Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Less Mess, Less Stress: Minimalism for the Stressed Millennial

I was delighted to find that one of my favorite and most accessible minimalists, Marie Kondo, is a Millennial like me. Millennial women, like our Gen X or Baby Boomer mothers, have had to face the stress of balancing family life with wanting to maintain a career. But the Millennial generation in general, regardless of gender, is overall stressed out with an economy of stagnant wages, high student debt, and difficulty achieving a work-life balance that gets more complicated as we "settle down" in our late 20s to mid-30s. We might ask...
  • How can we make time for starting a family if we don't have the finances or the space to support one?
  • How can we make time for our social and personal priorities when life starts to feel like it's all work and chores? 
  • How can we live our best lives if the world around us seems indifferent or unsupportive?
Minimalism (and the practice of mindfulness that comes with it) can help answer those questions. Becoming a minimalist is not something that will happen overnight, but the changes one makes daily on the path to minimalism can have immediate benefits. With fewer material items, we can make space for starting a family. With less obsession over acquiring new items, we can start to fix our financial situations. With better focus, we can ignore or cut out the unsupportive and negative forces in our lives. If you're willing to start on the path to minimalism, I'd like to offer a few tasks to complete for yourself:
  • Identify your top priorities. Are you a family person, or do you prefer to be solo? Do you prefer staying home with books and games, or going out to socialize over coffee and other drinks? 
  • Think about your hobbies. Is your space set up to promote staying active in your hobbies? Or do you feel drained when you look around?
  • Connect with the spaces you have. Sit in the middle of each room, close your eyes, and breathe in deep. Is your breath shaky because the space or mess stresses you out? Do you feel anxious about being in the room?
  • Share with your partner, roommate, or a close friend. It usually helps to involve someone you're close to with the above tasks and questions. Even if they don't "get" minimalism, having a human sounding-board can help you clarify your own wants and needs. Who knows, you may even end up with someone who wants to explore minimalism with you!
There are no wrong answers when you answer these questions honestly. With your priorities and hobbies in mind, imagine what your space should look like to support those ideals. The hardest part about becoming a minimalist is the part where you get started. I won't lie and say that the decluttering and discarding process is fun 100% of the time. The first few days, weeks, maybe months, of decluttering might feel rough. However once the excess is gone and the resultant messes are tidied, you'll probably start feeling like you can breathe easier in your space.

There are a few best practices of getting started with minimalism that I have come up with for Millennials (and, well, anyone really):
  • Create a mood board or sketch out how you want your space to look. It's important to start with a vision of how you want your space to look when the discarding is done and the clutter is gone. Your vision doesn't need to be perfect, but it should be something you can happily use as motivation to get started on your journey toward minimalism.
  • Never be hard on yourself. If you're having a hard time discarding something, it's okay. Tough items can always be saved for later. Maybe some days you just won't feel into decluttering. Know that it's okay--everyone has "off" days. If you feel like you're in a funk for too long, talk to someone you know will make you feel better and help you get back on track.
  • Celebrate the little victories. Treasure and remember the moment when you discard your first difficult item. Congratulate yourself, because action speaks louder than words. Make a list of accomplishments as you go along. For example, my personal biggest accomplishment was discarding over 90 books in one month and donating them all.
  • Tailor the decluttering process to your own needs. Maybe decluttering and discarding by category doesn't work especially well for you. Don't be afraid to go room-by-room instead if that's the easiest method for you.
  • Find supportive friends/family. There are some individuals who treat minimalism like a fad that isn't worthwhile, and there will always be people who try to step into your space and say, "You can't get rid of that!" While you're decluttering and discarding, don't be afraid to cut out the people who you feel would hinder your progress. Keep lines of communication open with people who are supportive of you, and let them know when you need to be cheered on a bit to keep going.
Minimalism has a lot of benefits. A space without clutter requires less time spent doing chores to maintain. Shifting focus off of buying material items can help fix finances. Minimalism can also help us reclaim our own good and healthy head space as much as it helps us reclaim living space. If you're a stressed Millennial like I am, I encourage you to explore minimalism as a way to remove stressful forces from your life. Put yourself first, and you can make more room in your life for what's really important.

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