My Journey Toward Minimalism (A Story of How I Beat Depression and Simplified My Lifestyle)
It has been said that organization gives you the freedom and the flexibility to live the life you want; that clearing out the clutter in your life (physical, emotional, mental, etc.) will result in clearing a visible path toward where you want to go. In essence, the less distraction you have in your life, the more open to exciting opportunities you will be. I couldn’t agree with this more. In fact, I’ll take it a step further by adding that organization brings a sense of peace – and at the same time, adds a rejuvenating energy to each day. Does this sound crazy to you? Let me tell you a story about how I grew to fully understand and appreciate these seemingly crazy claims.
A few years ago, I had everything going for me. I had a challenging, rewarding Corporate job, with which, I was quickly moving up the proverbial ladder. I bought my first home, complete with 5 bedrooms and a quarter of an acre. Soon after, I filled the rooms with incredible roommates – all of whom, I loved dearly. I had a great church community that I was actively involved in. I was actively dating online and was dating the man of my dreams. Everything was incredible. In a lot of ways, I was loving life…or so I told myself…
Then one fine day, my supervisor pulled me aside and explained to me that some cuts were being made and my position would be cut from the budget effective the next day. What?!? But what about my years of faithful service to the company? Unfortunately, when push comes to shove, everyone is expendable. I had never been let go from a job before and I was in for a whole rollercoaster medley and amassment of emotions. At first, I felt a sense of relief. So strong was this sense of relief that suddenly, I recognized how stressed out I had been and how often. Perhaps, more importantly, I recognized how much I resented aspects of my job because of the stress it caused. Even my roommates chimed in and admitted their relief that I was “back to normal.”
My sense of relief lasted for a few weeks before new stressors emerged. I was overwhelmed with the necessity to pay bills and necessity to feel productive with my time. And, if this wasn’t enough stress to deal with, the man of my dreams called me to tell me he had found someone else. I was devastated. Even though, my friends and family pointed out the warning signs that he wasn’t right for me, I still felt the confusion and desolation that comes with heartbreak. Slowly, over time, the clouds overhead produced darker and darker forms. And then, the clouds seemed to part when a new man started to pursue me. Things started looking up to the point that I felt inspired and energized enough to start studying for my Board exams now that I had time (you can read about my battle with exams and how I overcame this struggle here). After a few months of blissful flirtation and fun, the new man of my dreams stopped calling me. No warning. No explanation. Nothing. In fact, I never heard from him again (until three years later when I became engaged to the right man). To top it off, I received my results of my Board exams and I was notified that I did not pass [insert a picture, here, of someone on the verge of needing to be institutionalized].
I stopped sleeping. I literally laid in bed all night and glanced occasionally at the clock, only to find a cruel and taunting “8:30am” to labor the point that I had not slept a wink. The endless nights and the taunting continued for three weeks straight! I stopped showering because it was too much effort. I withdrew from my relationships; from my roommates; from those I cared about because I knew I wasn’t any fun to be around. I stopped working out – because that too, was far too much effort. I stopped eating regularly because cooking, again, required effort that I couldn’t expend and I wasn’t hungry. I did not leave the house and I rarely left my bedroom. Even after I started sleeping a bit more, the dark clouds remained for months and months. I was in a major clinical depression. To add icing on the cake, each of my roommates moved out, one by one, leaving me with a mortgage I could not afford to pay on my own. Retrospectively, I wouldn’t have wanted to live with me either and I now understand why they needed to move on to healthier surroundings. And so, I was without a job; without the “man of my dreams”; without the ability to pay my bills; without a passing score on my Board exams; without a backup plan; without any desire to complete the smallest of chores and without a shower.
In fact, I distinctly remember calling my wonderful girlfriend, Dahviya and explaining that I did not have the energy to get the mail and hadn’t done so for weeks. Just the thought of getting another bill evoked a desire to remain in bed all day. Nevertheless, similar to the climax moment of every movie or decent storyline before a refreshing resolution, all was not lost. My friend gave me the best advice in my desperately dark time. She said, “Tell yourself, you have only one thing you need to do today. You decide what that one thing is; but, know that if you complete that one thing, you’re done for the day. There is nothing more that you have to do. You’ll feel better that at least one thing was accomplished.” She suggested I simply make the trip to my mail box, my only assignment, for the time being. I didn’t even have to sort it! I just needed to face one fear head on and – as a result, be proud that I accomplished that one chore.
