I remember meeting a Lady at ‘Rhyme Time’ at our local Library back in Oz. She was really lovely and friendly (although I did think she was a little odd because she had a baby who slept so much so that she found it annoying??As a Mother of a ‘no more than forty minutes at a time’ baby this baffled me). Whilst we were chatting she mentioned they didn’t have a Television. My reaction was i) well thats a bit weird, ii) I bet she and their kids are really intellectual iii) what do they do all day? As the Mother of a perpetually feeding, non sleeping infant, I spent the hours I wasn’t pacing the house, glued to whatever was on TV, usually stuck on a channel because the remote was beyond my reach.
Fast forward to a year later, having arrived in England three months before our possessions, we were without our (previously beloved) TV. Then once it did arrive, I didn’t want to spoil the newly plastered walls with a flat screen, and wasn’t sure where to put it. As time passed we realised we really didn’t miss it. Having had five years off English TV (living in Australia), I was out the loop with most of the shows I would’ve enjoyed in the past (although I did catch up on about four years worth of First Dates online when we first got home). And once we had Wifi there was always Netflix. I could see the benefit to my Daughter of not watching TV (more here), so there seemed no reason to reintroduce it to our lives.
Lots of people seem quite baffled by our choice. I’m often asked when friends & family visit; ‘but what do you do?’ And the little girls next door enquire every time I see them; ‘have you got a TV yet?’.
Five Reasons I love not having a TV:
- I can have some input into what my Daughter watches-I realise she is still young, and once she is older I won’t have so much influence. But right now, at just two, I don’t really want her subjected to an onslaught of Ads, extreme gender stereotypes, or horrendously whingy character (naming no names Peppa Pig!)
- It’s really encouraged me to source entertainment elsewhere. I am now a Podcast addict, and there are so many amazing (and free) ones out there. I often felt as a SAHM my brain was turning to mush and at time I was really under stimulated intellectually (sorry bebe, you are still a child genius in my eyes). Here are a few of my favourite Podcasts if you’re interested.
- Our Sitting Room looks so much better for it. There’s no such things as a pretty TV, and our old one was ENORMOUS (the perils of marrying a sports mad Australian). I like that our room isn’t orientated to stare at the box anymore, and now there are so many toys, to be honest I can’t see where it would even fit!
- It encourages us to get up, get outside, play with our Daughter. The IPad certainly still buys me time on occasion, but knowing what we were like in the past, we certainly would’ve got drawn into staying indoors snuggled up watching TV this Winter. Instead we have enjoyed exploring so much.
- I can still waste time with the best of them, scrolling online, but I used to find, especially in the evenings when I was exhausted, my Husband and I would just sit in collapsed silent lumps in front of whatever the hell was on TV, starring vacantly.
- I can be more intentional about what I watch and read. I now seek out things which interest me, and I actively avoid things which don’t align with my values, or that make me feel anxious. I do think that a diet of reality TV shows, biased News programs, and frankly offensive right wing talks shows did nothing for my mental state. And the barrage of Ads probably impacted me just as much as it did my Daughter.
Three Reasons maybe we should buy one:
- I am forever being asked-did you watch that? Did you see this? For the most part it doesn’t phase me, I don’t mind that I don’t know which series of Big Brother we are on, or didn’t catch the latest scaremongering segment on the News. But I do miss some of the great dramas that are on. The brilliant thing is they’re usually available on catch up online. Am I the only person with a TV license and no TV?
- We spend far more time online and on social media now. This is good and bad. I possibly wouldn’t have begun Blogging if we had a TV, and I am enjoying the experience so much. But on the flip side; is sitting scrolling through our respective instagram feeds possibly more antisocial than sitting in silence on the sofa watching the same TV program? I think we need some more boundaries around screen time for sure.
- The nature of the IPad has pros and cons-I like that I can hide it away, which often functions as out of sight out of mind for my Daughter, but the downside is she knows she can access shows on demand and can start yelling names of episodes. I also find she sits about 12 inches from the screen, and the light is so strong, so I really try and limit screen exposure, especially around bed and nap times. And some shows run one after another, so instead of getting up once her show is over, she will just watch and watch.
So there’s a little insight into our lives without TV. I never wouldn’t thought we would be a TV free Household, but for now (nearly a year in), we love it. I would really like to hear if you’re a TV free household, and why maybe we need one after all!
I have to start this post by saying a huge Thank you to Brooke Mcalary for her inspiration and motivation for this challenge! her podcasts and books are a great place to get started for anyone who is keen to try this more themselves.
If you haven’t been following the journey, you can catch up on week one, week two, and week three by clicking on the links. So here we are, 30 days of not buying, and of clearing out lots of clutter. Beyond food, fuel, and a couple of bunches of flowers, I’ve not bought anything, and it’s felt really good. I was unsure when I took on the thirty days if it would feel more like a challenge, but as I explained last week, it hasn’t felt like one.
