Living Simply ~ The Challenge

If any of you read our Learning Room post on Henry David Thoreau, then you know that this study spurred something in our family. Living simply and sustainably has been a goal of ours for quite some time. We would love nothing more then to buy some land, grow and preserve our own food, and move a step back from what society says is normal and healthy. And, to a point, we are doing just that through planning and saving for land within our budget, learning how to garden and starting the process of preserving our own food, ridding our life of unneeded chemicals and cleaning naturally, cloth diapering and breastfeeding our children, ridding ourselves of a microwave, etc.

But how close are we really to that goal? How enmeshed into society and current culture are we still? How many technological doodads do we have that suck away our time through – what the professionals call – screentime?

We have this beautiful huge widescreen T.V. (not of our own choosing) that only has basic cable on it. No MTV/reality show theatrics of inappropriate nature go before our children’s eyes. No commercials between Nick Jr., Disney, or Noggin cartoons to entice our children’s desire. Only wholesome PBS, educational shows that teach while they entertain. We have no current Wii system to contend with, not even a Play Station. Our kids are not allowed to run whatever games they want on the computer and the their educational computer games and for-fun Nintendo Mario games are limited within boundaries. We avoid normal T.V. primetime hours (7-9ish) as a family because even basic channels are too risqué for what we want our children to be absorbing, even subconsciously while playing beside us while mom and dad have downtime.

But, despite the careful monitoring, our kids are still being pulled along by technology. All Gabe can think about is the next Mario fix. It permeates his thoughts, his conversation, his school work. And the younger kids find themselves in front of the television beyond what is actually healthy for them, even if it is in the name of education, often in the form of a babysitter while mom is busy with the older students. Adam has found himself sucked into the time-wasting, gossipy, self-promoting, witty comments of Facebook. And I…well, even I have been pulled along in despite of myself. More of my hours have been spent on well-meaning educational research (a link leading to a link leading to a link…you know how it goes) then actually implementing the wonderful educational tools right under my nose. And how many times have I done the, “Uhuh, that’s nice dear” routine as a kid was seeking my attention and I was too caught up in what was happening on the computer screen? How many of my hours could have been spent playing with them, reading to them…things I long to do but never “seem” to have time for?

So, our plan: to give up on technology and ALL screentime for a full month. That means no T.V., no computer, no video games, and Adam will give up his cell phone. We will use the month to get back in touch with what’s really important ~ spending time together as a family, playing together, reading together, rediscovering hobbies, and working on developing good character traits and work habits.

Our purpose is not to condemn others who watch T.V. or use Facebook or the Internet (all useful tools when used properly), rather it is a reflective look at ourselves. What motivates our actions? What draws us to this screentime? What is the condition of our hearts? Isn’t that what the Lord desires most in us ~ our hearts? I think we are so busy filling our lives up with things and escapism entertainment that we never even pause to consider the condition of our heart. So I will take this time to journal ~ old-fashioned pen and paper journaling ~ how we do end up spending our time and how this project affects us. I think we may be very surprised at the answers we find. The obvious will be the time gain and quality gain of family life. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be harder on us adults then we think it will be. There will be times of silence that will force us to deal with ourselves. No distractions means no excuses.

So for one month, starting tomorrow ~ Monday, April 19th ~ until 4 weeks from today ~ Monday, May 17th ~ we will give up on technology and take a step back to a simpler time. This means no emails. I will try and set up appointments and playdates in advance, but if you really need to get a hold of us, you can always call my cell (our only home phone connection that we will be disconnecting in July and reverting back to good ol phone jacks) or you’ll just have to drop by. Remember when people used to do that? I will post again here on the 17th. Until then the blogosphere will have to go on without me. Adam officially took down his Facebook site and will only be using the computer to type a story if it’s due for the Reader/El Perico magazine, otherwise it will be powered down. Since we are using this time as a school break/get-the-gardening-in, even I will be off the computer for everything including journaling and researching. My research will have to take place with a physical trip to the library and my journaling with have to be done with a trusty pen and notebook! And we will be monitoring our OPPD bill to find out just how wasteful our normal technological habits are concerning electricity.

Feel free to leave your comments here (will check back one more time this evening before powering down and then again in a month and will respond to all) about what your thoughts are. And, if any of you feel even slightly brave, I challenge you also to take the challenge with us and report back in a month how it affected your life – for positive or negative!

Now, let the games begin!

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5 thoughts on “Living Simply ~ The Challenge

  1. A worthy experiment. I will be curious to see how it turns out. I tend to think the problem is in our hearts and not in our setting. Almost anything can become an obsession or addiction and crowd out love. I don’t think there ever were any good old days. The pendulum swings back and forth. Cultures become corrupt and die; new ones are born. “What is the most loving and beneficial thing?” as Scott said of the gifts of the spirit, not just for our families but for others as well.

    Honestly Amy I spent 11 years in the homeschool movement, and our family greatly benefited from that season. Some of these ideas lead to isolation and condescension in so many people I met. Some of the children had trouble connecting to anyone from a different background other than their family and other children from like homeschool families. They created a very safe world, but it hampered them from really reaching out to people in a relevant way. The challenge is to create enough solitude to connect with God while maintaining relationship with a lost and dying world so that we might have an impact. Well food for thought and a cautionary note.

    Pam

  2. I have to admitt, I am going to miss all of your wonderful pictures on here. This is the main reason I love the internet and facebook, to share my pictures with friends and family. Although, I do completely understand why you’re doing this, and I think it’s a good idea when you have kids and a family. I hope you will still call to hang out, if not, we will just drop by from time to time…however, I can’t guarantee I won’t have the dogs with me…lol…Ok, good luck with everything and let me know how it goes. Oh, and if you find some “free time” to write me a letter via “snail mail”, I love getting them (same with pics)! I will try to send you and the kids more letters, (the old fashion way). Love you all lots!
    -Aunt Kala

  3. I look forward to hearing how your time went. I’ve gone through various times of unplugging, although not to the extent that you all are doing.

    It is always refreshing to spend more time with the Lord and my family without the clutter of my screens…

    ~Heather

  4. I am so proud of you!

    As I read your blog I felt like you were describing my house.

    I need your advice: What does a family do when mom wishes we had NO technology and dad wants it all? When my hubby and I met I had to television or cell phone. 12 years later we have every super advanced gadget you can imagine. I am afraid the children are soaking in so much consumerism that they will somehow become robotic. I am having a difficult time drawing boundaries for them. What to do?

    • Thank you for your comment to my blog and for stopping by and taking the time to read! As for advice, not sure what I can give. The only way I can do anything I can is because my husband and I are on agreement on it…at least 90 percent! He is more lenient then I am as he likes to watch his movies, but he works (as a chef) with a lot of younger people being raised of the world and technology impairment and sees it’s direct consequential damage everyday. So it’s much easier for him to be on the bandwagon with me! It still hasn’t been an easy ride. It is the end of our month and we are (hubby and I) finding that it is virtually impossible to be without computers or cell phones. The T.V. and video games could probably go totally but we aren’t quite willing to go that far yet. This month has taught my kids how to play and use imagination. So now that our time is up and we are “hooked up” again, we are much better equipped to set up time limits and boundaries w/out such a fight from the kids. The best advice I can give you is set it up as an experimental challenge with your husband. Something like, “Honey, let’s do this for 2 weeks. If you see no improvement in the kids then we can go back to all the gadgets, but if you see some major emotional/psychological/mental changes in the kids for the better, then let’s at least sit down and talk about some moderate changes.” He might go for something like that and then let the time tell the story of change and do your persuading for you! Good luck and God bless!Amy Payson

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