how to craft a life without tv

A guest post by Tricia Ivey of Every Nothing Wonderful.

rocking chairs on porch

Late last fall:

The television is turned off.
Well the cable portion, at least. We still have movies, of course, but no incessant advertising, reality drivel, supposed unbiased reporting, and generally gluttonous rot. Granted all these things can be come by via the internet, magazines, etc – but not with quite as much soul-sucking, transfixing apathy.

While I am ever impressed with her learning process I knew it was most definitely time for the call when, last week, our daughter (about 10 months old at the time) would push a button on the remote and then look over her shoulder to see if she had turned the television on…while it was interesting that she made that connection it wasn’t one of the first skills I wanted to teach our child.

So the call was made. As expected the customer service agent asked why I would want to do such a thing…was I aware I could get a really “cheap” only local channel package?

“Yes, I am aware. No, I don’t want it. We don’t want TV.”

That answer didn’t seem to make any sense.

“But, why?”

When discussing the possibility of turning off our television over the past month I’ve found myself embarrassed for no obvious reason. I’m not sure if the embarrassment stems from a cliché that to not pay for cable must indicate we have “fallen upon tough times,” or that it was from a difficulty expressing why, exactly, one would want to get rid of things to an almost Luddite-esque extreme. Regardless, we finally convinced the cable provider to turn off our service and we sent back all the accoutrements of technology necessary.

Later that day I turned on the television and there it was, a great, grand gleaming nothing. So, while our screen has fallen black the outside world is falling white, a blanket of cold has laid down around us, we are left to make our own warmth and entertainment. I return to an old, but neglected, favorite – cooking.

fresh baked bread

When the weather turns cold a busy kitchen always makes up with warmth and invitation; which is good since I have no less than 16 loaves of bread to make this coming week. While the rest of our homemade Christmas gifts are all or nearly complete the heart and soul of the gifts has yet to begin – the bread – the real stuff. I am always amazed at how much people love a fresh loaf of real bread. And so, to round out the random crafts and packaged goods we’ll be filling the boxes with fresh, homemade bread.

Since the television has been eliminated it only seemed appropriate to end my other ‘addiction’ to a purposeless message board as well – both were removing me from my family and creating a vacuum of socialization with the people I most want to be near. Hello again my loves!

Present day:

We’re fast approaching a year without cable now. Occasionally my husband and I both miss a good football game or I, a really brain-rotting reality program but overall we haven’t felt any huge loss. Originally the plan was to go a month without cable then decide but, we never really got around to talking about it and the cable stayed off.

In the meantime a crop of equally time-sucking replacements have come into play – only these activities (read: hobbies) are more fulfilling and additive to our lives. I rediscovered my love for photography, started writing again, did more design work, and created a blog. My husband re-dedicated himself to learning more about 3D design, began making beer, reads more, and has finally learned to nap. We both feel more fulfilled, more inspired, and more satisfied with life.

Without advertising, however much we fast-forwarded right by it, the incredible draw to ‘buy, buy, buy’ has dwindled and we’re more drawn to ‘make, make, make’. Perhaps because I read more, or perhaps because I have the time to look at boxes of cookies (the ingredients are downright gross), I now make and bake most “convenience” foods.

Making our own doesn’t mean just cooking – we make, remake, refashion, recreate most everything now. I needed a new desk – we repainted and repurposed one we had. We wanted a table for potting and gardening – we made one. We needed a way to organize things in the garage – my husband built and crafted boxes and fixtures. I have sewn, glued, painted, baked, cut, canned, woven, and otherwise crafted the heck out of this past year. I’ve also given up on sewing entirely. We can’t be good at everything.

summer magazine

In many ways what we have learned is how to make and craft our lives – both the physical things around us and how we live our lives.

When we simply consumed we attached little to no value to things beyond the money expended. Now our lives have meaning and value that has nothing to do with money.

This is a path we were on before turning off the cable, and one we continue to pursue. Freeing up a few minutes to a few hours each day, turning off outside influences except those we purposefully let in, well, that has created purpose.

Living with purpose. Crafting a life. Buying, and making homemade. Forging relationships with local producers. Those are not always easy choices to make in a world that offers convenience at every turn. But convenience isn’t as necessary when you are content – and being happy is as much something you make for yourself as it is a state of being.

Turning off the TV helped us, your cue to pursue a life you’ve dreamed of might be something different. Whatever it is make bold decisions, face your dreams and your reality head on and don’t be afraid to give up something to get so much more. I know this all sounds very Thoreau, right? “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Life the life you’ve imagined,” we’ve all heard it. There is another line to that quotation that is rarely cited – “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler,” – less laws means fewer rules, fewer rules means less to hold you back from being and doing exactly who you’ve always wanted to be and doing what you’ve always wanted to do.