Words I would use to sum up the past few weeks include:
The space is not just literal-having cleared out more than two thousand items from our home, there certainly is a bit more space in the cupboards. Mentally, there feels like more space, when you take out the option of should I buy this or that, where will this or that go.
I have generally been surprised, both by the impact of the challenge, and also the sheer quantity of certain items we had. having emigrated here from Australia last year, and sorted through so many of of our possession then, I would have been sure we weren’t still hoarding lots of unnecessary thing. But 21 pillow cases still managed to tag along of the trip!
A sense of intention is a slightly tricky this to explain, but I have found the challenge has made me think about what matters more in our lives i guess. And it’s also made me think about what we do actually need.
As I mentioned before, the mental space, and sense of calm. When you aren’t spending, ordering, returning, feeling guilty about spending, eyeing up the next purchase-it all just feels that bit calmer.
The clarity is certainly a result of all of the above. i feel more able to look at our lives and focus on what we enjoy. Shopping does not make the cut (especially with a toddler!). I would say we have spent the past month doing more, and experiencing a more full life, which seems really interesting given we weren’t physically adding to it.
I thought it might feel like a really boring month, like January both resolutions. But actually we have done more this month. With trips to the library, time with family, visiting friends and generally prioritising more important things as opposed to wandering round the shops-it’s been great.
I also thought at the beginning, it would be a little like a “diet”, that I would fast for thirty days, but could binge at the end (and put back on all the weight plus a bit). The first week I would look at items and think-it’s okay, I will just buy it in four weeks time. And even told myself, with all the money I had saved, I could buy myself something really nice. missing the point a little hey? Now I have reached the end of the thirty days, I don’t feel I want to rush out and buy anything, yes there are a couple of things we need-Intrepid Bebe is down to only wellie boots which fit her now. And the nature of having a rapidly growing two year old does mean purchasing a certain about of clothing every few months is going to be essential. But even the way i intend to go about that has altered. I have been really looking into shoes for her, rather than just grabbing a couple of pairs and the nearest shops. And I keep weighing it up, how to make the most appropriate choice.
When it comes to mental health, a big aim is to create space between a thought and an action or reaction. To ‘notice’ what you are feeling, before necessarily running away with the thoughts. And this experience is similar. Rather than ‘impulse purchases’, and manic clicking at every whim, this challenge has created that space in between thought and action.
Beyond a less busy home (with less housework!), and mental calm, here are a some bigger, and possible life changing things which the challenge has given our family:
I spoke that week about the fact we no longer felt this hurried need to extend our home. Yes perhaps eventually we may find two bedrooms isn’t enough. But at this stage (with a toddler who barely uses her own bed), it makes far more sense to reduce some of the stuff from the house, as opposed to build more space and buy more stuff.
There are lots of reasons for Mother’s to work, far beyond monetary, the sense of self, their own wellbeing, career aspirations etc. But I often used to say that for me to work part time, and pay for child care, I would come home with little more than the sum of my online shopping habit. I appreciate this isn’t the case for everyone, but if I look at the facts, eight pounds on that book, a two pound magazine, a thirty pound top, three pounds for some pens, a twelve pound piece of make up, a five pound toy, a six pound pot plant- it all adds up, and for anyone, removing all of that could mean you can take those hours back as your own time. And to be missing time with my daughter purely to afford these things, things which I will barely recall in a week, well it’s a simple choice when it’s spelt out like that isn’t it? This is not to say i do not intent to work, it’s just drawing up the amazing difference of not shopping.
It became apparent very quickly to me that purchasing for myself wasn’t the main source of my shopping, it was for my daughter. Almost daily I would see a cute outfit, or think of another toys she would love, hear about a new book I knew she would enjoy. But I think we all know, our children want our energy and attention. I am sure i am not the only one who’s child can have a room full of toys but still want me to play with her (and usually with a random stick or something non-toy instead). I don’t want to try and substitute my time and love with stuff, and I don’t want to convey the message that she needs stuff to be happy, and teaching her not to search externally, that she has all she needs exactly where she is. And also, i was forced to admit to myself I buy her clothes for me, she still shouldn’t care less what she wears.
So going forward?
Well I intend to try and continue as I have been really, the thirty days may have ended, but as with the “diet” analogy I used earlier, we all know that the real was to maintain a health weight is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. I am not saying i am never going to buy anything for myself again, but certainly, I hope to approach it in a more moderate and considered way. I would have thought two thousand items was a lot to get rid of, but actually there’s so much more to go, so I am containing working through them, and revisiting the cupboards (see here for how to get started on your own home!). Intrepid Bebe definitely needs some shoes, but as for the musical guitar (I must be a masochist?), jumpsuit, and new pop up book-I think i will just go and play with her instead.
I would love to hear if you have tried a similar shopping ban and the impact it’s had.
You can read about our next thirty day challenge here.
