No TV Update: Three Years and Counting

Three years ago, my husband and I gave up our television when we moved overseas. At the time, I had no idea how we’d feel about its absence, or whether or not we’d replace it upon our return. Well, I’m happy to report that we love being TV-free, and have no intention of obtaining another.

In fact, we recently traveled to Texas for a family wedding, and during the five days in our hotel suite never once turned on the TV (we didn’t even notice its presence until the third or fourth day!).

Here’s a quick rundown on how tuning out the tube has enhanced our lives:

More silence. Without the TV as background noise, our home is incredibly peaceful. It’s much easier (and more pleasant) to hear the little coos of my baby girl without headlines blaring from CNN (I’d like her to grow up without having to talk over the TV).

More serenity. Reduced exposure to news (particularly that of a violent or worrisome nature) and political ads has led to less stress and anxiety in our household. We stay informed via the Internet, reading only the stories in which we have interest.

More satisfaction. Since our house is commercial and celebrity-free, we’re not exposed to aspirational goods or lifestyles. We’re perfectly happy with what we have, and how we live, and never want for bigger/better/different/more.

More space. It’s been wonderful to not plan a living room around a television, or devise a way to mount, contain, hold, or hide such an (in my opinion) unattractive device.

More focus. Without the distraction of a TV, we can pursue hobbies, conversation, and playtime with our daughter while being fully present in the moment.

More holiday spirit. Back when we had a TV, the onslaught of commercials—whether they be hawking cashmere sweaters for Christmas or jewelry for Valentine’s Day—would make me tired of the upcoming holiday before it even arrived. Now that such advertising no longer enters our lives, we enjoy the season and celebrations so much more.

More time. According to this New York Times article, the average American watches 34 hours of television per week. 34 hours! (I had to triple-check that to make sure I read it right.) So by not owning a TV, we gain more than a day’s worth of extra time every week. :)

I think our no-TV experiment will become even more interesting as our daughter grows up. How will she fare without Sesame Street, Saturday morning cartoons, or Disney princesses? (I’d like to think just fine.) I envision for her a childhood of playing outside, chasing butterflies, drawing, reading, and creating—even if it means not understanding every pop culture reference made by her peers. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for children under 2, so I don’t think our lack of Baby Einstein videos is doing her any disservice.

Of course, and as always, I must add the disclaimer that this is what works for us. By no means am I suggesting that everyone should give up their TVs, or that you can’t be a minimalist if you own one. It’s just another thing that our household is better off without—and I’ll continue to provide updates on our decision as the years go by.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

143 comments to No TV Update: Three Years and Counting

  • Mrs Brady Old Lady

    Wow…. I tried going without my tv for a week but it was tough… huge difference between reading a book because you prefer to rather than because you have to because the TV is unavailable….
    I do so admire people who can live without their tv. I love watching the news in the morning… and the occasional programme – especially the Extreme Hoarding ones…

  • Sue

    I’ve not had a TV since I moved out from home 8 years ago, and I’m so happy not to have one! It doesn’t mean we never watch anything, we do watch some selected things on the computer. But I agree on all of your points! So much more freedom.

  • I am totally fine without a TV – in fact, I would go so far as to say – I actually do not like television, and I have lived without one or without switching one on if there was one e.g in rented accommodation. I cannot understand people who have the TV on all day and aren’t’ even really watching it, nor people who just channel surf all the time. When I was in China, I used to enjoy getting BBC news in hotel rooms when I was away on business, I must admit…but that is about it. However, since getting married to someone who comes from a family who always have the TV on, I must say that TV is a bit more of a presence in my life and it’s something I am not really thrilled about. Fortunately, we live in a small apartment so we have a TV the size of a large computer monitor and it’s tucked away on the window sill with no chairs facing it directly. We also don’t have it on for no reason either. I am totally anti TV for my 18 month old daughter, but sometimes her father shows her 5 minute Miffy programmes when she is being really difficult…..It certainly allows me to get the dinner cooked, but I kind of wish that he would interact with her and play with her instead. Hm. And as for all the Disney princesses etc…my daughter recognised characters just from having the themed toys etc. at her play group. Sigh. But yeah – I am SO with you on the no TV thing.

    • Claire

      Love your post, Elyse! Don’t beat yourself up for having your daughter watch a short program while you do something else; I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of any parent who hasn’t done it at least once. The key is moderation. You can’t interact with your kids every waking moment because there’s always stuff to be done – unless, of course, you’re well-off enough to afford household help! ;-)

    • teresa

      I can’t understand why people want the TV on when they’re not watching it either – just for noise??

      • Ariel

        Right. For the illusion of other people around you. When I was unemployed and home all day, it was nice to not feel so lonely as I cleaned the house.

      • Karen (scotland)

        Teresa, I never understand that either. I have a friend who used to put it on in the morning while she got ready for work and it used to make me feel literally ill. She said she liked the “company”.
        Karen (Scotland)

    • emma

      I used to watch Miffy with my daughter and read the books. Nothing wrong with watching a bit of Miffy, it’s wonderful.

