How 30 days without social media made me happier

545 words. 5 minutes to read.

For the whole of March this year, I quit social media.

No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. I shut the world down.

For the first few days, I missed everything.

Instagram was the worst. My partner and I are in the midst of renovating our family home, and I’d reach for my phone to post up our latest handiwork, as we smashed down fireplaces and blocked up old doorways… then I’d realize that I couldn’t post any pics I’d taken until the end of the month.

I didn’t believe I was addicted until then. But the first week, when I woke at 2 a.m. and couldn’t reach for my phone to “just see what’s happening on Instagram”… yeah, then I knew I was addicted.

It almost hurt to not post and share the stuff we were doing, and to read what was happening on my favourite feeds. I didn’t really know what to do with myself, and felt a bit lost. Worse still, it affected my sleep, and I found myself lying awake at night, unable to rest my mind as it turned over all the things I might be missing.

I missed the endless entertainment that Twitter provided, and the banal food posts of Facebook. I missed the endless political updates, and the stupid memes.

Life without social

Suddenly I had time of my hands.
I had time to do the gardening I’d been delaying.
I had time to clean out my inbox which had become cluttered with spam and email from the kids’ schools.
I had time to wash windows and sort shelves and clear the pantry – all jobs I’d been delaying because I’d been “too busy”.

I had time to cook better meals in the evening, and enjoy my true passions – writing and reading more.

I cleared my filing and paperwork drawers, emptied my receipts folder, updated my superannuation company, unsubscribed from junk mail lists.

I found I had time to help the kids after school with their homework, and time to go for walks myself in the morning before I started work for the day.

I even found time to start meditating again.

All this because I wasn’t on social media.

Until now, I’d never even questioned how much time I spent on social. If someone had asked, I’d have said I was a “light user”, maybe a couple of hours or so a day.

Certainly I was nowhere near the average nine hours a day teens spend using digital media for their enjoyment!

Going without social for a month made me begin to seriously question just how many hours of my life I was wasting on status updates, on giving “Likes” and on making comments that nobody really wanted to read anyway.

social media fast

The Return

When I returned to social media at the end of the month nobody even noticed I’d been gone.

One of my friends joked that everyone had been too busy checking their own “Likes” to notice!

It occurred to me how silly we are to spend so much time on something that nobody even cares about.

I’m not saying social is evil, or bad. But I am saying that, like alcohol, it is best used wisely and in moderation.

I’d even argue that social media is so addictive that it should probably never be used by children.

social media and kids

My experiences without social have made us reconsider how much screen time we allow our kids. They are no longer allowed screen time before school, and their after school time is quite limited.

They also have a curfew for devices, and all devices are left downstairs and are not allowed in bedrooms.

Reconsideration and new habits

How I use it now? I post my own content and I read social once a week for one hour – on Tuesday evenings. This is when I don’t have kids in the house.

I never skim read or scroll, and when I’m done I’m done.

I’m pretty weak-willed, so I set an alarm to beep at the end of an hour.

Oh, and I don’t keep the apps on my main phone screen, where the little blue circles of death can visibly tempt and stress me.

Blue circles of death

Blue circles of death. I’ve now removed social media apps from my home screen so these circles can’t be seen and prompt me to check social when I don’t plan to. This helps keep me in control.

Life is too short to be wasted on social media. Since my 30 day break, I’ve realized that real life experiences make me far happier than anything social can provide.

Clutter-free at Christmas

283 words, 3 minutes to read.

I’ve had The Talk with most of my friends and relatives.

Consequently, I receive very few gifts at Christmas. That makes me happy, knowing my loved ones are not wasting their money on stuff I don’t need.

But there’s always that one relative who insists on giving you gifts. How can you deal with them? They insist that Christmas ‘just wouldn’t be right’ without presents under the tree.

Here are some strategies you can take.

1. Suggest a consumable gift.

Hint that you’d love some chocolates. A nice bottle of wine. Some expensive fresh fruit or lovely locally-produced cheeses. Let them know than any of these options would be appreciated far more than socks, jocks or yet more hand cream!

2. Tickets to events can be a great idea.

Ask for tickets to an upcoming concert you’d enjoy. Or maybe suggest a nice meal out at a favourite restaurant with them paying for the meal.

3. Give to someone – or something – else.

Charities such as Oxfam give to those who are truly in need. It’s a great option for those who want to be generous.

4. Accept the inevitable and re-gift what they give you.

Homeless shelters and food banks are pleased to receive unwanted toiletries, clothing and other items. Ring before you drop them off, to ensure that the right item is going to the right place.

5. Sell the item, and use the proceeds for something useful.

If re-gifting makes you feel guilty, spend the money on a worthwhile charity, and convert an unwanted gift into much-needed assistance. I find that giving to worthwhile charities always eases any guilt I have!

Is it too early to wish everyone Merry Christmas yet? 🙂

clutter-free at Christmas

Time to have “The Talk” about Christmas

304 words. 3 minutes to read.

Christmas gifts from relatives and friends are always awkward.

Will they spend too much? Too little? Am I a cheapskate?

Are they going to buy something horrible and tasteless I have to pretend I like?

Am I going to get yet another pair of Homer Simpson socks?

Homer Simpson socks

Homer Simpson socks…do you REALLY need another pair?

It’s time to have The Talk.

Years ago, my brother and I agreed to stop buying each other Christmas gifts. It was a great decision that has made my Christmas better every year since.

