*A Simplified Lifestyle Test*
What Crazy People Do in Their Spare Time...
By: dog8dog
04 May 2011

Most everyone has had the feeling that there are not enough hours in the day. How about the feeling that your days now have so few hours in them, that the day starts to feel like it is turning inside-out? You only have a couple dozen things scheduled for the day, but you end up twice as far behind when you are done. Instead of going to bed and waking only a few hours later, if you are lucky, you start waking up before you can actually go to bed.

Unfortunately, this is not the next Rod Serling intro. This is what I started to feel like, day after day after day. I have never understood those movies where the family is up and eating breakfast together. Dad is enjoying a cup of coffee while reading the paper. Eventually the kids go to school and dad goes to work. My mornings were never that laid back. Not to say that I have it bad or even worse than anyone else. My week is about 50-60 hours of work with 10+ hours of commuting on top of that (depending on the idiots). I get to see my kids occasionally. Saturdays are usually filled with some type of running around, shopping, birthday parties, or what have you. Sundays, I am conflicted. Do I try to catch up with my chores and projects or do I try to relax as much as I can for the next week?

On top of all this were the constant distractions and "time sucks" that we have accepted into our lives. Phones, television, computers, internet, video games, texting and just about anything else that does not produce anything useful. Something had to happen. Unfortunately, or otherwise, something did.

I guess what happened has a certain amount of logic. As much as I play with the "digital", I am basically an "analog" guy. My "stuff" meter just kept on climbing until it rolled completely over back to zero. I decided it was time to pull the plug. I sat down with the Missus and sketched out my idea. I wanted to get rid of it all. No more digital. I wanted a month of the simple life.

This was the basic plan:

  1. No electronic entertainment. - No TV, video games, computers, internet or email. These are the biggest time sucks and general distractions.
  2. Unplug everything not used. - This is for those things that "accidentally" get turned on.
  3. No extra spending. No restaurants, movie rentals, etc. - An effort to get our budget under control.
  4. No phone chats or texting. Only necessary calls. - Another distraction/time suck. Spend quality time in person.
  5. No extra travel. - Saves time and money. I got tired of seeing extra trips here and there for something that could have waited. When we lived in Wyoming, we would make a trip into town for shopping only once every week or two. There were no quick trips for a gallon of milk.
  6. Bed by 8PM. - This does not necessarily mean to sleep. It is intended for retiring to a comfortable space for relaxation. Reading, talking, sleeping or whatever. The idea is to unwind and prepare to get some good sleep.
  7. No eating after 8PM. - We are trying to cut out the late night snacks for health reasons and because it can affect your sleep.

What we learned:

After the month was over, we sat down with the kids and did an assessment of what we liked and where we had trouble.

I had the most trouble with filling in the time gaps, the 10-15 minute spaces between everything else. I had not developed any idle time activities. I think that those would develop naturally over time, but a month is not long enough.

My wife had difficulty in handling the 8PM "bed time". She really felt rushed to get everything done by 8PM. This caused her more stress. By the end, she found it easier, as everyone fell into a better routine.

My wife and I both noticed that our children would spend hours playing with their non-electronic toys. This was dramatically different than the normal. Normally, they would play with something for a few minutes, and then move on. We also noticed a significant decrease in the general bickering.

The kids (a girl - 7 years old, a girl - 9 years old, and a boy - 12 years old) all agreed that not being able to play in the computer lab was the hardest. During their free time they would normally go play some educational computer games at the co-op.

My son said that he found that it was easier for him to think when he was working on something.

The girls liked that we were playing games as a family more.

I am going to say the entire experience was a positive one. We all got along better and spent more time with each other. Our budget looked better than it had in years. We had several hundred dollars more left over at the end of the month (and here I thought the couch was eating it all!). But the best of all was the quality of sleep I had. It was amazing. Every day seemed to get better and better.

We decided to incorporate several of the ideas into our daily lives. The benefit was just too great to ignore.

As a result of this exercise, we decided to do the following:

  1. Pack away all game consoles.
  2. Pack away most of the computers.
  3. Disconnect the internet.
  4. Discontinue VoIP phone service.
  5. Limit the phone chats to weekends.
  6. Set the end of the day at 8pm.
  7. No eating after 8pm.
  8. We will continue our Netflix, one DVD at a time, for entertainment.

The hard part is going to be cutting the umbilical cord; the cable internet. Even though the only thing we are using it for is RubiQ. That is one expensive chat.

We enjoyed this experience so much, we are planning two more jaunts into the far side. One will be a month without electricity. My kids can't wait for cold showers. Hehe...

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