simple living

Using Minimalism to Balance Out Your Uptight Soul

If you had to use a picture to show the inside of your mind, what would you choose?

I’d choose two. First, a photo of my bedroom, the quilt pulled tight so you can’t see a wrinkle, the navy accent pillows upright and in position, a candle and a book on my bedside table.

Then, a photo of our boys’ shared room. If you know any 7- and 8-year old boys, then you know what it looks like: Pokemon cards scattered on the ground, mixed among an impressive but sprawling lego collection; dirty socks EVERYwhere (because why bother with a hamper when the floor is right there?); dogeared books, broken light-sabers, and some dried play dough that shouldn’t have been in their room in the first place.

Which photo shows the state of your mind? The first? The second? Or maybe something in between.

My mind is the boys’ bedroom, in all its dirty-sock glory.

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time up there in your ever-whirring brain. It might even be why you like to keep your physical environment so neat. The calm around you balances out the chaos inside.

Your Personality Type

Some personalities are predisposed to busy minds. In the well-respected personality framework Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are, Daniel Nettle encapsulates this with the trait he calls “neuroticism,” or the inclination to stress out, worry, and harbor negative emotions.

In the Meyers Briggs framework, the N (for intuition) represents people who tend to dwell in their thoughts, explore possibilities as much as reality, and trust their impressions even more than their experience.

Related: 7 Personality Tests to Help You Live Your Truest Story

In short, if you spend a lot of time upstairs in a (metaphorical) chaotic bedroom, you are not alone.

My Path to Simpler Life

A few years ago, my husband and I were raising two (eventually three) young kids while living in a small, dated apartment in the middle of a large building, where I worked as the resident manager. People could knock on our door at any time, complaining about overflowing rain gutters or asking me to silence the fire alarm they set off by burning toast at 2am. (I know.)

It was then—amid the intensity of raising little ones and the boundary-less life of being an apartment manager—that I started scaling back on anything I could.

I couldn’t control who would knock on our front door (or when!). I couldn’t lessen the demands of parenting a baby and toddler. It was an intense stage of life, on top of the usual busyness of my mind, so I consciously chose to edit my life.

I slowed down my pace with my online writing and handed the week-to-week family finances over to my husband. I hired a babysitter every other week so I could have a few hours to myself. I donated several loads of toys and clothes so I’d have less to manage around the house. I became purposeful and proactive about the belongings we brought into our home.

At the time, I didn’t call it minimalism; I didn’t know it was a movement.

An Unexpected Benefit

Going into it, I hoped these changes would free up some space in my calendar and some time in my day-to-day life. What I didn’t know to expect was the impact it would have on the state of my mind and soul.

The wildly messy bedroom inside of me slowly began to put itself in order.

I discovered an ability to play with my children that I never knew I had. I tickled them more and laughed at their unintentional jokes. We hid under beds together, wide-eyed with excitement, from creatures we could only see in our imaginations.

I found myself inhaling more when I was outside, taking in the smells of each season. I didn’t need to walk as quickly from one place to the next, and I attribute that as much to a quieter soul as a freer schedule.

Remarkably, I found it easier—less stressful—to spend time in my boys’ lego-covered bedroom. 😉

What You Can Do

If you have a soul that feels like it’s in a continual state of unrest… If you spend a lot of time inside your own head… A slower pace and a simpler life might settle you in more ways than you’d expect.

Your metaphorical bedroom may never be as tidy, as restful, as your easygoing sister’s or your perpetually late-but-happy friend. (How do people DO that?) But I think it can be much calmer—and much more joyful—than it is now.

With any luck, you’ll find that fewer commitments means less worry and a loosened-up calendar means more stillness inside.


For more inspiration to live by your values and let the rest fall to the side, I’d love to have you sign up for my monthly newsletter. You’ll also be first to know when I release my upcoming email series, Talked Out, Touched Out: Strategies for Thriving as an Introverted Mom. Sign up here! 

15 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachel Thueson
    January 23, 2017 at 7:49 am

    I so admire you for being the manager for that building all those years. That is such a suffocating job! You are stronger because you did that!

    I totally took a load of toys to D.I. the other day and it felt so freeing. It’s a never ending battle of organizing and donating and trying not to bring stuff home to clutter. The mess and all the stuff stresses me out too. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 23, 2017 at 3:48 pm

      It WAS a bit intense at times! 😉 It’s fun that we both did it for a while, so we can really GET it. 🙂 Yes, mess equals stress! For me at least, and I think a lot of other moms. Good luck to both of us with the ongoing kid-clutter battle!

