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Monday, June 15, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 24 - The elephant in the room

digitalART2, Flickr

I have been wanting to tackle this topic for a few weeks now, but I kept postponing. Why? Let's be honest, procrastination usually stems from some form of dread.

I have been dreading this topic because once I write about it, there is no going back: I will be accountable to the readers of the blog, some of which are close friends and family who can easily monitor whether I am doing the right thing or not.

This is scary, but it is also necessary. Being accountable is one of the best ways to implement change in one's life.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that mindfulness is central to my approach to life in general, and to this Less is More project in particular. More than a way to declutter and save money, this project has been a way to refocus, recenter, redefine my priorities, simplify my life, and generally feel better.

All in all, decluttering my house and curbing my spending has been relatively easy. I adopted a more mindful approach toward stuff in the same way that I had adopted a mindful approach toward my physical health (through exercising and healthy eating), and in the same way that I had adopted a mindful approach toward my mental health (through relationships, work-life balance and meditation). (For more on those topics, browse the blog by using the Search tool on the right-hand side.)

Many wonderful things happen when you become mindful: your life looks like the life you want to have. You feel content. Satisfied. Fulfilled. Enthusiastic. Energetic. Peaceful. Truly, mindfulness is a panacea. Some things, however, are easier to be mindful about than others. We all have an elephant in the room. 

Mine is my Internet use.

It all started very nicely: the Internet is a wonderful way to keep up with current events (especially when you very rarely watch TV, like me), to read everything on the topics you are passionate about, and to stay in touch with friends. In addition, the Internet offers very convenient tools such as interactive maps, dictionaries, and various apps. Obviously, I also use the Internet for work: email is my primary way of networking and communicating with my - numerous - clients on a daily basis. Most of my work resources are online as well. I have also used the Internet to find inspiration and to publish my writing (for example, see herehere... and of course, this blog).

Because the Internet is so central to many positive things in my life, it has been hard to draw the line between reasonable use and excessive use. Just like overeating, and unlike, say, smoking, overusing the Internet poses the extra challenge that you cannot completely eliminate it from your life. Using the Internet might not be a "basic need" like eating, some people (including me) still rely on it for the major part of their income. Even when I am not online per se, I am typing away on the computer for work-related purposes. Stepping away from it, in my case, would signify the end of a big chunk of my translating/editing/writing career. It's not an option.

So. Internet has to stay. The problem is, I often find myself overdoing the online presence. I will go check my email or write a blog post... and end up wasting an extra hour reading all kinds of articles (which I then "have to" repost on social media, of course). Most things I read are "intelligent" and help me learn and grow. Sometimes, they are humoristic and entertaining; hey, we all need to unwind and have fun. Still, that time spent in front of the screen is time I don't have for other things.

I know I am not the only one struggling with my use of technology. This is partly why I decided to share my thoughts today. Many of us are addicted to one form of technology or another. In a lot of cases, what should have been used as a tool has become a crutch or even a drug. If you or anybody you know spends hours on end watching TV, have a hard time putting down their phone or cannot imagine life without video games... we are on the same boat: technology addicted. We have been swallowed by the black hole. As of today I want to extirpate myself from it - or at least regain my control over it.

Being mindful does not mean everything will suddenly improve drastically. Knowing you eat or drink too much, for example, is only the first step toward improvement. But it is a necessary step. Over the next few weeks I will be making conscious efforts to limit my use of the Internet. I know I will experience both success and setbacks. But what matters is that I am setting this in motion.

What is YOUR elephant in the room?


Donations (good riddance)

Have you ever really addressed the small things in your house? Pens, paper clips, nails and screws, small utensils and tools, lip balm tubs, earrings and the like might not take a lot of space, they do create clutter. How do you organize yours? And how many do you really need?

I am slowly getting rid of anything belonging to the "small things" category that I don't really use or like. You should give it a try!

