Are you FOMO-ing your life away?

Two and a half years ago I deleted my personal Facebook account.

Biggest reason for the change: I was wasting a lot of time reading about other people’s lives instead of living my own.

I’ve had fleeting thoughts of opening another account since we moved overseas. I know it’s an easy way to be ‘in the loop’ and I’ve been told numerous times that I missed out on an invitation to something because I don’t have a Facebook account.

Also, without cable television and a Facebook account I am embarrassingly in the dark on popular culture. In a few years Henry will keep me up to date, right?

So I have considered opening a personal Facebook account again and yet… I still feel that if I’d end up reading status updates of people I barely know at eleven o’clock at night instead of getting the sleep I need. I’d wonder why I wasn’t invited to something I saw pictures of on Facebook and spend too much time worrying about passive aggressive status updates of acquaintances (did I somehow offend them??).

So right now, having a Facebook account still isn’t for me. Yes, I know many of you love it and responsibly enjoy a great tool for sharing and connecting with friends. Perhaps some day I’ll feel ready to rejoin the Facebook world.

The other thing not having a Facebook account helps me with: Fear Of Missing Out.

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is just what it sounds like. You’re spending an afternoon at a park and instead of enjoying the moment, you’re looking at Facebook updates from friends attending a music festival and wishing you were there.

The title of Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? , aptly sums up FOMO.

People high in FOMO… feel less competent, less autonomous and less connected with others than people who don’t worry about being left out. – Stephanie Pappas for the Huffington Post

Ignorance is bliss. Really. That’s what I’ve learned since limiting my personal social media.

Sure, I may have fewer choices because I’m not connected and monitoring everything everyone else is doing. But I seem to have enough invitations and activities to keep myself and my family as busy as we want to be.

Have you experienced Fear of Missing Out? Do you think social media exacerbates FOMO?

A 24 Hour Challenge to Unplug


I did it last year and I’m doing it again this year.

Last year I took a week offline. It was eye opening and restorative and challenging. I learned a lot. It was similar to a nutritional cleanse: at the end of it I felt ready to commit to better habits.

This year I am committing to 24 hours.

Not because I am not up for the challenge of a week but because I’m not feeling tethered to screens right now. I’m struggling to find the time, and motivation, to open my laptop. I’d rather be sleeping or reading if I have a few moments to myself.

I was using an app on my iPod to keep track of diapers, sleep and nursing with Wil but stopped when I found it kept me up more than I liked. That screen flicking on in the dark to record a feed or poopy diaper was waking me up more than the task at hand.  Also, Wil was gaining weight so I didn’t need to track his intake and outtake for medical reasons.

So this year I am pledging to unplug for 24 hours, from sundown on Friday March 1st to sundown on Saturday March 2nd, as part of the National Day of Unplugging.

No cell phone, no television, no computer.

I will use my Kindle to read. And I’ll be reading Sherry Turkel’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Fitting, right?

Anyone else up for the challenge? You can pledge here and I will make sure to put a reminder up on March 1st. 


Alone Together

Source: via Rachel on Pinterest


Have you ever had your laptop slammed shut by a toddler?

My son did that to me a while back. I was writing an email to a friend and he came over and flipped the screen down. He wanted me to come and play with him and it was the easiest way for him to get my attention.

It worked.

I was thinking about the incident when I listened to this NPR interview with Sherry Turkel, the author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

Text message, email, Facebook and a constant feed of information from electronics is changing the way we parent, the way we operate as families and how our children develop. Much of it to our and their detriment.

What’s a parent to do with all of this growing data about the perils of technology?

Sherry has some good suggestions in her interview. Have a basket in the living room and dining room to hold electronic devices and designate screen and cell phone free hours. Make sure the dinner hour is one of them so you can have better face to face discussion.

That’s another thing Turkel has identified from her research: people are avoiding face to face communication because they feel they don’t have control over it. Unlike email and text message where there is time to compose an answer, an in-person discussion requires immediate responses. We’re losing the art of conversation and the learning from a hot discussion, because of email and text messaging.

Another change in how we parent now is that children are in constant communication with their parents.

Children are getting these phones earlier and earlier. These are years when children need to develop this capacity for solitude, this capacity to feel complete playing alone. If you don’t have a capacity for solitude, you will always be lonely, and my concern is that the tethered child never really feels that sense that they are sort of OK unto themselves; and I talk to college students who’ve grown up with the habit of being in touch with their parents five, 10, 15 times a day. And it’s no longer Huckleberry Finn as a model of adolescence, you know, sailing down the Mississippi alone — we’ve developed a model of adolescence and childhood where we sail down the Mississippi together with our families in tow. – Sherry Turkel

More for me to think about as Henry grows up.

While Sherry discussed her research on how technology is affecting how we parent, something I think about a lot, she also talked about how technology is affecting youth

… this sense of the Facebook identity as something that follows you all your life is something that many adolescents feel is a burden.     – Sherry Turkel

I’ve heard the term digital identity used before and my first reaction was, honestly, an eye roll.

Of course, it was writers and social media types talking about their own digital identity and branding and what not. The concept of a digital identity for my child, one that I was already creating and that they would take on as an adolescent (or younger) hadn’t been at the front of my mind.