I followed my friend’s advice and soon after, felt a little better by accomplishing that one chore every day. Around the same time, God brought a lovely women in my life, who I met at church by the name of Barb. Barb continued to encourage me at a time I needed it most. She called me regularly just to ask if she could pray for me. She, too, gave me just one thing to do each day. And, to be honest, that was all I could handle. She encouraged me to just read one passage of scripture (she suggested Proverbs or Psalms) and a daily devotional from the book Jesus Calling or Streams in the Desert. By following this advice, I embarked on a new journey of accomplishing two things a day.
These two assignments I could easily complete, without feeling overwhelmed. However, despite my effort to get the mail everyday, I was not opening it. In fact, I had three or four grocery bags full of mail I hadn’t opened or sorted. Each time I looked at the mounting piles of reminders that I was lazy, I felt overwhelmed, discouraged and like a failure. After all, what grown adult can’t even open up her own mail? Obviously, this one!
Like a gift from heaven, once again, the clouds parted a bit more for me. My beautiful sister, Kari, who has always been known for her organizational skills (I swear she had her stuffed animals alphabetized by genus and species), offered to come over and help me. Kari introduced me to a system that I use to this day to keep my paper chase at bay and in control. Together we sat on the floor and one piece of ugly, angry, scary envelope after another, we tossed; we recycled; we shredded; we filed or we set it aside to deal with, later. It took several hours; but, by the time we were done, I felt as though a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt as though I could now focus on other areas of my life that scared me, like applying for jobs or starting to date again. I felt that by adopting a simple and effective method for sorting my mail, I could tackle other organization-related tasks that previously seemed daunting. I could see the result of my efforts; I could feel the sense of relief; I could taste the satisfaction of accomplishment that was just enough to spur me on to do more.
Thus, my journey toward getting my life organized and simplified began. I eventually sold the house (that I probably should never have bought in the first place) and moved into a one bedroom apartment. My sister helped me sell many of my household items I no longer needed and I made countless trips to the Goodwill. I was able to quickly downsize an entire household into a comfortable, smaller living arrangement with minimal storage capacity. But, I didn’t stop there. I organized my closet; my bookshelves; my kitchen cabinets; my pantry; my storage cabinets; my bathroom cabinets; my filing system; my coupons; my manuals and warranties; my receipts; my purse; my car…and the list continues. It took about a year to create workable systems; but, the process was fun and instantly rewarding.
To this day, I maintain my organization systems and reap the joy from knowing I only have what I want and need. I can find anything at a moments notice. Subsequently, after I married my husband, I remained in the one bedroom apartment and we mastered the process of consolidating all of our belongings (and share a reach-in closet, with room to add more, if needed). Being able to live in a clear, clean, clutter-free space fills my life with a sense of peace and joy. As aforementioned above, organizing energizes me similarly to a cup of coffee. And when I combine coffee with an organization project…watch out world!
Of course, I cannot take all of the credit for my recovery or my accomplishments since that time. Had it not been for the much-needed advice of a caring friend; the warm comfort of a mentor and the selfless service of a sister, I would not have made it through my darkest hour. Luckily, I had the support of my wonderful parents during this time as well.
So, for those of you who are going through a dark and difficult time or who struggle with disorganization and clutter, please know that you are not alone. Rest assured, you may benefit from trying to do only one thing a day; from reading something inspirational every day and from reaching out to someone who cares for you and who can offer you practical wisdom. Regardless, it is important to know that everyone has gone through a dark time and you do not have to Superman/woman your way through it, alone. Please reach out to someone you can talk to…
Tell me what you have done to get through difficult times in your life? What worked for you? I want to hear from you…
All of the best to you,