a week without a cell phone


We’ve been in Vancouver for a week now. A very busy week seeing lots of friends and family. It’s less like a vacation than I expected (replete with husband still working a bit while technically taking vacation days). Less vacation but still great to be in my hometown, see loved ones and even get some Crossfit workouts in at my old gym (so sore!!).

I’ve discussed here that we ditched our iPhones and even claimed that I was going to see if I could go without a cell phone on the Isle of Man. I didn’t. In the end I got a cheap pay as you go phone. I mostly use it to schedule play dates.

This week I am trying something new. No cell phone at all.

While I should be rhapsodizing about how free I feel, that a cell phone ties you down and steals your attention, I am going to say the exact opposite.

Not having a cell phone is a real pain.

Not because they are necessary but because everyone else here has them. City life is busier than island life. People stack their days more. It’s harder to get together and coordinate meeting up. Things just move faster.

Sure, some of this is because we decided to fly over two days before our flight left. There wasn’t much time to set up dinners and get togethers ahead of time. Our friends and family already had full social calendars and their usual activities when we decided to cross the pond. They’ve all been fantastic in rearranging schedules and seeing us as much as possible. But with a lot of family, and Chris and I often in different spots, it’s been hard to nail down the details. I wander the city taking Henry to our old haunts with no way to get in touch or be in touch with people. It hasn’t been liberating. It’s been frustrating.

That said, I actually believe even more that I could go without a cell phone on the Isle of Man without too much impact to our social life. Things are slower. The expat dinner club arranges things by email. Most of the mom’s I know are fairly quick returning an email messages. We wouldn’t be social outcasts because we decided to ditch cell phones entirely.

I know some of you don’t have cell phones. Can you tell me why? Do you feel it impacts your social life or makes things unduly difficult?

Another thing I am interested in, but not even close to doing myself, is cutting Internet service at home. Joshua and Ryan over at The Minimalists talk about it here. I see the merits, I get it, I think it’s awesome, but I couldn’t do it myself right now for so many reasons (work, Skype with family, sourcing recipes and Crossfit workouts to name a few). Sure, I could do all of that in a coffee shop but I’m rarely at coffee shops these days. I use Internet service in the wee morning before my son is up, during his nap time and when/if Henry gets himself very involved in a task. Could you give up home Internet service?




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  • We gave up our internet service along with cable tv for almost 2 years. During that time we watched DVD’s and used the internet at our local library. It was a big adjustment, but we managed. This year I had the internet hooked back up though because it is just too difficult for my boys to do their school work without it. I find it frustrating that so much of their work is internet dependent.
    As for the cell phone, I have one and I have gone in cycles of how much I use it, but after being on an extended vacation without it, I came home and turned off my data plan. Now my phone is only used when I need to make a call and I have trained the people in my life to not call my cell unless there is an actual emergency. So far, so good…

    • I’m trying to think when the last time was the I didn’t have Internet. During the summers I would try out for the national team and be in temporary accommodation. This was the days of dial up and ADSL was just getting out there. I’m not sure I even had a computer. My how things change. Of course, I did just fine back then with no cell phone and no Internet. Expectations and activities were different.

  • I can definitely see how not having a cell phone on a last-minute vacation could be a hassle. Totally.

    Last week I couldn’t find my cell phone. All week (one of my boys hid it in an ingenious location). It was actually fine. I have a land line, was able to get any numbers I needed (the ones only in my cell) via email or facebook, and, in generally, didn’t even miss my cell. I don’t use it that much anyways.

    Home internet, though, no. Not now. Going to a coffee shop is not an option with two little ones under 3 (can you imagine me trying to get something done). I like to be able to scoot online when the kids are napping or after bedtime (like right now), or in little pockets during the day. It really helps me unwind and connect, so, I can’t see that happening right now.

    • Same. Using the Internet at the library or a coffee shop isn’t an option with a toddler in tow. As a mostly SAHM having easy Internet access helps me check email, blog and read other blogs when I have short windows of time to do so.

  • We need our phones for work but we are minimizing our plan. We don’t use the internet on it at all and we aren’t addicted to it. As for home internet, we need it BUT are working on some “unplugged” rules. So, I see it as an issue of how to control for simplicity rather than give up completely.

  • As you know, we are cell free. My husband has wireless technology (ipad) and computer access in every place he works and I have our computer at home. We email, google chat, google voice, and skype. Or I call him from home phone to office phone. Their work voice mail system now emails their voice mails, so he gets those sooner too. Communication has never been a real issue between us.

