minimalism stresses

Minimalism vs. Life’s Stressors: Who Wins?

“Ever tried tidying up your room or decluttering your apps on your phone and hoped, magically, all life’s messes would follow suit? 

If it only were as easy as that.

So, let’s have another battle, shall we?

This time, it’s Minimalism vs. Life’s Stressors.

In one corner, we’ve got the heavyweight champion, Life’s Stressors, notorious for fighting pretty dirty, not caring about rules, throwing punches like job losses, heartbreaks, and family death cases. 

In the other, the elegant minimalist. 

This fighter is often seen in decluttering life, one drawer at a time. 

Who takes home the gold? Spoiler: It’s life stressors. Since it’s a dirty fighter, it often sneaks in Depression as the referee. 

But no worries, since it fights dirty, we can use more than just one fighter.

So this tag team match features a surprise partner for Minimalism: Stoicism. 

Now, let’s dive into how these two philosophies tango to face life’s curveballs. 


Let Me Introduce to You… Life’s 10 Most Common Stressors

According to PsychCentral Life’s ten most common stressors are…

  • The Death of a Spouse
  • Death of a close family member
  • Marriage (yes, you read that one right)
  • Divorce
  • Marital Separation
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Being incarcerated
  • Major personal injury or illness
  • Being fired or laid off from work
  • Retirement

Now we dig a bit deeper into each of one…


The Death of a Spouse

Losing a spouse is like the world’s pulled out from under you. 

You’re faced with a tidal wave of emotions – sadness, anger, and that overwhelming loneliness. 

And it’s not just the emotional side. 

Suddenly, bills, parenting, and even just taking out the trash can feel like mountains. 

And here’s a kicker: WebMD suggests that such a loss might even affect our physical health.

According to them, “your heart may not pump blood as well for a while. It can feel like a heart attack, but it usually doesn’t damage your heart or block your arteries.” 

It’s more than heartache; it’s your whole life doing a 180. 

So words can’t truly capture it,


Death of a Close Family Member

Similar to the death of a spouse, losing a close family member is like an anchor being ripped away. 

Suddenly, familiar gatherings have an empty chair and old memories become both a comfort and a sharp pang of pain. 

This loss is a heavy emotional toll, bringing waves of grief, regret, and, often, unanswered questions. 

The American Psychological Association notes that such a loss can disrupt our daily functioning and even impact our physical health. 

As for the death of a spouse, the same physical health effects as laid out in the WebMD article earlier apply here.



Often seen as a joyous union, marriage can surprisingly pack its share of stress. 

Sure, there’s love and partnership, but it also brings adjustments. 

Merging two lives means navigating differences in habits, values, and expectations. 

Think about it: financial decisions, in-laws, or even what’s for dinner can spark tension. 

Balancing personal space with shared responsibilities? 

It’s a dance. 

This study points out that marital conflict can impact mental well-being. 

Especially among midlife and older adults, it can manifest as Depression.

So, while tying the knot can be dreamy (hopefully in a minimalist wedding), it’s also about learning, growing, and sometimes compromising. 



Divorce isn’t just signing papers; it’s an emotional whirlwind. 

It marks the end of shared dreams and often comes with feelings of failure, conflict, and loss. 

Financial strains? 

They usually tag along with legal fees and sudden shifts in living standards. 

If kids (or cats) are involved, the stress magnifies, balancing their well-being with custody battles. 

Psychology Today suggests that divorce can have long-lasting psychological and adverse effects on physical health, such as depression, illness in general, and substance abuse.

So, the whole process is not just about splitting assets.

It’s about reshaping your entire life. 

It’s complex, challenging, and hits on so many levels.


Marital Separation

Marital separation, even when amicable, can feel like navigating a storm. 

It’s like a “soft divorce”.

The dreams of forever suddenly shift, replaced by uncertainties and emotional turbulence. 

There’s the task of disentangling shared lives, which can mean dividing possessions, adjusting finances, or co-parenting from a distance. 

And emotionally? 

It’s a rollercoaster. 

Loneliness, guilt, relief, and regret often mingle. 

Marital separation also can lead to depression, according to this source.

So, it’s not just about living apart; it’s the redefinition of personal identity without the familiar “we.” 


Marital Reconciliation

Marital reconciliation, though painted with hope, carries its own weight of stress. 

It’s not just reigniting old flames; it’s confronting the ashes of past conflicts and misunderstandings. 

Both partners tread carefully, navigating trust issues, communication breakdowns, and residual hurt. 

