary decluttering and organizing method at home. The art of her minimalist lifestyle resulted into a vast clientele, which has grown and expanded even outside of Tokyo. In 2014, Kondo released her book, “The Life-Changing Magic as of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” which provided a detailed guide on how to achieve a minimalist lifestyle through a category-by-category system and identifying which item does or does not ‘spark joy’.

Kondo’s book is now one of New York Times’ best-selling titles while her ‘KonMari method’ or minimalism has become a worldwide phenomenon, which most Westerners define as the Japanese art of living. Its success is seen as a need for people to simplify their lifestyles.

Meena Hart Duerson of TODAY tested and acted on Kondo’s step-by-step method of tidying up. The first step was to collect items per category and not by location. In Duerson’s case, she started with every piece of clothing and the staggering pile of what she collected in her home surprised her. The next step was asking herself and identifying which item sparked joy, a phase which Duerson described “takes forever, but incredibly liberating if done correctly”. She also pointed out the best advice she got from Kondo’s book on how to deal with the hardest items to get rid of.

According to Kondo, “If you’re having a hard time getting rid of something, thank the item for the role it has already played in your life.”

For this activity, Duerson learned that the Japanese cleaning consultant’s guide indeed changes your life if you allow it to. She also shared a few tips on how to achieve a more organized home:

  1. Start with items you think are easy to dispose.
  2. Sort your things by category and not by location. In the article, she started out with clothes, followed by books and so on.
  3. Clean out in one go since they may take you more time. This also helps create a system which you can apply in other items.
  4. Pick up each item and ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?”
  5. Fold your clothes to stand up vertically.
  6. Do not repurpose your clothes. Torn shirts should not be used as sleepwear. Throw them out or replace them if needed.
  7. Recycle your papers. Make good use of digitization – scan important documents, purchase eBooks, etc. You may also earn money from your recyclables by selling them to your nearest junk shop.
  8. Do not keep gifts out of guilt. Donate them or give them to someone whom you think needs them more than you do.

According to a Forbes article, millennials are likely to seek minimalism since they grew up during the recession and are immersed in a struggling job market. A Harris Poll and Eventbrite survey cited in the article also revealed that millennials prefer to spend on experiences rather than material goods.

The minimalist kind of lifestyle has sparked the interest of many and those who shifted to such change like “Goodbye, Things” author Fumio Sasaki has spoken and shared his gospel truth about it.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Sasaki describes minimalism as more than just tidying up your home. He believes this is a ‘principle’ which you can also apply in your relationships. Moreover, he explains that minimalism is not just about having lesser things, but more importantly how it makes you feel.

"Minimalism is just one of the many entries to a happier life, so if people have a lot of things in their home, but they’re still able to maintain relationships and feel happy, I think that’s awesome," Sasaki said.

Minimalism promotes a simpler lifestyle, therefore, you either reduce or reuse. He talks about the benefits of having lesser material things and life in general. For Sasaki, the time you spend in acquiring things can be used to invest in valuable experiences such as learning a new sport or craft to improve yourself or establishing your relationships.

“There [are] many benefits [in minimalism] but first of all, your household chores are so much easier, like cleaning and washing dishes. And that frees up your time and energy to go out and try new things, or spend more time with the people you love,” he said.

This is not a walk in the park and will require your utmost commitment. The Japanese author admittedly took a total of 5 years to declutter his ‘maximalist’ lifestyle and getting on to the ‘minimalist state’.

Such change requires time, effort and more importantly, effort because as Sasaki pointed out in his interview, it all boils down to how it makes you feel. “Minimalism is about the absolute minimum that you need— not want, but need— and is the self-reflective process of learning what your absolute minimum is for you personally,” he advised. 

A minimal lifestyle may be one of modern day’s solution to adapt to stress. However, at the end of the day, it is up to what you think your body needs that matters.

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