When I eliminated my television back in 2009, I had no intention of acquiring another. I was perfectly content using my computer to stream videos or watch DVDs, so I thought I would have no reason to bother.
Katie disagreed. As everyone knows, my beloved daughter is not a minimalist. She works hard and shops with the same enthusiasm. I do not judge my daughter for this; she has the right to earn and spend her money as she pleases.
So when Katie came home one afternoon with a television in her arms, I shrugged and went on with my life. She wanted to watch movies and play games in her room and had decided to do just that.
I didn’t think about that television much. I watched it with her once a year, the day after Christmas, when we have a tradition of pigging out on clearance candy and watching Forrest Gump.
But then one evening after helping a friend move she came home with yet another television. Her friend had an extra that was larger than Katie’s and had gifted it to my daughter as a ‘thank you.’ Katie was delighted as she showed it to me; she could watch her videos on a larger screen thanks to the generosity of her friend.
My only question was what she intended to do with her old one.
Katie didn’t even give me the opportunity to ask that question. “As soon as I hook it up I’ll give my little one to you,” she announced. “It’s about time you joined the modern age and watched TV like normal folks!”
That was how I found myself the proud owner of not only a small television but a Roku as well. She helped me hook it up and handed me the remotes with a smile.
I didn’t know how to work the remotes. The last television I owned didn’t have one. What the hell was I going to do with a television when I didn’t even know how to work it? I kept my thoughts to myself, thanked her profusely, and pretended to be happy with the gift.
That television sat in my room for a good six months untouched. I didn’t know how to work it, wasn’t motivated to try, yet I couldn’t bring myself to part with it because my daughter had loved me enough to give it to me. Eventually I realized that the situation was bordering on the ridiculous so I sat my butt down and figured it out.
Televisions have changed immensely since I last bothered with one many years ago. They do things now that I find amazing. I started out watching YouTube videos on the thing and eventually added one of those gadgets that play ancient video games and in time complemented it with a cheap DVD player.
It would save wear and tear on my computers, I reasoned.
As I developed the habit of watching a movie before bed, I realized that I could reduce my reliance on Facebook and the Internet if I had a way to capture the open air broadcasts from local news stations. I like to keep up with local news but I have a weakness for reading the comments. There was a problem with this, however. In order to capture the signals I needed to purchase another device and I was too cheap to spend the money.
That changed last night. While I was out to purchase some groceries, I stumbled upon a little antenna for $5. After asking the workers a few questions, I decided to give it a try.
It took several attempts but I managed to stick it to a window to gain reception. I fiddled with the remote, pressing random buttons until I finally found the proper menu and I managed to pick up a few channels.
For the first time in over a decade I watched the eleven o’clock news without losing myself in the comments section.
I feel as if I have stepped into an alternate reality. I can press a button and watch the news when it comes on instead of waiting for the highlights to go online. I don’t have to worry about my Internet going out when bad weather arrives. That’s an issue in my tiny area.
Part of me feels guilty for buying another gadget. Part of me feels odd because I am no longer part of the Minimalist Crowd that looks at televisions with disdain. But if I am going to allow others to live life on their terms, then that gives me the right to live on mine. The television was free, the antenna was $5, and now I can rest easy during storms. I can also use the device to play music when I slip a CD or MP3 DVD into the player I acquired, which means that I can shut my computer off entirely sometimes. I can even play games from my childhood, which I have discovered is a wonderful way to clear my head.
This little adventure has made me realize that change can be a very positive thing. It has made me realize that I need to abandon my comfort zone more often. It has also made me realize that if I embrace the older technology that I abandoned in the past that I can reduce my reliance upon the Internet. The world will not end if Annie cannot connect. To be honest, if I could teach myself to check email, respond to comments, and go offline after I upload my daily blog post, I would probably be better off.
I would definitely have more time.
If you happen to have a television (or manage to acquire one for cheap or free), you may want to consider buying one of those little devices that allow you to pick up stations for free. You would not only eliminate your cable expense, you may be able to drop some of those online movie subscriptions you pay for. They have a range of them, designed to pick up channels of varying distances from your home, so take care not to purchase until you find one that is powerful enough for your needs. The $5 one I purchased covers a 25-mile radius – just enough to watch the news, which is all I wanted. This is what the box looked like:
And always remember – minimalism is about living life on your terms, not the terms that some “expert” living out of a thousand-dollar laptop says you should live. You have the right to keep anything in your life that you find useful or gives you pleasure. If those experts want to judge, send them to me. I will be happy to show them what spot on my anatomy they can kiss.
So keep the old record player if you use it. Watch your DVDs. Play your cassettes and your VHS tapes. Wear the clothes you have in your closet. It is far better for the world if we use the things we already have anyway.
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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:
Barnes and Noble