How Simplicity Saved My Life

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Courtney Carver of Be More With Less.

simplicity-saved-my-life

“I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind.” — Albert Einstein

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 37, some of my initial thoughts were:

  • I am going to wake up blind tomorrow.
  • What if I can’t walk?
  • What if this vertigo never subsides?
  • I won’t be able to ski with my family.
  • My husband and I won’t be able to hike together anymore.
  • I didn’t know enough about MS to be anything but scared.

Once I realized how little I knew, researching MS causes, symptoms, treatments and success stories became my new job. That research forced me to admit that I needed to change my life.

I learned that while stress may not have caused my MS, it certainly contributed to my declining health. In addition to conventional treatment and an awesome medical team, my weapon in fighting MS has been eliminating as much stress as possible.

When I learned about how stress contributes to not just MS, but many other health issues, I knew I had to take action.

Chronic stress exposes our bodies to unhealthy, persistently elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Common physical signs of stress include dizziness, general aches and pains, grinding teeth, clenched jaws, headaches, indigestion, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, racing heart, ringing in the ears, stooped posture, sweaty palms, tiredness, exhaustion, trembling, weight gain or loss, and upset stomach. – Web MD

Stress can trigger both migraine and tension-type headache. Events like getting married, moving to a new home, or having a baby can cause stress. But studies show that everyday stresses — not major life changes — cause most headaches. – Womenshealth.gov

And a study done by Carnegie Mellon scientists demonstrated that subjects who had been through stressful experiences were more likely to develop colds.

Stress comes from food, fear, worry, busyness, bad relationships, debt, drama, clutter, and a host of other internal and external factors.

The most effective way for me to eliminate stress was to simplify every area of my life. It didn’t happen overnight, but each small change motivated the next change. If you want to simplify your life, it doesn’t matter where you start, but I simplified in this order:

Food

I was a chronic dieter. For every few pounds I lost, I’d gain them back plus one. When I started to focus less on vanity and more on health, I began to make better food choices. Trading meat and most animal products for fruits and veggies reduced physical stress on my body and made it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Simplifying food choices contributes to better health.

Debt

From the moment I got my first credit card at 18, I thought being in debt was normal. My first credit card led to more credit cards, car loans, student loans, and a mortgage. Today I spend what I have and nothing more. My husband and I made paying off debt a priority and today we are debt free. Simplifying and eliminating debt contributes to better health.

Stuff

I never thought I had a problem with stuff. I loved to shop and spend time at the mall. I had a closet full of clothes and boxes of clothing for different seasons. I thought that was normal. When I started dressing with 33 items or less, I realized how much time and money I had actually spent on my stuff. I enjoyed the freedom of dressing with less so much that I began to live with less in every area of my home and life.

This spring we sold our 2000 sq. ft. home to move into a 750 sq. ft. apartment. Decluttering and simplifying stuff contributes to better health.

Work

A 15+ year career in advertising and marketing was stressful. Deadline after deadline and goal after goal with the focus always on the almighty dollar wore me down. By paying off our debt and living more simply, I was able to embrace uncertainty and start my own business. I left a world of more, more, more for a life with less. Doing work you love contributes to better health.

Relationships

When I simplified my diet, debt and stuff, I had time and space to look at the bigger picture. I realized that some of the relationships I had weren’t healthy, so I fixed or ended them. I also noticed that I wasn’t paying attention to the good relationships I did have because I had been so distracted. I was distracted by life, by work, by cell phones, by email, and by my own stress. The freer I became, the more engaged I could be with the people I love. Loving relationships and time spent with people who lift you up contributes to better health.

I initially thought it was selfish to spend so much time and energy to make myself whole and healthy, until I realized that the better I was, the more time and energy I could give to everyone around me.

As I removed each stressful thing from my life, from meat to debt to work I didn’t love, I knew that simplicity was saving my life. Perhaps my condition wasn’t life threatening, but maybe something more serious was waiting around the corner.

When I think about the freedom I have now, I am convinced that simplicity saved me. Without the stress of poor health, exhaustion, debt, and stuff, I have a chance to really live.

Give simplicity a chance to soften your heart, open your mind, and save your life.

***

Courtney Carver writes and speaks about simplicity in life and business. Read more at Be More with Less and courtneycarver.com. You can also probably follow her on Twitter.

Image: Pink Sherbet Photography

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great story, Courtney. It’s amazing how many people live their entire lives blind to the fact that a simpler life is possible. Not only that, but it can also save and greatly improve your life!

  2. Vlad says

    Always nice to hear a real story with a message and a happy ending. Best wishes to you in your fight against MS.

  3. Kim says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, it really put things into perspective . Great read to go with my morning cup of coffee… Prayers to you and your fight against MS.

  4. says

    Courtney, this was a wonderful post and so inspiring! I hate that you have MS, but I love that it caused you to live the rest of your life in a meaningful and beautiful way. I believe you’ll have a long and happy life because of the choices you’ve made.

    Thank you for sharing such a personal and important story…

  5. says

    Courtney, I’ve always thought it was amazing how you were able to turn your health around, just by simplifying. It makes me wonder what improvements I’ll see, after we’ve made the changes that we’re working on.

  6. says

    I have gained so much through simplicity as well that this post really spoke to me. Until I embraced minimalism, I wasn’t able to get rid of the pile of student loans I had accumulated. By simplifying my life, I was able to get rid of $40,000 worth of debt in 1 year. It wasn’t easy, and sometimes, looking at the way my 20-something compatriots were living, I wanted to quit. But now I am debt free, embarking on a journey to South America for a year, and they are still stuck in jobs they hate. Thank you for sharing your story!

  7. says

    Loved this post Courtney.
    Thank you. Particularly the last line “Give simplicity a chance to soften your heart, open your mind, and save your life.” Beautiful!
    Bernadette x

  8. says

    JUST DO IT EVERYONE….Don’t stress minimize…. it is fun… just get rid of all the junk now and then box everything else.
    Sell ALL the furniture, move into a rented studio with your remaining boxes…. Viola!…
    Then pick one box per week and tear into it; make halving you boxes a goal…. before you know it you will be free.

  9. Harriet says

    Dear Courtney,

    I am such a lurker usually. I read avidly your blog and twitters i just love the idea of Project 333 though haven’t done it yet (not enough clothes) .and I am making progress along the minimalist track. I’ve been reading and lurking and progressing for over a year, probably nearly two, without posting anything :-( I love the progress i’m making but I’m more and more aware that the materialistic side is easy, actually that’s never been a major, issue but the relationship side and the busy busy busy side is where i’m not changing enough. I think i’m trying but oh how I could do with some help to figure this side of simplicity and less is more. I can see i’m “doing it to myself’ but how to change? How to really commit and maybe fall in love with project me me me. Any advice?

  10. says

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is encouraging to me as I continue on my own path toward simplicity. I question everything with a new perspective since being introduced to a simpler, more minimalist life.

  11. Steven says

    Thanks Courtney, for your inspiring story! I’ll be spreading this post amongst my friends/family. I think I was born a minimalist (“CLEAR THE CLUTTER!”) but it’s only been over the past six months that I’ve been able to make the connection between simplicity and emotional/physical well being. Stories like yours reinforce my resolve, so I thank you! Steven

  12. Loren says

    Great Read. If you are looking for more options and a healthy way to overcome MS, I highly advise you to check out
    http://www.gerson.com
    or google “Gerson Therapy MS” for people discussing how gerson therapy helped change their lives. Good Luck to you!

  13. says

    These are excellent points and worth putting into practice in our daily lives. The biggest enemy, however, is procrastination. When we unclutter our lives, we can get to those life-changing goals. The most dangerous word we can use in response to this is… http://wp.me/p36il6-cj.

  14. Queen Mary says

    Joshua, this is so funny. I started with Courtney’s blog! But I’ve had to unsubscribe because it has become just a little too “bossy” I guess. I’m not really sure what the right word is but she is just a teensy weensy bit too sure; things are just a little bit too black and white on Be More With Less. Even today she has a long list of Mores. I think I’m more of a paragraph kind of a chick than a list kind of a chick, maybe that’s it! :) So I love what she shared on your blog today – thanks for sharing that with us.

  15. Marcelj says

    Dear Courtney Thankyou for your story. My brother has MS, since 96 and is doing well. There are great treatments out there now. Stanford University is a leader in this area. Stick with modern medicine first. And of course do all of those other things as well. I am a minimalist and just discovered this site. I now manage less than 100 things. I live this awesome pure life now, I am free of stuff and all that it entailed. It gets better everyday. I am thinking about you and care about you too. Surrender to life that you may live.

  16. says

    So I’m fourteen and my grandpas a hoarder and my dad and brother are very low level hoarders. Just like my grandma on my moms side, I’m a neat freak. When I was little I wasn’t and let me tell you my room was messy! But know I’ve been looking into all this minimalist business and I just can’t believe it. I always thought that I was wasting away my life focusing on getting the best education so I could make the most money so I could by the nicest stuff. I thought that it would be a pointless life and I really didn’t know what to do but know I really understand that I can do anything I want because I really don’t need stuff. Thank you for opening my eyes so early on in my life! I now have time to really focus on my studies of things that I like studying! -Rebecca

  17. Ashley says

    I like the principal behind the story, but I wish people would stop equating meat with poor health. If it is deep fried chicken maybe but it is all in how you fix it like everything..

    • avery toker says

      I agree with Ashley, they are finding farm diet is the best, diet out there vegetarians are not getting enough b12 period they are getting sick one by one, sorry to say do your research:)

      • avery toker says

        .what oils you cook with is the key back to animal oils not man-made oils veg, canola etc they are bad we need butter lard ghee don’t believe me check out the book nourishing traditions:) we have been lied to by society FOOD AND DRUG ADMIN, BAD INFO HISTORY CAN TEACH US ALOT THE GOOD PAZTURED RAISE ORGANIC FARMS HAVE THE ANSWER!!!!!
        d

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