  • Reply
    Lynnette
    January 23, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Oh, how I can relate! As an INFP, I live inside my head and often wish I could press pause on the jumbled mess of thoughts that is always going a hundred miles an hour. It can be exhausting! Your metaphor of the messy room is so perfect!

    I am currently in a very busy season that I cannot change and it is beginning to stress me out. While I do try to be deliberate about my commitments, this post helped me to realize that there is more that I can edit out of my life to free up more mental space for enjoying the journey. It is a matter of priorities and, perhaps, mine have become a bit jumbled in the hustle. Thank you for your wise words!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 23, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      As your close cousin—an INFJ—I know what you mean about always living inside your head. (At least that fuels our writing, right?!)

      I’m glad this post made you look at your activities with more of a critical eye. I can’t imagine managing teenagers’ schedules, though, so you should probably be writing the post on that! You’re a great mom!

  • Reply
    Amy
    January 23, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    I love this! I feel like as we keep progressing into each new step of life that the scaling back only gets harder and more complicated (personal experience here!), so might as well start today! Beautiful story.

  • Reply
    Kristin
    January 24, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Loved this. The picture of my brain is of an internet browser with many tabs open. As much as my outside world has now calmed down since discovering minimalism a couple of years ago, I have only recently started to slowly to close those tabs. One day, I hope to have just one open! I am a ISFJ – so I judge myself pretty hard – but learning to embrace the journey, imperfection and patience.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 24, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Yes! I think of that metaphor every now and then too. WAY too many tabs! (PS. I’m an INFJ – we’re not far apart!)

  • Reply
    Lisa
    January 24, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Beautiful! I’m teary eyed reading this because I feel like the chaos in my mind is so overwhelming right now. This captured so well what I’ve been longing for since the holidays disrupted so much of my life. So much truth here, my friend.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 25, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      Makes my heart sink to hear your mind is so chaotic right now!! I hope this season passes quickly for you. (And yes, as much as we love ’em, the holidays can really throw a kink in things!)

  • Reply
    jill conyers
    January 25, 2017 at 2:29 am

    Hi Erica, I literally feel like this was written for me, at this exact moment in time. My mind is like a roller coaster that won’t stop so I can get off. And, that’s not it, my daughter and I were just talking about whether or not an introvert can learn to become an extrovert and would we want to. See what I mean? Written for me. Now.

    Have a wonderful day!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 25, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Now I’m curious whether you and your daughter are introverts / extroverts! 🙂 😉 But really, I’m SO glad this came at a good time for you. Can’t believe you left this comment at 2:29am – sounds like your mind really WAS busy! Hope you find a little more CALM in the next few days.

  • Reply
    Katie
    March 2, 2017 at 7:54 am

    I have been struggling with this lately. I am trying to simplify our lives/house (and my mind) recently. My husband was super annoyed at my “purge”, but my efforts did not go unnoticed! It’s definitely been less stressful in the morning, trying to find the kids shoes or my car keys. Everything has it’s place and we’re not tripping over toys. I feel like it’s helping us spend more time with the kiddies and less time cleaning up the toys my two year old just dumped (because we donated said toys! GONE!). I have noticed a difference with the kids as well. They know where their jackets are, the toothpaste is where it needs to be and it leaves time for more cuddles! Thank you for all of your daily tips! My husbands office is still a mess, but that’s for another day!
    🙂

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      March 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks so much for reading, Katie! I’m glad this came at a good time for you, and I’m even more glad to hear that getting rid of some of the stuff (man, kids come with a LOT of it, right?!) is helping you! I think an organization expert would just say to let you new way of living “shine through you” and hope that inspires your husband, kind of by osmosis. 😉 I’ll cross my fingers that happens for you! 😉

  • Reply
    Linz
    June 21, 2017 at 3:07 am

    Also perfect timing for me as I wrap up my 16th year of teaching and I’ve barely slept in 3 weeks due to my noisy mind. It’s 6:05am on my first day of break and I cannot sleep. I will continue to work on creating the quiet I need!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 21, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      A big congrats, Linz, on finishing another year! Both my mom and my husband’s mom are teachers, so I’ve gotten a glimpse into that relief and the transition that summer break brings. Enjoy it!

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