How My Anxiety Disorder Led to a Love for Minimalism

I have generalized anxiety disorder. I am a minimalist. These two statements may seem unconnected at first glance, but trust me, they are intimately entangled.

When I was a little over 12 years old, I started getting rid of some of my things. A couple pairs of unworn trousers, a few old t-shirts, and so on and so forth. No one thought much of it. I had always been a bit of a ‘neat-freak’: when I was very young. I would organize and reorganize my possessions for fun and relaxation. One of my favorite activities was messing up my room so that I could clean it again. Needless to say, I am still an enormous fan of order and neatness.

The pivotal point at which organization progressed into minimalism occurred somewhere around 8th grade.

My mental state had declined due to a variety of factors. As a result I started to feel like I was suffocating in my own room. I’ve always hated clutter, but it suddenly seemed like clutter was everywhere. My clothes were clutter, my rug was clutter, my bookcase was clutter, even my bed was clutter. I couldn’t focus; I was constantly on edge. I was in a constant state of anxiety.I started throwing out some of my things, hoping it would soothe the distress. I put some of my less-worn clothes in paper bags; I gave away a couple of books I had already read; and I recycled my old class notes. I loved the feeling of having less. It was wonderful! The satisfaction I derived from the simple act of getting rid of my things was greater than anything else I knew.

It was as if decluttering my room simultaneously decluttered my mind. I felt calmer than I had in ages.

This quickly evolved into minimalism. I petitioned my parents to let me get rid of my bed, and I switched to smaller bedroom, so my mother could have my larger one.

Eventually, I found out there was a whole movement based around what I was doing. People all over the world were trying to live with less, so they could live more. There were documentaries and books and blogs and podcasts about minimalism. Obviously, I jumped right into it and devoured every bit of media on the minimalist lifestyle that I could.

For those of you who don’t already know, minimalism is a philosophy which promotes owning nothing that you do not find to be truly valuable. This comes down to if the item is useful or makes you happy in some way. If it does neither, then a minimalist would tell you to get rid of it. So, technically, a minimalist could own an enormous number of things, as long as the cherished each of those items. However, most people find that this simple set of rules eliminates most of their items. And most people, as far as I’ve seen, are happier that way.

I think having less forces you to care for and appreciate what you have more. Every item you own becomes precious. In our unusually consumerist society, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements, sales, and updates for things that we neither want nor need. Minimalism also shapes the way that you shop. When buying a new pair of pants or t-shirt, I always stop to consider not just if I truly want it, but how it will fit into and enhance my life. I feel like a lot of people believe that minimalism is about being detached from things, but I would say that it is more about not being attached to things that aren’t important.

Minimalism is more about not being attached to things that aren’t important.

So, here’s what my bedroom contains right now: my “bed”, which is made up of a comforter, blanket and pillow that I spread out on the floor, a desk and chair, books on the built-in shelves of my closet, clothes—some hanging and some folded, a potpourri of basic art supplies (e.g. watercolor set, brushes, outlining pens, etc.), and a jade plant hanging in front of my window.

I like it this way. I like the open space. I like waking up and seeing walls, a window, and nothing else. It makes me feel calm, relaxed and safe.

Anxiety does not have many perks. Sometimes I think that it has no perks at all. But then I remember how much I love my ability to be neat, to be organized, to travel light, to be detached from belongings, and so many other qualities which make me unique. I don’t love having anxiety—it is definitely more trouble than it is worth—but I must admit, it does have its silver linings.

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Maya Radhakrishnan
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Maya is a slytherin with autism spectrum disorder. She loves maths and sad-hipster-music (according to her little sister). When she isn't studying, she's usually reading fanfiction.

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