How a Hospital Stay Made Me Even Happier to Be a Minimalist

I had unexpected surgery at the end of February, and as a result, I appreciated the benefits of minimalism even more than I usually do.

Sickness, injury, or long-term infirmity offer even more reasons to simplify and streamline what you own.  When you can't personally keep up with chores, and rely on someone else for physical care plus help around the house, it's even more important to own less of what you don't need!

home sick

The prescription: minimalism

All of those little maintenance jobs such as making the bed, keeping up with mail and laundry, stocking and cleaning the kitchen, and putting things away after use become so much harder when you're feeling weak and lousy.  Yet when we don't manage these things, home can very quickly become cluttered and even dirty.  And that will add to your feelings of being stuck, with your personal space spiraling out of your control.  Soon, you may feel even less able to cope with your needs, and may even experience depression.

Many of us had these same feelings during COVID lockdowns, when crowded messy homes led to a huge case of cabin fever.  I also remember feeling somewhat the same when I was a new mother.

With less to care for, you can save your energy for getting well or getting stronger.  You can save the energy of your helpers for caring for you and keeping you company, rather than maintaining the livability of your house.  And you can more easily experience the lightness of spirit that comes from spending time in a clean, orderly, non-cluttered space that's easier to move around in, even when it's not so easy for you to move around.

7 areas where streamlining can help your recuperation

1.  Smaller space

A smaller home is easy to sweep, vacuum, and otherwise clean up.  If you're feeling hemmed in by your walls, open a window, especially if it lets in sunshine and a fresh breeze.  (Keep a cozy blanket and a comfy neck pillow* in a basket by your chair.)  Broaden your horizons by calling a friend to chat, listening to some of your favorite music, or reading a book that takes you to another time or place.  If you can do any of these activities while sitting on a porch or patio, so much the better!

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

2.  Streamlined bathroom

Keep only the most basic toiletries in the shower and cupboards, easy to access and put away.  Use hooks for towels.  As I eased my way through the most basic of grooming rituals (helped by a short, easy-care hair style and no makeup except tinted lip balm), I felt fresher and more like myself.  One luxury I appreciated was a rich, soothing, non-greasy lotion for extra-dry hands and feet.

3.  Organized medications

It was worth my time to write out a schedule for taking the various meds I needed, and all the bottles lived in one basket on the corner of my kitchen counter.

4.  Capsule wardrobe

Choose something easy to wear each day.  I chose loose black pants with a colorful long-sleeved cotton tee shirt.  If I needed to visit the doctor, I added black socks and my slip-on black Sketcher's Go Walks, plus a cozy black-and-white wool and cotton shawl.  Everything could be thrown into one cold wash load as needed, and no energy was wasted on deliberating about what I would wear.

5.  Simpler kitchen

It was so much easier to eat the same things for every breakfast and lunch, with the only variation coming at dinnertime.  It shortened the grocery shopping for my husband and made the routine meal preparations a snap.  We also chose simple foods to fix, such as scrambled eggs, oatmeal with fresh fruit, toasted whole wheat English muffins with nut butter or cheese, various packaged organic soups, etc  We used fewer cooking tools and eating utensils, which made kitchen cleanup quick and easy too.

comfy bed
6.  Easier activity

Be gentle on yourself as you recover.  I found that when I pushed or felt guilty about all I wasn't accomplishing, I felt more useless and tired, which didn't help my mental or physical state.  I maintained my writing habit with one sentence a day, even if that sentence was "It's raining."  Sometimes what I wrote became a paragraph, or two, or more.

Use the Pomodoro method to help you feel that you're at least somewhat productive and to keep time from hanging heavily when your energy and mobility are at a low ebb.  Do an activity for just 25 minutes (or even less if you're in recovery), then take a five-minute break.  Even if you're only watching television, take short, regular breaks to stand, walk, stretch, get a drink, or something else that refreshes you.  You'll feel better if you don't just sit for hour after hour, and you'll find yourself with more focus and a brighter outlook.

7.  Use what you have.

If you're stuck at home because of illness, now's the time to bring out the hobbies you've neglected.  Use what you already have!  And if you still can't muster the enthusiasm to get back into beading, bonsai, or board games, don't just stuff them back in the closet.  Pack them up for donation, because they're part of your past.  Maybe you'll find enthusiasm for a new hobby if you make room for it. 

Minimalism every day

I've fully recovered from my surgery, but the simple routines I practiced when I was weak and in pain work every day to make life simpler and more enjoyable.  Whether you're struggling or at the peak of health, consider how minimalism can make life better for you today.

Whether you actually move from your current home into a smaller living space, or simply undertake a radical declutter, it's a challenge.  But it's also a chance to reinvent yourself and carry just the essentials into your new life.  By releasing decades'-worth of accumulated items, you can emerge with more energy and freedom.  You're ready to look ahead, not back.

Downsizing can be hard, or it can be easier.  My book, Downsize Now: The Joy of Decluttering for a Fresh Start, will give you the tools and inspiration to get the job done so you can start enjoying all the benefits.  You get all the scientifically-proven plusses of living without a load of useless baggage, such as:

  • less stress
  • less indecision
  • less home care
  • more ease
  • more clarity
  • more focus and concentration
  • more energy and creativity
  • more gratitude for all you have
  • more time, more room, and more money for what matters most to you!

Get your copy of Downsize Now so you can start enjoying these good things today.


  1. Aunt Diane from StreatorMay 2, 2024 at 7:02 AM

    ๐Ÿ™๐ŸปPraying for your complete & speedy recovery!๐Ÿ™๐ŸปEat when you’re hungry. Sleep when you’re tired. Work when you’re able.๐Ÿ’•


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