    Most of my friends use social networks and email and this is great b/c we also do not have long distance on our home phone and phone service here is a set up so that people in the neighboring town are long distant. Most things I do socially are planned ahead.

    When I travel out of town without a cell I use an old iPhone with out service, or you could use an iPod touch and tap into wireless networks were we stay, visit or at public places. I also carry a calling card just in case.

    We haven’t missed our phones, but we would miss our internet. My husband often talks about shutting our off b/c it would force him to only work at the office, which I would like as well, however, home is my “office.” I need to work on self regulating my time with the screen, but for now this is working ok. We do like having our videos streamed, as we do not have cable or satellite, however being tv free wouldn’t upset us any either.

    These are all things we have worked into our lives slowly and mostly for budget reasons, but anytime we have had room to add them back in, we always choose to travel or treat our friends, or give back in other ways.

    Glad you are enjoying your time at home.

    • Thanks for sharing how you make cell-free life work! Inspiring. I really do think I could do it in the Isle of Man. I often leave my cell phone at home and mostly use it to check in with Chris. We’ve been really happy without our ‘smart’ phones and just having very basic, no Internet or email, cell phones.

  • I tend to leave my cell phone (pay-as-you-go) at home when I go out–the freedom of being unreachable is a rare and endangered pleasure. I do take it with me when I’m meeting someone, though, because that’s usually where it impacts my social life: because everyone’s always reachable, it’s no longer considered impolite to change times/locations at the last minute. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I’m going to ask my friends not to casually call my cell or text me, the least I can do is take a phone with me to accommodate the way people today plan on the fly. Internet’s another story; I’m as dreadfully addicted as the next late twentysomething.

  • I Don’t think I could live without either, although I do not have a home phone, only a cell. I recently moved and was without internet for 2 – 3 days and it was crazy how dependent I have become.
    There are many things I could easily give up internet is NOT one of them.

  • Hello!

    We have been cell phone free for three months and we have been a one car family for just shy of a year and a half. I guess I have days when a cell would be convenient but mostly I love not having it. I am more organized, way more patient, more focused and much more productive without my cell phone (and a MUCH safer driver). We have a land line since I am a stay-at-home mom without a vehicle (most days). We bring my husband to work a few days a week but mostly I am home and our household runs quite smoothly.
    Since we don’t have a second vehicle and we do online banking we have internet at home. We figure internet and a land line is much more minimal and simple than two cell phones and a second vehicle.
    What is minimal for one family could be excess for another…
    You’ll find your rhythm! Stay positive!

  • I actually did a month of trying to figure out what sort of technology we could go with out! I did a “no internet” week and “no phone” week. I found that as a mother of two small children, both are EXTREMELY helpful. We only use our phones for calling–never had data plans and just got rid of texting. As for the internet at home, that’s easy when you live a bachelor life. When you’re a mom, heading to the coffee shop or library to utilize the internet is near impossible…unless you go late at night or early morning when places may not even be open. I tried using the internet at the library. What would have taken me two minutes at home took me at least ten because I had to keep watch on the boys and keep them from running around, pressing buttons, and general boy mischief. It’s just not possible.

    Josh and Ryan have some great ideas, but I always like to remind myself that they are bachelors with very little responsibility. I’m honoring myself as a mother and realizing that what works for them is just impossible for me as a mother.

  • I think I am the only woman in Luxembourg without a cell phone! My family doesn’t like it, but I hate it to be available all the time. I don’t want my phone to ring when I’m grocery shopping. Of course my husband and my two sons have one. Last week my daughter came home with the announcement that her best friend (8) has one. At what age do you think young children need a cell phone? When my 2 boys (now 21 and 19) grew up, the issue wasn’t as hot as it is now.
    But I have to confess that I am sort of addicted to the internet.
    Have a nice day,
    Natacha (blogging from Luxembourg)

  • I don’t think a cell phone or Internet is a must have, but they are both certainly nice luxuries. We don’t have a land line phone, so we use our cell phones for that type of communication. We did decide to forego smartphones due to the distraction factor and the cost of the data plan, and went with standard flip phones instead.

    I noticed in that post at the “The Minimalists” that they have internet on their phones, so technically they do have internet at home, it’s just tied to a phone instead of a computer. That allows them to facebook, tweet, and email from home, just like a standard internet connection would allow.

