A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Blowing Bubbles in Your Milk: The Art of Asking Why

Sometimes all it takes to shake up our reality, is to ask the simple question: “Why?”

“Don’t blow bubbles in your milk, honey.” “Why, mommy?” “Because it’s bad manners.” “Why?” “Because you just shouldn’t make bubbles with your drink.” “But why?” Hmm, at this point I really just want to say, “because I said so,” when it occurs to me that I really don’t have a good reason why. It’s just something I was taught that I’ve accepted as reality.  While there are certain things that have to fall in the category of “because I said so,” this doesn’t seem to be one of them. At that point, I change my tactic and say, “Well, please don’t make a mess and no one needs to hear your bubbles.” And with that, my son went back to happily blowing bubbles in his milk.

If you’ve ever spent much time around a three-year-old, you know that asking the question, “Why?” is one of their favorite pastimes. Every statement, every request, and even every answer to a previous question is meant with repeatedly asking, “Why?” Although it can be exhausting to answer the same question over and over again, children learn by asking the question “why” . . . and so can we.

Learn to Ask the Important Questions

When it comes to any decision, it’s important to focus on the reasons why you’ve chosen it and not make the initial focus be how you plan to accomplish it. If you want to run a marathon, don’t ask how you’re going to run over 20 miles. Ask why you want to run in the first place. Maybe it’s an effort to get healthy or simply to prove something to yourself. Whatever the reasons, keeping them in mind will help you remain focused while you consider how you will reach your goal.

My best advice for anyone pursuing minimalism is to make sure you’ve decided why you want to have a minimalist lifestyle. Asking the question “Why, do you become a minimalist?” is much more important than asking the question “How do you become a minimalist?” The practical implications are important, but they pale in comparison to personal conviction.

Putting the Why Before the How

Don’t Ask: How do I get rid of all this clutter?
Why do I want less clutter in my life?

Don’t Ask: How do I clear out my schedule of all these distractions?
Ask: Why do I want to refocus my time?

Don’t Ask: How can I spend less?
Ask: Why do I want to save more?

By putting the focus on the “why” the “how” will be easier to answer. It’s important to ask the question, “Why?” It keeps us in check. It opens our eyes to new points of view and helps us move beyond our current way of thinking. If we continue to trudge through our days not questioning what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, then we end up unhappy . . . drinking a glass of milk with no bubbles.


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photo by vivekchugh

Article originally published on 11/19/2010

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  1. Ah, so very good Faith! As a mom, we tend to do things on autopilot and forget to just let our kids be kids!
    As far as Why goes, if you know your WHY, you can handle any “how” that comes along. Know your reasons and it makes it much easier to drive one car or get rid of lots of your possessions.
    My WHY is that hubby and I want to “retire” in a few years (we’re only 45 &46) buy a camper to go in our truck bed, and drive around the US, vagabonding, living here and there, working a little here are there. With that WHY it is easier to keep driving an older car right now, or to stay home and watch a movie rather than go to the theater, which is what we are doing tonight!

    • Faith Janes says

      Thanks, Bernice. It’s scary how fast our kids grow up.

      I absolutely love your “retirement” plan! It sounds awesome.

  2. I love it Faith! So often we go through our lives on auto-pilot, not questioning the way we do things or “why” we do them. Thanks for bringing up this point in your post. Sometimes as soon as the “why” is clear, everything else falls into place and it becomes so much easier to accomplish a goal.

    I recently asked myself the question, “Why do I have so many plates and bowls when there’s only two of us?” The answer… Because it’s what people do? I ditched the full-service set and went down to 2 bowls and 2 plates total. There’s 2 of us. It makes sense and it all started with asking why…


    • Faith Janes says

      Thanks, Tanja. Slowing down long enough to ask the question “why” is the first step. I love how minimalism has helped me question my convictions and claim my priorities. Two plates and two bowls…ah…I can only imagine a life so simple. Living in a household of 10 makes more dishes than I care to count. 🙂

  3. I love what you said “Ask: Why do I want to save more?”. That question really wakes me up and makes me face reality. Why do I want to save more? for a rainy day, for a vacation , etc… I love it when I get a good take away from a blog post and yours hit it right on! Thanks!

  4. I have learned so much from my little fella. Why have toys when we can stare at the grass and sky? Why have books when my made up stories are the best? Why have games when we can play with each other? Why wear clothes when it’s hot? 🙂
    When it comes to things like blowing bubbles is milk, my question is ‘Why not?’ I’ll do it too, and he loves me for it.

  5. blowing bubbles in the milk is lots of fun, it also aids in digestion.

    who wants some milk?


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