Observations and cogitations

The weather has been (and will be, judging by the forecast) glorious. It reminds me, once more, that simple things such as sunlight, wind in the trees, bird songs, colorful flowers and the scent of fresh cut grass or pine trees are enough to fill me with joy. Why do we even bother looking past those wonders? Why do we fail to notice those wonders in the first place?

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. Not an uncommon problem :-)

    When I look back at my use of the Internet I go to earlier times before Al Gore invented it and look at my behaviors with technology. I never was into video games or even computers. If not for flight simulators I might never have learned to use them. On the job, I had residents to do all that. So even now I am in no hurry. I like how I can get information fast and communicate with email all around the world, but I never use social media and do not even have a smart phone nor GPS in my car. It's not that I find it challenging, I seem to be very quick with technology. I've just learned not to let it be a time-suck, lol, and I like maintaining certain basic skills, like navigation :-)

    1. Totally agree with this: "I've just learned not to let it be a time-suck, lol, and I like maintaining certain basic skills, like navigation :-)"

  2. I hear that the selfie phenomenon/addiction has been officially declared a mental illness. So I get it. I think ANYONE who blogs is affected to some degree or another. That said, I still like to read (on a Kindle. LOL) I am not a texting addict. I don't instagram. I use Twitter mostly for news breaks and fantasy football.

    My elephant in the room is still sugar. Not as bad as it used to be, but still not entirely controlled...

    good luck!

  3. I'm with you on this. I spend a lot of time on the computer both for work and pleasure and have been looking to cut back. I've decided to begin with social media. I've been tempted to open a number of accounts - facebook, twitter, etc., when the only one I really enjoy is my blog. So I'm closing them down gradually. A step, a beginning.

    1. Interesting! I agree that we should only keep the social media we actually enjoy.

  4. I am tragically addicted to my computer, mostly facebook. Just like you, I do a lot of things on the interwebs that truly enhance my life, and my work depends on it, too but i need a better balance.

    On the topic of small things:I had a shell collection as a child and I still had a small handful of my very most prized shells. Yesterday I gave them to my brother's kids. Thats four less items of clutter for me. I hope the kids enjoy them.

    1. Thank you for making me feel less alone in my quest to find balance, Internet wise! :-)

      I'm sure the kids will enjoy their gift.

  5. The internet ... a blessing or a curse?

    It is here and will not go away so we each have to decide what we want to use and how we want to use it. Yes, to some it can be addictive.

    I enjoy blogging, I do find the internet can be so helpful when I'm looking things up and researching.

    My 'beef' is mobile phones. Yes they are so handy but do we really need to be attached to them 24/7. When out they can intrude on your day ... and not necessarily your phone it's other people constantly talking or texting. It is perhaps all about balance but just try telling that to some - they just couldn't cope without it!

    Hope you are having a good week.

    All the best Jan

    1. A blessing or a curse is a very good way to put it! It can be both.

      Take care Jan!

  6. I admire that you are trying to find balance in your life.
    I know I spend to much time first thing in the morning
    on the web when I would rather be working on my
    craft projects I knit and crochet.
    I have begun a little at a time dealing with the clutter
    in my house. We have lived here 11 years this summer
    my house is small by most standards but still I have
    accumulated a lot of stuff over that time. I use some
    of Fly ladies techniques plus the A Slob comes clean girl
    slowly but surely I am making progress.
    Anyway, I wanted to let you know I appreciate your writing.

    1. If you have lived 11 years in your house, you can do the test: "Have I used this in 11 years?" and if the answer is no, get rid of the object. I did the same in my house after 7 years, and I keep working on it. Thank you for your comment!

  7. "Because the Internet is so central to many positive things in my life, it has been hard to draw the line between reasonable use and excessive use."

    I agree. I don't have a smartphone, so my internet usage is more obvious because I have to walk to my computer to use it, but I wonder how much time I truly waste and how much is enriching my life.

    1. Same here. Smartphone is something I resist because then, I would have no way left to control my use of the Net.

    many days I long for an offline old school no 'net use at all job.