  • Karen (scotland)

    We’ve been without a TV licence for two years now (in the UK, that means we can’t watch TV as it’s being broadcast) and can honestly say we don’t miss it in the slightest. Anything we want to watch, we either rent as a DVD or watch online. Even then, the only thing I ever made the effort to watch online was Desp Housewives.
    Our kids can watch CBeebies programmes through the Internet if they want to and have a huge selection of DVDs to choose from.
    I think the difference between regular TV and choosing to watch something on the Internet/rental is that it’s a conscious choice. We don’t just plonk ourselves down on the couch and watch whatever is on – we chose deliberately to download, find or borrow something.
    By not having a licence, I’m a bit oblivious to the music reality stuff that has developed over the last couple of years – Pop Idol, UK’s got Talent, Simon Cowell etc but, in all honesty, that does NOT feel like a big loss!
    My two year old is still oblivious to the entertainment of TV, even the DVDs that her sister watches so I don’t reckon teeny kids “get” TV, tbh.

    Karen (Scotland)

    • Ariel

      I liked that about living in the UK, it was much better motivation not to watch tv: don’t want to pay for the license = no tv! There were some days when I was doing research for school and wanted background noise, in which case I WANTED to “channel surf” but couldn’t because I had to choose what to download online! But for the most part it was nice. :)

      • Karen (scotland)

        I know! £145.50 a year! Just to watch TV – I think it’s a scandal.
        Karen (Scotland)

        • Kathy

          As bad as that sounds, I guess the yearly fee is better than the $60/month I pay for our family’s satellite subscription.

          • Karen (scotland)

            Ha! The yearly fee is JUST for the privilege of watching TV – it doesn’t provide a service (well, technically, it provides the BBC channels but only those available on freeview) (Even if I never watch BBC, I still have to pay the licence fee that funds the BBC.)

            For cable or satellite channels , we’d have to pay another £30/month or so.

            If you don’t have a licence, people actually come knocking on your door and ask to see in your house to check you aren’t watching TV as it’s being broadcast!

            Karen (Scotland)

            • Kathy

              Oh wow, there’s a monthly subscription fee in addition to the yearly fee?! That would stink and I would have to cut out the tv for sure that way!! And it’s crazy that they come knocking on your door to check!

            • ME

              The annual license fee goes to the BBC but allows you to watch
              Channel 4
              Film 4
              Channel 5
              and some other ‘free’ channels without a monthly charge. Monthly charges are for cable or satellite services and who needs them The BBC make Dr Who and Torchwood and that’s all I’m really bothered about

            • Karen (scotland)

              I think it’s a huge invasion of civil liberties. They were polite and I let them in to check our set up and they said they wouldn’t be back for two years.
              However, I suspect if I hadn’t let them in, I would have been marked down as “suspicious” and they would have returned repeatedly until I let them in…!
              I’m not sure but I think we’re the only country left in the world that requires a TV licence.
              Karen (Scotland)

            • Karen (scotland)

              Oh, no, I’m totally wrong. Just checked wikipedia and lots of countries have tv licences. And there was me thinking it was just the out-dated UK…

  • wow… congratulation; when i read your recent posts I was thinking that you might have added TV to your new life and home again. But you are seriously true minimalist.

    May be a year ago; when i read your post about TV or no TV; i was inspired to go TV free for 10 days and it was such a relief. suddenly i had lot of time in hand to do whatever was pending since ages.

    I still would love to go TV free completely. But husband is refusing the idea. But he is still OK with 1 week to 10 days TV free experiment. I think I should do it again and regularly.

    Thanks for this re-inspiration. :)

  • A

    Ohhh I would love to get rid of our tv, but my husband is not interested. We don’t have cable, though, and the vast majority of the time it’s off – and it’s off via an inconveniently placed power strip that we turn off so it’s not consuming energy when it’s not on.

    He uses it to watch the local PBS stations (we’re lucky to live in an area where we get several!) and sometimes we’ll watch a movie on it, but that rarely happens.

    As for children and TV, the less TV the better! My best friend as a child was limited to two hours of TV on Saturday, and that was it. Compared to everyone else I knew, she was kinder, more thoughtful, and smarter. Some of that was good parenting, I’m sure, but I suspect not living on a diet of media where being mean to others is considered entertainment probably helped.

  • Lilly

    I wish we didn’t have a tv but my hubby would never give it up!! I didn’t let my daughter watch tv until she was almost 2, she is almost 3 now… but now that she has started watching TV it has become SO tempting to just turn on PBS kids for 1 show… then the tv stays on for the rest of the day. We are still picky about what she watches (usually) but better to just never get them started on TV!!!

