What I Gained When I Ditched My TV

I know I made a post a couple weeks (months?) ago about getting rid of my TV, and it’s been a process to actually do it. Gurus, Yogis, Hippies, and enthusiastic Waldorf families are among the first stereotypes of individuals that come to mind when I think about all the folks that eschew television. It was kind of hard for me to let go. There is just something that’s a bit all-American about the TV. It’s how you watch the Super bowl, the Macy’s Day Parade, the ball drop on new year’s eve, and presidential debates. It’s become an access point for the never-ending procession of “water cooler shows” as well as its currect incarnation of an endless opportunity to binge-watch Netflix. Even in children’s programming you’re up against the ever-wholesome Sesame Street.

I’d love to say that parting with my TV is a statement I’m making against our consumerist culture, but in truth I was making that statement from the time I moved out on my own 7 years ago, by not ordering cable or finding a way to even get local channels. At that point TVs were just kind of given to me, and the then-boyfriend brought along plenty of videogame consoles that allowed for DVD watching, and my long term relationship with Netflix became established.

Netflix has been a good friend to me. It has given me old shows I thought I’d never see again, has allowed me to see fascinating documentaries and weird foreign films. But when Sierra came along, and I saw how immersed her whole being became when I turned on a show, it made me uncomfortable. The situation became even more volatile when I would turn off the TV and she would spiral into a full-on meltdown. Of course it being a huge flat screen that was the focal point of our living room didn’t help.

As the popular book title suggests, I believe that TV really is a Plug In Drug. It stimulates parts of the brain where neurons connect, and this constant stimulation over time creates strong bonds in the brain that crave constant stimuli. This is the point at which the silence of an empty house can drive you insane. Having the nice big flat screen there staring at you is like a starving child sitting next to a casino buffet. It’s almost excruciating to resist partaking in the Netflix smorgasbord.

So to get down and dirty, here was my process in amputating my TV from our home:

  1. Cancelled Netflix, first the DVD subscription, then Netflix instant. This was pretty painful, although to ease the pain I started following more health-wellness-educational channels on youtube.
  2. I unplugged the TV. This part would have never happened had my husband been here, and it took several explanations over the course of the next few weeks to Sierra of why we couldn’t watch TV anymore.
  3. Selling the TV. Of course, I did this through Craigslist and found that the TV was worth WAY less than it had been when it was new (come to find out they came out with smart and HD TVs that made my simple Plasma display passé). I did begin to panic when the buyer was on his way over, but after it was gone I felt a definite shift in the atmosphere in my living room. It was a calm, simple peace. No more big black box staring at me!

Now the awkward part is I have a big bulky entertainment center with a gaping hole in the middle. I’m working on getting it sold, but so far no one has gone through with buying. I’d love to say we are free from technology all together, but I know that will probably never happen. I use the computer for so many things, and my old mac lets me watch DVDs so we won’t be media free anytime soon.

What I’ve gained: I don’t feel compelled to watch every hot new show that the networks spew out (Gain: Time! also Time spent being productive, or making memories as a family). I don’t feel like I need to run out and buy any new products I see in ads (Gain: Money!). And I don’t pay for any subscriptions (Gain: More Money!) I was able to put the money from selling the TV to a worthy cause (Gain: Good VIBES!). Now if I feel boredom creeping, I have to use my brain to think of something worthwhile to do (Gain: Creativity). Also notice that keyword *do*. When you don’t rely on TV to distract your brain from real life, you find yourself moving your body to get things done more. This is good for your health and also can contribute to an exponential amount of other positive possibilities in your life (starting a small side business, selling clutter, trying new recipes, starting a garden, going on a hike, etc.) Its sort of sad but true that I used TV as an anti-depressant as well. Whenever I was feeling lonely or down, a stand up comedy special would help me smile again. But now I don’t get the quick fix, or the band-aid. Now I have to really feel my emotions, which is sometimes uncomfortable. But I know that in a way, this is important inner work, to really experience the deep feelings. It’s part of the human experience and a catalyst for introspection and reflection.

Remember: You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. -Dr. Seuss

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Finding Exponential Happiness in Empty Spaces

I’m finding that the more “stuff” I get rid of and the more “activities” I actually accomplish the happier I am, and the more I crave just going even further down the rabbit hole. If you haven’t yet read or heard of it, please do yourself a huge favor and check out the Mr. Money Mustache blog. It is an exceptionally written blog that is both smart and funny, both philosophical and practical. It has been one of the major inspirations for me to make such radical changes in my own life.

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My kitchen before it was filled up with appliances on the countertops!