But I’m sure thinking about it now.

If Facebook and digital photography had been around during my high school and college years I’d have a different digital identity.

They weren’t crazy years but I’m glad that my growing up wasn’t documented online. I experimented with outfits and Sun-In and music in the relative privacy of my circle of friends. And when I went away to university I was easily able to leave my high school angst behind. Something Turkel says teens can’t do these days. As one teen told Turkel, Facebook doesn’t allow them to ever have a fresh start.

Ameena is a blogger that recently posted about why she hasn’t shared a photo of her daughter’s face online. After she published this post several families that shared stories of their out of country pregnancy and birth experiences on Ameena’s blog have since asked her to change or take down the accompanying photo of their child from their story post.

I’m thinking more about Henry’s digital identity after reading these pieces.

Recently I decided not to share some things about his development and milestones when I thought about having it cached away here on a blog, waiting for him or his friends to discover it years from now. I’m also ruminating on Ameena’s post and thinking about only publicly sharing photos of him that don’t show his face. While I think the photos I have shared of him are things to be proud of – he’s a healthy child that smiles a lot – I think more will be kept private until he is ready to share them himself.

Finding more role models for technology lite family living.

I was searching for compostable and not too crafty decorations for our first live Christmas tree last week and came across Unplug Your Kids. This Montessori teacher and mother of three has been raising her children tech and screen lite from the beginning (they’re now 12, 10 and 6).

It was refreshing to read about how her children don’t mind, or ask why, they don’t have cable television or video games to play. The family has one computer in a high traffic area and the children are supervised whenever they use it. More about their model of unplugged kids here.

Unplug Your Kids is in a quiet season right now, the author has taken a new job and is pursuing more education, but there are a lot of great posts in the archive.

So, it can be done.

I think technology is wonderful.

The ability to see and hear family face to face while we are thousands of miles apart still excites me. When my husband can send me a text message telling me where he and my son have ended up on their morning adventure so that I can meet up with them, I am thankful. And I am grateful, so very grateful, for blogs. We wouldn’t have made so many life changes like paying off a huge amount of debt or getting rid of our car, if I hadn’t been encouraged and guided by the advice of writers I found online.

But as Uncle Ben told Spiderman, with greatness comes great responsibility. I am trying to use the greatness of technology wisely.

The $10 Worth Of Toys That Replaces $15,000

If you’re interested in Minimalism and other bloggers/writers check out this piece in Wandr’y magazine profiling a half dozen people that have made the move to less. Interesting to see how a lot of us writing about living with less were inspired by each other. Chris, Henry and I get a little shout out in there too.

Have you ever had a desire to just throw all the toys away?

Maybe it came when you were moving house and boxed up the third round of stuffed animals that sit on shelves, looked at but not loved.

Or perhaps you had a painful run in with a small piece of Lego in the early morning.

Or, for the 873rd time, you picked up all the toys in the living room and dumped them back in the kid’s rooms.

You can do it. You can get rid of all the toys and guess what? It might actually be better for your kids.

It’s estimated that parents will spend roughly $15,000 on toys and electronics for each child. Yikes. I can hear parents ripping their kid’s holiday gift list in half right now.

Even more motivating: we can spend less than the cost of two very fancy coffees to keep our children entertained, engaged and help them develop play based skills.

The ‘pocket playground’ is $10 worth of materials and toys that can supposedly replace all the iPad games, Polly Pockets and Playmobil sets. It contains eight low cost items like coloured pencils, embroidery thread and Plasticine beads and can be adapted for 50 activities.

The simple toys in the pocket playground support exploratory play and develop problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, dexterity and creativity – something modern toys and screen based activities aren’t doing.

You can read an article about the study here.

Growing up without a lot of money and not a lot of toys was great for my imagination.

My sisters and I had a little doll clothing store made from things we found around the house. The front counter was an After Eights Mints box. My older sister sewed little garments by hand and we used empty After Eight Mint sleeves as the store bags.

When I think back to my childhood the best fun and games were never attached to a toy or something bought at the store. Our fun was based on make believe or around a neighborhood wide game of Becker Becker (similar to hide and seek). We climbed a lot of trees and built a lot of indoor forts out of chairs and blankets.

Is going toy-less practical for most of us?

While I enjoyed reading about this mom’s experience of a week with no modern toys and screens, and I may even give our home a brief toy sabbatical in the future, I can’t see us down-sizing to the pocket playground long term.

Our train set gets a lot of use and after a week away from it our son was asking about his trains. It gives us hours of fun play each week. A lot of that play is independent which helps me get a few things done around the house. Looking forward to that time even more when we have a new baby in the house.

Also, from comments here on the blog and in discussion with parents of older children, I know we’re at an easy age to have fewer toys at home. Our son isn’t asking for the toys his friends have yet or comparing what he has to what other children have. Sigh. Ignorance is bliss.

Going toy-less and screen-less with older children would be a huge challenge if they attend school outside the home or socialize with other children that have modern toys.

While I think the pocket playground is great, I know it’s an almost impossible feat to get rid of all the toys for most families.

