If you looked at me, you wouldn’t see anything wrong. No wheelchairs, no walking sticks, no tubes; nothing to suggest I may struggle with a disability.
But the truth is, I am disabled.
I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as ME) which causes unrelenting fatigue, cognitive issues, and sometimes pain which takes over every muscle in my body. I’m also autistic which causes me sensory and processing issues.
When I was first diagnosed with these conditions, I was in my early twenties and a hoarder.
I landed jobs easily, but I struggled to keep them and life at home aways felt chaotic. I couldn’t just relax when I got home, especially after having my first child.
There was always heaps of washing to do, polishing, hoovering, tidying, and organising.
Whenever I did have a moment, I would just sit and play videogames for hours on end while my clean laundry spilled over and there was nothing left in the wardrobe. The rest of the time I’d shop for more stuff to buy on Amazon and Ebay.
There was always something new I wanted that I was sure would bring me happiness and make my life easier. A new bag, new clothes, a new game, a new console, a new anime figure, new furniture, some pins to add to my bag to show off just how unique and awesome and troubled I was.
Eventually I had to work part time due to the ME, yet still I continued to accumulate more stuff. In fact, I had more time to do so.
My husband has this old photo of me bending to lift a large CRT TV I had just bought, convinced I was going to be an amazing retro gamer. It was just before he told me off and wondered where the hell we were going to keep such a monstrosity. I looked like a child who’d just been caught stealing cookies before dinner.
Because of my condition, I felt worthless and guilty, but I had this vision in my head of one day winning the lottery, owning a mansion to keep all my stuff, and never having to work again.
I also imagined becoming like my favourite Youtubers who owned tons of games and had the time and energy to play them.
You see, I played the happy-go-lucky gamer, but in reality, my life was falling apart. I was living with a condition that nobody seemed to understand, that I was left to figure out by myself, and that almost cost me my job and relationship on several occasions.
I was living for my fantasy self, and I played that role for years until one fateful day, my parents brought all my childhood clutter over from their attic for me to sort.
I’ve already written about that here, on my old blog, so I won’t go over it again in this post. However, after being confronted with my hoard I discovered Francine Jay’s book on minimalism‘ The Joy of Less’.
The rest is history and I’ve now been a minimalist for 5 years.
While minimalism wasn’t the answer to all my problems, it has become a huge part of my life which I’m passionate about, and has made everyday living so much easier.
When I first discovered minimalism, I found the the more I decluttered, the less I had to take care of, and the less chance there was of a pain flare up, or of being in bed unable to work, cook, read, play games, or do much of anything past surviving.
I also noticed there was far less sensory overwhelm because there was less to look at and process.
The more bags left my home, the more empty space became available, and there was more of an echo in the huge living room.
At first, my inclination was to fill those empty spaces with beautiful decor like I’d seen in so many articles and books about minimalism. But I discovered that all I did was get angry when they got broken by my toddler son, and I was spending more time dusting them and moving them off the shelves whenever I needed to clean.
The items were causing anger and anxiety.
This had a huge impact on my limited energy and on my visual processing, but until I allowed the empty space, I had no idea of what impact they were also having on my already overloaded senses.
Nowadays, I am surrounded by empty space which cuts cleaning time in half, gives me space to relax, and allows my young children to run wild without worrying about everything getting broken or misplaced.
I did the same to my clothes, only keeping what I absolutely loved and wear on a regular basis.
This has helped no end with the managing of my limited energy and with my sensory issues.
Minimalism is like a salve. A soothing balm I apply to everyday life and which I’ve also discovered a joy in teaching others.
It is a path through the chaos, a sword with which to carve my way through the detritus of life.
Whether you’re disabled or not, minimalism can lighten your load, and if you let it, it will help light your way.