thoughts on excess :: media

7 book review

Does this sound familiar to any of you?

About three times a year, I rant around the house, screaming at our stuff: “What is all this?  How did this get here?  Why do we have so much junk?  How am I supposed to keep up with all of this?  Where did this all come from?”  And then I remember:

I bought it all.

I suppose acting like someone snuck into my house while I was feeding the homeless and filled my shelves with more black shirts and a fourth set of Legos against my will is probably ignoble.  To hear me fuss, you’d think I was a victim of drive-by consumerism.  Guess what, doves?

I’m a part of this little game.

I see it (on you, on them, in their house, at Target, on TV).  I manufacture a need for it.  Then I buy it.   I use it a little or not.  I store it/shelve it/stack it/stuff it/get tired of it, then wage war against it one day when all my little things are strewn about as escapees from their shelves and drawers.

It’s a quote from Jen Hatmaker’s new book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  It’s a thoughtful but easy-to-read book that will challenge you to simplify your life.  Jen is a writer and speaker and her husband is a pastor in Austin, Texas.  They have five children, two of them recently adopted.

She’s funny and self-deprecating, making it easy for me to enjoy the blog-like style of this book.  After being challenged by a lower-income child who declared her family “RICH,” Jen decided to evaluate 7 areas of her life over 7 months in order to be a better steward of the earth.  Jen addressed these 7 areas in her book:

  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Possessions
  • Media
  • Waste
  • Spending
  • Stress

My favorite chapters were about media, waste, and spending.  I started to write thoughts on these three topics and then realized… this is a really long blog post!  So I’m going to spread it over a few days and make it into a mini series about cutting down on excess.  If you’ve done any of these things, or if you think I’m crazy, or if you have some good ideas… chime in!

First up… media.

Jen cut out all media for her family for a month, including TV, gaming, Facebook/Twitter, iPhone apps, and radio.  Texting and internet had strict limitations that basically can be boiled down to “business only.”  Her takeaway will sound a little clichéd to some of you.  She found that her family now had time for new and better habits that began to seep into their home life including:

  • Cooking together
  • Walks after dinner
  • Porch time with our friends
  • Endless craft projects at the table
  • Dinner with neighbors
  • Actual phone calls
  • Four books read, fifth in queue

“But… but…” I spluttered, “this description is what Elliott and I want always our home to look like!”  We want to prioritize face-to-face conversations, meals together, family activities, working with our hands, and inviting people to share their lives in our home.

Right?  Don’t we all?

I want to be the kind of person who always keeps media in check so that I don’t need a drastic cleanse one day.

Yeah.  I’m already past that point, I’m afraid.  Maybe it’s time to start thinking about cutting back.

I recently read a fabulous post on A Practical Wedding about unplugging from the internet every weekend.  It made me consider unplugging every now and then once I get back home to Sicily.  Have you ever done it?

As I thought about it, I realized that it’s unrealistic for me to turn off the internet and iPhone apps in the evenings or on weekends.  Those are the only times I can pull out my computer and work because I try to keep my computer closed when my children are awake.

However, my iPhone is always around to take a cute photo of Lena or Gil… and once a photo is taken, why not Instagram it or check email or browse Facebook updates?  Once I’m looking at my phone, Lena wants to look at my phone, and then… whatever productive, healthy, fun thing we were doing is out the window.  I heard on NPR the other day that the average iPhone user checks his or her phone 150 times a day.  Terrifying as that sounds, I know I look at my iPhone at least two times more often than I should!

What if I decide not to check my email or iPhone apps every Monday through Friday morning?  It could be from the time Elliott leaves for work until when Lena goes down for her nap around 1pm.  I am considering it.  I feel like it would help me be a more focused, present mother to my children.  It might help Lena and I focus more deeply on play or projects or even just on having a conversation instead of lapsing into silence (iPhone silence for me, play-until-bored silence for her).  It might also help me use my free minutes to check something off my to-do list instead of checking my email again.

What do you think?  Have you ever unplugged?  Would you consider limiting your media usage for the sake of your family?

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9 Responses to thoughts on excess :: media

  1. Alica June 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    I got this book last summer, and have been re-reading it ever since, whenever I see it laying on the head of our bed. It is very thought provoking! The whole unplugging thing is a challenge for me. We both work at home…don’t get the newspaper…don’t have I-phones, etc, and sometimes I can feel really isolated without my internet connection! However…we have found that since we have high speed internet, we DO waste time on the computer that could be better spent. Life was so much simpler before technology was so readily available!

    • Becca June 28, 2013 at 2:30 am #

      Ain’t that the truth?! I do understand your appreciation for the internet for connection, though, Alica, because that is a huge reason for me as well. As a SAHM and also living in Sicily, the internet keeps me connected to friends and family back home. I’m so grateful for it even as I try to keep it in check!

  2. Hope June 27, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    A few of my girlfriends have read this and have felt some healthy conviction about different areas in their lives. I’m glad you brought it to my attention again. I just placed a hold on it at our local library.

    We recently moved and had a big “get rid of the excess” showdown, but with all that we trashed and donated, it still feels like we have so much STUFF.

    Lessening our intake of media will be a worthy challenge as well. We have a new little lady, and I don’t want her to get used to just spending evenings decompressing in front of the box.

    • Becca June 28, 2013 at 2:32 am #

      Hope, these are some great thoughts. My kids are definitely my biggest motivation to keep media in check in our lives.

      By the way, Elliott told me today that he downloaded y’all’s album from NoiseTrade today and loves it! I’m going to download it myself later tonight!

  3. Steph @ meet.make.laugh. June 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    We were chatting about this amongst friends the other day….. and we have decided when we are all getting together we check our phones at the door! Where it gets hard I think is that we want to take pictures… and that is attached to your phone. But it is worth it to spend time with the people that are present.

  4. Becca June 28, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    The phone-is-my-camera thing is a problem for me too, especially now that I’m really getting into Instagram! You are so right about it being worth it to be with the people who are present. My kids need that from me, and I need it from them when they’re older.

  5. Amy June 28, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    We’ve been on a couple of holidays in the last few years in remote areas where there was no internet, no phone reception, nothing… if you wanted to make a call you had to find a public call box (how often do you even see those anymore?)! And the funny thing? You find that you barely miss the internet at all… yet the minute you get home, you are constantly distracted by it! Thanks for this post Becca, it has challenged me to address head on my media use and think about how I can take on the challenge of reducing it.

  6. Jen July 1, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    I think it’s a great idea. However, living overseas, it’s a bit unrealistic to us. Both my parents work full time. So weekends are when we use Skype/FaceTime/etc. It’s also when I can catch up with my girlfriends, since most of them work full time. With the six hour time difference from the east coast, it’s not realistic to call each other during the week.

    In regards to excess, I would say I am good about that. Since we move every three years, I have been pretty good about giving things away or selling them when we move. And being on one income makes me always stop and think “do we really NEED this”?


  1. thoughts on excess :: spending - Becca Garber - July 15, 2013

    […] of my 3-part book review to evaluate media usage, waste, and spending in my own life.  See Part I : Media and Part II : Waste for the full […]

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