  • April

    Getting rid of our tv is something my husband and I have debated to do many times. We don’t have any cable or even local channels coming in and it takes up so much space in our small living room. I keep hoping it breaks and makes the decision easy for us :). My 17 month old daughter doesn’t watch tv (a couple of exceptions when grandma has had her watch it). She’s in a reading study at the university in our town. During one of her assessments the guy asked me if she watches tv. He said he could tell she doesn’t because she had a better attention span then most of the kids and he didn’t have to keep refocusing her attention. It was interesting to me that it already makes a difference at such a young age. I’m glad to hear that you don’t miss having one… I think it’s time for us to take the plunge!

  • Raising a kid without television is actually kind of hilarious…Relatives always turn it on first thing when we go to their house, because they feel sorry for “poor” Beanie. (Beanie could really care less).

    Bad news about the princesses, though: Kids learn about them my osmosis. I’m not sure how it happens! But the Bean knows all of the popular characters. I just try to counteract Disney’s influence by getting such books as “The Paper Bag Princess,” “Princess Smartypants,” and “Prince Cinders.”

    It surprises me how difficult it is for people to get rid of television. It’s kind of an addiction. Scary.

  • Jocelyn

    I grew up largely without a TV (the occasional Sesame Street at my grandparents’ or PBS at a friend’s house being the exception). My friends are always making references to pop culture things from our childhoods that I missed out on, but to be honest I feel that I’m much better off than they are. I spent those hours reading books, making up my own games, playing outside with my friends and just being a kid the way I was meant to be. I also have a great relationship with my parents because we have real memories to look back on rather than hours parked on the couch watching something mindless. I don’t currently have a TV and definitely don’t intend to raise my kids with one. I think growing up with the knowledge that TV is optional rather than required has made all the difference in my ability to remain free from its snares as an adult.

  • Sarah

    I wholeheartedly concur, Francine, with all the points you make about the benefits of living without a TV.

    My husband and I have lived without a TV for 6 years now, in fact my husband has never owned a TV in his adult life. I had one when we met, but hadn’t really watched anything for two years except one favorite show, so it wasn’t a big deal for me to give it up entirely. I had been an avid TV user for years, but gradually its lure faded..We sometimes watch movies on the computer. The children don’t seem to feel that they’re missing out, even though they occasionally watch TV at a friend’s house or something.

  • Kelly

    My family, including kids, is tv free for about 12 years now. My kids have never had one and they’ve done fine, I can assure you. When they were young I took a lot of flack for it from those outside our family, but being a vegetarian and homeschooler, it was only one of the many decisions I was forced to defend and I learned to let it slide. I’m sure minimalism has prepared you in the same way.

    When asked, “What do you do all day?” (Yes, seriously, I was asked this over and over), I would honestly reply, “I don’t know when we’d fit it in!” Our lives are filled with play and conversation, reading and adventure and we flop into bed exhausted every night.
    My 12 and 11 years olds are accomplished musicians, fantastic readers, enthusiastic learners and creative, playful and well-behaved, non-sarcastic souls. Which part of that I can attribute to our lack of TV is unknown, but I dare say it didn’t hurt.

    They actually know quite a bit about popular culture. It’s amazing isn’t it, how much social conversation turns to TV programs? So they learn by other people’s extensive talking about the shows in their lives, the images on billboards, t-shirts, magazine covers, etc. It actually amazes me how I can hold conversations myself about shows I’ve never seen, since I hear about them over and over.

    When my boys were about 6 and 7 we started watching movies and we do have plenty of family movie nights as well as a few things they’ll watch on their own.
    They have no understanding, however, of why anyone would want and go crazy over somebody else’s signature and while the rest of the country is at times devastated by the scandalous behavior of some “heroic” sports (or movie, etc) figure, we’re just living our lives wondering why everyone cares about the personal life of somebody they don’t even know.

    I can’t say enough about having gone this route. I know there is worthwhile programming out there, I live in the city that made Mr. Roger’s for goodness’ sake. But, it’s not the only way to raise a wonderful kid and it’s DEFINITELY not the only way to educate them. People seem to forget that children were raised and taught before tv’s existed and some of them did quite ok. :-)

    • Claire

      Amen, Kelly, and good for your for sticking to your principles! It sounds like you’re raising great kids.

    • Ruth

      I grew up without a TV too. I did the very things your kids do. I think books are great for imagination rather than movies which are more passive.
      We have a TV now. But my son mainly watches cartoons on Saturday mornings plus the odd movie. He doesn’t watch after school since he is happy to play or read. He is also and only child which you think would make it harder…but as he says, he is used to playing by himself.

  • Mia

    We don’t have a TV and will never get one again. I agree with all the reasons given by MM above. But there’s one more reason why I’ll never have a TV again.

    A few months ago, I discovered that my husband has been viewing porn online while I was asleep. This habit started though TV, during the time we were living in furnished apartments. I never thought my husband would do such a thing behind my back repeatedly. But temptation is everywhere.

    He totally regrets what he has done and has chosen to stop rather than get a divorce. He says he will never do it again. But he needs help removing temptation from our household.