Benjamin Franklin said: ‘the only certainties in life are death and taxes’. And no one wants to think too much about either. So asking you to write your own Eulogy sounds like a pretty morbid idea, when you first read it. No one likes to think too much about death. Innate drives from birth mean we strive for survival. And dying is typically associated with loss, grief, pain and memories we would rather not replay.
I admit that I became far more fearful of death after becoming a Mother. Well that’s not entirely true; the moment I lay on the table in theatre as the Emergency Caesar was about to be performed was the probably the first time in my life I have experienced true selflessness. I thought to myself, and any God who may or may not exists; if it’s between me and her making it out of this room alive, please choose her. Thankfully that was never a choice.
However, as I became more and more anxious as a new Mum, when I wasn’t worrying about all the ways she might die, I was really fearful of myself dying. As much as I doubted myself as a Mother, I also knew deep down she really needed me, and there was no one in the World who would fight her corner, give her their all, guide her and love her like me. I know now it was all a symptom of being exhausted and anxious, and letting the irrational thoughts run away with me. I can’t say I am completely fearless now, nor ready to take on death defying extreme sports, but it doesn’t govern every moment.
Bare with me, this isn’t meant to be a depressing post! Anyway, I was listening to my favourite Podcast series (here in case you haven’t read me rave about it in every single other post lately), and they spoke about the exercise of writing your own Eulogy. The purpose is to approach living a value filled, and fulfilling life by looking at it from the end, rather than the beginning. Benjamin Button style. Helping to identify just what your values are, and then working towards aligning the Eulogy with present day. It certainly felt like an uncomfortable notion and first, but the more I rolled the idea about in my head, the more I could see the benefits.
I started off thinking about the things which had bothered, or mattered to me in the past. Some of which have probably taken up quite a bit of valuable thought space, and yet I certainly wouldn’t want to make the cut in my Eulogy.
- She was really skinny, her hair was very straight, and her fake tan always looked fresh.
- She passed her driving test first time.
- All the boys fancied her.
- She got invited to single every house party.
- She got perfect A’s on her GCSEs.
- Her feet didn’t smell bad at all.
It’s a lot easier to look back with hindsight and dismiss your Teenage angst. So I tried looking at similar pesky things which can bother me nowadays, and applied the same exercise to put them into perspective:
- Her daughter never had stains on her clothes, or a snotty nose.
- She didn’t have any cellulite.
- Her kitchen was always so tidy.
- Her skinniest jeans always fit.
- Her baby slept all night through (from birth).
- She never swore at her Husband.
- She never ever forgot Birthdays.
It’s a really worthwhile exercise, sitting down to write a few things you might like to be said in your Eulogy. I think we all would like to hear “they lived a long, healthy and happy life”, but here are a few more things I would like to make the cut (and am working towards ensuring they’re true).
- She was an adoring Mother, and did all she could to be a great role model.
- Best friend to her beloved Husband.
- She loved her family and friends dearly, and they all felt it.
- She gave her all to the issues and people she cared about.
- Laughed often.
- She lived life on her own terms.
- She was not afraid to stand up for her beliefs, defy convention, and carve her own path.
- She approached life with purpose, energy, excitement and passion.
- She made a positive difference to the lives of others. Encouraged, motivated &inspired.
- She never stopped learning.
- Her feet smelt pretty bad, but that was okay.
Week three has been good. I thought I would list five reasons why I feel I am really benefitting from not buying “stuff” stuff.
- I am continually surprised how much calm this challenge has given me. As opposed to feeling tested, I feel more aware and at ease. It has created more time between thoughts and actions. I was certainly an impulsive shopper. ‘Oh thats nice”, rarely giving time to really think about it. I’ve created a bit of a mental check list to apply going forward:
- where will this go?
- how will I use it?
- do I truly need it?
- what will happen if I don’t buy it?
- do i already have something similar?
- what will I wear it with/for?
2) I am enjoying how much more space we have in the house, it is tidier and less cluttered, without any additional effort required to clear up each day. Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t empty marble surfaces, with just a cushion on the floor, I do share my home with a two year old. But just that bit more space and organisation feels good.
3) Organisation is another positive to sorting through things, and not buying in more. It’s easier to locate what I am looking for when it has a specific place, and there’s just less of it to mentally keep track of.
4) It’s changing larger things in our life too. Building a two storey extension because we “needed more space”, was high on our priorities. Now we are looking at what we have, and re working it. Bigger isn’t better, and the end goal doesn’t need to be the largest house you can afford. The idea what you need to buy more shelves to accommodate more stuff, then buy a shed for all the stuff, and then even pay for external storage because there’s so much stuff, or move to a larger house to accommodate all the stuff. It’s a pretty typical way to live, yet when you spell it out like that it sounds ridiculous.
5) It has also made me thinking more about where items are coming from, the ethics behind the purchase. Giving more thought to a purchase creates more time and space to consider its origins, it’s true cost to the environment and the person who created it.