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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 3 million readers. As featured on: CBS, BBC, NPR, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Reasons I Don’t Own a TV

TV in the sand

What? You Don’t Own a TV? Why?

That’s a question I get quite often. And the answer is simple: because I’d watch it. A lot.

You see, I really enjoy TV. It’s easy to watch. It’s passive. It’s entertaining at times. And I don’t have to do much work (unless you consider pushing the buttons on the remote to be work). But there are so many other important things I can do with my life.

Costs vs. Benefits

But the costs drastically outweigh the benefits.

Money. Sure, there are the monetary costs associated with TV. There is the TV itself, which can cost up to a few thousand dollars. I have a friend who has eight flatscreen TVs in his house—that’s a lot of money. There’s the monthly costs of cable or satellite (plus all the little extra fees for cable boxes, DVRs, HD service, premium channels, etc.). There’s the DVD or Blu-ray rentals or purchases, many of which we don’t watch. Come on, I bet you’ve done it before: you’ve rented a DVD just to return the unwatched movie a week later. It’s OK, we’ve all done it before. The trick is to stop doing it though. And there’s all those fancy ancillary items that we think we need: the surround sound system (I have another friend who owns a $4,000 surround sound system), the multi-disc DVD player, the Blu-ray player, and don’t even get me started on video games, that’s an entirely different—and equally troubling—story (I know grown men in their thirties who play video games more than five hours a day). But TV costs us a lot more than money.

Time. TV viewing robs us of our time, our most precious asset. Even with the internet, the average person watches more than five hours of TV a day. That’s 35 hours a week. That’s a lot of TV. If you get rid of your TV, you can reclaim this time for yourself. We’ll talk about what you can do with this newly found free time in a moment.

Attention. TV robs us of our attention. Sometimes we think we’re “multi-tasking” if we’re doing other things—folding laundry, working on the computer, etc.—while we’re watching TV. Deep down we know this isn’t true though. We know that TV distracts us from our tasks, which causes us to either: a) take more time to complete the task (look TV is robbing us of even more of our time), or b) it reduces the quality of what we’re working on (e.g., have you ever tried to write something—a paper, an email, a work assignment—while watching TV and noticed that it just wasn’t that good? That’s because we aren’t able to focus our attention on several things at once and still expect the same quality in our finished product.)

Awareness. Awareness is the most precious kind of freedom. We should cherish it. But TV often makes us oblivious to the world around us. And thus, in a roundabout way, TV robs us of our freedom.

Relationships. If you’re watching TV—especially if you’re watching it alone—then you are taking away from your relationships with other people, time in which you could contribute to others in a more meaningful way, time in which you could add value to someone’s life.

Creativity. If we are constantly consuming, then we are not creating. Thus, TV has the ability to rob us of our creativity.

Alternate Solutions

Sure, watching TV is easy. But is it worth it? That’s the question you must ask yourself. I’m not suggesting that you have to get rid of your TV to be a minimalist. You don’t. But you do have some options:

  • Ryan disconnected his cable service during our journey into minimalism. He got rid of all his DVDs and video games, but he kept his TV. We still watch movies on that TV from time to time, which brings up another point…
  • If you get rid of your TV like I did in 2009, you can schedule time to watch TV with other people. I don’t do it often, but if I want to watch something, I can watch TV at someone else’s house (this includes movies), and we can discuss what we watched afterwards. Such planned viewing is far less passive and helps you build and strengthen your relationships, rather than take away from them.
  • You can get the TV out of your bedroom. Joshua Becker wrote a wonderful article about this.
  • You can limit your viewing to one day a week. Schedule it and don’t deviate from the schedule.
  • Or, if you need to take baby steps, try to turn off your TV for one week. Unplug it and put it somewhere out of sight if you can. Or cover it with a sheet and make sure you don’t turn it on for a week.

What To Do With Your Free Time

So, if you get rid of your TV (or drastically reduce your viewing), what are you going to do with all your reclaimed time?

The short answer is: you can do whatever you want. You can create something. You can exercise. You can focus on your relationships. You can contribute to other people in meaningful ways.

It’s liberating to not have a TV. Television sucks so much life out of our lives. It takes our money, our time, our attention, our awareness, our freedom, our relationships, and our creativity. And in return it gives us a little entertainment, it pacifies us for the moment. For many of us it’s our drug of choice.

Also read: How Do I Get Him to Stop Watching that Damn TV?