I think what I'm about to describe may definitely not apply to everyone, but equally I am sure it is commonly true for a particular category of people — perhaps HSP, or on the autistic spectrum, or both? It is true for me.
There is a palpable lightness of being, an inner freedom, obtained by owning little.
I've written before about how my belongings constantly quietly talk. It's like the buzz of a roomful of people chatting and laughing. Up to a point that's okay. I can hear what they're saying, and I take in the points of view they're expressing, but there comes a point when their noise gets over-assertive and argumentative.
If my belongings are few and synthesised to all relate with each other, and if I know I could pack them all up into a suitcase and move out if I wanted to, then I feel peaceful and light. It affects the way I relate to people because I don't start out by feeling stressed and trapped. I feel light and not-quite-here inside, and that allows me to be less affected by the moods and perspectives of others, because I have obtained a freedom between myself and them. I am just, for the moment, here — but crucially, I don't have to be; and that makes it easier to stay.
I don't think everyone has this craving for ephemerality and disconnection. I think, from what I see and hear, that many people feel comforted and sustained by rootedness and connection — having their things around them and their relational network upholding them.
But personally I like space.
So I'm not at all recommending that you should minimise your belongings, just saying that I find it has a very beneficial effect on me — and that many other people have discovered it is the same for them.
I do think all people benefit from living in a space that is uncluttered — but not necessarily from minimalism. So I think simplicity is good for everyone; not being exhausted by too many things to do, too much stuff to sort and tidy and clean, too many relationships to attend to properly; but I think for most people it stops there. There's just this sub-group of humanity that needs as little as possible in order to be able to breathe.
I find my attention is claimed by
- work commitments
- responsibility for physical objects
- health issues
As I got older and the health issues began to clamour and needed fuller attention, I found I could address this successfully, but only by reducing the other attention claimants.
I wanted to carry on thinking, and the health issues are there as long as I have a body.
I reduced sharply the number of relationships in my life a long time ago in order to give more attention to work commitments, and I have never put them back. I miss having friends, but my energy didn't stretch to giving the attention it takes to maintain relationships. The network of relationships I still have uses all the energy I still have.
I stopped working because the combination of health issues and relationships made it hard to continue. This has in turn simplified my finances by significantly reducing my income, which has then simplified my life because I can no longer afford what I once used to do.
If I also reduce my possessions to an absolute minimum, it reduces the amount of attention they need, reduces the need for choices and decisions, reduces the muddle they create in my mind. And keeping possessions deliberately to an absolute minimum makes finance more stretchy so it demands less attention, and also opens up a little more availability of energy for relationships.
If you are also HSP or on the autistic spectrum and can relate to what I'm trying to express here, I'll be very interested to hear from you in the comments.
The two things I'm blessing on their way today are as follows.
Firstly, a very nice shell top, soft fabric, soft colour.
I like this (found it second-hand on eBay) but at the time I bought it I forgot that since I only like actually wearing long-sleeved garments I would never wear this.
Secondly I freegled a sun-hat.
I forgot to photograph the actual sunhat I gave away, which was a soft olive green, and so I have photographed the one I still have, to give you the idea. I need only one sunhat; the sun does shine in England, but then again it often doesn't and is frequently too windy for hats. I only really wear it sitting in the garden or on the beach.