    So now, we don’t have a TV. As for the Internet, we use programs that block porn and other unwanted websites (OpenDNS and NetNanny). Parents, if you’re concerned about your kids (and/or partner) getting exposed to porn, consider using these two services (there are other good ones out there). Even harmless search terms on Google Images can bring up porn.

    Btw, to those who are not aware, porn really is a growing and very serious problem. It’s a huge industry. Bigger than Google, Apple and many other companies combined. And just because it’s “normal” doesn’t make it ok. It causes a lot of pain, suffering and loss of self-esteem, not just for the partner but also for the addict. Unfortunately, TV, Hollywood, videos, magazines and the dark recesses of the Internet, among others, have skewed many people’s idea of normal, healthy sex.

    If you wanna learn more, see the following websites.

    There are many other sites dedicated to addressing this increasingly widespread addiction. These are just two off the top of my head.

    And here’s a way to heal wounds caused by porn as well as other relationship problems: healthy, conscious, nurturing, beautiful love-making.

    MM, I’m sorry for bringing up such topics. But I think it’s a very important issue that should be brought to light. This is definitely mental clutter, or rather poison, our society needs to purge.

    • Joy

      Thank you for sharing Mia. Porn can really devastate a family. And TV is just plain awful these days. We watch selected shows on Netflix (love the Star Treks), but no TV.

  • Bonnie

    I’ve been TV free since I moved away from my parents’. That is: 17 years now. It just never occurred to me I could want to have one.
    My kids are 9 and 6 and they’re doing perfectly fine without a TV. They sometimes watch films and programs I buy or rent them online, once a week or so. They never reported being bothered about not having a TV.
    They do become aware of the latest trends through their friends, but they’re not really eager to follow them, unless those meet their interests. I believe the same thing happens for them and for me: when we stumble upon a tv show or ads, that looks so exotic that we see how it’s done and what it pretends rather than falling prey to its message.

  • Rose

    I fervently wish that I could get the tv out of our house, but my husband will have nothing to do with that idea. He is addicted. It is always on when he’s home even though he is only half watching it. I do enjoy some programs, but I could live without them. I can’t stand the constant noise, the advertisements and the flashing light that just won’t go away. I have never owned a television myself and will never do so but as long as I’m married to the man who is married to the tv, I have to live with it. :(

    Kudos to all of you parents who limit the tv for your kids! With the exception of good things like Mr. Rogers/PBS and the Science channel I think you are doing them a great service.

  • Melanie

    I used to live without TV when I was single – and I loved that! I sometimes rented a movie I was really interested in watching, and watched it on my computer. My husband however, likes watching the news on TV, so we now have one :S. I think the thing I prefered about not having a TV was indeed the gain of free space and the freedom to plan my living room as I wanted. It was funny because, when friends would come over, they were always looking for the TV and kind of taken aback not to find any. “How can you even live without a TV???” lol. I hope my DH will eventually agree to get rid of ours…

  • Claire

    Our kids watch a couple of shows online (Dora, Super Why!) once or twice a week. Most times, their requests to watch are met with “No.” I can’t say my husband and I haven’t occasionally used the TV as a babysitter (ahem), but we watch shows online or DVDs, so they don’t get bombarded with ads the same way they would on conventional TV. We don’t have cable because we think it’s too expensive. I’m bummed I’ll miss Aaron Sorkin’s new show on HBO, but it’s just not worth it to get cable! We try to do everything in moderation.

  • teresa

    When I lived alone I had a small TV but no cable or antenna so I didn’t even get one channel! I did not miss watching TV. When my boyfriend (now husband) would come over we could watch a movie if we wanted but could not get sucked into mindless TV watching. He, on the other hand, had cable with a million stations and cannot be convinced to give it up. Our cable was out for 2 weeks at one point…ah, heaven. :) And he enjoyed (maybe ‘tolerated’ is more appropriate) it too but can’t get him to try it long term. I am not opposed to watching TV, I would just prefer it to be intentional.

  • Sky

    I would love to get rid of TV but my husband is addicted. He has it on every minute that he’s home, even wants it on when he’s asleep!
    It is such a waste of time and the noise is so annoying.
    When I’m home alone, it is off and peaceful.

  • Becky

    I too don’t have a TV and will never have one again.

    All of the benefits you have listed also are true of giving up internet access at home, which I recently did.

    For many, including myself the Internet became a tremendous distraction and time waster. Giving it up was not easy, but I am happy to be living without it. Now, when I want to do something online, I have to plan for it and I am much more deliberate about what I spend my time doing online.

    • Karen (scotland)

      I find that really interesting, Becky, about the Internet. I often find myself faffing late into the night and wonder if I’ve just replaced the mindlessness of TV with the equivalent online – iMDB, Wikipedia, Pinterest…
      My main reasons for holding on to it at home is for contacting my husband (we can email back and forth in the evenings – he’s a sailor at, literally, the opposite side of the earth from me right now and email is our main form of contact) and for admin purposes.
      Still, it’s an interesting idea.
      Karen (Scotland)

  • Linda Soleil

    Television: Tell Your own Vision:-)
    For me televison is without a doubt a toll for the system to
    program You!
    Get rid off it as fast as You can and have Your own thoughts.

