By Rebekah Hanlin
Last fall our large family moved into a small house, half the size of what we were used to. Obviously, we needed to eliminate A LOT. We spent months debating what we needed, versus what we were just used to having around. Having minimalist tendencies, this wasn’t terribly difficult for me. Nothing makes me as giddy as a trip to the dump. There were a few difficult farewells, (my walk-in closet, my walk-in pantry, all the walk-ins…) but we had decided to live simpler, lodge smaller, and stay focused on the necessities.
With my husband finally persuaded by the virtues of minimalism, I quickly became a zealot for the cause. I was on a self-appointed mission to eradicate clutter. Everything that fell under my radar was at risk of becoming future Goodwill merchandise. By the time we moved, we had halved our living space, bedrooms, and we went from three bathrooms to one. We no longer had a garbage disposal, or a microwave, and I had to adjust to a mini-bar sized refrigerator. Okay, the fridge isn’t that small, but the feeling is real.
Despite the squeeze, after a few months, it was working.
We were all functioning just as well as before. What we didn’t need, we were doing without.
After this success of ours, I naturally began searching other forms of clutter in my life that may need elimination. Such as, my phone habit. Did I really need it? I enjoy it. It comes in handy. But people, families, even businesses managed for centuries without it, so what necessitates it?
Yes, I need some way of making phone calls. We are a family, we need to be contacted, and vice versa. But what else? Are most of the emails I receive urgent? Nope. Do I need to take pictures of my kids every time we leave the house? Nope. Do I need to hear the shouting on social media every day? Nope. Do I need to spend an hour on Pinterest every night? Nope. Could I survive without texting? Considering that I made it to 22 without ever having texted, I think so.
Now to be fair, I did make an earnest effort to stay off my phone – especially around my kids. If I don’t let them watch TV all day, I have no business staring at a screen all day either. I also want my kids to remember me being their mom, not me staring at my phone. But there were plenty of hours consumed by my phone that could’ve been otherwise devoted to:
- Chatting with my husband/neighbors/kids/anyone who will listen
- Reading a book
- Praying the Rosary
- Reading to my kids
Seriously, the list could go on. Suffice to say, my time was being monopolized, even for someone who tried to stay disciplined.
By the next week, I was cell phone-less.
I will admit, at first, it was not as easy as I thought it would be. There were several considerations I had neglected. For instance, I was someone who was pitifully dependent on my Google Maps. All of a sudden I didn’t have that resource. So making a trip to somewhere new means printing out instructions ahead of time. It also occasionally means asking people for directions, (you know, like we used to do?) There were many times before, that I’d consult my husband about big purchases while out shopping – can’t do that anymore. I had to buy a watch, because I literally never knew what time it was.
As if these tedious side effects weren’t enough, there’s an even more disquieting aftermath to losing your phone – finding yourself unplugged when no one else is. It’s really only when I’m out in the world, separated from the familiar nook of home, that I notice it. Everyone is plugged in. More than before, I noticed children, spouses, loved ones – ignored and neglected in favor of a screen.
Initially it felt lonely. Being cast into the past by myself. I longed to be connected with the world again. I missed taking pictures, I was tired of always getting lost without navigation, I wanted to stream music again, and I felt left out. This was brief, as the onset of something new took shape.
The connection that the world seems to crave began to resemble a cage. As such, I had no desire to be trapped with them.
I am hardly alone. I am free.
For me, the perks outweigh the pitfalls. In general, eliminating the crutch of a cell phone has set the bar higher for me. I have to plan ahead, I have to talk to people, and I write more letters. When I’m visiting with people – I’m really visiting. I don’t take as many pictures of my kids, but I savor the ones I have. I can’t be bothered to tell everyone online what I’m doing, I’m just doing it. Nothing to update, upload, or share. Our memories are our own, and our kids know that we are engaging with them, not promoting them. It’s shockingly liberating.
The most tangible benefit is the freedom from a cellphone bill. Despite installing a landline, we save hundreds of dollars every month not having a phone plan. And an added perk? The kids learning phone etiquette, I just love hearing their little voices recite “Hello! The Hanlin Home!”
I’m aware some people do literally need their phone for work (my husband is one of them). But if you’re interested in moving toward simplicity, honestly consider the following – What is your phone really doing for you? Does it bring you joy, or frustration? Is it really worth the money you spend every month? Are you investing more in documenting your life than living it? Would you be more productive without it?
I’d wager the peace would prevail over the noise.
Giving up your cell phone isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But I do believe, especially as parents, we are responsible for the culture of our family. If your household is revolving around technological devices, that needs to be addressed. If you are finding yourself distracted from your loved ones, because of the happenings on social media – think about that. Think about how your time and energy are prioritized. Think about the practices you want your children to grow up with. Is your phone usage encouraging or hindering the childhood you’re working so hard to nurture?
As for myself, I don’t think I’ll ever return to the grind of a cell phone. I enjoy looking out the window too much.