I don’t even know where to begin with all the changes I have/am currently making. I have deactivated my facebook account. I am getting rid of my gas lawn mower and replacing it with an old fashioned manual push mower. I just bought a hybrid bike and am selling my big Japanese boat of a car (2011 Toyota Camry). I’m getting rid of most of my living room furniture soon. I keep making more and more trips to the local homeless shelter and Goodwill to drop off donations. I’m getting rid of all the appliances, spice racks, holders and other do-hickeys on my kitchen counters (besides my Vitamix which I’m stowing in one of the cabinets). I’m listing several items on eBay. In fact, I’ve already sold more than $500 worth of my old items that no longer served a purpose in my life. Happily, I’ve also been able to save up $2000. Some of my far-off goals are becoming financially independent and curing my rheumatoid arthritis, as well as becoming 85% self sustaining, and running a zero-waste household.

The main idea I’m contemplating right now is that living with the items and in the setting that makes you happy is more important than impressing everyone else, or even meeting their expectations at all. If you find something is no longer making you happy or is causing you stress, do your very best to change it so that it can make you happy. Sometimes what that amounts to is just knowing when to graciously let something go. The immediate reward to doing so is the wonderfully freeing area of space or time that is created when you let go of things, activities, and people that drag you down and steal your energy.

This is the snowball effect that happens- because as you have more energy and space you find that you have the confidence and motivation to let go of even more. You find things in your life that you can tweak or replace so that it most perfectly fits your own needs. One of the hardest things for me to do has been to get rid of gifts that people have given me. Even if it is an ugly outdated article of clothing that never fit right, it’s still hard to say goodbye to the little part of it that reminds you of the person. The best technique I’ve used that helps me do this is to just remember that the item itself was not the gift. In fact, the real gift was that special person selecting that item and presenting it to you, with the intention of showing you they cared. That should be the special memory, and that actually has little to do with the specific memento that they chose.

My foot is so swollen from the RA right now that sometimes it is painful to walk. People keep telling me I should get on disability but in all honesty I feel more excited than ever to get things done for myself. I know I can heal my disease, though I’m not sure how long it will take. I know I’ll keep trying to do it by creating a stress-free (or stress-minimized) environment for my mind and body to exist in. Even if I don’t heal my RA, I am happy to take this journey and am looking forward to seeing the results that come about.

4 Steps to a Calm your Clutter

We all have been there at one time or another in our lives. Life gets busy, the job gets demanding, the social life gets full, and before you know it there’s a pile of clothes here, a paper laden countertop there. When you live in your house, it’s easy to allow clutter to build up and then sink into the background where it just becomes part of the scenery. If you ever look at model homes, or homes on pinterest or in magazines, it seems so clean and organized, in a way that is almost unattainable for those of us normal folk who don’t have professional organizers, interior designers or housekeepers dropping by any time soon. Even though we are just one person who is likely knee deep in everything else that is going on in our lives, there are still a few things we can do to create a beautiful, peaceful and organized home for ourselves. After all, what is the point of being at home if we cannot relax and feel tranquil while there?

1. Find ONE place for everything.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the old motto “A place for everything and everything in its place” likely spoken in your mind by a sixties housewife with a blonde bob and freshly pressed white cotton sundress. But one way to make that more attainable in reality is to have all items of the same type in one place together, instead of spread out around the house. For instance, keep all linens in the hall closet, all towels in the main bathroom (except the one for your child or guests in the extra bathroom), All baking stuff on one shelf in the kitchen, all mail in one designated spot. This makes it so much easier to find things and also encourages you to go put it back.

2. No Duplicates

I’m going to throw myself under the bus here and admit that at one time we had three different board games of Monopoly. No, they were not different themed monopoly boards, just good ol’ classic monopoly. Why? There is no real reason and they were just taking up mores space. Of course there are exceptions such as coffee mugs and other eatery, pens and other dispensables. But don’t go too crazy with stockpiling those either!

3. Keep Only What is Practical

There is no set list for this, as what’s practical to one person may be completely unnecessary or useless to another. The other day I read a blog that insisted one doesn’t need a rice cooker or a bread machine in their kitchen. Well, maybe some people. But I believe no matter what items you have, as long as you use them regularly then that’s what matters. For seasonal items, they should be stowed away. For items that you haven’t used in over a year… you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

“But what about my great grandmas antique silk paintaquiltdoily from the 30s?” you ask. That brings me to…

4. Keep Only What You LOVE

This one is probably the hardest of all. When we get gifts, especially from people we care about, it is hard to let go of those things when we really just don’t want or need them. Sometimes we might spend a lot of money on an item that we absolutely were obsessed with at the time. Other things we may have used a lot or identified with in the past, but just don’t serve us any more. It’s important to constantly reevaluate what you have in your home as it’s definitely affecting your energy and the vibes you are surrounding yourself with. Now is the time to let go of anything that is slightly less than what you are happy about.

There you have 4 simple ways to declutter your space. Really about 90% of it is donating or throwing away everything that’s keeping you from a beautiful, organized and happy environment. For a great read that elaborates on this idea, check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.