How A Minimalist Mindset Improves My Life With Lupus

I first discovered "The Minimalists," Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, through a friend. My friend was in the process of paring down his possessions as he packed to move across the country for work. He listed his old textbooks, T-shirts, and small kitchen appliances on an app called Let Go. When he moved, he was able to fit all his boxes into his small car.

What is minimalism?

According to the Minimalists, the practice of minimalism involves simply owning less physical stuff. Minimalists keep only possessions that they feel truly add to their life. For example, rather than having drawers of T-shirts and stacks of jeans, a minimalist might keep a handful of shirts and 1 or 2 well-loved pairs of pants. In America, where we go shopping on the weekends just for fun and can order anything off the internet with the click of a button, minimalism is about as counter-culture as wearing socks with sandals or not owning a smartphone.

I could see how minimalism could make my life with lupus easier. I rarely have the energy to declutter and clean the stuff I have. For me, cleaning consists of pushing the button on my robot vacuum, then swiping a finger through the dust on my coffee table, and telling myself dusting can wait 1 more month. I liked the idea of having less stuff and therefore spending less energy caring for my stuff, but I still struggled to pare down my possessions. Getting rid of clothes, books, and decor felt like depriving myself. I'm someone who loves clothes and hates staring at a boring blank wall. Books especially are my weakness. My to-be-read pile stretches for 2 whole shelves, and I've never been able to let go of a book I've truly loved.

Sparking joy in the little things

Then I found a copy of Marie Kondo’s "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" in a bookstore. Marie Kondo approaches minimalism from a different perspective. Rather than telling her readers to let go of possessions they didn’t need, she advises readers to only keep possessions that "spark joy." The KonMari Method asks that you touch each article of clothing, book, or knick-knack. If you feel a spark of joy, keep it. If you don’t, thank the possession for the role it played in your life and then let it go. After reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," I spent a few weeks cleaning out my house, bagging up clothes, shoes, books, and decor that no longer sparked joy. After, I was left with a tidy, organized house – and much less dusting!

Applying minimalism to lupus

It wasn’t long before I realized the concept of minimalism could be applied to more than just my possessions. We all have parts of our life that no longer spark joy. A committee or volunteer position that we no longer enjoy serving on, a subscription service that we no longer use, or people who have not grown or changed with us after we were diagnosed with lupus.

As a lupus patient with daily chronic fatigue, I have learned that minimalism can be applied to my most precious and hard to come by assets: time and energy. As I move through this life with lupus, I focus on keeping only the people and activities in my life that "spark joy." I find when I do this, I have more time for what truly makes me happy.

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