Sam Holstein

How Becoming a Minimalist Elevated My Quality of Life Overnight

How Becoming a Minimalist Elevated My Quality of Life Overnight

There is a dizzying array of self-help strategies available to people who want to transform their life, ranging from fad diets to wacky money management programs to affirmations and mantras. But in a decade of trying self-help hack after productivity technique, one of the most life-changing things I’ve ever done was the simple act of decluttering my house for good.

When people talk to me about what’s going wrong in their life and what they wish they could change, one of the first questions I always ask is “Well have you tried getting rid of some shit?”

People often look at me like I’m insane. “But my problem has nothing to do with my stuff.”

Well, it doesn’t… and it does.

How Adopting Minimalism Transformed My Life

In the years before I adopted minimalism outright, I still wasn’t the kind of person who owned a ton of stuff. Years of dorm living and apartment hopping did a good job of keeping me from acquiring too much stuff along the way. But I still had enough stuff to create friction. My bookshelves were cluttered with books I didn’t read, my closet was stuffed with clothes I never wore, and my kitchen was packed with cooking equipment I didn’t use.

It wasn’t until the aftermath of a bad breakup that I realized how much that stuff was weighing me down.

This breakup was bad. He wasn’t a kind boyfriend and I was already traumatized going into this relationship. The months after this breakup was the lowest point in my life. But there is always some good in the bad. One of the good things about this relationship was how clean he was. He administered his weekly Sunday cleaning regimen with the discipline of a drill sergeant. He wasn’t a minimalist, but he was clean. While I didn’t enjoy his inflexibility, I did grow used to being in a clean space.

After we split up, I went back to spending all my time at my house. I was disappointed by how messy and disorganized my space was.

I hung up all the clothes I’d bought during that relationship. He would praise me when I wore clothes he liked and criticize me when I didn’t. I’d found I’d started dressing to please him. I was disappointed by how inauthentic and fake I’d become.

I looked at my stuff in general and realized much of it was from old relationships, old friendships, and past lives. I didn’t want that stuff weighing me down anymore. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and KonMari’d most of it away over the course of three weeks. At the end of the process, the amount of stuff I owned could have fit in the trunk of a car.

Something really amazing happened after I did that.

Thanks to mental illness and neurodivergence, I’ve always had difficulty with the basics of life. Stuff like taking regular showers, eating decent meals, and doing my laundry often fell through the cracks. I did my best, but my best never seemed to reach the level of the people around me. I’d gotten used to being a few steps behind in life.

After adopting minimalism and using the KonMari method, I wasn’t a few steps behind anymore.

  1. My intermittent desire to become a regular at the gym became a strong commitment to fitness.
  2. For the first time, cooking became a part of my life. I even started watching my macros.
  3. The number of books I read exploded from 10 books a year to 70+ books a year.
  4. I started taking better care of myself, using face wash and clipping my nails regularly and doing laundry regularly (and even folding my clothes) and just generally being a put-together person for the first time.
  5. I even started pursuing hobbies like learning to play the piano, practicing Spanish, and learning to paint watercolor.

When you have less stuff, it’s easier to tidy your house.

When your house is tidy, it’s easier to catch up on paperwork, manage your money, and take care of yourself.

When your life is better managed and your body is cared for, you have the energy and clarity you need to start pursuing hobbies, goals, and live your best life.

It’s been years since that breakup, but many of these changes are still with me. It doesn’t take much to get me to the gym these days, I still poke around with a hobby or two even when I’m busy, and I’m still reading 70+ books a year.

Life has overwhelmed me several times since that breakup, believe me. But when life does overwhelm me, my minimalism makes it much easier to hold it all together in the meantime. Living with mental illness is tough, but it’s easier when the house is clean because it makes it that much easier to feed myself.

When I pick myself up again, it doesn’t take very long for me to put everything right, either. I don’t have to sort through mountains of paperwork or wade through literal aisles of stuff. I just pick up what few things I have and put them back where they belong.

The last few years have been difficult, for me and for everyone. I cannot imagine how much more difficult they would have been if I weren’t a minimalist.