Where do you post that you deleted the last of your social media profiles? It appears you do that on your blog — a relic of the days before social media took over. (Or was it before the advertisers took over? We are all just consumer profiles created from our user data and sold to the highest bidder. Even most blogs are unreadable now for their popups and affiliate links and… I digress)
In the past couple years, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make my life and priorities more closely resemble my values. Do I want to go through my day mindlessly considering what witticism or cool picture will fit my Instagram brand? Do I want my phone to be the first thing I reach for any time I’m slightly bored or inconvenienced?
What lifestyle changes would result in more thoughtful interpersonal connections and mindfulness for me personally?
How could I make the things that contribute to my wellness — reading, prayer, meditation, in-person and one-on-one social calls, the outdoors, an organized home and office — more of a priority with my time and attention?
I have always loved interior design. I love imagining how I can bring my vision for a space to reality. I even enjoy watching home design shows with completely different aesthetics from me and judging their choices.
When we moved into our home, we had money set aside to replace my husband’s old Big Lots couch – still my favorite place to nap where it now lives in our basement – with a new sofa and love seat set. We got an entertainment stand. We each had a dresser and nightstand with badly functioning drawers, and to say they didn’t match is an understatement. A matching and customized set from IKEA now brings our bedroom together.
I had planned these furniture decisions along with the paint colors and wall decor for literal years. It was mostly really fun to search for what I wanted and find pieces that fit my budget. And I’m still very pleased with the end result. It will be a long time before any changes are necessary.
But I’ve also had some shifts in my purchasing perspective since then.
Part of that is a more deliberate focus on reducing my environmental impact. Part of the shift is a desire to support local businesses and businesses who make their goods in the US. The rest is a desire to give less support to large online retailers who exploit workers and use their political might to avoid any regulatory or tax burden.
The values described by that perspective change are easy enough for me to identify, but determining what purchasing decision to make in light of those values is obscured in all kinds of ways.
In general, I’ve pushed in the last few months to live out those values more with the following rules of thumb:
- Buy fewer products made with petroleum-based materials
- Only use Amazon when no better option exists
- Only order new online when local options are non-existent or unreasonable and choose slow shipping when possible
- Purchase used when possible, either locally or through eco-conscious online options
- Use existing items when possible
With disbelief still present daily, I’ve spent the last couple months preparing a nursery in our home. The walls have been painted with a lovely greige leftover from my basement upgrades last year. The floors are graced with a cotton area rug on top of a recycled felt and rubber rug pad which was made in the USA.
From the local, online, used marketplace, a storage unit and glider chair sit along one wall. The crib was purchased new and online. Finally, I’d hoped to lightly refurbish a dresser I bought from a local consignment store. Buuuut that didn’t really work out due to it being a lemon. We tried to go to local furniture stores but could find nothing to fit the very specific size and ended up ordering that online as well.
Clearly haven’t eliminated every negative impact I have on the environment during this process. But I’m paying attention. And at the end of the day, I know the biggest thing I can do to follow these values is to be less wasteful. Re-using things I already have and avoiding items that are so quickly consumed and then trashed is paramount.
It’s really nice to imagine how I want a room to look and find the products cheaply online with no thought to anything except how long it will take to ship it across the country so I don’t have to wait just one more day for my vision to be fulfilled.
But as my values around the environment, corporate patronage, and waste have grown more important to me, and my financial ability to practice them has also increased, I’ve had to let go of that perfect aesthetic vision.
Productivity expert David Allen says of your work life that “you can do anything – but not everything.” I have terrible work habits and rebel against every productivity method or framework that I’ve ever tried – and I’ve tried them all! But the idea of accepting and working within limits is something that has added peace to my life.
Accepting this axiom in your personal finances will destroy your excuses. You can pay for a fancier car and eat out all the time, but you likely can’t do everything (like also paying off debt or saving for retirement adequately) too. Your anything and everything might be different, but the logic still applies.
With our nursery design and purchases, I knew I couldn’t do everything. I couldn’t follow all my purchasing values and get the exact look I wanted and vice versa. I had to find a balance, determine which purchasing values I could reasonably follow, and accept that the final look would reflect those priorities instead of perfectly replicating my aesthetic vision.
We have limited time in our lives. Our free time is even more limited. And yet, I frequently find myself spending time in ways that don’t correspond to my values and priorities. As technology has crept into every part of our lives, so has our tendency to just take the easiest option for filling the time. And the repercussions are huge.
Personally, I find myself unable to wait for just a few minutes for an appointment to start without pulling out my phone. Before deleting my last social media account, Instagram, I would feel the need to always scroll back and look at every post since the last one I’d viewed previously. I would judge people. I would judge myself. Before I deleted Facebook and Twitter at the end of 2018, I found myself thinking in captions.
I haven’t thrown out my smart phone. I still actually use social media quite a bit as part of my job. I even go on specific twitter accounts to keep up with a few commentators. And I read way more articles than necessary. But I finally feel like I’m taking real steps towards re-prioritizing how I spend my time.
I know I can’t do everything. And I know that spending time on social media, while easy and producing an immediate hit to my brain chemistry, is not the anything that I want to choose. I want to choose the things listed at the top. I want more time in deliberate activities and true restfulness.
I accept that there will be sacrifices. I will not be able to keep up with some acquaintances. I will be the last to know. I will not be invited to some things. I will not be able to share things easily or offer encouragement as easily.
This is my first step. I have plenty more to take. But I think this step was absolutely required for me to move forward. I have to keep focusing on my values and priorities and checking to see if my time matches them, or else the vacuum created by the lack of social media will be filled by other easy anythings.
I want to choose the hard. I want the satisfaction of rocking my baby in a second-hand glider that doesn’t exactly fit the style of the room. I want the trouble of sending a condolence card instead of liking a post. I want to re-learn how to do just one thing at a time. I want slow and deliberate.
I have a long way to go, but I’m headed in the right direction.