20 People Talk About the “Essential” Things They Lived Without and Were Better Because of It

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New pairs of shoes, a daily or weekly coffee run, or an extra dinner. We often take these small wants for granted and treat them as needs, but there are many who are living with far less.

You never know what you can live with or without until you try, or until life puts you in a different position. One Redditor posted this on a forum and got some interesting answers:

“What’s something that you once believed to be essential in your life, but after going without, decided it really wasn’t?”

We sifted through the thread so we could show things that stood out. TW (trigger warning) this post mentions a lot of substances, mainly from people who decided to kick the habit.

20. Smokes


Every day I would tell myself, “this is bad for you, but you can quit any time” it seemed like I was in control when I really wasn’t. I saw it as essential without seeing it as “essential” if you know what I mean. I believe that is what makes cigarettes so addictive. They make you lie to yourself.

Once I stopped, I truly felt like I could live the rest of my life without tobacco.”


19. Having Others Around

“I believed it was essential to be accompanied by people so that I wouldn’t feel lonely.

However, I have realised that there’s a massive difference between being alone and feeling lonely.

Sometimes I don’t feel lonely despite being alone, and other times I end up feeling lonely even though I have company.”


18. Elementary School Workbooks

“I used to hold on to every single work book from my primary and secondary school, bits of cardboard and fabric I could use for stuff and other stuff like that.

After moving out of a house for a year then returning, I realised I’m never actually going to do stuff with them.

Living without them for a year helped me see I don’t need to hold on to this stuff, which I think saved me from a potential hoarding problem.”


17. Opioid Maintenance

“Suboxone, the opioid maintenance medication, it’s helpful for many, and I believe it helped me to a certain extent, however every time I would try to get off of it I would land right back where I started.

After the last time once I had picked up using again, I decided to just cold turkey instead of getting back on the medication.

Once the withdrawals and mental fog cleared, I rediscovered actual joy.”


16. Heroin, After A While Though

“Heroin. cost me eight inches of my intestines, a girlfriend, roughly $80,000, a vehicle, my home and all but one friend.​

I started opiates after hurricane Matthew came through my state and destroyed my home. My grandmother gave me an oxycodone for a migraine, which I had never heard of at the time. Every single ounce of pain and depression washed away. I was convinced it was absolutely essential in my life from that point on.

How wrong I was…”


15. Different Beauty Treatments

“Probably sounds vain, but things like eyelash extensions or getting my nails done.

Really thought I needed those things to feel pretty.”


14. A Swimming Pool

“A fucking swimming pool.

My god what a mistake. I used to just lay awake at night and listen to my electric meter run.

Kids, take it from me. Join a pool, don’t own one.”


13. New Fashion Fads

“New clothes.

I used to do the ‘seasonal shop’. 1-10 new items for every season (all ‘necessities’) so 4 times a year. I had over three closets worth of clothes, including things I’d had in high school (10 years ago.) A year ago I decided that not buying new clothes would be a good way to reduce my spending, so I started only buying clothes that truly filled a gap or replaced something I had actually worn out.

Which means that in a year I have only bought one work dress, one pair of leggings, one ‘basics’ shirt, and one special event outfit. I started gutting my huge collection of clothing, and getting rid of all the items I didn’t absolutely love wearing (or need for work.)

It has been freeing and I would never go back to the seasonal shop life.”


12. Ending Meals With This…


I cut back massively on sweets 18 months ago and I’ve lost 60-65 pounds.

I didn’t really miss sweets after a while.”


11. Disposables

“Paper towels.

During university I was too cheap and broke to pay for them, so I went without. Once I got used to using washable cloths to clean up, I didn’t even really feel the need for paper towels.

Now that I’m out of school I can afford to buy paper towels I keep some around, I realize how wasteful they are and I try to use them sparingly.”


10. Paying For Water

“Bottled water.

I live in an area with safe tap water – it doesn’t taste great, but gets the job done.

When coronavirus hit and there was a crazy rush on bottled water, I couldn’t get my hands on any.

Turns out, I don’t care about bottled water. I’m drinking tap water like a champ now, and it’s practically free.”


9. Sweet Additions

“Sugar in coffee or tea.

I freely chose to give it up – and I don’t miss it.”


8. Slavish Routines

“A rigorous skincare routine.

But only because no matter what I try, my skin seems to stay the same, which I’m fine with.”


7. Coloring

“Coloring my gray hair.

Waste of money and time. I no longer care if it makes me look old.

Women spend a lot of money to get the beautiful platinum color i have naturally.”


6. Sisters and Brothers

“Bullying siblings.

For years I thought I had to keep accommodating them, tying myself into knots to try to get their approval or even just acceptance, because they came out of the same uterus as me.

It turns out that going no contact at all, calmly and without malice, was easy and oh so peaceful.”


5. Caffeine!!!


Thanks to a series of events, I was unable to have my morning cup of joe and had to go without it this month. thanks corona!

Thanks to quitting, my acne has cleared up and I feel a little bit better without the High highs and the low lows.

Also the never ending chase of the caffeine dragon is a plus.”


4. Toxicity

“I had a lot of toxic friends in my early 20s and in retrospect it definitely had a negative impact on my life.

Decided to go back to college at 25 and just cut off contact with them.

My life has dramatically improved by vetting those I let in my inner circle.”


3. Approval

“Approval/ confirmation of others.

Took me way too long to realize that I do not need confirmation of others as a prove that something is wrong – and the other way round if they deny it it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”


2. Cast Off Those Labels


I spent about 25 years thinking that I needed to clearly define myself by labels in order to fit in or gain respect. Ultimately I found that none of the many many labels on places like tumblr applied to me with the precision I wanted. This struggle with my identity bothered me badly for a very long time.

I finally realized that even if I did manage to encapsulate the whole of my being into one line of text, what exactly what I do with that information? The only result I can see now would be that I’d just limit my behavior and preferences to continue adhering to those labels, and I’d be afraid to allow change into my life.

And also, no one cares. My value to a person or group is based on my skills in the context of the group, not on some overcomplicated ‘identity resume.’

I’ll still call myself by certain approximate labels when necessary to add context to a comment, but I don’t make them a priority in my life anymore. It’s actually quite enjoyable to just be a nebulous entity – I don’t have to behave based on some set of rules that I picked out.”


1. And Finally, Dating!


I can’t do it. I tried it. I just get tired of having to always consider the needs of another person when I want to do something.

I couldn’t imagine moving in with somebody for the rest of my life.”


Maybe some of these things were never essential to you, but what’s important is that people were able to realize that they were much tougher than their circumstances in some way.

Do you have something that left your life and made you realize you didn’t need it?

Share away in the comments!