When we stop taking from the universe it starts giving back to us in ways we never dare to imagine. Be confident in your decisions to live more simply, to abandon rampant consuming, and I think you’ll find the direction of your dreams will become abundantly clear.

Tricia Ivey is an east coast girl who married a west coast boy who now lives smack dab in the middle of the country. She is a the mother of a toddler girl, blogger, freelance designer and appreciator of the arts. Her dual dreams of photography (her images above) and writing have become a reality in her blog {every}nothing wonderful.

41 thoughts on “how to craft a life without tv

  1. I love it!!! We have not had TV for over a year and it’s amazing the time we have added to our lives. We are still informed as we read the news. But we also read lots of other things. And we spend time with each other. And we spend time on other relationships. And we garden – and put up the harvest.
    Thank you, Tricia, for an eloquent article and thank you, Tara, for posting it!

  2. i must admit attempting to “abandon rampant consuming” is quite a challenge. i’m not sure if i could ever do without my television (or cable, for that matter), but i’d like to try a simpler way of living using other methods. sometimes, i feel like i’m on information/technology overload!

    this was a wonderful post!

  3. We lived without tv, just fine (better than fine) when we were out of the country. Since we came home I guess we figured if we could have cable, why not. You present the perfect argument.
    THANKS immensely for this reminder.

  4. A great article – we have been without tv now for a month (still have internet) and after an inital cold turkey week things seem to run a lot more smoothly without it. We have noticed a marked improvement in behaviour from our three year old. No more tantrums or shouting when the tv goes off. Both children (7 years and 3 years) are playing more creatively, they are drawing, reading, play acting, building and listening to cds. They are also fighting but I think that is a part of family life? And at least they are not fighting over the remote control. I am also getting a lot more “help” in the kitchen.

  5. It’s so great to hear that my partner and I aren’t the only ones without TV (by choice) around here! We’ve been without television for nearly 4 years now, and I love it. There’s enough things in the world I still don’t feel I have time for, it’s great not “having” to watch a certain TV show. We can just pop in a movie whenever we want, and I can knit or sew while watching it. While we might miss out on some conversations about new television, they never last that long!

  6. Consuming less and doing more always makes us happier…even when we think the opposite is true.

    I could never give up tv, but I love the idea of consuming less and making more. Some people are makers or doers and some are the type that buy. We need both in this world. If everyone made their own everything, no one would buy what I make….so I appreciate both ends.

    I commend you for giving up the TV, sounds like an amazing year.

  7. When we first married, as poor, young, just-graduated & buying-our-first-home people, we couldn’t afford cable. We had rabbit ears on an old, hand me down TV set & received 1 channel: PBS.

    Flash forward a bazillion years: we can afford cable, but even with the few programs we watch, I still felt like it was too much. A few weeks ago I began turning the TV off more & we’re much happier (as a family) when I do. We become more connected, more self-reliant. You speak the truth, and I should take that brave step of calling the cable company once & for all, it seems silly to keep paying out the nose for a service I find myself trying not to use.

  8. We’ve not had TV for almost all of the last 9 years by choice. I don’t miss it or want it back at all. Who has time to sit and watch TV is what I always wonder? I wish I could say that I’ve crafted more because of it or done something better because of it, but it doesn’t quite seem that way. I do love the fact that my kids don’t see commercials. My 13 year old finds them somewhat amusing because they are so novel to him though.

  9. What an inspiring post. I found myself get sucked into TV this morning and didn’t get anything marked off my to-do list. I need to get it off and keep it off.

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. I have tv, but I don’t watch it. Who has time to watch when there’s so much more to do out there?

    I also agree with the fact that I have no desire to buy stuff because I am not bombarded with advertisements.

    Live without TV is great!!!

  11. Amen! I haven’t had TV for a number of years and I honestly don’t miss it.

    I AM out of the loop with everything surrounding movies and celebrity gossip, but once again, I don’t really mind.

    Thank you for sharing your experience of stepping away from the addictive lure of Television.

  12. great post. we too have been without cable for almost 2 years. we also miss the occasional football game, but it so much more enjoyable not to have that constant chatter in the background and have the kids bombarded with so much information and ads. my son goes to a Waldorf school and they encourage no tv or media on school days/nights so this has worked well also. more time is spent outside, reading, playing or crafting. i’m really trying to simplify our life both physically and mentally. my new goal is to not listen to NPR all day long or when the children are around, just more background noise.

  13. We have cable in our apartment and we turn it on pretty much every day – I love the Food Network for recipe ideas and background noise (my boyfriend, Jim, doesn’t get home until 9:30pm most nights and being in a quiet house gets lonely.

    Jim and I have our shows we watch and enjoy and it really is a decent part of our evening unwind time. After reading this post I thought, “maybe we should turn it off too” but then I remembered that we live a healthy and happy life even though we enjoy our TV time regularly!

