Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How Our Stuff Affects Our Health

This post is not based in science. There are no double-blind, placebo controlled studies to confirm this message. However this growing trend is displaying clear advantages to those who are choosing to practice it, and it warrants serious consideration for all of us.

I’m talking about minimalism. In practice, this means downsizing. I mean everything from your wardrobe to your boxes of photos - attic to basement. Downsize your kids toys, old photos, unused furniture, projects you know you’ll never actually have time to finish, clothes you’re holding on to for “someday,” and whatever else you may have lying around whose mere presence you feel the weight of.

Consider this. What’s the opposite of minimalism? You’ve all seen or heard of the show “hoarders” I’m sure. What’s the first thing most people have to say about those situations? That’s not healthy. Following this line of logic, if having too much stuff is a sign of someone being unhealthy, is the opposite also true - that having fewer things adds to our health and happiness?

Many are inclined to think so. Have you ever donated a load of things you no longer use, and instantly feel lighter? It’s as though you let go of a weight you didn’t even know you were carrying.

I was talking to a colleague recently who made an observation about minimalism. She and her family had gone on vacation with her family, and for lodging they had chosen to use an Air BNB house. The house they stayed in was solely used for this purpose, and it had only the basic essentials needed for visiting occupants. She continued to manage the home she was staying in as if it were her own, and it was so simple to do so, since there was no additional clutter sitting around to manage. She reported that her visit was one of the most relaxing weeks of her life.

It dawned on her that in this little apartment, they had everything they needed. Kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, furniture, etc were all basic, but it was more than adequate. She thought “Why do we have so many extras in our own home? What would happen if we went down to these basic essentials at home? How would our life improve?”

Upon arriving back at home, she got rid of everything that she considered non essential. Long story short, their family’s quality of life has improved. They have more family time to spend together.

Of course there is no tried and true way of knowing how our things affect our health. But isn’t it worth letting a few non-essentials go, and seeing what happens? Nobody ever attributed their health to an abundance of things. But plenty of people attribute increased peace of mind to having less.

Do you own your things, or do they own you? Try letting go of some stuff and see how you feel. You may be surprised at just how much your stuff affects you.

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