Minimalist Living: Life Without a TV

tvFor years, my husband and I talked about giving up our TV. We hadn’t had cable in a decade, hardly watched anything other than the news, and didn’t like the way it was the focal point of our living room.

But for some reason we could never take the crucial step of getting rid of the darn thing. Worse yet: when a lightning storm conveniently destroyed it for us, what did we do? We went out and bought another one. {sigh}

Our recent overseas move, however, provided us with another chance to be TV-free. And this time, I’m happy to report, we took it.

Shipping our television to the UK was out of the question—not only would it have been prohibitively expensive, it was unlikely to work here anyway. So we finally bit the bullet, and sold it on Craigslist a few days before our closing.

After we’d crossed the pond and found a flat, the question soon arose as to whether or not to replace it. Luckily, the British government made our decision much easier; as soon as we found out about their annual TV tax of 142.50 GBP (about $237 USD), we had all the incentive we needed to embrace the no-TV life.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too concerned about giving up the physical television because I thought we could watch the few shows we liked (ie. The Office) online. Unfortunately, we discovered that our foreign IP address prevents us from viewing American programming—so we’ve really gone cold turkey. (But if you’re in the US, you could certainly ease into the TV-free life with judicious use of the internet.)

We’ve been without a television for over two months now—and to be honest, we hardly notice its absence. In fact, our home, and lives, seem much more serene without it.

Better yet, I’ve found that our lack of a television has made it easier for us to live a minimalist lifestyle. Here’s how:

1. No commercials. The fewer things we see advertised, the less stuff we “need” or want—hence, the less likely we are to fill our home with junk. We also escape the feelings of deprivation such marketing messages are designed to invoke.

2. No “Joneses” to keep up with. We have no idea how celebrities, reality stars, or TV characters dress or decorate their homes, so we have no motivation to purchase similar items. We’re also blissfully unaware of popular culture and trends, so they have no influence on our consumer decisions.

3. Less furniture. We don’t need a TV stand or entertainment center. We’ve also been able to rethink the layout, and necessity, of other living room furniture (I’ll write more about this in a future post).

4. Fewer accessories. We’ve eliminated the need for a DVD player, sound system, speakers, and remote controls.

5. Less repetition. Between morning, dinnertime, and evening, we used to watch about two hours of news each day—and see the same stories repeated ad nauseum. Now we simply read the news online, and receive the same information in a much more efficient manner.

6. Less “junk” news. We’re no longer subject to frivolous “news” stories on celebrities, sports figures, and entertainers. (Remember CNN’s round-the-clock coverage of Paris Hilton’s jail term?)

7. More time. Now that watching television isn’t an option, we suddenly have a lot more leisure time. We’ve found that reading, talking, taking long walks, and trying new hobbies are much more satisfying than vegging in front of the tube. It actually feels like we have extra hours in the day!

When creating a minimalist lifestyle, we typically think about paring down our possessions. Just as important, however, is paring down distractions. Whether it’s television, magazine subscriptions, unfulfilling relationships, or commitments, anything that steals too much of our time and attention should be a candidate for elimination.

When we live minimally, we live more mindfully. By eliminating the extraneous, we gain the space, time, and energy to focus on what’s truly important to us.

I know many people may find it extreme to live without a television—and as I’ve mentioned, it took nothing short of an overseas move for us to give up ours. But if you’re striving for a minimalist lifestyle, the prospect is certainly worth considering.

Ask yourself if your TV enhances, or detracts, from your well-being. If the news makes you anxious, commercials make you acquisitive, or the “noise” makes you feel overwhelmed, distracted, or depressed, try pulling the plug (at least temporarily)—you may find yourself much happier without it!

11 comments to Minimalist Living: Life Without a TV

  • nicole 86

    I’ve been living without TV for more than 7 years now and even after getting divorced and living alone I do not miss it. Of course I would watch a few good programms if I had it but I would have less time to read or listen to music.

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  • Oh I love this post. We have a tv that hardly ever gets turned on. During football season we will watch a game on sunday but that’s it. But the tv sits in a big armoire in the living room taking up space.

    I quit watching tv because I realized that the news was just depressing me each day. I can hardly stand to listen to commercials. You are right about other activities taking its place, such as walks and reading and just talking.

    So I guess our next step is to just get rid of it.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • We got rid of our TV four years ago mostly because we have young children and I didn’t want to be tempted to use it as a babysitter. Also not having certain shows that I “had” to watch freed up time in the evenings to get my business off the ground. My husband and I do watch DVDs on our computer some nights after the kids have gone to bed. I love that my kids are not as exposed to all the commercial programming and branded characters. I also like our living room furniture layout much better now without having to work around a TV. Just a few days ago we sold the TV wardrobe/armoire and it was such a great feeling to have that finally gone! Our space now feels so much brighter and definitely more minimalist!

  • Greg44

    I don’t think we could ever go TV free, but we do have TV free days (Sundays)and some weekday evenings, it just doesn’t get turned on. So much more gets accomplished. The kids are reading. We are conversing with each other. It is nice.

    I went to a computer seminar for 10 days and never turned my TV on in my hotel room once. Now that was different, but a fun challenge and I did it!

    I hate getting sucked in to the entertainment news shows,
    Inside edtion, Entertainment Tonight, etc. I could care less about these people, yet I get sucked in!

  • Robert

    Count me in! I don’t own one, but I do occasionally watch an old rerun on the internet if I get really bored (maybe once every couple months). What I want to know is: HOW did I ever have time to watch TV?

  • I love your comment regarding the need to eliminate distractions, not just physical things. It’s exhilarating to toss any stray object unfortunate enough to cross my path, but I’ve found that eliminating posssessions can be a distraction in itself. I’m learning to balance the physical versus nonphysical aspects of minimalism. I’m learning, in other words, how to let life flow. (A minimalist’s life flows in the most satisfying directions, too!)

    P.S. I’m also without a TV – it’s great not having to dust it anymore :)

  • I found that after going awhile without watching TV that sitcoms seem very very strange to me. The lifestyles, the inane things the characters do to make some kind of plot all seem really silly. On the other hand, though, since I am not used to having a TV on in the same room I’m in, when there is one I am glued to it. It’s like if it’s talking I’m programmed to listen to it as if it was a person talking and it would be rude to not pay attention. I have to move to where I can’t actually see the screen if I am to interact with real people in the room.

  • Another great post! While I do have a TV still, it has terrible reception and I’m feeling less and less interested in getting one that works. And I know what you mean about space, and orientation of the room! Recently one of the flats in my block was sold and I noticed in the advertising that the orientation was exactly the same as mine – ie, we all have our living rooms arranged to fit the TV cable that comes in through the back wall. Yikes! I think my TV at the moment is just a stepping stone for my cat to get on top of the cupboard. My bike is parked right in front of it, too! :P

  • Mia

    Great post! I wish I grew up without TV. I kind of regret all those wasted hours I could have spent doing something more active. But when I got married and moved in with my husband, we didn’t have a TV and we enjoyed all the benefits listed on your post.

    Now that we’re staying in furnished apartments, we can’t get rid of the TV. But it has turned out to be quite handy for learning a foreign language, so we’re not complaining. And luckily the TV that we have now can be connected to my laptop and turned into a nice big flat screen. :)

  • miss minimalist

    Thanks for the fabulous comments!

    Glad to see I’m in such good company with my TV-free life. :-) I think getting rid of it was the hardest part. Once you’re past that step, living without it is actually pretty easy–and much more rewarding than I’d imagined. I only wish we’d done it sooner!