The British monarch Queen Victoria who died in 1901 was buried in an enormous custom designed coffin packed full of sentimental mementos from loved ones and friends.
Whilst this was perhaps an unusual way to depart, most of us accumulate “stuff” throughout our lifetime that we deem too important, emotionally or practically, to be thrown away and which we keep unused and hidden away in cupboards or boxes in the garage or a storage facility.
My family and I are no different to most, with surplus furniture and family heirlooms in storage and too many shoes and suits and ties in my wardrobe.
If, like us, you have too much clutter then perhaps a ‘minimalist’ approach can help you reduce your material possessions and at the same time improve your mental wellbeing and toughness.
The Minimalists website describes minimalism as “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom”
Practicing minimalism helps you rediscover your purpose, pursue your passions, live in the moment and experience real freedom-freedom from fear, freedom from worry, freedom from feeling overwhelmed. It’s an approach that tackles the problem of assigning too much importance to your material possessions, often forsaking in the process your health, your relationships, your passions and your personal growth.
By owning fewer material things you have less to protect and less to lose.
Another approach to decluttering your material life can be found in Marie Kondo’s 2015 book ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising’ where she cites the mental attachment we have to our possessions. She recommends that we declutter by removing all those items that don’t “spark joy” and then find a specific place for all those that do. She too observes that the results can be life changing as you are suddenly surrounded entirely by things that provide clarity and are unencumbered by belongings that carry baggage (unwanted gifts or clothes that no longer fit) or anxieties about the future.
The purging of unwanted “stuff” has the added benefit of you appreciating and respecting more what you have left and at the same time being less distracted by material things and more focused.
So, what has this minimalism and de-cluttering got to do with mental toughness?
Well, being mentally tough comes from being able to focus on achieving your goals and targets without being distracted or diverted. It helps to achieve this is you have a clear picture of who you are and what you stand for and why, so that when you face a challenge or setback you feel secure and comfortable in yourself and confident in your ability to bounce back and prevail.
The fewer physical and mental possessions and therefore distractions you have, the more likely you are to be able to achieve your goals and targets. Similarly the less you rely on material belongings as a crutch and more on your purpose and values the mentally stronger you become.
You also remove many of your mental obstacles too – fears and failures associated with trying to obtain more when you could be content with less.
Finally, in another post Why it is time to stop fitting in to other peoples’ agendas I surmised that you are only truly fulfilled and satisfied when you are in control of your own destiny and having fewer material possessions – being minimalist – can help you regain that control.