The desire to rebuild is countered by the fear of history repeating. 

While reconciling offers a shot at rekindled love and a renewed bond, it’s a delicate dance of healing, relearning, and immense vulnerability.


Being Incarcerated

Being incarcerated is another tough life stressor.

And it’s not just about confinement.

It’s a monumental upheaval of freedom, identity, and daily routine. 

The stark environment, defined by rigid rules and loss of personal agency, can profoundly impact mental health. 

The isolation from loved ones and potential threats of violence create an atmosphere laden with tension. 

According to the American Psychological Association, inmates often grapple with heightened rates of depression, anxiety, hostility, and paranoid ideation.

Every day becomes a struggle, not just against physical bars but against feelings of worthlessness and dehumanization. 


Major Personal Injury or Illness

A major personal injury or illness is more than just a physical setback.

It’s a sudden and stark confrontation with vulnerability. 

Overnight, routines are disrupted, aspirations derailed, and the ease of everyday life upended. 

The consequences?

Feelings of helplessness, depression, and even cognitive changes.

So, it’s not just about pain or treatment but facing a potential shift in identity and the anxiety of an uncertain future. 


Being Fired or Laid Off from Work

Firstly, being fired or laid off is a professional blow.

However, it’s much more. It’s also an emotional gut punch. 

Suddenly, the stability and purpose work provided evaporates, leaving in its wake insecurities about your self-worth and future prospects. 

Financial anxieties soar, with bills and responsibilities looming. 

A Swedish study suggests that job loss can lead to depression.

What surprised me in this study is that not only can depression be an effect of job loss, but it can also be a cause.



Retirement, often romanticized as the golden years, has its hidden undercurrents of stress. 

It’s not just clocking out for good; it’s a seismic shift in identity, purpose, and daily rhythm. 

No more Monday blues and TGIF, but now what? 

That structure work provided? 


This paper suggests that retirement can lead to depression and anxiety.

Using a bit of common sense and empathy, it is likely that this translation may also come with feelings of aimlessness and loneliness.

So, while retirement promises relaxation and freedom, it’s also a journey of redefining oneself, filled with challenges and readjustments in this new life chapter.


The Core Principles of Minimalism: A Recap

minimalism stresses

I discussed the core principles of Minimalism in-depth in various articles, such as in my article “Minimalism vs. Maximalism: Which Is Better?“.

However, since it’s essential for the remainder of this article, I will recap them shortly below.

Minimalism is more than tidying up your space, as you might’ve gleaned from my posts or others. 

It’s a life approach that brings sharpness and purpose. 

Here is a short recap of the core principles of Minimalism:

  • Intentionality 
  • Simplicity 
  • Quality over quantity 
  • Mindfulness 
  • Mental clarity 
  • Flexibility 
  • Authenticity
  • Personal Growth 
  • Embracing limits/ Self-sufficiency 


How Minimalism Can Help You Navigate, Not Beat, Life Stressors

Considering a battle between life stressors vs. Minimalism, the stressors events will always come out on top.


Well, most of them you can’t control and prevent from happening. It’s just life.

In other words, it’s not that you can just apply minimalism principles to various aspects of your life and “puff” suddenly you will no longer have to deal with life stressor events.

However, Minimalism can help you reduce the risk of some and help you navigate all of them so their adverse effects are mitigated.

Let’s see how it can help you…


Navigating the Death of a Spouse and That of a Close Family Member With Minimalism 

While Minimalism is not a solution in a difficult life situation like the death of a spouse or a close family member, it offers solace in these times. 

How so?

Its principles of simplicity and intentionality can help create a serene environment, reducing external stressors and distractions. 

This allows for deeper introspection and processing of emotions. 

Holding onto genuinely meaningful keepsakes, instead of being overwhelmed by possessions, aids in cherishing cherished memories. 

In addition, Minimalism’s emphasis on nurturing quality relationships ensures a cushioned support system of friends and family. 

Minimalism provides clarity and focus amidst the tumultuous waves of profound grief.


Navigating Marriage With Minimalism

Minimalism can act as a guiding light in marriage and the stressors that can come with it. 

Couples can sidestep many financial disputes by emphasizing fewer possessions, which are common hitches. 

A minimalist approach to time means prioritizing quality moments together over the whirlwind of needless commitments. 

It encourages clear communication, stripping away societal expectations to focus on what truly matters for the couple. 

By cherishing experiences over items, couples can build deeper bonds. 


