Last updated: October 18th, 2019
I’m torn on minimalism.
On one hand, I love the freedom that comes with owning few things. Freedom is absolutely essential for living a better life with ADHD.
On the other hand, I own a decent amount of stuff that adds real value to my life, such as:
- Nice clothes
- Hardcover books
- Kitchen appliances
So, this article walks you through the best ways to benefit from minimalism, without having to give up everything that you own.
Specifically, the goal of this article is to help you reduce your mental clutter, which is the biggest benefit that comes with minimalism.
In other words, you can enjoy the benefits of minimalism without actually becoming a minimalist.
Here are the 5 simple steps to follow…
Step 1. Focus on reducing your “mental clutter”
The goal of minimalism is to reduce your mental clutter.
Think about it like this:
When you own few things, you don’t have to worry about maintaining a massive home, swimming pool, car, and the various other items that families have traditionally owned in the past.
I actually predict a future where people value mental clarity and lack of worry over having enormous obligations like an expensive mortgage and student loan debt to pay off.
The rates of home ownership and college enrollment are declining in the United States, partially because people don’t want to deal with the extreme debt-based mental clutter that comes with these massive obligations.
But, enough about the future.
How do you reduce your mental clutter right now?
Well, there are some simple tricks that anyone with ADHD can use to reduce mental clutter…
Perform a “lifestyle audit”
If you take a look at the Pareto principle, you’ll realize that just 20% of your life accounts for 80% of your mental clutter.
So, your goal is to find out exactly which 20% of your life is causing 80% of your mental clutter, and then eliminate those problem areas from your life.
I call this performing a “lifestyle audit”.
> Have you been working so hard that you can barely think? Sometimes, renting an Airbnb for a weekend (changing your environment) is all that you need to clear your mind.
> Do you worry so much that you’re actually preventing yourself from enjoying life? Read the classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (as listed on my resources page).
> Are you stressed about money? Picking up a second job (or starting a business) isn’t going to hurt you.
There’s something in your life that’s causing most of your problems / mental clutter. Remember that just 20% of your life accounts for 80% of your mental clutter.
Your job is to figure out where your problems lie, and then eliminate those problems from your life.
You can absolutely get professional help if you need assistance with narrowing down the root cause of your mental clutter.
Debt payment / negotiation
Debt is a major problem. Because when you’re in debt, debt is always going to be lurking in the back of your mind.
I had a problem with credit card debt in college.
I ended up negotiating a deal with my creditor to eliminate all of my credit card debt once and for all. Eliminating my personal debt was one of the greatest moments of my life.
So, there are always going to be ways for you to get out of debt, if debt is something that’s cluttering your mind.
I highly recommend doing whatever it takes to eliminate debt from your life. Eliminating your debt is a very freeing feeling.
Consider all of your options before committing to major obligations
There’s nothing wrong with taking out a mortgage, enrolling in college, or leasing a car.
But, have you really considered all of your options before doing any of these things?
> Wouldn’t you feel a little more free by renting a home?
> Do you really need to own a car, or can you just grab an Uber whenever you need to go somewhere? (I realize that owning a car is often necessary…but this is just a thought experiment).
> If you’re interested in going to college, can you find a way to attend college for free?
There’s always a way to win.
You can find ways to get what you want without committing to major obligations, and taking on more mental clutter than necessary.
Step 2. Prioritize your essential items (or items that reduce mental clutter)
I always buy the best health foods that I can afford, because my livelihood depends on eating high-quality foods. I eat mostly meats, vegetables, and fruits to help with my ADHD symptoms.
I just think better when I eat a really clean diet.
I also use high-quality electronics, because I work online for a living, and need reliable gear.
In fact, I could probably survive off these 7 items alone:
- Healthy foods
- Klean Kanteen Water Bottle (Amazon)
- Two laptops (I switch between a Dell and a Lenovo)
- Microsoft OneNote
- Kindle Fire HD 10 (Amazon)
- Charles Schwab checking account
What items do you actually need to survive?
If you made a list of everything that you actually need to survive, I think you would be surprised by how resilient human beings are. You don’t need much to survive.
However, people with ADHD do have a few extra needs (there’s nothing wrong with having extra needs).
If you have ADHD, then you probably find it hard to live without:
- ADHD medication
- Spry gum (Amazon)
- Organizational tools
Luckily, these items help you reduce mental clutter rather than add to the noise.
So, make sure to prioritize items that actually eliminate mental clutter, or improve your life in some way.
If an item doesn’t reduce your mental clutter or improve your life in some way, that’s when you should consider donating the item to charity, or just giving it away.
Step 3. Use products that serve multiple purposes
The reason why I rave about Microsoft OneNote so much is because it serves so many purposes.
I use OneNote to:
- Create daily to-do lists
- Write down new ideas
- Take note of cool websites
- Create travel plans
- Manage and improve my daily systems
There are many products like OneNote that serve multiple purposes, and help to eliminate mental clutter from your life.
