There’s a quote I’ve come across over a dozen times on Pinterest, and if you are a pinner, chances are that you’ve scrolled by it too:
“That was the day she made herself the promise to live more from intention & less from habit.” – Amy Rubin Flett
I just love these words. If I take a moment to connect the dots of this simple yet powerful message to my life and the season I am in, I am always met with more questioning. Questioning is good, it means something matters.
What areas of your life have you let become habits instead of intentional practices?
As someone who is far from having her sh*t together, there are always several areas of my life that I’ve regrettably let slip into some form of habit, becoming an automatic part of my day that does not lend itself to enriching nor encouraging the things our family values. As I grow and learn and change, these things do too. So it’s a lifelong process, turning habits into intentional acts. Now this is not to say that all habits are bad, but some can become without question, more uncomfortable than others. Overtime, they can in fact lead us away from living the lives we want for ourselves, keeping us from making positive changes we feel called to try on. Good habits give us ease, comfort, and rhythm, while bad ones mimic these ideals and end up giving us quite the opposite. Having a television in our living room had turned into a source of several bad habits for our family, so we decided to do something about it.
A few weeks ago, back before Christmas wreathes, red bows, and twinkle lights, we decided to take the large TV out of our living room and store it downstairs. After many late night talks and just plain old dissatisfaction of how it made us feel, were curious to see what it would be like to not organize the main area of our home around our TV. Here are a few questions you may have as to why we did this along with our answers to those:
Why did we give our telly the boot?
Over the past few years, Andrew and I started recognizing several unsavory patterns we as a family were falling into. Not really bad things, per se, but things that kept poking us and that would eventually prompt change. We realized that some of our habits, our areas of default, were not bringing us closer together, nor were they making our home a place that fostered deep connection and creativity in the way we valued them. Through discussion and after talking with several friends, Andrew and I decided that removing our TV from the main living area of our home could perhaps encourage more positive habits as we raise our family. I suppose we could have done this long ago, but for some reason it seemed daunting to remove it entirely.
Like most homes in the US, our TV was the focal point of our living room and what we centered on when in that space. It has become an automatic for us whether it was in the morning for cartoons, when we had family over, or at the end of a long day when both Andrew and I were tired and wanted to let our minds drift on the couch. Our TV became this thing that started to have more control over our environment than any thing should, and in turn, it had it’s grip on our relationships as well. As a stay at home mom, it’s unsettling noise and domineering presence started to become a nuisance and an endless battle with the kids when they wanted to watch something. Every time a commercial came on the kids wanted whatever it was they saw, and if we opted for Netflix they seemed to always be unhappy with what I chose. A fight would ensue and you know the rest. I felt like I was in constant negotiation when the TV was turned on during the day and that it was not benefiting the kids or myself whatsoever.
Often times and without really even acknowledging it, our TV was a source of unwanted frustration and negativity that we merely turned on out of poor habit. There are some good shows out there, but truthfully speaking, I do not think any of them are better than making art, reading, or engaging in imaginary play. Our TV happened to also block a beautiful, big window that lets in the most gorgeous afternoon sunshine. Removing it literally and figuratively let in more light, something we needed more than I had thought.
How did the kids react to taking the TV out of the living room?
It’s probably because they are young and are adaptable, but they kids didn’t really notice. I set up a fun play area in its place, and told them that they could each watch a show a day. They were and still are happy with that. Instead of requesting (begging) something to watch, they voulentarity use our living room to play with their toys. It’s really beautiful to see them sink into playtime as they make these little worlds to get lost in. If they happen to get a little stuck, I’ll get them interested in something by tossing around ideas or getting them started on an activity. A little motivation and excitement goes a long way with little ones and all they need is a gentle nudge from us. Andrew and I have noticed that over time the have kids (and us parents as well) have requested less and less TV, and all of us have easily transitioned into using other positive ways to spend our time.
Do we think TV is bad?