Navigating Divorce & Marital Separation With Minimalism

Navigating the intertwined challenges of divorce and marital separation is complex, but Minimalism can offer clarity amidst the chaos. 

This is especially true when you apply the minimalist principle of intentionality. 

It means making choices based on genuine needs, not just emotions or societal pressures, aiding in clearer decision-making during legal processes. 

When you emphasize simplicity, Minimalism can help you detach from the overwhelming material disputes that often arise. 

Prioritizing quality relationships ensures a supportive network when handling the emotional toll. 

Furthermore, embracing minimalistic principles in your daily life assists in self-reflection and rediscovery, which is crucial during such transitions. 

While pain doesn’t vanish, Minimalism offers tools to face these challenges with focus and resilience.


Navigating Marital Reconciliation With Minimalism

Regarding marital reconciliation, Minimalism can provide you with a framework for rebuilding. 

It nudges couples to strip away external pressures and focus on the core issues by advocating for simplicity. 

Intentionality, one of the core principles of Minimalism, encourages honest conversations and genuine efforts rather than just going through the motions. 

Now, when you start valuing quality over quantity, couples can prioritize meaningful shared experiences to reforge bonds. 

In addition, decluttering physical and emotional spaces can help you get rid of old resentments. 


Navigating Being Incarcerated With Minimalism

Here, Minimalism can serve you as a mental tool. 

However, you may also want to combine this philosophy with its cousin, Stoicism.

With limited control over physical surroundings, the minimalist approach shifts focus inward, emphasizing mental clarity and emotional resilience. 

It encourages finding value in the intangibles – relationships, memories, and personal growth. 

This mindset helps individuals appreciate the few meaningful interactions and lessons even behind bars. 

When cultivating a minimalist perspective, you can learn to reduce mental clutter, finding solace in simplicity and introspection. 


Navigating Major Personal Injury or Illness With Minimalism

Regarding major personal injury or illness, Minimalism is less about possessions and more about mindset. 

Again, you may also want to use Stoicism as a tool you combine with it.

Minimalism teaches you to strip away non-essentials, allowing us to focus on healing and well-being. 

By simplifying life, you can prioritize crucial medical appointments and self-care over less important commitments. 

Here, the minimalist principle of quality over quantity comes into play. 

It helps in valuing meaningful support from loved ones during recovery. 

And in passing, you may also identify toxic friendships during these times.


Navigating Being Fired or Laid Off from Work With Minimalism

In a job loss scenario, Minimalism can equip you to live within your means, making financial adjustments easier during income uncertainty. 

Embracing simplicity, you’re guided to reevaluate what matters, often discovering that self-worth isn’t solely tied to a job title. 

The principle of intentionality makes you introspect, potentially leading you to new career paths or passions. 

While it won’t replace the job, Minimalism offers a framework to recalibrate, refocus, and move forward with clarity and purpose.

Navigating Retirement With Minimalism

Through Minimalism, you can find grounding during your transition time into retirement. 

By valuing simplicity, retirees can adjust to a fixed income, ensuring financial ease. 

Instead of seeing retirement as a void, Minimalism can encourage you to embrace it as an opportunity to “declutter” one’s schedule, making room for long-postponed passions or hobbies. 

The principle of intentionality will help you focus on a purposeful post-career life, shaping meaningful days. 

Quality over quantity becomes essential as one cultivates deeper relationships with loved ones and fellow retirees. 


The Bottom Line

When you look at the particular mental health issues that can arise with the above life stressors, you may have found the same common theme as me.

What is it?

It’s Depression. Almost 90%, if not all, in some shape or form, can lead to depression.

And Minimalism has its limits. 

It will not win against these stressors but rather work as a compass to mitigate the effects and, in some cases, reduce the risks (e.g., mindful communication in relationships).

Not all minimalist principles can be used for these life stressors.


Because these life stressors require mostly a more inward approach. 

However, as I pointed out in my article “Minimalism & Stoicism: The Twin Paths to Ultimate Peace?” Minimalism is slightly more externally oriented.

And where Minimalism ends, Stoicism begins. So, to tackle the life stressors, you want to use both in tandem.


Stoicism can also help you develop mental and emotional strength and rational control over emotions. 

That is the area where Minimalism and Stoicism don’t overlap. 

But when you apply both in combination and fuel one with the other, it can be a powerful toolset to be prepared when life throws you one of the above curve balls.



This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication per our editorial policy.