For example, here’s an amazing multi-purpose product that everyone with ADHD should keep on hand:
I use baking soda to brush my teeth, do laundry, shampoo my hair, and even neutralize body odor (yes, baking soda works as a natural deodorant). Baking soda is one of my favorite all-purpose products.
Here are some other must-have, multi-purpose products that will simplify your life:
- Coconut oil – A natural antibacterial and antifungal food that can be used for skin ailments and nutrition
- Sauerkraut – One of the healthiest fermented foods that you can eat to maximize your gut health & improve your mood (your mood is linked to your gut health)
- Basic notebook – Because there will come a time when you need to write down important ideas, events, dates, etc.
- Turmeric – One of the most well-researched anti-cancer, anti-inflammation ingredients that you can consume (pair with black pepper to increase turmeric’s bioavailability)
- Leatherman Wingman Multitool (Amazon) – Self-explanatory…this tool is incredibly useful, and will save you tons of time (keep it in your bag)
When I purchase a product, I try to ensure that I’ll receive plenty of value from the product.
And whenever possible, I use products that serve multiple purposes, so that I don’t have to worry about creating unnecessary clutter.
Step 4. Have big aspirations
One of the main reasons why I refuse to call myself a “minimalist” is because minimalism can distract you from pursuing big dreams in life.
If you’re totally focused on minimalism, then you’re more likely to “settle for less” in life.
Makes sense, right?
This is why I prioritize reducing mental clutter and auditing my lifestyle rather than owning fewer things.
For example, there’s nothing wrong with living in a mansion by the beach if you can comfortably afford to do so.
If you can comfortably afford to live in an awesome house, and own tons of cool stuff, then you should probably take advantage of that opportunity. I think that would be pretty fun.
The goal is always to reduce your mental clutter. Not live a life of scarcity.
So, I hope that you’ll continue to aim high in everything that you do, because having big aspirations can actually help you reduce mental clutter, too.
It’s easy to feel good about your life when you’re busy working hard, taking care of your family, making friends, and having fun.
Have big aspirations, and just do the best that you can with the hand that you’ve been dealt in life. That’s just about all that you can do.
Step 5. Start reaping the benefits of minimalism without boxing yourself in as a “minimalist”
Don’t place preconceived limitations on your life.
It’s possible to own nice things, be free, and reduce your mental clutter without conforming to yet another label.
But, if you think that becoming a minimalist will make you happy, that’s perfectly fine too.
Living with ADHD is all about doing what works best for you.
Here are the main takeaways of this article:
> Minimalism has good and bad aspects
> You should take advantage of the best aspect of minimalism, which involves reducing your mental clutter
> You don’t have to get rid of everything that you own to reduce your mental clutter
> You can reduce your mental clutter by performing a “lifestyle audit”, eliminating debt, limiting your major obligations, and prioritizing essential items
> The main issue with minimalism is that it can cause you to settle for less & think in terms of scarcity (which is why you should ideally have big aspirations in life)
> You can reap the benefits of minimalism without becoming a minimalist
> If you really think that becoming a minimalist will make you happy, that’s perfectly fine too (always live life on your own terms)
Do you practice any aspects of minimalism?
Please leave me your thoughts about minimalism in the comments section below.
I look forward to hearing from you.
My family is in the midst of downsizing from a 4300 sq ft hm to 3000 sq ft. (Clearly in suburbia). There are many reasons but my most heartfelt is exactly what you are addressing here. Though my 3 kids and 2 dogs fill the spaces of the house, it is too much for me. There is constant upkeep inside and out. Thank you again for helping me learn not to be so hard on myself but instead to better understand what is best for me and thus my family. Bless you!
Downsizing can work tremendously. I think that 3000 sq ft. is the perfect amount of space. You’ll have plenty of room for your family without having a ton of upkeep, like you said.
You’re very welcome for the article Laurie.
Thank you for reading.
I have been reading all these articles about how adopting a more minimalistic approach for people with ADHD can help, including this article. I have been looking back at my daily habits and reflect on this information. This week I decided to do a few changes that have actually been very helpful so far.
For one thing when I used to write down “To do” lists, usually I ended up not even finish half of the items on the list. I realized that I used to write to many activities on it and I couldn’t reasonably finish it with a short time. I also sometimes would do more than one thing at a time while working on a task. For instance, I would be watching TV while I was doing homework or check my phone while eating.
This week I began to simplify my “To do list” and only do one thing at a time, which meant to cut down my time using any electronics of any kind. Going online endlessly only creates more mental clutter in my head. I have also began to begin to give myself plenty of small breaks between tasks and setting alarms on my phone for tasks. In short, I have been simplifying and organizing my mind to be more efficient with my time.
I feel calmer and I am more productive. I have a few goals that I would like to work on, but my main goals, besides controlling my ADHD, is to complete my Associates in Web Publishing with a certification in Mobile Applications and take the test de connaissance du français, a French language certification exam.
Thank you for this article and this website. It has been helpful for me so far.
Thank you very much Jorge. I wish you the best with your Associates in Web Publishing and French language exam.