  • My husband and I decided not to have a television for the first year of married life. It worked so well that we remained tv-free. We’ve been married for almost 15 years, and we now have two children- ages 7 and 9. We do watch movies on the computer on occasion. It’s been a great decision for our family, and I have no regrets. We homeschool, which means that we tend to hang out with others who have stepped off the mainstream track. Our kids have a lot of friends who aren’t up on all the cartoon characters, so it hasn’t been difficult at this point. We’ll see how it goes as they enter the teenage years, and we’ll adjust if necessary. For us, it has resulted in more time to read, create and play the piano. The white space has forced us to run up against the emptiness and imagine the possibilities.

  • Inspiring! I would love to be able to go without a TV! I’ve never been a big fan of it, but since I live with my parents and 4 siblings, I’m rather stuck with it for now. =)

  • Steve B

    We have been tv free for 10 years now and don’t miss it one bit. Our kids have not been exposed to the advertising and insane cartoons and I can attest to the positive impact that has had on their development. They seem calmer and more focused. I love the sense of well being that exists in our house because there is no tv.

  • We do have a tv in our household but we have no cable so we don’t get any reception. We use the tv for when we want to stream shows through netflix,, etc.. It is a flat screen and it’s on the wall and I have to admit the thing I love about the new tvs is they don’t take up as much space as they used to.

    We too prefer to get our news, weather updates, etc through the internet and I love not having any of the 24 hour so called news stations on all the time. I don’t think our household will ever be completely tv free because I love documentaries and watching them at home on tv is more relaxing for me than going out.

    I don’t have children so I can’t way how i would handle the tv issue. I would like to think I would have the strength to say no but given how our cats “run” our house I’m sure I would give in eventually! :)

  • Caroline

    I moved out of my parent’s house in October, and did not get a TV. However, I watch Netflix a lot, so I can’t really claim to be television free. I only occasionally miss having a TV set, and that’s only if I want to watch TV or movies with somebody. However, I don’t think I will live without a TV forever.

    I have a friend who grew up not being allowed to watch TV most of the time. I think her family watched the news, and when she was little she was allowed to watch The Elephant Show. She is even now completely unaware of most pop culture, which can occasionally make it hard to relate to her. She is still a little awkward, which I don’t care about, but I think it makes it harder for her to connect with people. I’m not convinced that going without TV has really been a service to her.

    I spent most of my young life with a TV that only had 13 channels. While the other kids were watching cartoons, I mostly watched nature shows (because it was the most interesting thing available), and while it was great for my personal learning, it gave the other kids yet another reason to make fun of me. I don’t think being up on pop culture would have prevented the bullying I received, but it made me feel inadaquete and I couldn’t hope to fix it.

    I’m not trying to tell you how to raise your child, of course. I just think that avoiding TV is not something I would do with my (currently non-existant) children. I think moderation is key, rather than complete avoidance.

  • Porkchop

    We have been TV free for four years, and like Karen and Kelly, the children have benefitted the most from no TV. At first it was difficult, as I LOVED the home improvement shows. My husband was addicted to ESPN. But, when we sat down and evaluated how much cable cost per year, how many wasted hours we sit in front of the TV (and me complaining I have no time for anything else), we decided to throw the TV out. It was the best thing that ever happened to us, and has increased our quality of life wonderfully. We homeschool our four children/teens, so there is a lot of conversations, discussions, and talking. More time for walks together in the evening, and being together. If the girls finish their work, we watch a PBS program together Friday nights. Huddled around the computer! I do notice that my children are minimalist by example and nature, and their compassion for others are well above their peers…and I believe it is because of the “NO TV” rule. Their friends think my daughters are “so much fun” because they do not sit and talk about fashion, shopping, and boys. I don’t want to sound like I am bragging ;), but these are the fruits of no TV. It has been such a blessing to us. Love these responses, and gives one so much to think about.

  • Ariel

    Being busy helps! I’ve forgotten we had a TV -or a living room!- as I have haven’t used it in months. I got a job that I love and started a bunch of new hobbies outside the home, and now I am lucky if I can watch one or two programs a week online. It feels great to be productive and learn things through my own experiences, not through what someone tells me on TV. Now I just have to find the time to cancel the TV service, as we’re paying $17 every month for a useless box. ;)

  • Plumblossom will be fine not knowing who the Disney Princesses are (or, in my opinion, MORE THAN FINE!). My ten year old is still saying, “Ariel who?” A really interesting book, on the theme of princesses, pink, and girliness ad. nauseum is Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. I tell all my friends with daughters about it.

    We do have a tiny tv (12 inches) which I’d happily give up if it weren’t the only thing we stream our netflix through. We like both foreign films and foreign news, both of which we get streaming – and it’s not to comfortable chilling at the computer desk to watch a film. Though we’ve lately been talking about doing away with all of it for a media break.

