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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Day 16 | Television

The Minimalists, photo by Adam Dressler

We’re not suggesting television or any of your other gadgets are inherently bad—but they can be pernicious.

Watching TV is like eating candy: if you eat a piece or two, it’s not bad for you—but when it comprises a large portion of your diet, you get sick very quickly. No, television is not bad for you, but when you get the majority of your cultural and artistic calories from it, then you get sick in a much broader sense.

On Day 3 when you were packing all your belongings, what electronics did you pack?

Your TV?
More than one TV?
Video game system(s)?
DVD player?
Surround sound?
Computer?
Laptop?
Blu-ray?
DVD?
VCR?
What else?

Now—how quickly did you unpack these items?

Here’s something to think about: how much time do you waste watching TV or surfing the Internet?

If you’re anything like the average American, the answer is about eight hours each day. Even if your viewing habits are radically attenuated—say 50% of the average American—then you’re still wasting 120 hours every month passively entertaining yourself with the glowing box in the living room.

Your television—and its accoutrements—is problematic for many people. We think we’re consuming it, but often it is consuming us: it consumes our time, our attention, our health.

We have a few options to help us break free:

Destroy. This is the radical option—our favorite solution. Take your TV to the roof, then drop it off: you’ll feel much better after you do. And you’ll remember that moment forever!

Or…

Reduce. Keep your main television, but jettison your cable subscription, DVDs, and video games. While you’re at it, get the television out of the bedroom: the bed is meant for two things, neither of which is watching a screen. Then let go of your second, third, and fourth TVs. Once you’ve simplified, schedule your TV viewing for the week, inviting friends and family to share planned experiences with you rather than passively letting the boobtube dictate your home life.

Related reading: Killing the Internet at Home, Getting Rid of Smartphones, and How Do I Get Him to Stop Watching That Damn TV?

“Television” is Day 16 of Our 21-Day Journey into Minimalism. Move on to Day 17. Read Ryan’s journal entries from this journey in Everything That Remains. You can also subscribe to The Minimalists via email.