Cancer and Minimalism


A cancer survivor’s hottest commodity is time. Here's how I've created more time while also reducing anxiety and being happier.

After a lot of thought in December, I decided that what I wanted most out of 2017 is to be more present in my life, something that has been a problem for many years, especially since my cancer diagnosis in 2014. I spend days worrying about the future and reliving the trauma of treatment in my head, which only creates anxiety. For me, I’ve found the best way to cope with this anxiety is to focus on how I feel in the present moment because 99.9 percent of the time, I’m feeling great. I remind myself the moment we are in, right now, is all any of us are guaranteed. As the famous Bill Keane quote goes, “Yesterday is history, tomorrows is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

Once I resolved to be more present, I started thinking about the tools that would aid me in being successful. One of the to-dos I jotted down on my list was to watch a movie on Netflix called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. The title intrigued me. I thought you could replace the word minimalism with cancer since the moment you’re told that you or a loved one has the disease, your whole thought process of what is important changes. The Netflix description reads, “People dedicated to rejecting the American ideal that things bring happiness are interviewed in this documentary showing the virtues of less is more.” Cancer survivors know this, but in theory, how much are we focusing on the important aspects of our lives instead of things? None of us will be on our death beds saying, “I sure wish I would’ve gotten the iPhone 7 when it came out.” We’ll be saying things like, “I wish I spent more time with my brother” or “I should have taken that trip to Africa.”

So, what is minimalism? The film’s website describes it as, “a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth and contribution.”

If you’re like me and most Americans, you have too much stuff. Inspired by the film, I resolved to declutter. I made a list of the areas in my house I wanted to go through and set my timer for 20 minutes each day. Often, once I got started, I’d spend way more than 20 minutes. Within a few weeks, I decluttered my entire house, donated several bags to charity and remodeled my writing space. While my intention was to organize, I didn’t expect to experience the same radical transformation as the two subjects in the film.

I find myself much happier and living my resolution of being present with ease. Because I am not surrounded with stuff, I can breathe a bit easier. I have less general anxiety, all because my home and life are clean and organized.

Minimalism has also transformed my cancer journey, by making my life more fulfilling. A cancer survivor’s hottest commodity is time, and working towards minimalism has not just resulted in more hours in each day, but has given me quality time I can spend with my husband, friends and chasing pursuits I love, such as writing and yoga.

It has only been a month, so I’m hoping I can continue the lifestyle. My next steps are to reduce my social media presence, tackle digital clutter, comb the house again and unplug the internet one day a week - an idea that might be a hard sell to my husband.

If you’re interested in reducing anxiety, increased quality time with loved ones and pursuing your passions, I encourage you to check out where you’ll find details about the documentary, their podcast, books and social media pages.

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