  • Ali

    No TV here. I prefer public radio, especially programs like Radiolab and This American Life. So much more stimulating and engaging. The only thing I watch is movies, and I prefer to see them in the theater, but if I miss them, I can get them from the library for free and watch them on my computer. My husband is NOT AT ALL interested in watching ANY TV, which is nice, but makes me feel like a slob when I want to watch my movies. Oh well, I can’t really help myself.. I’m a movie buff. :)

  • Chris

    About 10 years ago, I gave my TV to my niece. For the first couple of weeks afterward, I kept reaching for the remote that wasn’t there. But soon, I discovered my life was so much better without TV. I lived the next five years without a set in my apartment.

    Flash forward — I bought a condo, and cable service was part of my monthly dues. So, I purchased a TV. Within months, I was back to watching a couple of hours of television each night. This continued for a few years. And guess what? My life felt emptier and less happy.

    So, I’ve junked the TV again. It’s been five months since I’ve watched anything. I honestly can’t say exactly why my life is so much better without TV. But for me, going unplugged is bliss.

    • michelle

      I’m very curious as I try to eliminate my addiction to TV, if you were able to ascertain why removing it has made you happier. And what you’ve been doing with that time that has lead to greater happiness. I realize this might be different for everyone (hobbies, activities based on interests) but I would love to hear what people are doing when they go to watch but it isn’t there. I worry that I would replace it with the computer (not always mindless surfing and certainly better for my well-being) but can also be more of the same mindless entertainment.

      Lets say for instance it is 8:30pm and you cannot go for a walk outdoors but you aren’t in the mood to read and are avoiding replacing TV with computer surfing. I know for one thing, I’d get to bed earlier and feel better with more sleep! But I also feel like there shouldn’t be anything wrong with making steps to watch less but some TV. Is it really all or nothing? Ugh. For me it probably is.

      • michelle

        I wanted to add–I watch shows that I have chosen to record on my DVR through my paid TV service. I do not surf or flip the TV on just to have noise or find something to watch–just to watch. This also allows me to forward through commercials and shorten the program by quite a great amount of time. But I still watch too much:(

  • Kari

    My kids grew up without watching TV and they had completely normal lives. They always managed to understand and relate to all the pop culture references anyway, and never felt different from their peers.

  • Kathy

    Reading all these comments along with the article, makes me really wish we could get rid of our tv but my husband is addicted. Somebody told him recently that he has an addictive personality & I started paying attention & found they were right. Plus spending $500/year on a Dish Network subscription seems insane. At least I got him to let me drop the premium channels so now we watch a lot of history channel & national geographic but I’d love to drop it & just have Netflix on my Roku box.

  • Lindsey

    We cut cable 3 years ago. We still watch plenty of programming thru, so I’m not saying we don’t waste time…but when I go to my in-laws house I am SHOCKED at what they allow to be on in their home (mostly in the form of news or commercials). With my kids in the room and everyone gathered around the TV to watch a movie, the commercials are telling us about the teacher who did something very explicit, and how they’re going to tell us about it a 9…or about the movie that’s on tomorrow, which I would never let my kids watch but here they are staring at the unclad actress.

    My hubby definitely misses watching the local teams play football and baseball, but I do not at all miss the noise of that.

    My kids are just as hooked on online videos and games, or DVDs and videotapes that we have, and the multitude of electronics that have crept into our house. But the nice thing is there is very little advertising that they are exposed to, so they don’t know that they are missing Hannah Montana. They don’t know who Lady Gaga is. They have no idea what movies are coming out. And they think the Sound of Music is the best movie ever.

    • Mims

      But Sound of Music IS the the best movie ever! I wore out 2 video copies of it when I was 12 and knew the whole movie by heart (line by line, tune by tune)! Forward 20 years and at least I still know the tunes!

  • Congratulations! I do have a physical television, but have not had TV service or cable for over 10 years. It gets used for movies, my husband’s video games, and occasional Netflix streaming. We do watch some television shows that way (re-watching DS9, some anime, etc.), but it’s always a conscious decision, rather than ‘checking what’s on.’ Even as a child, we always muted commercials, and that helped a bit.

    I don’t miss it in the slightest, though it’s taken a while to get used to missing most pop culture references. I had never noticed before how many conversations start with ‘…did you see the X commercial?’. The extent to which advertising has convinced us that it is actual entertainment/content is somewhat depressing.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind going completely TV-free someday, but I will never be able to pry the game systems away from my husband. Oh well, it’s nice to be able to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie once in a while.

  • Lise

    No tv at all or are there DVDs on the laptops, movies at the theater, etc.?

  • Nicola

    I was reading this post with Sky news on in the background, and thought ‘hmm, I am not really watching that, maybe I should switch it off..’

