Keep this, Not that
By Stacie Johnson
What to wear, what to eat, what time to leave to beat traffic, what to listen to on your playlist, and responding to your kids demands and it is only 7:05 am. You made all those decisions within the first five minutes of hitting the alarm clock. We have the luxury of making decisions about almost every move in our daily routine. This freedom of choices sounds seductive, but are the unlimited options creating more fatigue in our day?
Companies have caught on and are now making money off your decision fatigue. Have you seen all those boxes that show up at your door curated with clothes, makeup products or even food? Industries have taken notice of the draining effort of decision making and now are capitalizing on the ability to help you be less stressed with decisions.
Out of the thousands of decisions you make, a physician makes even more life changing choices that are more far reaching than soy or non-soy in your latte. Questions like which surgical approach will give the patient the best results? What is the best way to broach the topic of depression? Or maybe which medication is best with the least side effects? Maybe you are not the physician, but the spouse of one and then, in turn, you know the stress of these decisions because you hear about the inner debate from your partner during dinner. In any profession critical decisions have to be made, but none are more important than a decision about someone else’s health and their future.
The good news is we can conquer decision fatigue by adapting a new way of living. This lifestyle is called minimalism. Minimalism is a life where owning less brings you more joy and the things you own bring pleasure rather than create more work or stress. It seems to be the “fad “ now to be a minimalist, but really it’s just making a comeback from the 1800’s. In “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, set in the late 1800’s, each girl got a tin cup and a piece of candy for Christmas. Can you image if that is all we gave our children now?
Our family has been on a journey of minimalism, unintentionally, since the summer of 2015 and now we purposefully choose this lifestyle. We moved from Arizona to Michigan for my husband’s 4th year medical rotations. While we lived in Michigan and waited for the residency match, we lived out of our suitcases in a family member’s home and left 95% of our belongings in a storage unit for nine months. I never thought a family of four (at the time) could live with such a little amount of items until we actually did it.
Once we moved in our home for residency we realized what a treat it was to unpack. We had a reunion with all our favorite things…our favorite knives for cooking, our great feeling down comforter, the heirloom lamp… it was exciting to reunite. Unfortunately, not all of our unpacking brought us joy. There were many items that we questioned why it moved to Michigan with us. Did we really just pay to have this much stuff moved across country and then pay for it to sit in a space for nine months?
But, oh well, it was here now. What else was there to do but get organizing units and storage bins and get everything in their right place? Once everything was “organized” we realized we didn’t use the average knives to cut anything ever and we didn’t use the second comforter for our bed ever. Things were not getting used. Why did we even have them? Just in case one day my four favorite knives all went dull and I needed this crappy old one to cut something? No…I would go get the nice really expensive knives sharpened and still not use the average ones.
It was the combination of realizing we had too many unused items and adding a third boy to our family that prompted us to decide to become more intentional with the things we have in our home. Enter minimalism. We deliberately threw things away, gave things for donation and said no to more items coming in our house. And I don’t mean we did a little “spring cleaning.” We picked up every single item and decided the worth of it in our home and in our life at that moment. Is this thing useful, helpful, or needed now in our home? If the answer wasn’t a yes to any of those questions, it had to go.
What does my house hold in it now? Things I love, things I need and things that serve a purpose. Our curated home allows for peace, joy and space. Space for real decisions to be made. Not decisions about what should I wear because I have a closet that is overflowing with options. Every item I grab from my closet I love. My husband is not walking in from a stressful day of surgeries to see the house erupted with toys in every nook and cranny. When he does get a day off we don’t have to spend it cleaning out the garage.
Now we go do things we love to do as a family, like hiking. We don’t go to the store to shop and fill our space. Now we go to the store when we need something. As a family we have far fewer decisions about how to spend our money. In our experience, limiting items in your home frees up the space in your mind to make better decisions about the things that truly matter.
Minimalism in a medical home can create the ultimate atmosphere of peace and joy, which then makes space for maximum effort in decision making to be done where it really matters…with patients.
Stacie Johnson lives in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan with her husband, Tim, a PGY-3 OB/GYN resident, and three young boys. Stacie has a bachelor’s in communication and a Masters in education. Currently, she teaches English to children in China and homeschools her older boys. In between refilling her coffee cup multiple times a day, she enjoys hiking with her family, listening to podcasts, reading and writing. Her minimalism inspiration comes from www.theminimalists.com.