We’ve both saved a lot of money and a lot of stress of having to work out what the other wants and likes.

Now, as adults who have pretty much everything we need, The Talk has saved us buying useless stuff that neither of us needs.

Over time, I’ve had The Talk with friends and other family members. I receive few gifts at Christmas, and it makes me much happier. I don’t feel indebted to anyone, and I don’t receive stuff I don’t want or need.

Likewise, we’ve encouraged our children to not buy each other gifts at Christmas and birthdays.

It has been a breath of fresh air in our lives.

Christmas should be about family getting together and sharing good times. If you’re religious, it’s about Church and Christ.

It should never be about guilt, consumerism and stress.

Chances are that some of your loved ones would love to have a No Gifts policy with you, they’re just not ready to take the first step. They’re afraid of what you might think. They’re afraid you might think they’re a cheapskate.

So be brave. Make your lives better. Quit the craziness. Find some peace this holidays.

Isn’t is time for you to have The Talk with people you love this Christmas?

Isn't it time you had The Talk?

Isn’t it time you had The Talk?

Desperado…

82 words. 1 minute to read.

Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
You been out ridin’ fences for so long now.
Oh, you’re a hard one,
But I know that you’ve got your reasons.
These things that are pleasin’ you,
Can hurt you somehow.

– Johnny Cash, Desperado.

Apple addicts waiting in line for the next Apple phone… almost exactly the same as the last Apple phone

I could write a post about this, but I’m not going to.

There’s not really anything to say, is there?

My minimalist story…

460 words. 5 minutes to read.

It began when my nice luxury Peugeot station wagon died, four years ago.

The cam belt broke. Exeunt engine.

Luckily, a close student friend of mine was selling her car – a tiny 1997 Starlet, a 2 door hatchback.

Minimalism story

“The Beast” – the little car that sparked my path to minimalism. We still own it 🙂 It’s 20 years old now, and it runs beautifully.

We bought it on the spot. $2300 cash. We needed a car urgently.

The car had no power windows, no stereo, no heating to speak of, and it was 16 years old… but it was reliable and very economical.

We dubbed the tiny car “The Beast”. I fell in love with its gutsy rawness.

The Beast looked very odd compared to all the huge luxury 4WD trucks and station wagons the other mothers drove their kids to school in, when I drove to school on Monday.

I realised with a shock that
a) I didn’t care and
b) The Beast was perfectly adequate for my family, even though it was dwarfed by the cars around it.

Other parents commented on The Beast, but instead of being derogatory like I expected, they sounded almost wistful.

Like me, perhaps it reminded them of the freedom we’d had before society made us feel we had to fit in and impress each other with huge cars, big houses, and manicured lawns.

An epiphany

I started thinking, why did I have the huge mortgage, the fancy clothes, the expensive haircut, the designer phone?

Why did I have all this stuff in the first place, if what really made me happy was freedom?

I realised that
– my days at the beach made me happier than trips to the mall.
– my huge country home and farm impressed others, but to me it represented work and stress.
– my expensive consumer goods made me worry.
– what I truly valued was peace, freedom and being out in nature.

It sounds odd that a car could make me begin to question everything about my life, but it did.

Minimalism begins

Once I began questioning, the questioning didn’t stop. I started examining every aspect of my life. Most of my life changed as a result. I fundamentally changed the person I am.

These days I’m far less burdened by stuff. I live a much simpler life. I have much more free time, I appreciate life more and I’m much happier.

I’ve heard a lot of minimalist journeys are sparked by one thing. Divorce, death, babies, economic hardship.

Mine was sparked by a gutsy little car.

How a one-week shopping pause can change your life

308 words. 4 minutes to read.

You can start the 7 DAY STOP Shopping Challenge any time. It’s up to you.

The post below explains why. For more details on What and How, visit my page on the 7 Day STOP Shopping Challenge.

Why you might want to consider a 7 Day Shopping Stop

The symptoms:

(Do any of these sound familiar?)

  • Your house is always messy.
  • You can’t find stuff when you need it.
  • You spend all your spare time tidying up.
  • You just get things sorted when the kids mess them up again.
  • You’re embarrassed when friends pop over unexpectedly because the house is a shambles.
  • You want your home to look like a magazine, but it never does.
  • You’re broke all the time.
  • Food spoils before you eat it, and you end up throwing it away.
  • You have clothes in your wardrobe with the tags still on.
  • You have lots of clothes but nothing to wear.
  • You love shopping but can’t find anything different that works, so you end up buying another black t-shirt to hang with all the other black t-shirts you already own!
  • You don’t have enough storage space for all your belongings.

The diagnosis:

Too much stuff. It’s really that simple.
May also be addicted to spending and / or shopping.

The cure:

A one-week shopping stop.
Just one week.
If it helps, leave your credit and bank cards at home every day, so they’re no temptation.
Eat the food you have in your home until it runs out. You’ll have some interesting meals!
Bring lunches from home.
Wear the clothes in your closet, and don’t buy anything new.
Use the items you already have.

Do the Challenge together…

We’ll be running regular 7 Day Stop Shopping Challenges on Facebook and Twitter in November. Follow The 5MinuteMinimalist on either and take the 7 Day Stop Shopping Challenge with us! 🙂

7 Day Stop Shopping Challenge

7 Day Stop Shopping Challenge