    The TV and Sky subscription are the boyfriend’s- I was perfectly happy with 4 channels as a child, plus videos to watch. My parents were quite strict on the amount of TV watched, and which programme, which meant that I missed out on a lot of cultural references..don’t think it did me any harm though! I was mostly allowed to watch wildlife programmes (featuring David Attenborough) but no cartoons etc.

    I do like watching the big HD TV- but I think I will try and watch specific programmes, not mindlessly channel flick or just have the news on in the background…more time for reading, craft and life in general!

    • Great idea! I’m trying that too, not to watch TV mindlessly and put it on as ‘background’ anymore. As ‘background’, better put on some nice music, I think.

  • GreyQueen

    I’m now in my 25th TV-free year and I absolutely adore it. When I first gave my TV away in the late eighties, there were far fewer channels here in the UK and a lot of social chitchat at work etc would involve what had been on TV the previous night, as so many of us would have been watching the same few shows. So many conversations would start; “Did you see……..?” I would say no, haven’t got a set, and the other person would immediately give me a thorough and rather hostile grilling about this decision. Some people at the time clearly felt threatened by my bizarre choice. Nowadays, I’m finding a lot of people are living TV-free and a lot more admit to barely watching at all. The general feeling I get from the TV owners is that the quality of the images and sound has never been higher but the content never more banal……… people are bored with TV.

    MM, we didn’t have TV at all in our formative years, and learned to read, and to love reading, at a very young age, and to have excellent concentration skills. Little Plumblossom can only benefit from your choice to concentrate on her rather than the goggle box.

  • Congratulations! I gave up TV for nine years and didn’t miss it (except during the Olympics, presidential elections and Sept 11th).

    In the past year, I did start watching a couple shows on my iPad/computer. My friends tease me because i have a TV but it only plays DVDs and is covered in dust. It’s not hooked up to cable, and I never got that converter box thing. So it’s basically a decoration to make me look “normal.” If it didn’t fit neatly into my living room credenza, it would already be gone (it’s not a plasma).

  • I’m very interested to see what happens as PlumBlossom grows. We go back and forth about TV. However, I think “TV” is rapidly changing. You can watch shows whenever and where ever you have an internet connection. I think it’s now less about having an actual TV and more about the actual shows. We do try and limit the amount of time our boys can watch shows (we have Netflix, so have no concern about advertising, like on “normal” TV programming). I’ve actually noticed that our boys learn quite a bit more from shows and retain information longer than from books we read. I think this is partly due to the increase in interactive children’s shows. Personally, I’m a big advocate for shows/movies as it is the teaching method I respond to best, and it seems our boys are following in my foot steps. It’s all about quality. I actually wrote a whole post comparing books to shows here:
    For me, I’ve come to the realization that owning and watching a TV is no worse or better than reading a book. And as you are happy with your decision, I’m finally free to admit that I am happy with my decision to be a show-loving gal.

    • Kelly Anderson

      Interesting you found the need to compare books to TV viewing. Only addicts feel obligated to defend their addictions. I’m afraid Megyn, that you ARE an addict!

  • As a teenager we had no TV. I never missed it. Until I had a class studying the effects of commercials. I had to go visit other people to do my homework. They thought I was nuts because I didn’t care about the program but kept shushing them during the commercials. :)

  • Lydia

    i don’t have a TV either; i got rid of it after realizing how the news media sends my anxiety through the roof and does more to give me panic attacks than almost anything else.

    now i’m working at a place where the TVs are turned on fox news practically 24/7 and that is one of the worst things about the job. every time i walk into a room with that crap on, i want to turn it off. i got this placement through a temp agency and i cannot wait to start my next one–hopefully in a place that isn’t blaring fear-based TV programming!

    • Lydia

      also, i almost forgot to mention the best thing about getting rid of my TV–more time for the things i love most! :) i’m an aspiring classical musician, and i was really frustrated about my lack of progress. i was practicing; i thought, i should be better than this by now! after i got rid of my TV, i replaced TV watching with more practicing and found that a, i had SO MUCH more time than i ever thought possible, and b, my focus and drive skyrocketed, and i was able to get more done in less time. i’ve made more progress musically in the 6 months since i got rid of the TV than in the past several years combined. coincidence? i don’t think so. ;)

  • I didn’t have a TV for a year when I started my first job and moved away from the parental home. I found that I didn’t particularly miss it, but eventually bought one since everyone else had one. After a few years of that, I found I was watching less and less, and decided to pull the cable, since I was tired of paying the bill. That was 1988, so I’ve been without one for 24 years. My sons are 22 and 19, valedictorian and salutatorian of their high school classes, and the younger won the US (intermediate level) title in ice dancing two years ago, so they seem to have turned out well enough. While all of Francine’s reasons are good ones, I found the freedom from (most) advertising and the time gained to be the biggest advantages. These days I’m working on my own ice dancing, or ballroom dance, or tabletop games most every night, so I don’t know where I’d find time for TV. (And I have a Netflix subscription, but often go days or weeks between viewing anything, just due to the time involved…)

  • Mary Denny

    I have not had commercial television for 9 years. I do still own a tv and dvd player so I choose to watch what I want and when. I am exposed to very little advertising. My daughter and my 5 yr old grandson live with me. I have always said I wish I had raised my kids without commercial television. While we never had cable and vhs was limited then…my kids did ok with a television ‘budget’ that was strictly enforced. I might be willing to try the no tv thing.

