the Rabbit Hole

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A guy that sells stuff probably should not be droning about getting rid of stuff. The problem is that I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalism lately. What does it mean to be a minimalist – to get rid of things and do more with less?

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Lewis Carroll

If you’re not living under a rock you’ve probably heard about the “KonMari” method of decluttering your life. I have not read her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but feel free to check it out. I understand the KonMari method gives you the nudge to get rid of stuff by telling you to get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. I’m probably wrong.

I thought I did a pretty good job of getting tidy when I moved into a single bedroom apartment nearly a year ago. Besides my tools (we are not talking about that) I didn’t think I had a lot of stuff. Heck, I’ve even displaced about 5 trash bags and a few boxes since the move. Even still, I’ve had a nagging feeling that I wasn’t doing enough. I still have to smash my shirts into my dresser drawer to get it to close. All the socks jam the other drawer up. Minimalist I am not.

After more and more listless thinking about being a failed minimalist I began to wonder what else the term could mean. The answer was staring me in the face – rather, I was staring at it.

My Phone

Those of you that know me know that I’m always about two years behind the curve when it comes to gadgets, music, movies or anything else that’s cool. Ask me who played that guy in a movie and my answer will be “Cap’n Kirk”. I still rock a phone that’s two generations behind. I got rid of SnapChat a few months ago – and that’s where all this started. I got asked why would I get rid of it? My response is always, “The three people I was friends with would text me the pics anyways, or I’d see them on Instagram.” Why do I need updates on the same thing I was getting updated on? When you start to realize how bad we are regarding our phones you start to notice.

Those two on a date – staring at their phones instead of each other. Everyone looking down but not at each other, trying to beat the notification game. Clear them all and you can finally go to sleep at night.

Notifications

Not my phone.

What once was a stationary activity, searching the web and logging in, now follows us wherever we go. Thanks to big data it even stalks us and caters to our whims. Our phones and our interactions with them are beginning to resemble a perfect relationship. Relevance, attention, feedback, you name it. Content is absorbed at faster and faster rates and you used to walk away from it and rejoin the world. By 2016 we became consumed by it.

5 years ago only one in three people had a smartphone. Today, 85% of young adults have one. Forty six percent, yes, 46%, of people said they could not live without their phone. Us users are even catered to – have you been to a restaurant or coffee shop without free WiFi lately? Think bigger. Have you been on an airplane or train without WiFi lately? Even hiking backpacks and designer luggage now contain batteries to give you a charge when you’re on the move.

Do you remember when you could go a full day without a recharge during your lunch hour? In 2015, young adults were found to be using their phones at least five hours per day. That means millennials. Me, probably you, likely your brother and sister. Check out these stats, taken today, from my Facebook page.

demographics

5 hours!! I don’t use my phone for 5 hours! Yes, you do. Over the on average 85 interactions you have with your phone every day, you spend at least 30 seconds looking at it. Listen to a song or catch a short YouTube video (which now supports uploads over 20 minutes) and it adds up. OK, fine. A few years ago and we were addicted to TV and not our phones but still not at the alarming rate of 1/3 of our waking hours!

I’m just getting started

I’m not a bad person you’re thinking. These interruptions are pleasing and healthy because I’m interacting with my friends, you think. The ugly part shows up when we feed on those distractions. On average, a young person will exchange between 10 and 400 thousand snaps. That’s 10,000-400,000. Real numbers. The scores generated from those exchanges drive you to keep posting and sharing – same as those likes, hearts and whatever else. You are wired to love the positive feedback and sense of winning you get from these apps.

Observe yourself. Think about what happens when you get a free moment. Do you check your phone? Are you looking for an update? Worse, do you fake having something to look at? I believe that if you stop to take a moment to notice the people around you, you’ll find something. You will become curious. You don’t have to snap that photo, keep it all for yourself. Use your sense of direction to get you home every once in a while.

About two weeks ago I called a young lady about a project I was working on for an art show. We were texting information back and forth and I asked if I could call her. I don’t care to text and always taught my younger coworkers to call if you want something done. The young lady was surprised when the phone rang. However, one of the first things she said was that she liked to talk as it “facilitated the quick exchange of lots of information”. Ahh – the days when a cell phone was a cell phone. Here’s another one for you:

I was roofing a house for a lady as part of a church trip to help those in need. It was a large group effort and we did quite a few houses every year. The gentleman leading our crew was a good ol’ boy from Texas that had been welding since God was knee high to a grasshopper. He had the ubiquitous Nokia brick phone that he always carried in his front shirt pocket. He happened to bend over an open can of blue paint in just the right spot and his phone fell into the bucket. He fished it out, to much laughter, when someone remarked that he finally had one of those fancy bluetooth phones.

I think that was the end of an era of when a phone was just a phone. It quit becoming a means of calling and became a tether to the world. I think that for me, minimalism can start with something smaller than our homes. Delete some apps. Unsubscribe from some marketing emails (but not these blog updates). Better yet, have blackout days once a week. Don’t check your phone for one entire day a week. Want to see a friend? Schedule in advance and show up at the destination without worrying if you’ll have to spend time there alone for a bit. Talk to someone while you wait. Make a connection that adds value at the same time you got rid of something else.

I think I’ll finally buy that book I was talking about.

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