Living With Less

An Alcoholic’s Perspective on Minimalism

Living With Less

An Alcoholic’s Perspective on Minimalism

As a society, we have an insatiable appetite for more stuff. It seems that we are trying to fill a void in our lives with excessive consumerism. Our consumer society is driven by mass production of things we really don’t need. As a result, we have environmental problems and insanity. The desire for more and more is driven by marketing, media and advertising. These institutions perpetuate an illusion that by buying certain products, we will be a better version of ourselves. The truth is that we often start as discontent, buy stuff to make ourselves feel good, but end up with even more discontent. We become dissatisfied because more stuff doesn’t make us truly happy. Minimalism is a trending philosophical movement that aims to reduce our individual discontent and improve our collective well-being.

Minimalism: A Documentary

What if you could be happier by consuming less? This evening I watched the film Minim@lism: Hurry! Buy more stuff!A Documentary About the Important Things. According to the Minimalists, who are the primary subject of this documentary, “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom.” In our society, we tend to assign too much meaning to our material possessions. By living a minimalist life, we can reclaim our health, relationships and happiness.

Minimalism sounds like a great companion strategy for those in recovery from alcohol and drugs. It helps a person to find “lasting happiness” by choosing life itself over the things in our lives. 

Minimalism and Recovery

As an alcoholic, I try to focus my energy on being a better person. Consumption of alcohol is no longer my purpose in life. In a way, I have chosen a minimalist path, where purpose and meaning are more important than consuming alcohol. In my personal recovery, I have found new freedom. There is now time in my day to get things done. The excess emotional baggage that weighed me down in active alcoholism is now gone. Creativity, not consumption, has become my primary motivation. There is sustainability in my life for the first time.

A tiny house
A tiny house in Portland, OR

As with any sort of social movement, minimalism has its critics. This article, “The Oppressive Gospel…” denounces minimalism as a trendy, arrogant sort of fashion, like Paleo dieting. While it is obvious that folks are trying to make a minimal living by sharing their ideas on the subject, I do believe there is substance in this “fad”. I believe that the authors documented in the Minimalism film genuinely want to improve people’s lives. It seems they sincerely want society to take responsibility for the resulting madness of consumerism.

For those of us in recovery, minimalism could be a helpful supplemental philosophy. Some of our core values, such as humility, gratitude and selflessness, are shared values. The recovery and minimalism movements could do a lot of good by working together. After all, being clean and sober is inherently a minimalist lifestyle. 

New Year’s Resolution

It is my resolution this year to be more conscious about my own consumerism and to get rid of clutter. The Minimalists have a 30-day Minimalism Game that I think I will try in January. Here is a full explanation but I will give you the basic idea:

  1. Find someone else who is willing to get rid of excess stuff.
  2. Starting in the next month, each day get rid of things that each of you possess.
  3. On the first day, get rid of one item. On the second day, get rid of two items. And so forth, until you have reached the end of the month.
  4. Whoever can make it the longest wins. If you both reach the end of the month, then you both win!


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