  • Kerri

    I was raised with no TV programming, however when I was 7 yrs we did purchase a tv/vcr for occasional movie watching (we lived in a rural area with no reception of basic cable). Honestly it was hard as a kid to not understand the conversation/references of my peers. Looking back and observing the few people I have met with similar upbringing I really believe that no/highly limited exposure to TV is an amazing way to cultivate creativity, work ethic, interests/hobbies, and in my case I read extensively in place of TV… imagine 36 hours a week dedicated to reading/homework/social skill development. Now as an adult I highly value my experience and run my life similarly and expect to do this for my family kids as well… Research has shown that real-life interaction activates more parts of the brain than watching the same thing on TV… Better brain development/use on it’s own is a great motivation :)

  • Alyssa

    Wow, I couldn’t imagine myself missing the news on TV everyday. But that could be a great idea, especially for children; less worries, anxiety and all. I might just try it for a week first and see if I’m never going to have a problem, especially with kids who constantly tune in to cartoon networks. Many thanks. :)

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  • Kurkela

    What is it with the men and TV? There are so many comments aboout men absolutely not willing to give it up. The same thing in my family. I don’t need that box at all, there are so many things I can do without it, and I do feel much happier and peaceful without the screen screaming at me how bad everything is, how it will get even worse, and how the only way to get everything right is to consume. Thanks, but no, thanks. I try to limit my internet time, too. I don’t use any social networks and have a special time when to look through emails and things I could be interested in – a very limited time. TV channel and internet browsing can be so time-consuming and absolutely useless. I prefer to live my own life, thank you.

    • Karen (scotland)

      I think it’s a sports thing for men, but I could be wrong. I’m lucky in that my husband doesn’t watch sport (until Holland is in some big football cup) so he isn’t fussed but I know that’s where most of my friends meet resistance from their husbands?
      Karen (Scotland)

      • Kurkela

        My husband is not into sports, I have noticed that it is his way of relaxing. He comes home from work, has some dinner and then plonks in front of TV and browses channels mindlessly. Some sort of hypnotic effect, I guess. He does it after particulary stressful days. His mother is even worse. She comes to our house parties, sits for a while, has something to eat and then asks somebody to turn on TV. Then she sits in front of it and is absolutely happy. No human communication for her, thank you very much, TV wins every time. I used to get angry about that, tried to engage her in conversations – no way, she needs the TV. So now I just sit her in front of the box, and everybody is happy.

      • Mrs Brady Old Lady

        Karen, I’m a woman and I rarely watch sports on TV except when Holland plays. As Onze Jongens did quite dismally in this recent cup thingie I’m not watching anymore…

    • Lee

      Sexist comment or what?! I once dated a girl who refused to give up TV… because of the Jewellery Channel! Gender-stereotype that one, if you will!

  • While I was in college I dot used to live without a TV, not because I didn’t have one but because I didn’t have time to watch it. Now my husband and I do have a TV but we barely watch it. We use mostly to watch a movie now and then. This is just the way we are; is not that one of our goals is not to watch TV but that we prefer spending time doing other things.

  • Thanks for sharing this update. I’m sure your daughter won’t miss much. And you could still let her watch movies or shows worth watching on DVD.
    When my boyfriend and I moved in together 5 years ago, he didn’t want to have a TV. But since I had one (a small, cheap one that my parents had bought me because in college I did a dissertation on old movies that were only available on VHS), he agreed I brought it with me. At that time, I did not watch it often because I wasn’t home at night because of my job at a newspaper. (We hardly ever watch tv during the day, unless we’re ill.) Five years later, I’m in a 9-to-5-job, and I don’t think we will get rid of it. Since, we have gotten a bigger, flatscreen TV that we won in a contest. (We donated the old one to a cousin.) Although I guess I’d like to consider to cancel our cable subscription and just use it to watch DVD’s.
    Lately, I’ve been trying to be more conscious and mindful about watching TV. I used to have the habit to switch it on when I came home from work so I could watch (and listen to) the news while preparing dinner. Now I just put on a nice CD or the radio (so I can still listen to the news headlines). It brings more quiet and distracts me less, so household chores take less time than before.
    Maybe that’s a good place to start when you would like to live without a TV, but think you couldn’t handle it. Slowly decrease the hours you watch it, or watch it more mindful, and perhaps one day you’ll be ready to give it up alltogether.


    Great approach! TV is the one thing that has been hard to get out of my life. i’ll keep working on spending less and less hours in front of it for now!!! :)
    I think your baby will do great without those baby einstein videos!

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