    I suppose if you are the type of person that sits on the Internet all day wasting your life away then it makes sense to get rid of it. Or if you don’t use it enough to justify the expense then it makes sense to get rid of it. But, like anything else, if you use it responsibly, then you should be fine. I use Internet at home to check email when I get home from work, to blog and write, and to telecommute one day a week so I can work from home. Also, my wife uses it to keep in contact with friends for playdates, and my daughter uses it for learning games. I feel I get enough value out of it to justify the expense, and it’s not overused to where it Interupts family life.

  • We have tried the two cell phone – no landline for a year with a family plan. For 6 months now, we have a landline again and pay-as-you-go cell phones. I can call friends and family on the landline or on Skype and yes, training/telling others to call your home phone only can be a challenge.
    Internet is a must because this is how we keep in touch with family, have access to movies and media in our first language, and I love to read my favorite blogs. Spending too much time on the net is not a problem because on weekdays we don’t spend too much time at home and weekends are busy with outings and other things to do (that might change as it is really cold now and we had our first snow yesterday).
    It was interesting when we visited my family in Eastern Europe. Family members live in closer proximity; we were taking public transit the first week and had a car for the second week. Having a cell phone was really handy to let people know where we are, when we will arrive and we could adjust our plans easily. This is maybe similar to what your are experiencing these days.

  • We also struggle with this issue We’ve talked about giving up the land line, but paying for the internet alone costs as much as bundling the land line and internet together. Our son uses the computer mainly for playing online games. (I’ve been known to waste a lot of time on it too. It doesn’t do the decluttering work for me!)

    Recently we went to upgrade our cell phones – maybe get unlimited texting for the 3 of us – and had trouble finding phones without the unlimited data plan. Apparently “everyone” has smart phones. We haven’t upgraded yet.

    If I had to choose, I would give up the internet and land line, and upgrade our phones. It would be hard to live without both, but I would be more productive without the computer.

    The phone companies know how to get our money away from us, don’t they? It seems almost as silly to pay so much to them, as it does to pay to watch tv. We had satellite on two tvs, but had it removed from one. I would get rid of it altogether if it was up to me.

    • Every time we move and are without an internet connection at home it is a hassle. i live overseas so skype my grown up children and parents regularly. i do my banking and pay bills online. I have re-connected with many childhood/school friends through Facebook. I think the internet is a great tool and when our media is so controlled a necessity. The trick is to discipline your use of it as it can be a great time waster. I wouldn’t consider giving it up.

      I have a love-hate relationship with my cell phone. It can be very useful…but I don’t use it for social chit chat sms’s only when necessary. I would rather give my cell up than the internet…but would prefer to keep both. Why make life harder :)

  • We downsized our TV, getting rid of the sattelite service, and added a Roku player to our TV. Because of that, high speed internet is needed. Even with the internet, we’re spending far less on TV now than we did before. And while many of you might be TV free, that’s not something I’m willing to give up entirely. Our lives are challenging right now and it’s nice to be able to watch the travel shows on PBS just to get out of where we are.

    Plus, I do business via Etsy and no internet… and I agree, coffee shops are not an option with a toddler. I work on line a great deal too, doing volunteer work for a local naturalist group, and that just can’t happen without internet at home.

    As far as phones… we have talk only plans. Just last week, I added text to my phone as so many of my mom friends use it. It’s actually helped and dramatically cut down on my real calls. Plus, during disasters, text is often the only option for comunications and we decided that at least one of us needed access to it. (Having recently gone through a large disaster, this was of immediate concern to us.) We don’t have a land line so that’s not an option.

    So, we’ve minimalized a great deal – we use far less than most people our age, with no smart phones or fancy TV packages but this is probably as far as we’re willing to go without a significant reason compelling us further (job loss…)

  • I would not want go give up my cell phone. I could but would not like switching back to a traditional cell after using my not-so-smartphone. I would miss quite a few of the apps that have become essential in our household (like Lemon.com for receipt storage)

    I would not want to give up household internet. Where we live, getting to a coffee shop to use their internet is not convenient, especially since I have a 4 yr old who would NOT be happy sitting (im)patiently at a coffee shop for me to do my surfing/emailing/working.

    We are on satellite internet here, so we can’t stream video or even download much stuff at one time. If we ever get to a location with better internet, we have already decided to drop cable TV.

  • Hi Rachel,

    Technically I have a cell phone — but considering the fact it’s usually dead or forgotten at home — I don’t really. It’s a cheap pay as you go and I just got it for emergencies. (I think it costs me about $6 per month.)

    I love the quiet free space of not having a cell phone. I am already obsessed with email as it is, and my blogging work keeps me online enough, so I know a smartphone would be a new addiction.

