A Minimalist Guide To Dealing With Negative Emotions


Minimalism isn’t just about living with less stuff. Minimalism crosses over into all areas of life. Humans are emotional creatures. If we learn to limit our negative emotions, we will be happier and healthier. Our homes will be more peaceful and simple.

About five years ago, I was feeling a little depressed after the Christmas holiday season. I dealt with my light depression by shopping. I started buying new clothes. I didn’t really need new clothes, but I was unconsciously trying to make myself feel better. It didn’t work. I stopped shopping because I was spending too much money and that was making me even more depressed.

Has this ever happened to you?

Humans have feelings. We love. We hate. We get happy. We get sad. That’s perfectly normal. Having an excess of negative feelings is not normal. It’s not healthy. It’s how we deal with these negative feelings that matters.

My Forgiveness Story

When I was a kid, I was a child victim of a cult. I was worked like a slave. I was abused. As a young adult, I carried some anger and hate around from that experience. In my mid-20s, I began to understand something: My unhappiness was directly associated with my unforgiving spirit. So I started the long journey of forgiving my enemies, and eventually forgiving myself. 

Too often we hold onto our negative emotions. We’ve been programmed to believe that if someone wrongs us, we’re supposed to react in anger. The media is filled with stories of hate and revenge. As a minimalist, I’ve developed a different way of dealing with negative emotions:

Minimalism Opposes Holding On To Extra Stuff

Minimalism teaches us that we should learn to let go of excessive belongings and live with only the essentials. This minimalist philosophy lends itself to our emotional lives, too. If we let go of the negative emotions, we allow more space for positive emotions. In essence, by letting go of the excess, we are set free.

A Guide To Dealing With Emotions: Let Go

  1. Do an emotional survey: I recently posted about spring cleaning. I suggested that you go through each room, closest, cupboard, and drawer. I asked you to consider what you truly need and what you don’t need. The same goes for your emotions. You need to look into your heart and mind and ask yourself if there might be some negative feelings that are holding you back.
  2. Unpack negative emotions: Getting rid of emotions is a bit different than getting rid of stuff. You can’t just put them in a box and give them to Goodwill. Or can you? The first step to letting anything go is to unpack it. You wouldn’t give an unmarked box of stuff away without going through it first, right? Write your feelings down. Start a journal. Putting your feelings on paper is a form of unpacking. You get them out in the open so you can see them. Then you’ll be able to see which ones are cluttering up your life.  
  3. Give yourself space to release: Now that you have unpacked your emotions, you need to give them away. When you live with negative emotions, they get stuck inside and they infect your home and your family. As you do your spring cleaning, open your doors and windows. Let the negative emotions go. Just as you take your stuff to Goodwill, you need to take your excess emotions somewhere. I suggest going somewhere where there is open space: the ocean, the desert, a mountain peak. Let your emotions go. Give them to the the wind. Let them be blown away. 
  4. Replace negative emotions: Negative emotions will creep right back if you don’t find ways to replace them. People who successfully overcome addictions know that they must replace a bad habit with a positive one. I used to smoke and drink. I replaced smoking and drinking with exercise and writing. Once you’ve let go of the excessive emotional baggage, replace the negative with a positive. You could volunteer. You might decide to attend church. You might take up a new hobby. Find something positive to replace the negative.

Unwanted Stuff, Unwanted Emotions

Letting go is letting go. It makes no difference whether you’re letting go of material things or whether you’re letting go of anger. You go through the same process. You survey. You evaluate. You unpack. You give away the stuff that’s unnecessary or holding you back in some way. You replace what you gave away with something new. You gain a new perspective and you find more freedom.

Letting go of clutter, both material and emotional, will bring a new sense of peace and contentment to your home. Your entire family will benefit. You’ll be happier and healthier. Learn to let go.

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James Ewen
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