Stuff. It’s everywhere and Americans love it. Stuff finds a way to accumulate in my house. I don’t intend to buy it or bring it home, but somehow it slowly piles on my desk, in my garage, and on the kitchen counter.
And you know what happens?
It usually just sits there. I might use it once, but a few weeks later I realize it wasn’t as important as I thought. However, throwing it away would be a waste of money, right?
So it continues to sit as dust settles on top. Unless it was food, my stuff was most-likely purchased with impulse rather than a real need.
I consider myself loosely affiliated with the minimalist crowd. I’m a single guy and single guys don’t need much.
I also spent years living in a hut with the Peace Corps where I learn the craft of surviving with as little as possible. When you have to walk a quarter-mile for 5 gallons of water, you tend to manage that water very well. It ends up lasting a very long time.
Characteristics of minimalism have also found its way into my life in part, for health. I have allergies and indoor allergens drive me crazy.
Dust mites, mold, pet dander, and pollen (yes, pollen is an outdoor allergen but it makes it’s way indoors too) affect my eyes, ears, nose, and skin. If there are too many allergens in my house I don’t sleep well, I become irritable, then my allergies get worse because I’m feeling ill – it’s a cascading effect.
Years ago, after talking with my allergist, I realized how important it was to keep my home clean. A clean house would equate to fewer allergy symptoms and a better quality of life. But who wants to clean a big house 2-3 times a week? Not me!
So, I moved into a smaller place because it would be much easier to clean. I didn’t stop there.
Eventually, I got rid of my carpets – I could use a Swiffer every day and not have to deal with a bulky vacuum
I exchanged fabric couches for leather (much less dust and not need to wash leather)
I got rid of old bookshelves that accumulated dust – they were mostly used for decoration anyway
I decided against having a pet even though I like them (not minimalism but certainly less responsibility and allergens)
Each time I made a change to remove stuff, something interesting happened. Life became a little easier to manage. Life was simplified. I felt it in my health, my work output increased, and I even noticed an improvement in the air in my home.
No longer did I have a long to-do list for cleaning. I began to worry less about my health and more about things that mattered.
What Is Minimalism and How Is It Connected To Allergies
I believe there’s a continuum when it comes to minimalism. Most minimalists in America would seem like hoarders to the communities I worked with in the Peace Corps.
But being a minimalist doesn’t mean to have to get rid of all your possessions and live in a tiny house. It just means simplifying your life to make your life more enjoyable. According to TheMinimalist.com, minimalism helps people question what things bring value to their lives. It can help people in the following ways:
Live in the moment
Pursue one’s passion
Experience true freedom
Focus on health
Rid our lives of excess stuff
Be more creative and less consumer
…and many more
I adopted characteristics out of necessity and realized that once my health improved, I also improved in other ways. I simplified my life and grew to understand it better.
If you struggle in certain areas of your life, there’s a chance you could use minimalism to improve. For example, clutter and disorganization are a vastly underrated source of stress and could be significantly reduced by adopting a minimalist philosophy. Addressing those stressors could have additional positive effects by improving your health.
How Minimalism Helped Reduce My Allergies (Environmental)
There were a number of ways that minimalism helped improved my allergies. I didn’t get rid of everything in my house, nor did I move to some off-grid location.
I evaluated my home and began to realize that many of the things I had did not improve my life. Instead, they would attract dust and contribute to making me feel ill. Below I’ll share a few ways minimalism helped.
I Had Less Stuff
We live in a world of stuff and many households don’t have room for it all. We get a storage unit, or two, and pack what we can’t fit into the home in storage. How can we enjoy our stuff if we never even see it? Moreover, we actually pay to keep our things hidden in storage.
The less stuff I had the less I had to worry about. Dust and dirt couldn’t hide. It takes effort to pick things up, move them around and clean. When I did happen to organize my stuff, I usually just moved it to another location where it continued to accumulate dust.
I Could Clean Less Frequently
Practicing minimalism also allowed me to clean less frequently. Yes, it’s true! With less stuff, I could get away with being lazy. I chose my flooring carefully and switched to hard flooring like tile and wood instead of carpets.