    Not having a cell phone helps me draw boundaries. It helps protect the silence and the unplugged time with my kids or in nature.


  • I have a cell phone, but not a smart phone. No Internet on it, either. I am not remotely interested in getting rid of it, because I am trying to do more of my interaction via phone, snail mail, and in-person, and less on the Internet. I like that I can talk on the phone while my daughter plays with her blocks. We also love having Internet at home, and do a lot of our shopping online, skype with family, I blog for our birth center, etc., and there is no way I could get to a coffee shop or the library to use the Internet with an 11 month old! That said, I’m taking a month long break from Facebook soon, and I am looking forward to it!

  • Although I have a cell phone, it’s on the cheapest plan and I only carry it when I’m going to meet someone. I live in a very rural area and have no cell service at or near my house. Since it takes almost an hour to get to the closest town, my husband likes to know I’m still alive when I get there so I really only use it for that purpose – to check in with him when I’m on the road (maybe one day a week).

    For the most part I’m a SAHM with a full time job that lets me work from home and I blog on the side. I dropped my expensive home phone line and got a Skype phone and phone number (only $60/year) so going without internet isn’t an option. We pulled the plug on the expensive satetllite TV (our version of cable out here) a couple years ago so the kids like to watch Netflix every now and then. With 3 little ones (2, 5 & 7)and living so far “out there” using internet at a library or coffee shop is impossible.

    So, if it weren’t for my husband, I would easily drop the cell phone but I could never live without internet. It’s my eyes & ears to the world (I don’t check news online though), allows me to work from home and allows me my creative (and someday profitable) blog to express myself.

  • I don’t have a cell phone and I’m one of the only people I know who doesn’t have one.

    I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I’m a mostly SAHM, so I’m busy when I’m home (with the landline) and when I’m out. We also can’t use cell phones at my work place.

    When I go out, it is for a specific errand, and I don’t really want to be interrupted. Or, if I’m out enjoying the weather or out for social reasons, I also don’t want to be interrupted. My friends don’t usually change plans last minute, so they don’t need to get a hold of me right before we are supposed to get together.

    Some people like to text socially, but you can do that just as well with Facebook chat.

    My husband has an iphone, which I do find useful when we are traveling, so that we can have easy access to e-mail.

    As for doing without internet, I don’t think it’s a good idea with young children. When I’m out with the kids I can barely get my errands done, much less spend time on a computer at the library. Heck, I can barely send e-mails when my kids are awake during the day; the best time is small moments here or there or at night.

  • I haven’t had a cell since 2007, mostly because we had just had a kid, and had to choose between cell service and diapers. I go without a cell mostly for cost reasons. Sure, it is a pain sometimes (like when hubby leaves the house to go to the grocery store, and I want to call him so he can pick up one more thing), but overall, I’m not missing it.

    Over the course of a year, I spend *maybe* $5.00 CAD on payphones. Businesses have landlines, and I have asked to use it when necessary, and I’ve never been turned down since I ask nicely. Contrast that with $50+ for a ‘smart’ phone.

    I mostly communicate via email now, and occasionally via landline (which is a basic plan without call display, call waiting, call answer), and we have a phone with a built-in answering machine, which has paid for itself.

    The internet is addictive, but I’m not going to give it up. And for the same cost as a cell phone, the whole family can use it wirelessly.

    On an unrelated note, we decided to get satellite TV after going without for 7 years (they wooed us with a basic $10/month plan), and although I like the shows, I notice that the family spends less time hanging out together and talking. When we move next summer, we’ll go back to going without…and we can see some shows we want online anyway.

    The funniest part of signing up for the $10 plan was that the salesperson on the other end was baffled that we didn’t want to pay extra for the ‘good’ channels! We have more than enough to watch, thank you very much!

  • Definitely wouldn’t want to be without an Internet connection at home, not a necessity but a convenience I would not choose to be without.
    Having an Internet connection is a luxury and yes, at times, a time waster, it also saves me more money than I spend on the connection which makes it worth the outlay.

    I do have a pay as you go cell phone, I’ve had it for years, I have it for emergencies and my convenience, 4 people have my number, my 3 children and my sister, who knows only to use it in emergencies. I put £20 on this phone over 2 years ago and I still have £14 left.

    My preferred source of communication is email, I can write, read and reply at my own convenience. My life is intentionally simple it runs reasonably smoothly, most of the time, and is sufficiently well organised without the intrusion of a cell phone. My convenience over other people’s being key here, which isn’t how it always was but I definitely prefer.

