If you are living in the United States and have access to the Internet, you have probably heard about minimalism. (If not, go ahead and Google it. I’ll be here when you get back.)
Minimalism is about focusing on what really matters in your life – the essentials – and taking steps toward prioritizing those things, people, or activities. It does not mean giving up all your possessions and becoming a wandering ascetic. (Although, if that’s your thing, that’s ok, too.) Sometimes I like to use the word “essentialism” instead of minimalism, because I believe that it can capture the concept a bit better.
Minimalism can be seen as a life philosophy. It can be applied to all areas of your life or to just certain areas (i.e. your home space, your social schedule, your professional goals, your spending). It is a life-long process of making the choice, every day, to prioritize what matters.
When thinking of minimalism or essentialism, we may have images of empty shelves, apartments with just one chair, or tiny houses. While this is how minimalism works for some, I would argue this is not how it looks for most people. Minimalism can be seen as a spectrum – and wherever you fall is exactly where you need to be. One size does not fit all.
Even if you do not strive to have a closet of just 33 clothing items (like this), the concepts surrounding minimalism can still benefit your mental health. Less clutter means less anxiety and less stress. Less stuff means less debt. Getting rid of unwanted items or relationships can free you up to do what really nourishes you.
As a therapist and fellow human, I care about your mental health, so I provide the following list of recommended reading in order to support your path towards minimalism and essentialism, should you be curious about it (or even a seasoned pro).
The following are the top 5 blogs and books on minimalism that have had the most impact on me. I refer to them regularly to stay informed and inspired.
- No Side Bar – a collection of articles by different authors.
- This website is great if you want an eclectic collection of articles by different writers about minimalism, essentialism, decluttering and everything in between. Bonus: most of the content is original and hasn’t been published on other websites.
- Becoming Minimalist – by Joshua Becker
- This website focuses on the physical and emotional aspects of decluttering, in addition to some mention of charitable work and e-courses. Do not feel obligated to do the e-courses, there is plenty of beneficial content that is free. I subscribe to the newsletter titled “Insprining Simplicity. Weekend Reads”.
- Let Why Lead – by Erika Lane
- This is a blog that focuses on purpose and priorities. If you want to read something that does not scream “minimalism!” on every page, but you still want the benefit of absorbing minimalist ideas – this is the site for you.
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – by Greg McKeown
- Good for: Creating your life’s ‘mission statement’, clarifying your priorities, and getting past barriers.
- The book’s theme is ‘Less, but Better’. The author focuses on how to make choices that will have the greatest benefit to your life, and problem solve around what gets in the way. As a visual person, I found his diagrams to be profound in simplifying concepts into a single image.
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – by Marie Kondo
- Good for: decluttering your physical space and learning about the emotional connection to your possessions
- Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve heard of this book. I will get on the bandwagon and recommend it. And I’ve read a lot (some might say too much) about decluttering and have a really high standard for all the “decluttering how to’s” out there. This one makes the cut. The unique aspect of this book is how the author asks you to handle each item you own, one at a time, and see if it ‘sparks joy’. Most decluttering techniques have you assess the last time you used an item or it’s usefulness. Marie Kondo’s approach opens the door to exploring and noticing why we keep possessions long after they have served their (physical and emotional) purpose.
Not into reading or blogs? Don’t worry – there is this film: “Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things”
As a therapist, I see that most of the true labor to implement minimalism or essentialism takes place inside your own head. It’s about unpacking your memories, experiences, and beliefs around your self-worth and security. You have to challenge the core beliefs that have kept you overwhelmed with unwanted possessions, commitments, or relationships.
You can declutter your closet, tighten your budget, and cut out toxic friends – but if you do not learn how to apply the concepts of minimalism internally (i.e. to your mind, not your pantry), you won’t see lasting benefits.
You need support as you change the habits that got you stuck in the first place. Sometime this support comes from a therapist, an online community, a great book, a close friend – or all of the above.
How could minimalism apply to your life? What is essential to you? How can you ensure that you make time for the important things in your life, even as you face constant demands on your time and attention?
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7 thoughts on “Minimalism & Mental Health: My Recommended Reading List If You Want To Do More Than Just Declutter Your Closet”
Love the idea of “essentialism” over “minimalism”!! I’ve never wanted to eliminate everything, just to focus on the “essentials”. A stark/empty home doesn’t seem homey to me.