First let me say that we aren not an anti-TV family. We currently have one upstairs in our loft that we use sparingly, but the point of removing it from our main living area is that it’s out of the way and no longer a distraction for more fruitful ways to spend our days. Instead we have our warm fireplace, rows of books, plenty of open-ended toys, and several cozy places to curl up and craft. When we want to watch a movie or let the kids watch a show, we are more mindful about that time because it is out of the way. Andrew and I do love Netflix and watching documentaries, so it’s not as if we are banning it altogether, but keeping it away from where we spend the most time helps up monitor how many hours we are actually spending in front of it. Our of sight out of mind.
How did the culture of the room change?
The first thing Andrew and I noticed immediately was that our living room was much calmer without the television. There is also a palpably energy in here now. It’s hard to explain. Not having TV as an option in this space is really freeing, and our new arrangement has given our family more interesting ways to unwind and recharge that do not involve sitting in front of a screen. What is really beautiful to us is how the calm nature of our living room has spilled over into other areas of our home as well. This has made the first level of our home one that is geared more towards creative and imaginary pursuits. This room is no longer where we sit idle in silence listening, but rather where we gravitate to be together and to use our minds in a more active way. The atmosphere without the television is much more peaceful and uplifting.
What are some of the downfalls in not having a TV in the living room?
The only real downfall I can think of is when wanting to watch a movie in front of the fire this season. We both agree it’s really fun in the middle of winter getting cozy in front of both a good movie and the fire, but that’s the only negative thing that comes to mind. Andrew is a pretty avid sports watcher (Arsenal, Steelers, and the KC Royals) so if there’s a game he wants to see we do have the option to go upstairs, but because we have DVR, he records it so it doesn’t cut into family time on the weekends.
What are some of positive ways not having a TV in the living room has impacted our family?
- For one, Andrew and I talk so much more more. Connecting like this is essential for our relationship and for our role as parents. Every morning before he goes off to work we sit in our blue velvet chairs and chat while the kids play. The TV is not on, so we have each other to pay attention to. It sound too simple and maybe even silly, but try sitting in a room without a TV (or phone) with your boyfriend or husband. It’s beautiful and a treasured time we have. Sometimes he will start a fire, sometimes not, but we always start the day together. I look forward to it each morning as it gives us a chance to connect without distraction.
- There is less arguing and less negative noise. I play music throughout our day, listen to spiritual and motivational podcasts, and use the power of silence in lieu of turning the power button of the remote on for noise. Also, there are a lot of negative behaviors on TV that we as parents aren’t able to monitor unless we ourselves had previewed the show or are watching it with them intently. This alone is troubling and causes me stress when the kids mimic something they’ve seen or heard. Why add this stress when we don’t have to?
- The living room has been turned into a creative hub for our family, a place where because we are not given the option to scroll and plug in, we can let loose in whatever creative pursuit we want. It is very freeing to have a large, light-filled space that is not dominated by a strong presence like a television.
- There are less advertisements and mental clutter in our lives. Lowering this kind of noise invites other things to take its place. If you are finding yourself overwhelmed or in a place where time is lacking, try turning off the TV for awhile and fill it with things that make you feel more whole.
- Less TV means more time and because of this we all read more. I am an avid book reader, Andrew is an avid article reader, and the kids just love it when we plop them down to read anything to them. We are growing our library and reading to the kids is one of my favorite things to do each day. Because the culture of this room has changed entirely, we are encouraged to spend time doing calmer things, reading being one of them.
- We are more active and therefore spend more time outside in nature. Instead of turning on the TV for a family show after supper, we will got for a walk on the trail if it’s nice or play trains with the kids on the floor. This time together as five is precious and spending it by numbing ourselves in front of a screen each night is not how we want to spend our time.
- Our home feels happier. It feels lighter. It feels more like us.
What other questions do you have? Have you ever felt the urge to remove your telly and invite more calm into your days? How do you think it would impact your family or how you spend you time? What could a simple change such as taking a TV out of a room do for your life? Some things to think on, and I’d love to hear your voice behind the matter!