Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash
One of the things I’ve decluttered in my life has been the most life-changing so far: my phone.
No, I’ve not thrown it in the bin or swapped out for a dumb phone (I did that once in the past) but I have severed the relationship and started over, and the changes to how I feel have made me wish I had done it much sooner.
Phones and tablets are everywhere you look. In the street, swathes of people and children are walking around, bumping into me because their heads are in a totally different world. The world of infinite information, constant notifications, must sees, the latest must haves, endless likes, endless comparison, and growing anxiety.
A few weeks ago, I saw a child almost get ran over on the way to school because they were so absorbed in their phone they forgot the road. Did they act shocked and put it away? No, they acted like a fly had buzzed in front of their face then went straight back to it.
I’m definitely not immune to that same addiction that plagues most of humanity these days, and it wasn’t until I had a mental health breakdown last year I decided to do something about it once and for all.
As I sat in the bar, my face a mess from crying, I picked up my phone and loaded up Facebook. But instead of writing a dramatic status about my life or something meaningless and mediocre, I wrote a short explanation that I was disabling my account, and that I did.
My head was a mess and the last thing I needed was to be burying myself in my screen, checking for likes, panicking over news headlines, and living in a digital bubble where none of my problems would ever be solved.
Escaping behind a screen had never cured my problems, but allowed them to grow as my world shrank. How could I ever get back in touch with who I was when online was constantly trying to tell me what I should be, or who I could be if I’d only buy this, or go there. When the forever-updating news was bombarding me with doom to add to my despair.
It’s been a few months now, and since that day, I’ve only used Facebook as a tool to send important communication and to sell things as I declutter my home. For example, I wrote a status to let everyone know the date of dad’s funeral, and I put out an appeal when my daughter lost her beloved teddy bear in town (she never did get it back). I also occasionally post my latest articles.
Do I feel like I’m missing out? Absolutely not! In fact, I’ve missed out on nothing and my life has carried on as normal, perhaps even smoother than before because I’m more present.
As I basked in the benefits of cutting out social media, I also recently stopped using my phone as an alarm clock.
Since losing my dad, I’d been struggling with sleep and nightmares, but instead of relaxing and calming my brain, I’d reach straight for my phone and read articles on whatever random and bizarre question was on my mind at the time, sneak a look at distressing news headlines, and scroll through Youtube. Sometimes, I’d even cruise Amazon or the Pokemon Centre (never a good idea to make purchase decisions when tired and grieving!).
I was reaching for my phone last thing at night, in the middle of the night when I woke up, and first thing in the morning when my alarm went.
This ensured my brain was always buzzing with information overload and that I was always going to sleep anxious, then starting my days with even more anxiety. I also felt guilty because I knew I could be doing better things with my time and that my reliance on my phone was preventing healing.
I decided enough was enough and invested in a simple digital alarm clock which wakes me up to the sound of rising birdsong. My phone stays downstairs and no longer occupies my bedside table.
After all, bedrooms are for sleeping and and intimacy – something which phones and other distracting technology get in the way of.
Now when I go to bed I either go straight to sleep or reach for a book if I’m struggling. And when I wake up in the morning, I spend as many minutes as I need simply waking up and staring into space. Occasionally, I write what’s on my mind, which is a great mental decluttering exercise.
Amazingly, I’ve found I reach for my phone even less than before, sometimes not even touching my phone before I leave the door for work. In fact, the other day, I almost forgot to take it with me. I do use it to play Pokemon Go and to use it as a tool in my life, but no longer to mindlessly waste time, to serve my addiction, and to escape distressing feelings.