How Minimalism Helps Life with Depression

I have had depression most of my life and have been a minimalist for about six years now. Minimalism helps make my life with depression considerably easier and in this post I'll be detailing how it works. Of course, I'm not a doctor or a therapist, and none of this is to be construed as medical or mental health advice--it's merely a post about my personal experiences. If you suffer from depression like I do, I hope this post helps you and makes you feel less alone.

Beneficial Aspects of Minimalism

In general, minimalism has a huge laundry list of benefits ranging from lower household expenses to huge improvements in physical and mental health. Here are some of the aspects of minimalism that have made depression easier to live with for me:

  • Organization. While clutter still happens, I find that having fewer things to begin with, and having everything organized well makes it much easier for my depressed brain to handle cleaning and tidying tasks. I organize on the days where I'm feeling okay, so that on days where my mood is lower, I have an easier time of cleaning up small spots of clutter. Cleaning can be extremely difficult when depression hits, but having less to clean and less to clean around makes keeping a tidy home easier.
  • Free space for exercise. Decluttering and downsizing my possessions opened up space to have a pretty complete home gym in my basement, which I use on depressed days to make sure I get at least a few minutes of physical activity in. Between a yoga mat and an inexpensive fold-up treadmill, I have approachable and easy fitness activities to do when I don't have the mental fortitude for lifting weights. 
  • Free time for hobbies and self-care. Having fewer things to worry about by virtue of having fewer things opens up free time for enjoyable activities. On bad days it's sometimes hard to accomplish anything at all, but having space and time freed up for self-care (mani-pedis in my case) and hobbies (art, writing, reading, etc) helps make low days easier to get through.
  • Less clutter = more peace. I get so overwhelmed and overstimulated by visual clutter sometimes that my brain can't do much more than move me out of cluttered spaces. Having less clutter reduces visual "noise" from things like shipping boxes, unopened mail, and so on. The very first time I decluttered with my husband, we got rid of about 17 bags of shoes and clothes in a matter of weeks, and I felt like I had a more peaceful environment all around. The sense of overwhelm at overstuffed closets and stacks of unfolded laundry went away. I've since kept up with keeping clutter to a minimum to find more peace and be able to get through low days significantly easier.

Tips for Minimalism + Depression

Having lived as a minimalist with depression, I want to share my top tips for making minimalism work the best. Here are my DOs and DON'Ts for combining minimalism and depression:

  • DO write or draw your goals. This is a good task to do even on depressed days. For each space that makes you feel overwhelmed or unhappy, write down what you want to change or sketch out how you want the space to look. I find that writing down what I want to change on low days helps motivate me to make those positive changes even when I'm not feeling well.
  • DO make the most of good days. I recommend using your most okay days to take action on tasks such as decluttering and organizing. It's easier to get stuff organized for the first time when you're in a good headpace.
  • DO NOT try to discard a lot of things on bad days. Depression makes it hard to have clear judgment on things that should stay and things that should go. On bad days, focus on self-care, and maintaining the decluttering and organizing you've already done on good days. Save the task of discarding unwanted items for good days when you're in a better space mentally.
  • DO ask for help when you need it. Whether it's a therapy appointment or just time with a friend, let yourself ask for help. Therapists and doctors can help you find effective coping skills to improve your mood, and friends and family who understand you should be willing to help you with small cleaning or organizing tasks.
  • DO NOT be hard on yourself. Minimalism looks different for everyone just like depression (and managing depression) does. Don't be hard on yourself if you can't advance your goals on your lowest days--no one can operate at 100% efficiency every day. It's especially important, too, to not compare yourself to others.
  • DO start small, and don't be afraid to stay small. When I feel really bad, sometimes all I can manage is one tiny task at a time--like putting a single pair of shoes away. A lot of times, I find that starting small, and often sticking to small tasks that I can do as I have energy or motivation, ends up making a huge positive difference over the course of a day.

I do hope that these tips have been helpful. Depression is a hell of a beast that makes it hard to get anything done sometimes, but I have found that my minimalist lifestyle has made depression easier to manage. Getting organized on good days makes bad days so much easier to get through. Thanks for reading, and be well. <3