  • We have never had a cell phone. None of my close friends have cell phones either (some of their husbands do for work I think). We all talk enough during our craft nights, and mothers club mornings that we generally know what is going on socially. We will sometimes use facebook to connect, and sometimes land line phone.

    I am not sure about going without internet. I have thought about it quite often, but I sell a lot on kijiji (until I have gotten down to the level of minimalism that I feel comfortable at (close). But really I don’t do a whole lot on here besides that and gather new recipes and research for general things. Honestly I think I am afraid of how freeing it could be! OR I could limit my time. We do live very close to the library, but with baby #3 on the way, that may not happen often until at least the summer when we can walk (we live in NB Canada where winter can be rather harsh on days)

    We do however live without TV service. We do have an older TV that we play videos on, and still receive one free analog channel. We don’t even watch online, as we have the lowest package available and they watch your usage.

    I think it is possible for sure. To maybe have a cell for emergencies or trips if you travel often enough. But having a social life is totally possible with lots of communication, thought and plans. :)

  • I just got a trac phone. I paid $140 for the phone and 800 minutes for a yr. Love that it will work intl and in the states. No monthly fee,s etc. Do have an ipad and use area networks that I get from my home so no monthly charges.

  • Your visiting/vacationing situation is a little different, but I think once you get home you could easily be cell phone free :)

    Everyone I know has a cell phone, but I have been without a cell phone for one whole year now and I don’t miss it! I realized having the instant connection of a cell phone was ironically making me less connected with others. What I mean by this is if I was with someone I could not totally concentrate on that person. No matter how hard I tried to change I just could not ignore my cell when a call or text came in! And the longer I am without a cell I realize this is true for most people. Even when my husband and I are on a date night he cannot seem to stop checking his smart phone!

    I also realized I had a few “friends” who I could constantly text but would never pick up the phone and call or could never get together in person! Since I got rid of the cell those “friends” no longer contact me. I am not sure but maybe these people think texting is enough to maintain a friendship? Anyway I feel better off because my true friends and family will still call my land line and set up a time to get together. They may have to wait a few hours to hear back from me until I return home, but I feel this helps me to concentrate on the task at hand or people I am with. It especially helps me to concentrate on my daughter and it makes our time together slower and easier and uninterrupted.

  • It’s funny you should write this…. I was so anti-cell phone for a while and would never answer calls and messages because it was so distracting. Then everyone starting getting mad at me for not answering calls (including my mom) so to my dismay I still carry one and try to get back to people (within a month atleast!)lol

  • I could never ever ever give up my internet. I’d choose internet over pretty much anything else entertainment-wise out there. I also can’t imagine not having a cell…but I’d give that up before the internet.

    I like the new look…but your little stick people are gone!

  • I struggle with the internet. I am “unplugged” in so many other aspects of my life, but I am really on the computer too much. I am finding it very frustrating, yet so integral to all of life these days. And I enjoy it.
    I need help with this, and hope you post more about it.

  • I hate how much our cell phones cost but I have adult children who work weird hours, travel a lot, and the cell phones are my peace of mind that they can always reach me. I have a plan that doesn’t allow me to do very much texting and I almost never give my cell number out so only family call me and only when they really need to reach me. It allows me to leave the house without worrying or hurrying so I feel that having a cell actually allows me to slow down and concentrate more on what I am doing when I am out and about with my daughter. We do also have a land line and voice mail so that people can leave a message which again allows me the freedom to NOT give out my cell number. My husband doesn’t have a cell phone, we have a second phone that is a pay as you go which we use as a backup if we need it.
    We don’t have cable tv, don’t own a car and there are plenty of other cost cutting and generally frugal things that we do for a number of reasons. But we would never give up internet at home. It is a lifeline connection for me to the outside world. My teenaged daughter has special needs so using the internet is very important for her in many ways. Because we can’t afford to travel, skype allows us to “visit” with friends and family who are far away.

  • I switched from an expensive cell phone plan to pay-as-you-go a couple years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I go for weeks forgetting to charge the thing up, and I don’t miss it. It does annoy my extended family who like texting, but I think they’re getting used to the idea that I basically don’t have a phone. I make sure to charge it up for long car trips or other times when I feel that I might need it for an emergency. Overall, I most certainly can live without a cell phone!

    Home internet is a different story. As a blogger, it’s kind of my bread and butter (and I’m happy that I’ve reached the point at which it pays for itself). I have also used it to earn money for various freelance jobs. I don’t have a good alternative to home internet where I live. I do need to work on my habits and waste less time online, however!

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