a work in progress

minimalism and chronic pain

I don’t claim to be a minimalist; it’s more of an aspiration. I read about the movement and make others listen to me talk about it, but I can’t seem to fully commit to a true minimalist lifestyle. The great thing about trying to make do with less, however, is that even if you work at it only 50% of the time you will eventually see a pay-off.

Almost exactly one year ago I moved out of a home I shared with my sister. I had the luxury of anticipating this move for months before it happened, and I was able to put some serious thought into my possessions. Our house provided more room than we needed, yet it was packed. I had bins overflowing with toiletries, a closet stuffed with clothes, and every drawer was filled with “essentials.”

As my move approached I began to scrutinize what I owned. There was a large container of several empty DVD cases. Seriously, not the actual discs…just the cases! While I was going through my toiletries for expired products I found 16 tiny bags. What uses any person has for 16 little bags that can barely hold a travel size toothpaste I’ll never know. There were gifts I didn’t use yet kept out of guilt, clothes I hadn’t worn in years, and chargers from phones and digital cameras dating back to 2007.

A couple of months before my move I learned about the “Minimalism Game”, courtesy of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. So I went for it. On March 1st I got rid of one item, on the 2nd I got rid of two items, and proceeded the entire 31 days in this matter. I chronicled the month on Twitter, offering the items to anyone who wanted them. I recycled what I could, donated what might be reused, and threw away what was beyond hope. Nothing in my home was safe, and I ended the month wishing I had started this process earlier (or maybe just didn’t waste my money on things I didn’t need in the first place).


most of my what I discarded in March 2015 {I clearly used more color in past years}


Although I still own too much, my home is finally free of clutter. I no longer make purchases unless I really want or need the item. I’m serious – I have to love something to let it into the house. My definition of things I love, however, is still a bit broad to make me a true minimalist, but I’m working on this. And now that an entire year has passed in the half-hearted pursuit of minimalism I see unanticipated positive consequences, the most surprising of which involves my chronic pain.

With fewer items in my home I devote less time to cleaning and organizing. When I’m feeling up to it I would rather do something social practically anything than housework, and owning less makes this possible. I also find that I’m calmest and happiest in a clutter-free environment. Being upset or anxious may not make my pain worse, but it definitely doesn’t help it.  This lifestyle supports my desire to use my resources, whether it’s my time or money, to help my mind and body in any way I can.

%d bloggers like this: