Why Highly Sensitive People Need Minimalism

Why Highly Sensitive People need minimalism

As I mentioned in my post 7 Benefits of Minimalism, one of the key benefits of minimalism for me is it calms me as a Highly Sensitive Person. A lot of people feel stressed or unsettled in a cluttered environment. But Highly Sensitive People particularly feel the effects of chaos and clutter. Too much sensory information, including visual clutter, can easily make a Highly Sensitive Person feel overwhelmed and stressed.

I already knew clutter makes me feel unsettled and stressed. But after realizing I am a Highly Sensitive Person, it became even more important to strive for a simple, minimalist life. In fact, I think Highly Sensitive People NEED minimalism.

Why Highly Sensitive People need minimalism

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What is a Highly Sensitive Person?

But first, what exactly does being a Highly Sensitive Person mean? The field of study of Highly Sensitive People is a fairly new area of research, with Dr. Elaine Aron spearheading it in the 1990s. She describes Highly Sensitive People as those who “have a sensitive nervous system, are aware of subtleties in their surroundings, and are more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.” Dr. Aron estimates Highly Sensitive People make up approximately 15 – 20% of the population. However, it is still not very well understood by the majority of people.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t even know what a Highly Sensitive Person was. One day I read an article about it and it was as if I was reading about myself! I realized many things I thought were just my own little idiosyncrasies, were actually things other people experienced too. And better yet, there was even a name for it! It was a relief to find out that other people experienced these same things.

After realizing being a Highly Sensitive Person is a “thing”, it became easier to acknowledge and accept these aspects of myself. And make adjustments in my life where possible. I realized by accepting them as part of who I am and working with them, rather than against them, I could live a happier, calmer life.

Characteristics of Highly Sensitive People

These are some common characteristics of Highly Sensitive People. The more of these things you relate to, the higher the likelihood that you are a Highly Sensitive Person too.

1. Sensory information easily overwhelms you

Things like loud sounds, bright lights, strong smells or uncomfortable fabric textures can overwhelm and unsettle a Highly Sensitive Person. Large crowds or busy environments have the same effect.

2. Multi-tasking stresses you out

Highly Sensitive People feel stressed out, anxious and overwhelmed if they have a lot to do in a short amount of time. Having too much to do, being overly busy or rushing leaves a highly sensitive person feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

3. Violence in movies, TV shows or media deeply disturbs you

Witnessing violence in TV shows, movies or news stories deeply upsets and disturbs Highly Sensitive People. It’s hard for them to get the image or idea of it out of their minds. And they can feel unsettled about it for weeks afterwards.

4. You need quiet time alone after a busy day

After a busy or overwhelming day, Highly Sensitive People find themselves desperate for some quiet time. Often needing to spend time alone in a calm space, such as a quiet, softly lit room. Highly Sensitive People need time and space to shut the world out and recharge. This is true particularly after a busy day or after experiencing a lot of sensory information.

5. You carefully plan your days to avoid overwhelming situations

Highly Sensitive People work hard to plan and schedule their days to avoid situations that overwhelm or upset them. They make sure to provide themselves with ample time to complete tasks. And avoid having to do more than one task at the same time or in a short amount of time whenever possible.

6. You are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine or hunger

Highly Sensitive People tend to strongly feel the effects of caffeine, feeling shakey or jittery after consuming it. Their bodies also tend to be very sensitive to hunger. When they become overly hungry, it greatly affects their mood and ability to concentrate or complete tasks.

7. You have a complex inner dialogue and imagination

Highly Sensitive People often find themselves getting lost in your own thoughts and have a deep and complex inner life.

Highly Sensitive People tend to replay and analyze conversations and experiences in their minds. They often go over all the possible different outcomes that could have happened in their mind. Highly Sensitive People are often told they worry too much, or overthink things.

The flip side of this is they also tend to be creative. They have deep imaginations and spend a lot of time thinking of new and creative ideas.

8. People often describe you as overly sensitive or shy

Highly Sensitive People are still not well understood, and are often mislabeled. They are often told they are being too sensitive or overly emotional. Or even that they need to toughen up or get thicker skin. They are often also mislabeled as shy because they need to spend time alone and avoid some overstimulating situations.

9. You tend to notice details in your environment others miss

Highly Sensitive People tend to be very observant of their surroundings, often noticing details others may miss.

10. You easily pick up on others’ emotions

Highly Sensitive People often pick up on the moods and emotions of people around them. They may even take on the emotions of people around them at times. This is one reason busy environments and social situations can be exhausting for Highly Sensitive People.

11. Change is particularly difficult and upsetting for you

Most Highly Sensitive People have a daily routine they follow to feel grounded and avoid feeling overwhelmed. When they experience change, even exciting and positive changes, they often feel unsettled and overwhelmed by the change. Highly Sensitive People also often require longer to adjust to changes in their lives than other people.

Finding Ways to Cope as a Highly Sensitive Person

Why Highly Sensitive People need minimalism

Many different things can overwhelm a Highly Sensitive Person. The key to thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person is finding healthy ways to cope with things that overwhelm you. And work to limit or control your exposure to things that make you overwhelmed.

Although there are some overwhelming elements and situations a Highly Sensitive Person has no control over. There are some things we are able to control. One of the most important things we can control is our home and the environment inside it.

We have the choice to intentionally create a home that can be our retreat. A refuge from the chaos and over stimulation of the outside world. A place to rest and recharge. A sanctuary. This applies not only for Highly Sensitive People, but for anyone.

Why Highly Sensitive People Need Minimalism

Minimalism and decluttering are so important for Highly Sensitive People. Clutter in our homes adds to the external stimulus that makes us feel overwhelmed and stressed. A cluttered room filled with too much stuff can make anyone feel unsettled. But especially a Highly Sensitive Person.

Clutter and too much stuff adds to the sensory information overload that can be overwhelming for a Highly Sensitive Person. A cluttered space gives our eyes and our minds fewer opportunities to rest. There are simply too many things to look at and take in. Clutter makes it difficult for Highly Sensitive People to relax or rest because they are bombarded with too much sensory information.

Now imagine a room with very little clutter, clear surfaces and room to breathe. A space likes this creates feelings of openness, calm and relaxation. Having a clutter-free space with clear surfaces provides a place for your eyes and mind to rest.

A calm and uncluttered environment helps to keep our minds calm and uncluttered. This is especially true for Highly Sensitive People. Minimalism allows Highly Sensitive People to create the environment they need to truly rest, relax and recharge. Especially after facing the world and all it’s sensory overload throughout the day.

I’m a Highly Sensitive Person….and That’s OK!

Sometimes being a Highly Sensitive Person can be made to seem like a negative thing. When we are told we are too sensitive, overthink things or need to toughen up, it implies being a Highly Sensitive Person is a bad thing. Like it’s a character flaw we must fix or overcome to be a more successful person.

However, after learning more about Highly Sensitive People, I now know it is simply the way we are. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just who we are. There are benefits and drawbacks to being a Highly Sensitive Person. Just as there are to almost any personality trait. The key is finding ways to build on the benefits and support yourself through the drawbacks.

For example, Highly Sensitive People tend to be creative, empathetic, compassionate and understanding. All of which are things to celebrate. On the other hand, Highly Sensitive People can feel frazzled and overwhelmed easily, struggle with change and easily become “hangry”. These are aspects of being a Highly Sensitive Person that can have negative effects on your life. But you can manage them by understanding, embracing and accounting for these parts of your personality.

The more I learn to embrace these innate personality traits and not fight against being a Highly Sensitive Person, the easier and more peaceful life has become.

Minimalism is One of the Key Ways I Cope with Being a Highly Sensitive Person

Why Highly Sensitive People need minimalism

Learning more about being a Highly Sensitive Person gave me more motivation to declutter, minimize and simplify our lives.

I know I need our home to be a calm and clutter-free space for me to be able to stay calm amidst the overstimulating chaos and busyness of the outside world and life with small children. Simplifying our home and life has had a huge positive impact on me, because I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. This proved to me that the path of minimizing and simplifying was the right one for me to be on.

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

To learn more about Highly Sensitive People, check out Dr. Aron’s website for lots of great information. You can even take her test to find out if you are a Highly Sensitive Person.

Dr. Aron also has several books about thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person that I recommend:

                  

Now I’m going sit in my quiet living room and drink tea in all my highly sensitive glory! 😉

Are there any other Highly Sensitive People out there who are/were relieved to know it is a “thing”? Who else is a Highly Sensitive Person working to simplify, declutter and minimize their lives? Leave a comment below!

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14 Comments

  1. Yes, it is very likely that I’m a HSP! Most of the characteristics that you listed of the highly sensitive person describe me to a T. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. I can relate to this idea so much. I have a constant struggle between my shopping habit that I sometimes use as a coping mechanism (such a horrible habit I know!!!) and the desire to have less stuff. As a highly sensitive person the clutter with 4 children is hard. The constant emotional and sensory overload paired with the overaccumulation of stuff is sometimes just overwhelming and discouraging. Thank you so much for sharing this article as it makes me feel more normal in this struggle.

    1. I was the same Jamie, it felt like such a relief to know I wasn’t the only one who felt this way! Kids definitely add another level of challenge to the mix. Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed as well by the noise, constantly being touched by the kids and just the messes kids can make in what seems like no time at all! Since seriously decluttering our home and staying on top of what is coming into the house, it’s helped a lot. But it definitely takes time. I fully understand and have empathy for the struggle! Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. I can totally relate to this! Sometimes I’ll be running around, tidying things away, and my husband will ask me” “why don’t you just sit down and relax for a while?”. My response is always the same: “I’ll only be able to relax when all the clutter is put away!”. The curse of a highly sensitive person 🙂

    1. Yes!! You’re so right!! We just got home a few days ago from a big holiday away and I felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we had when we got home. Both stuff we took with us for all the various activities we did while away (boating, golfing, outside games, swimming gear, etc.) as well as the new stuff we brought home thanks to birthday gifts for my little guy and other little gifts from generous family members. It wasn’t until I did some quick purging and got everything put away that I felt like I could finally settle down and take a breath. Thanks for reading!

  4. Hi Melissa,
    I just ran across your post on highly sensitive people and like you thought I was reading an article about myself. It’s the craziest thing! A friend of mine used o tell me that Pisces individuals need time alone and tend to feel stress in their feet because I used to tell him that I get very grounded when I go to the beach at sunset and walk in the sand. It’s actually funny because my husband and I just had a conversation on the subject of change; I plan trips and make reservations and pack and then he says “what about we do this….”. I lose my mind!!
    Recently with the tiny house movement I find myself thinking that a tiny house could totally be my happy place. My husband doesn’t get it all however we do own a travel trailer now and talking about in 2 years going on the road in our RV so I’m getting there! Thanks for sharing and I plan on reading more on highly sensitive people.

    1. Yes, isn’t it interesting to learn more about it when you relate to being a Highly Sensitive Person so much?! I totally relate to you about being a planner and then being completely thrown off by change. It’s not my idea of fun! Your plans to travel in your RV sound great, I’d love to do that sometime too! Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences!

  5. Bloody hell, that checklist of characteristics is basically me in a nutshell. I’m not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, but in the past year I’ve got rid of a lot of useless stuff and it really has helped clear my mind. I do get more edgy if my home is cluttered. I feel like I can’t concentrate. Thanks for bringing this concept of a highly sensitive person to my attention! Didn’t even know it was a thing… 🙂

    1. Isn’t it amazing how getting rid of the excess stuff can not only clear your space, but also your mind?! I’m totally the same when my space is cluttered, I literally can’t relax or even concentrate either until I get it tidied up again. I’m glad you found the post helpful and it gave you some new information. My perspective completely changed when I first learned about the concept of Highly Sensitive People. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience!

  6. Oh my gosh. These perfectly describe me! Like, completely! 😂 I’m sending this to my husband now. Thank you, this was a wonderful article. The idea of minimalism has always caught my interest, and I find myself throwing out things that don’t have a “place” in our home all the time. Definitely going to look into minimalism more.

    1. Thank you Victoria, I’m so happy to hear you found the post interesting and helpful! It’s always nice to know that other people experience some of the same things you do, at least it was for me! I’m excited that you’re interesting in learning more about minimalism, that’s so great! Let me know if you have any questions! Thanks for reading 🙂

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