Recently I had the chance to be a guest on the Sustainable Minimalist Podcast and talk with the host Stephanie a little bit about how sobriety was my gateway to simplifying my belongings and my mental load.
As I’ve mentioned before, Cait Flanders has been a big inspiration for me.
I remember I found her website when we’d first moved into our house and I was trying to figure out how to part with so many items that were no longer serving me but that I was struggling to let go of.
To be honest, I still struggle with “stuff” sometimes. With wanting to buy more. With wanting to hoard or keep or spend. But like sobriety, these are muscles that we work at.
Looking back, I can see that my year of sober curiosity, followed by my decision to cut alcohol out entirely, was the groundwork for being able to get rid of many of my belongings that I no longer needed, to finally tackle my debt, and to start to examine the reasons behind many of my choices.
The biggest thing I’ve gained over the past few years is the ability to ask why.
When I first stopped drinking, I would ask myself the following questions when I was tempted to drink:
- Why do I want a drink?
- Am I sad?
- Is there something healthier I could do with my time other than drink?
- How will I feel later tonight or tomorrow morning if I drink?
- Will I regret having this drink?
- Will I really feel better after this drink?
Just like with early sobriety, I now ask myself “why” questions about purchases and spending.
If I want to purchase something, I ask myself a few questions:
- Why do I want this item or service?
- How long will I use it/need it for?
- Can I borrow it?
- Can I do it myself?
- Do I actually need it, or am I just feeling bored/sad/anxious/less than?
If I determine that the item is actually a need or there is a really good reason to purchase, the following questions are asked:
- Can I get it used?
- Can I get it for free? (ie. a friend trade or at the library or a cheaper digital version)
And in some ways I’ve started to apply the same kinds of logic and “whys” to my time.
When I feel myself starting to crowd my calendar or commit to one too many events, I ask myself the following:
- What purpose is me attending this event serving?
- Seeing friends?
- Cultural Enrichment?
- Family time?
- All of the above?
- Am I attending this out of guilt/duty or because I want to?
- Is there something else I would rather do with my time?
- What else am I doing the day before, day of, and day after?
For me, all of these things (sobriety, spending, time and energy resources) are now linked.
The “why” muscle is something I now try to flex for all types of decisions in my life, and I will continue to work on.