    We home cook at least 5 dinners per week, I run about 3 miles per day (8 on Saturdays), I craft and support handmade/homemade wholeheartedly and can’t remember the last time I bought something simply because I saw an ad for it.

    Could I go without TV? Of course! Jim and I have talked about dropping cable the next time we have to fight with Comcast to keep our bill down (because the charges are just ridiculous after the promo period).

    I just wanted to say that you can lead a healthy, creative and happy life while still indulging in your favorite shows (we do!).

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  14. two years without cable and we’re doing the same thing – making more, walking together more, enjoying time with our son. now if I could only re-learn how to nap (like your husband) I’d have it made.

  15. Thanks everyone for the kind words!

    Giving up TV is not for everyone and, for us, it was part of many lifestyle changes, but it is always worth a try. Some are visual learners, some auditory, etc – where you find fulfillment and joy can vary, of course, but the challenge is to find that joy and be willing to leave behind those things that do not serve you. Balance, joy, these are never-ending pursuits – may you be brave enough to continue to chase them and challenge yourselves!

  16. Wonderful post Tricia.

    I too have lived for the past 2 years without TV and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel like those of us who have commented here are a little secret society who know how much better life is with the tube turned off.

    I’m wondering about taking this one step farther, though. I am absolutely appreciative of the internet – I love connecting with people all over the world, sharing ideas via blogs, and being able to sell products while I’m sleeping. But despite its benefits I am definitely aware that my use of the internet sucks creative time from my life. There are just so many things to be distracted by.

    My question – to anyone who cares to address it – is now that the TV is irrelevant, how do we manage our use of the internet so that it doesn’t become the same kind of monster?

  17. I agree Jess!

    I actually have recently (and finally) moved into my own office. Making the transition into a “working” space is difficult for me, I won’t lie but it has already helped immensely. Creating a space JUST for my blog/internet time is essentially what it is. I allow myself time at 3 points in the day – morning, when my daughter is napping, and after my husband gets home and is playing with my daughter (I believe their time alone as well as all of us together is essential). I’m still working on it and the internet can is the beast of addictions for me.

    I, personally, have found that alloting specific times for work/play and then giving myself important tasks for the rest of the time to be incredibly helpful. My husband loves “the action method”. I like to write a list of things to do in different areas of my life – only 5 things per week: blog/cook/craft/house/other and then I try to do at least 2 per day. Some days are great, others not so much but it helps me.

    I do agree though and am immensely interested in others thoughts!

    Thanks Jess – for getting the brain moving!

  18. Thanks for your post Tricia,

    My husband and I decided that October was going to be a TV free month, and so far, bar a couple of hiccups, this has gone off well. Your post has come at exactly the right time to keep us on track, and we will be extending the tv-free lifestyle beyond this time now! When i think back on how many hours we’ve wasted in a sloth-like state in front of the box, it makes me cringe….oh well, no use dwelling, here’s to turning over a new leaf!

  19. Great post! I lived without TV for years, and then had two fuzzy channels for years. We’re talking the late 80’s through the late 90’s! Then I finally got super cable and all was lost. Until earlier this year, when I realized just how bad TV has become. I’ve been ratcheting down my cable plan while thinking about doing away with it (maybe just keeping local for news) altogether.

    There are SO many other things to do! Cooking, baking, making, audiobooks while working, gardening, talking, playing games, going for a walk, you name it.

    And … I’m so so much more productive when the TV is off. I think you’ve all made great decisions!

  20. Wonderful post! We haven’t made the jump to no cable…yet! But we did move the TV into a very out of the way place in the house and out of the family room. It has been so wonderful to reclaim that space and use it to just be together. I will be posting a link!

  21. What a beautiful and inspirational post! It is interesting to read this post and reflect on ones own life. I think I’ll continue pondering this for a while!

    Thanks, ladies!

  22. I am so relieved to find a like-minded soul – (well – several it would seem!). We moved to France from Scotland last year and because of renovation works never installed the TV – now we are in the house the TV has found a table in the corner of the room but only comes on for the occassional kid’s dvd or Saturday night movie – it’s not connected to cable or satellite or even basic tv channels. We spend a lot of time on the internet though I have to say we have not missed the tv at all. I make sure the kids always occupy themselves with creative constructive activities . It’s sooo much healthier – once you make the move to stop tv a whole new world opens up! Thank you so much for putting to words what I knew already :)

  23. First, let me say my children are all grown and flown, so this influences me. When they were small, we had just the one TV in the living room and were very selective.

    Now though, I’m a full time knitter – and love to have the TV on as background. It can cause problems – I have been known to knit one of my characters in the wrong costume because I’ve been too influenced by what’s worn onscreen! I insist on a walk in the countryside every day, but cannot see TV as a bad thing.

