Anxiety vs. Minimalism – Can I KonMari My Way to Happiness?


Like millions of others, I recently caught the organising bug after reading Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ – or should I say I eventually caught the bug as the book had in fact sat on my shelf for many months, not being very contagious at all really.

Like so many have done before me, I spent a week ripping my house apart, visiting the local charity shop to donate entire car loads (more times than I’d care to admit, frankly), showing my socks some love and having some really terrifying moments of wondering just how the heck I ever got to be someone who owned a huge box full of high heels. I moved to Glasgow two years ago. I moved with all these shoes. I have worn none of them since being here. What? How? Why?

The end result was, to be honest, mind blowing. As in, inviting family members round to see it (and then showing them inside every cupboard and drawer, smugly,) levels of impressive. Me, little ol’ ‘keep it just in case’ me had finally turned a corner, seen the light and I’d add some more cliches in here, but oops, I’ve decluttered those too. I was happy, actually happy sitting on my couch doing nothing, just breathing.

That last statement perhaps could use some context.

You see, I came to pick up the book one day when I’d been signed off work with anxiety and depression – I was, in other words, not in a good place. Not at all really. I wasn’t coping anymore; with my job, with relationships, with my home, or even really with myself, and reading this book and cleaning up was the first time I had wanted to do anything, or for that matter felt like I could do anything in, well… a long time. For the first time in forever (sorry) I had a purpose, I had something to work towards, I felt proud of myself – I was taking control, I was facing up to things, I was throwing out nail polish, damn it. My life was pretty much in tatters around me but I was taking those baby steps, I was achieving something.

So there I was, on my couch, breathing. My fiance was so proud of me (after he finished emptying all the discarded items from the flat ASAP, in case I changed my mind, of course), my mum pretty much thought I was a pod person, even the cat seemed more relaxed, although, admittedly, that’s hard to measure. I should have had nothing else to do but give myself some pats on the back and soak up the calm vibrations (and the dust, we had really kicked up a lot of dust). But I couldn’t, and I didn’t. Everyone else saw the job as done, but frankly all I had were more questions.

Sure, I can now safely say that each one of my sweaters brings me joy, great, but cumulatively, am I happy being someone who owns 15 sweaters? Why do I own 15 sweaters? I can, after all only wear one at a time. Do I enjoy walking into my closet and choosing between all the pieces of clothing that I love, or would my life actually be easier with fewer knitwear-based decisions to make? I could go on, but I imagine you can extrapolate the sweater situation in your mind by yourself. Ultimately, I was asking some big questions; why did I buy all these things in the first place? What is this void, this wanting I am trying to fill? If I don’t want this, what do I want?

Sure, I can now safely say that each one of my sweaters brings me joy, great, but cumulatively, am I happy being someone who owns 15 sweaters? 

So I wanted to try and find other people who had felt this way. Other people who had become disillusioned with their very lifestyle and the core paradigms they had formed to guide them through adulthood. I learned that, shockingingly enough, my feelings were not unique to me – so many people had felt like this that the new lifestyles they had created for themselves even had a name: minimalism. So, I tried to take a peek at what living a minimalist lifestyle means. Unfortunately, like a lot of topics on the internet, there isn’t a shallow end where you can dip your toes in and look around, nope, it’s very much like falling down the proverbial rabbit hole into a swirling void of anti-consumerism, terror tales of fast fashion and stories of people finding inner peace after removing all their electical appliances. I read blog post after blog post, from people who can fit all their worldly posessions into a carry-on bag *hyperventilates into a paper bag*, and people sporting the most chic, loft style apartments, with drawers that had one t-shirt in them. But I couldn’t see where I would fit into this, I couldn’t see any of me in these lifestyles.

I want to live like me… just with less. I’m not suddenly going to become a back-packer and frankly, I do like all of my fluffy pyjamas. All the pyjamas. I spent hours, days in fact reading everyone’s definitions of minimalism – ‘lighter living’, ‘less is more’, ‘freedom from white noise’. I studied every aspect as an individual concept – capsule wardrobes, minimalist cooking, the environmental impact, the financial impact – as well as reading numerous accounts of how minimalism had changed peoples’ lives completely. And then, like a toddler who can’t open the bubbles, I got frustrated and threw them at my sister, or, err, wait this metaphor didn’t really work out… This was just something else I was failing at. What a shock. Something else I’m not cut out for, another thing I don’t understand – this is another phase my family will crack jokes about at Christmas dinner, another desperate and misguided attempt on my part to cope with long-term mental health issues. What a fool I’ve been, I’m no minimalist.

I want to live like me… just with less. I’m not suddenly going to become a back-packer and frankly, I do like all of my fluffy pyjamas. 

So I tried to shrug it off and go back to shopping for eyeshadow. I loaded up baskets, I browsed all across the web, I went to the checkout page and I just sat there; why? Why am I doing this? Why am I suddenly not doing this? I realised that whatever seed has been planted in my mind; it isn’t suddenly going away. I eventually stopped pouting, and began reading minimalist blogs again. Slowly I began to understand. I’ve been reading all these accounts from people who’ve been living as minimalists for years; who’ve had time to define what it means for them, how it fits into their lives. I’m looking at a finished product and putting myself on the spot to get there, now, when in reality, this is going to be a journey. Moving to minimalism, whatever that ends up meaning for me, looks like this terrifying leap – I cannot currently see anyway in which I can further reduce my possessions and re-wire my consumerist brain. But that’s okay. All I know right now is that I don’t want to keep living this way; nesting among my things, a la Smaug, and hiding from the bigger, psychological issues (because, maybe if Smaug had learned to KonMari, things wouldn’t have gone as far as they did). All I know is something doesn’t feel right anymore and minimalism is the direction I can feel myself being pulled. It’s in my nature, with my anxiety, to hate uncertainty and to want to feel in control at all times, and this, well this is like being swept off into the unknown. But something inside me is telling me to let go of the tree branch I am clinging to (*has nightmarish The Lion King memories*) and allow myself to drift along and see where I end up… hopefully not under a stampede of wildebeest. Or sweaters.

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