Practical ways to use the pocket playground or go toy-less:

There are some moderate ways to use the pocket playground or toy-less time to reduce toy clutter and foster more imaginative play.

  • Travel: before our next trans-Atlantic flight I’m going to put together a pocket playground to take on the road. It’s small, inexpensive and would be great for long flights. Also a nice idea for when you’re away from home for an extended period of time.
  • Toy-Free Days or Weeks: replace some or all of your toys with the pocket playground for a short period of time. I’m imagining all the reasons you can give your four year-old for why their toys need a rest…
  • Use More Household Items for Play: Henry did a great job turning just about anything, like a fork, cup or a sugar packet at a coffee shop, into a train track or a train when we were on holiday. It was a good reminder to allow him to explore our kitchen cupboards and other areas of our home for non-toys that are safe to use for play.

Has anyone tried a toy-sabbatical or reduced the toy collection and focused on more play with household items? How did your children adapt to fewer toys? Did it take them long to start playing with household items?

Leaving Minimalism

The title Minimalist Mom isn’t that accurate for me. If you’ve read a few posts here you’ll know that I aim for less and what we can live comfortably with rather than a rigid goal of a handful of possessions.

I chose the name while in a burst of zeal for the idea of what Minimalism could give me. I was excited, hopeful and had grand dreams of sparsely furnished rooms and a wardrobe that could fit in a small carry-on suitcase. After many rounds of decluttering I’ve found that the things my family want in our home, the things we use, is often in flux. I’ve found that I’m not interested in counting our possessions or living a nomadic lifestyle. I am interested in the space, time and money having less can give me and my family.

I’m not really a minimalist. We have a television, my son has a push bike he has yet to master and I recently bought a blender and a crock pot.

While I’m not a true minimalist I’m still fascinated by the idea of fewer possessions and the many returns from living with less. That’s why I keep writing here. That’s why I deliberate a lot longer on purchases than I used to. That’s why I have just two pairs of jeans, why we don’t have a car and why I keep a pretty sparse pantry. I like what having less gives me.

Friends Saying Goodbye to Minimalism.

Recently two of my blogging friends have discussed why minimalism is no longer right for them.

Rayna, a contributing writer to Frugal Mama, wrote about shutting down her blog The Suburban Minimalist almost a year ago. Embracing the movement had been positive at first and then lead her to a place she wasn’t comfortable or happy with.

 I’d learned the hard way that although there’s much to be said for living with (much) less than the average American, there are also quite a few things to be said for creature comforts and man-made beauty. Fluffy towels and familiar mugs sweeten our daily rituals. A closet with enough flattering choices makes me feel feminine and confident on the days I’m just not. – Rayna St. Pierre

Her new blog, Bright Copper Kettles, explores simplicity, design and the small things that make her life wonderful. It’s a nice read and I recommend popping in particularly for her links round up. Rayna has a great eye for articles and design that will inspire you to find more beauty in your life without making you feel bad about your living room that is covered in children’s toys or that you have yet to replace the glass on a picture frame that broke three months ago (guilty).

Faith started writing at MinimalistMoms around the same time I started this blog. Later she moved to MinimalistatHome and has written several e-books on minimalism and families. Recently she decided to move her writing away from minimalism.

… it became harder and harder to write a “minimalist” blog after two years. I’ve grown tired of wondering if what I have to say is minimalist enough or even if I am minimalist enough.. – Faith Janes

Faith’s new home online for living with less is a digital magazine called Simplify that launches October 1st. You can sign up to receive the first edition here.

Still Sticking With The M Word

I’ll still be here writing about my own brand of minimalism, the challenges of living counter-culturally and if I really needed that crock pot or blender.

While the term minimalism sounds extreme I think there is a lot to glean from the movement for even non-radical folk like myself. I like the discussion here about how to live with less, the benefits of it and how to go about it happily in a world that doesn’t support slow and simple living.

Real Simple magazine always told me that it was ‘life made easier, every day’ but I found that when I read it, I hated my home and felt the pressure to buy a lot of baskets and label makers and organize instead of truly simplify. I used to flip through those glossy pages and tell myself that I’d have a show worthy home if I just tried harder and made bread from scratch and a jar of lemon curd for an Amalfi Coast inspired luncheon replete with Limoncello ordered direct from Sorrento, Italy.

Life wasn’t made easier. Life was harder and the expectations bigger in ways that just made me tired. I had zero of the 20 must-have classic wardrobe staples for a woman in her 30’s. My vintage mason jar collection was nonexistent.

I wasn’t inspired by the supposed ease of this everyday beautiful simplicity. I was overwhelmed.

There is room in my life for beauty and minimalism. I keep fresh flowers on our kitchen window sill, not the dining room table, because that is where I enjoy them most. When I’m washing dishes I see my vase, sometimes it’s just a water glass, filled with the cheap and cheerful white carnations I buy myself or roses, a gift from a friend, and it’s enough for me.

Because I have less I appreciate what I do have more.

I’ll still be here writing about minimalism and how we’re making it work for us. With our roses on the window sill, our blender and even my expensive ballet flats that fell apart.

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