    Looking back at my own childhood some 40+ years ago, we had no TV as they were too expensive. I used to pretend to have watched “the Man from Uncle” every week, so that I could join in the playground chat. I worked out there was usually a car-chase, so would comment on that.

    Rather than do without TV, I’d recommend being selective. It isn’t obligatory to watch reality shows, or adverts. Maybe as I’m in the UK it’s different here (though I doubt it – sky is everywhere!) but I can watch adverts without needing to buy. As I said though – I’m not a parent of small children.

  24. this was a lovely essay! my husband and I were without a TV for the first 6 months of living in a new country – we definitely cultivated better habits…and even after getting one, we barely use it :)

  25. Great Post! Just had to chime in and say that we’ve been TV-free for almost 3 years and don’t regret it a bit! I have 3 teen kids and they can care less about the TV. After a year or so, I did ask them if they miss TV. Their answer was… they never thought it could be possible to live without TV. But not that they haven’t had TV for a year, they don’t miss it at all.

    Not having TV has provided us many nights of playing board games, trying out new crafts, more time on dinner table just to talk about everyone’s day rather than rushing to watch next popular show on TV. Dinner time have become our favorite time of the day!

  26. so definitely. we have been tv free at our house for 6 years, and we’re never bored. we have three kids (twin boys 4, & girl 6) and they have never known it… we’ve got a farm, so there’s always plenty to do. I feel glad to not be bombarded with ads; I feel glad there is not something demanding my attention when I should be doing other things. Yes, there are some good things on TV I’m possibly missing out on, but on the balance of it, I believe my life is far richer ~ my kids love books, and they get lots of outdoor activity too. We spend mealtimes together. All this can not be bad.

  27. This is a very interesting subject and I’ve long since discovered how much more time there is in a day without TV. Although my household has not taken on the same mindset, it’s totally possible for you individually to choose how and where you want to spend your time. I wonder though…something I’ve been pondering for quite some time…if the internet is just replacing the TV for many. At least in terms of hours and hours spent sort of aimlessly comsuming… it’s hard to come to terms with what is enough or what is “normal.” I suppose in the end, it’s all about your own time management and using the methods that work for you personally…

  28. I love this article, congrats on getting rid of television in your home. I have lived without television or cable for most of my life. It’s just never had the draw that it does for most people. My mom got rid of it when we were young, because one of my sisters spent too much time in front of it. I have had televisions that my friends give me when they upgrade but I only watch the occasional movie. Most people are baffled that I don’t watch tv and wonder what I do when I’m at home. It’s wonderful everything you can do if you aren’t sitting in front of the television.

  29. Fabulous post and great comments!

    Suddenly, all of the Broadcasters, apparently, either turned down or turned off their signal; and, so I’m not able to watch TV at all. Nada. Caput for about 4 days.

    Wondering what other folks were doing without TV I found you all… So happy I did!

    Hey! Watching TV is such huge waste of time, energy, and LIFE!


  30. Returned from a week’s vacation to find that the cable company finally figured out it had been “giving” me free cable for the last 6 months. I’d cancelled service in April but they never shut down the line. :-/ So I just kept riding the wave. But now that there’s nothing for me to watch, I’ve already realized how productive I can start being. First task was to replace the batteries on smoke detectors that’d been beeping for a month already. :-) I’m excited to get sooo much more accomplished now that I won’t be a slave to the television.

  31. I like this post. We’re contemplating turning off the cable here. We don’t watch TV much….especially now that baseball is over. I find that I turn it on for filler.

    When our kiddo was 3, we turned off cartoons, kids shows, etc. You know what was funny, he NEVER asked for them. Turns out, I was the one turning them on. It really was freeing, not to know what the “it” toys were at Christmas…we bought what we thought was right. I remember sitting in a meeting at church of all places and the speaker mentioned “Hannah whats-her-name”….the ENTIRE room shouted out “montana” and I felt like I was in an alternate universe. I had never heard of a Hannah Montana. And it was great!

    I think we need to get back to that. Thanks for the reminder.

    {I’m not giving up my internet, though.} 😉

  32. In the 80’s and 90’s I had the tv habit bad. I would have to go to town every Tuesday to pickup the new Tv Guide and make out a weekly schedule of what I was going to watch if I wasn’t able to go I would send someone to get it for me. Ever Since they switched to the big issue I have not had one since.

    There is a couple of shows that are ending on January 13 2012 that I want to watch and see the final ending then I am done. I find myself more and more not able to sit through a half hour or hour program to watch. I love to read mysteries work Word Search Puzzles this is my favorite hobby as well as work jigsaw puzzles and listen to old-time radio shows from the 1940-s to the 1950-s These shows are alot better for you than tv is and they still make you laugh even after all these years. I also have a gaming site that I love to get on and play video games for a few minutes each day.

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