Carpets are notorious for catching and holding onto dirt and dust. Even the best HEPA vacuums can’t clean them 100%.
When I did clean, I didn’t need to pick stuff up and move it. Since I had fewer items, I could skip the rearranging part, which made cleaning a breeze.
The House Was Faster To Clean
With hard flooring, I no longer had to haul a vacuum around. I used Swiffer (with allergies you never use a broom because it stirs things up) that glided along the floor and picked up dust and debris.
I also used a Swiffer duster that works great for leather couches, tables, shelves, and televisions. Because there were fewer things in my home, the cleaning that I did was thorough. It was easy to get behind couches and chairs because there weren’t other items blocking them.
Of course, I still had to do laundry (my tips for clothes and bed sheets) but those are weekly chores that are completed either way.
Fresh Household Air
With fewer things sitting around the house I began to feel better and breathe easier. I’m sure part of it was a change in my mentality, but there’s something about a cluttered room that makes it feel stuffy. A room with few items, however, feels open and airy.
For decoration, I added air-purifying indoor plants that looked great and actually serve a purpose – they can remove allergy-causing toxins from the air and exude fresh, humid air.
Invest In Quality Items And Long-Term Health Improvements
One of the amazing perks about minimalism is that having fewer things allows you to buy quality items when you do make a purchase. I buy things with a specific mentality: buy what I need, not what I want.
There have been 4 items that I invested in to improve my allergies and they allowed me to clean my house even less.
The first 2 items actually capture all the dust floating in the air. They are:
Allergy-quality HVAC filter
HEPA air purifier
I’ve always used furnace filters but I never knew there were filters that would actually clean dust from the air. You won’t find these special filters at the hardware store. Instead, you’ll have to find them online (read my article on allergy HVAC filters).
A few years ago, I began running the vent every morning for 1 hour. I’d make sure the doors and windows were closed and this would create a suction for indoor air to be pulled through the HVAC filter. The filter would contain dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold and other things in the air. The best part was it greatly reduced the amount of dust in my house and allowed me to clean less frequently.
The HEPA air purifier was a second item I used for my health. These filters work great in a bedroom and are meant to run all day (24/7). A quality air purifier, like these that I reviewed, can clean all the air in a bedroom 3-4 times per day. Imagine sleeping in that environment!
The second 2 items are also great for dust and allergies. They are:
Mattress/Pillow cover (allergen proof)
Believe it or not, our mattresses and pillows are filthy. They are home to dust mites (and their fecal matter) and allergens burrow down into the mattress and pillow where they can cause health issues for years.
An allergen-proof mattress and pillow cover are perfect for old and new beds. On an old mattress and pillow, they keep allergens in and create a barrier so they can’t touch your body. On new bedding, the covers keep allergens from going in or out and keep them looking new.
A HEPA vacuum should be considered for anyone who has carpets. Regular vacuums will simply blow dust around the home because their filters are too porous, however, HEPA filters capture the tiniest of allergens including cat and dog dander, dust mites, mold, and pollen. HEPA vacuums will help with cleaning!
Minimalism is a lifestyle choice that challenges people to think about what they really need. It frees our time and mind to focus on things that really matter to us, like relationships, direction, activity, and meaning.
Minimalism has far-reaching effects and I experienced its benefit in my life by through an improvement in my health. Yes, minimalism helped me reduce clutter and become more organized, and as a by-product, it decreased my allergy symptoms.
I’m allergic to everything and I’ve struggled with controlling my living environment. Minimalism reduces the amount of space I had to clean and it reduced the amount of dust in my house.
If you struggle from allergies, consider implementing a minimalist approach to your life and I’m sure you’ll see health improvements just like I have. Simplify your life and reduce your stress by getting rid of inconsequential stuff. You’ll no longer feel overwhelmed and you’ll find that you have more time to do the things you enjoy! Less stuff means less dust and that equals fewer allergy symptoms!