I’ve discovered the secret to peace and happiness. For real. This is not a joke. This life hack just might be what you need to:
- eliminate stress
- spend more time with your kids
- stop comparing yourself to others
- get started on that hobby you’re interested in
- finish the half-done projects laying around
- clean your house
- provide your family with clean underwear
- basically solve all of your problems 😉
Have I won you over? Are you wondering what kind of black magic of which I speak? Well, you don’t need money. And it requires only a minute amount of physical exertion.
You just push a button.
A power button.
THE power button.
On your phone.
For those who are still with me… you can exhale. I’m not suggesting powering off permanently.
Online life: the perks
There are a lot of perks and convenience available in this age of information. I love that we are no longer subject to every current school of thought. We can research and come to our own conclusions. I love that physical distance doesn’t have to determine the quality of our relationships. We can call, text, email, or message each other instantly. Those of us who are directionally challenged no longer need to pull over and open a complicated folded map. We can find addresses, directions, and store hours at the drop of a hat.
All of this access is stored in our pockets. And these devices sleep next to us. They wake us up in the morning and are often the last thing we look at before falling asleep. We are so used to having them on us at all times that – admit it – we feel naked and vulnerable without them.
Online life: the downsides
For me, my phone is also a distraction. A big one. And I’m guessing it’s a distraction for a lot of you too. Nothing sucks my time away more than Pinterest, pointless emails, or browsing through the mind-numbing abyss that is a social media feed.
So in this case, too much of a good thing really isn’t a good thing. And it’s a REALLY hard cycle to break. (And while I’m referring to my phone in this article, the same applies to our laptops and other devices.)
My online minimalism experiment
Until this year, I had never given up anything for Lent. It wasn’t a custom in the churches I’ve grown up in so I never really thought about it. But this year I decided to join a friend in her fast and I wanted to choose something that I’d really feel. Something that stung.
So I decided to give up my phone. Every day from 1-4 p.m. Not on silent. Not just in the other room in a designated space. And not just when it was convenient.
And I have to be honest. I FAILED. Like big time. Lent is 40 days, and I made it about 20. But don’t get me wrong… it was glorious. And my family had a steady supply of clean underwear. My little three hour window was just what I needed to catch up on work, meal plan like I always intend to, read the novel that had been gathering dust, or spend some uninterrupted time with my three-year-old.
Then it got hard and it fell apart for 100 different reasons that now strike me as illegitimate.
But I learned some things.
And I’ve made some changes.
As the great Apostle Paul said “All things are lawful unto me, but not all things are expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 KJV
And that’s what I need in my life. To choose what is expedient and refuse to be brought under the power of anything that tries to consume me. Can you relate?
If you can, here are 7 ways I’m mastering my phone instead of letting it master me.
7 Tips to Embrace Online Minimalism in Your Own Life
1. Designate a phone-free time of day
Maybe for you a phone-free dinner is the thing you need to reconnect with your family at the end of a chaotic day. Maybe powering off your phone during the kids’ nap time will finally allow you to catch up on the piles of laundry. Maybe pressing the power button an hour before bed will help you unwind and fall asleep faster (plus check out this post on No-Sew DIY Light Blocking Curtains).
It doesn’t have to be a set number of hours or minutes, but make it a goal to unchain yourself.
2. Reduce the amount of information coming in
Does your bank account tremble every time you see emails or posts with the dress you must have, the rustic decor your home needs, or the vacation your deprived children should be able to go on? You don’t need all that. It can overload your time, energy, money, and yep, emotions.
I’m giving you permission to unlike the 402 cute little businesses you follow… like the one that sells that handcrafted farm table for $9,000 that you’d love to have one day. Or the random public figures who annoy you now that they are experts in politics. Unsubscribe from restaurant emails that you rarely go to but might one day.
3. And yeah, unfollow people too
Yep. You can unfollow people without unfriending them. And no, they won’t know you did it. So if your Great Aunt Sally posts a hundred memes a day, you can hide her from your timeline without hurting her feelings.
Now you might think that’s mean but come on, we aren’t meant to see so many details of so many lives. And dramatically reducing the number of people who appear in your timeline will a) allow you to quickly see the posts that are most important to you and b) make it less appealing to repeatedly open the app – because you’ve already seen everything that’s there, there aren’t many new updates.
4. Get rid of the games
Okay, fine. Find a game – binge on it – then delete it. You don’t need that in your life.
5. Make it personal
Figure out what isn’t working for you and pack the biggest punch there. If Instagram is cool but Facebook drives you nuts, make the necessary adjustments.
6. Buy a real alarm clock
Like the old ones with only three buttons. We had one that was so old it seemed like it was handed down for several generations. The noise that thing put off was ATROCIOUS. But it worked! We trashed it once we got smartphones and I regret it.
If I use my phone for alarm, I have to have it next to me at night. If I have it next to me at night, I browse before bed and as soon as I wake up and sometimes even when I wake up in the middle of the night. And in reality, for some reason our phones don’t even do a good job waking us up anyway!
7. Learn to appreciate the quiet
When my phone is off, I miss listening to music or podcasts. Or talking to one of my seven siblings who I love like crazy and talk to ALL THE TIME. But I’m learning to be okay in silence. It slows me down, and lets me think.
It seems like we have become so overstimulated that the quiet makes us uncomfortable.
Sometimes I’m tempted to run and hide from technology. But this is the world we live in. We can master it and make it work for us. When we find the right balance, it enriches our lives and connects us to others unlike we ever thought possible.
Embracing a minimalist approach can help us find that balance.
Andrea Vandiver is a work-at-home mom and freelance writer in Oklahoma. She spends her days imitating animals and blowing bubbles. Her favorite things are those that taste, smell, feel, sound and look wonderful. The stuff that romance is made of.