Simplifying your surroundings — and your life — will create an oasis of calm in an overstimulating world.
For as long as I can remember, I have craved simplicity. Uncluttered places and uncomplicated things have always appealed to me. Then, several years ago, I dove into minimalism after stumbling on a blog called The Minimalists. Other bloggers have inspired me along the way, too, including Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker.
What I didn’t expect was for minimalism to help quiet my introverted brain. Simplifying my surroundings — and my life — helped me find an oasis of calm in an overstimulating world.
Life is getting more and more complicated every day, and everyone seems to be chasing more — more stuff, money, approval, and status. But all of this isn’t making us happier. Instead, we’re surrounded by an epidemic of anxiety, depression, anger, and debt.
I’ve discovered the solution isn’t more. It’s less. Especially for us introverts. If you want to find out if simplifying your life might help you, too, here are five things to try.
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How Introverts Can Find Calm Through Minimalism
1. Declutter your home — start with one space of your home and see how it makes you feel.
In the same way noise and traffic can send our introverted brains into overdrive, physical clutter can cause us stress. On the flip side, when I step into an uncluttered place, it’s like taking a giant exhale. I feel instantly calmer, like the feeling I get when I walk onto a beach. I’ve come to realize that a clutter-free environment is important for introverts.
Ever since I cleared out many of my possessions, I feel lighter, calmer, and more at peace. I also have more time, because I’m spending less of it cleaning, organizing, and shopping. Thanks to minimalism, space opened up in my life. And in that space, I discovered a love of writing and a passion for climate change. (In fact, I recently merged these together and started a blog, Unheated.com.)
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, give minimalism a try. It’s not about paring down to nothing and living a monk’s existence. It’s about removing what we don’t need in order to make literal — and figurative — room for us to live our best lives.
You can start small, by emptying all but the essentials from one area of your home. See how it makes you feel to be there. If you notice a difference, keep going. Once things have gone out, it’s equally important to be selective about what comes back in.
2. Reduce the amount of clothing in your closets.
Does your closet overwhelm you? Mine did. It used to be cluttered with things I didn’t want to wear — either because I didn’t feel good wearing them, they didn’t fit, or I just didn’t like them. As a result, I used to waste way too much time deciding what to put on in the morning. Having too many choices can be paralyzing for introverts, which only overwhelms us.
When I decided to purge, I emptied my closet and dresser onto my bed. I then took each item and asked myself whether I would (hypothetically) buy it again. If the answer was yes, I kept it. Otherwise, it went into the donation pile.
It turns out, there were a lot of things I was hanging onto because I felt guilty letting them go. It was so freeing once they were gone. A smaller wardrobe is calming to my mind and makes my mornings so much simpler.
If you’re nervous about giving things away, go through the process, but box up what didn’t make the cut. Put the boxes away and see what you actually miss over the next few months or seasons. Then donate whatever you don’t pull out. Don’t be surprised if you end up donating it all.
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.
3. Simplify your calendar and practice saying “no” more.
Like a lot of introverts, I secretly loved my empty social calendar during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that I’m back out there, I have a new approach. I only say “yes” when it’s something I really want to do.
It’s been refreshing to give myself permission to say “no” to things I felt I “should” be doing. Saying “no” is hard at first, but we introverts need to take care of ourselves by protecting our energy and downtime. And it gets easier with practice.
Before saying “yes” to the next social offer, ask yourself whether it’s something you honestly want to do. Recently, I saw a meme that made me laugh, but it’s true: “Nobody cares if you don’t go to the party.”
That pops into my head whenever I feel guilty about turning down an invitation. Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to make excuses or explain yourself. Just say you can’t make it and leave it at that. Simple.
4. Minimize digital clutter, starting with extraneous emails and photos.
Do you dread opening your email inbox? I used to get dozens of emails in my personal account every day, and dreaded opening the email app on my phone.
While I don’t have as much control over my work inbox, I decided to take back my personal account. Unsubscribing from marketing emails takes just a click or two and is a game-changer. I now only get the emails that bring me value, and no longer get stressed about how many messages are waiting for me. I also don’t get enticed by “sales”-y emails anymore either, so it’s easier to avoid the trap of buying things I don’t need. (See #1 above about decluttering.)
It may also be worth your time to minimize your photos. Having a camera in our pockets all the time has a big upside, but has led to photo overload. Who needs 100 pictures from an event, or 1000 from a vacation? Like with clothes, it’s more effective to decide which photos to keep, rather than which to delete. This is a tiny mental shift, but it works. Once you pare down your stash, you will get more joy from the ones you do have.
5. Find calm at work by reducing mental (and physical) clutter.
Work is a major cause of stress for many of us. So how can minimalism increase calmness at work? First, by clearing the physical clutter from our desks and offices, we can reduce distractions and think more clearly.
Secondly, by taking an honest look at our priorities, we can cut down on mental clutter. In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown makes the case that by eliminating all but the most essential things, we can be far more productive.
When my head is spinning, I now take a step back and try to hone in on a few main priorities. Reducing mental clutter can help us find calm in our work life. (And, of course, it’s good for our mental health, too.)
I know: Minimalism is not for everyone. But if you’re an introvert, it just may help calm your mind. The process takes time and energy, but the payoff is well worth the effort.
Introverts, do you have any other ideas for simplifying? I would love to hear them in the comments below!
I write about climate change in a moderate voice at Unheating.com.