Updated: Sep 2, 2021
Simplicity has become a bit of a hot topic lately, and I am all for it.
Simplifying allows you to slow down and be more intentional with your life, therefore allowing you to live a life that aligns with your values.
But how does simplicity benefit your health?
Here are a few examples:
a clutter-free kitchen makes it easier and more enjoyable to cook healthy meals
a clutter-free living space means more room to workout or play and a calm environment to relax in
a clutter-free wardrobe means you only choose from clothes that you like and fit you well, which leads to better overall body image and less time obsessing about your appearance throughout the day
a clutter-free bedroom leads to better sleep
a clutter-free home means less time managing your possessions and more time and mental space for the things that are important to you (like your health, relationships or other passions)
a streamlined wardrobe and eating routine means less decision fatigue and therefore more brain power left to make good decisions for your life and health
a slower life with more margin means more time to exercise, cook healthy meals, sleep, relax, savour relationships, hobbies etc
a simpler life comes with less expenses, and therefore more financial freedom
a simple life = less stress = better health
There are literally hundreds of books and blog posts written about the above subjects. Each area of your life that you simplify can benefit your mental and physical health, and there are loads of authors who have written about how and why to address each area.
I threw around a couple buzzwords, like decision fatigue. What is that? "Decision Fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making." I would argue that we all make enough decisions in a day to experience decision fatigue on a regular basis. Maybe by the time 5pm rolls around you just can't will yourself to come up with a healthy, home-cooked meal for your family's dinner. That could be decision fatigue! You've spent all day making decisions about what to wear, what to eat, how to respond to your co-workers, how to deal with this or that problem, when you'll make time to call your Mom, what to get your friend for her birthday, and more. Some people say that every piece of clutter in your home is a decision left unmade, which means they're all weighing on you as well. Yikes!
Therefore, it would seem to benefit us (and our health) to reduce the number of decisions we need to make in a day, so that we can make good quality decisions all day long.
There are 3 main strategies to reduce stress and decision fatigue in our lives, clearing up much needed mental space in our brains.
De-clutter. Get rid of all the things in your house that you don't need so that they won't distract you anymore. Donate the clothes in your closet that you no longer wear (and then stop buying so many clothes!) Clear your kitchen counters for good, and notice how much more inviting cooking seems. De-clutter your pantry and suddenly the question of "what's for dinner?" might not seem as daunting. De-clutter your home office and start your work day in a calm, stress-free environment. When your house is clutter-free it's more enjoyable for your daily life, and it's also much easier to get ready for guests. Cleaning won't take as long, or as much effort. Plus, even if your house is dusty or needs to be vacuumed, it will still seem tidy if it's free of clutter.
I'd like to challenge you to go beyond just de-cluttering junk. For the benefits listed above, try getting rid of anything you don't love or use on a regular basis. You can do it!
Routines. Routines set our minds at ease. You don't have to think about them, you just do them. You can spend less time making the same little decisions every day, and have more time and mental space for bigger decisions- like what you want to do with your life. When it comes to exercise and healthy eating, routines lead to consistency, which leads to success. Personally, I love having a morning routine that includes exercise, devotions, prayer, journaling and a nutritious breakfast. When I wake up I don't have to decide what to do, and I don't dread getting out of bed. I start each day on a positive note.
Streamlining. Similar to routines, you can streamline some decisions in your life. There are lots of ways you can streamline your life to cut down on decisions and ensure you are living out your values. On the extreme end that might look like wearing the same thing every day, eating the same meals every day, buying things from only one source, etc. Or it could mean wearing several different outfits on rotation, or just picking one or two styles or colours to wear. Streamlining your meal planning could look like having pre-set categories for each day (Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Fish Friday etc.) It matters less about how or what you streamline, and more that you actually do it.
Here are some practical things you can do to invite more simplicity into your life today:
Clear your kitchen counters for good. Try to leave as much blank space as you can. Trust me, you'll love having the extra room for food prep. If you don't know where to keep the items you currently have on your kitchen counter, try making room in your cupboards by de-cluttering any unnecessary items from there.
Donate/get rid of any clothes that don't fit you or you don't like. Stop beating yourself up for not fitting in your old jeans, or for not wearing that expensive jacket you bought, and move on with your life. After you've done this you might want to try paring down even further by trying a capsule wardrobe.
Do a quick pass through your house to de-clutter the obvious things. Then, once you've ripped off that band-aid, do it again, going layer by layer or room by room until you are satisfied with the amount of stuff in your home.
Try a spending freeze to break your shopping habits. You could try a month without buying anything except groceries, or go without takeout for a month, or try a year without buying new clothes, like I did.
Meal plan. Remember you can make a template that you can repeat each week to make it easier. Mine looks like this:
Pick one meal a day to streamline. Breakfast is an easy choice. Pick a healthy breakfast that you enjoy and have time to make, and plan to eat it everyday for a week (or month.)
The point of all this is to live intentionally. You only get one life to live, and it can so easily get bogged down with the stuff of life. Simplifying your life helps you get rid of the extras and focus on what's really important to you.
For me personally, I have benefitted from the principles of minimalism in many ways over the last few years. Our small-ish home has always been easy to keep clean, and felt spacious and relaxing. I save money because I don't buy a lot of unnecessary items. I don't feel the stress of trying to achieve the American Dream. I have the time and mental energy to think about my values and try to align my life accordingly. I love cooking, creating healthy meals and hosting, and I think that is partly due to the fact that my kitchen is not a stressful place. It's an inviting workspace, and a place I enjoy spending time.
I have learned that health is generally not the result of a product, so I focus on getting regular exercise and eating real food, instead of wasting time and money on gimicky products.
Most recently, I was thankful for minimalism when we decided to move across the country. We really wanted to be able to fit all our stuff in a 15 foot moving truck, and we did. If I hadn't purged our entire house over the last 3 years, this move would have been a lot more stressful. When we arrived, I had no trouble finding a place for everything in our new home.
Anyway, I hope this blog post gives you permission to invite more simplicity into your life, for the sake of your health! Thanks for reading it.