I recently used the metaphorical hatchet to cut the cord on our long standing cable TV subscription with AT&T. Year after year I have given away money to a service provider in order to have access to hundreds of channels that went unwatched. Save for occasional episode of the Simpsons or local news, nature shows (David Attenborough is cool AF), Mr. Robot, or the occasional sporting event, most of the TV I consume is from HBO or Netflix. Yet, every month, I have shelled out $180 to AT&T for the access and an additional $15 for Netflix.
After checking out the landscape of streaming TV providers such as Dish Network’s Sling, Hulu, YouTube TV, and Direct TV Now, I went with the later, received two Rokus for free, and chose the $35 package. Because i also have unlimited mobile phone service through AT&T, they threw in HBO free free of charge and discounted my monthly subscription an additional $15.
One down side was the loss of access to local channels for news and public broadcasting as these are not included through many streaming services. This was remedied through the purchase of an indoor TV antenna made by NoCable with a 30 mile range for $20. The antenna is super low profile (1/16″ thick) mat that tacks to the wall behind the TV and picks up approximately 35 channels, several in high def. Through BR TV remote I am able to easily toggle between antenna content and streaming channels.
So, now, rather then spending nearly $200 per month on unwatched TV, I’m down to about $35, have access to all the content I want and more, and have access to a ton of additional content also available via the Roku apps.
In 2011 I deployed overseas to Iraq, put a busy life of family, work, and doctoral studies on hold, left most of my belongings behind, and lived the minimalist life of a deployed soldier. During my overseas stay, home sweet home was a Containerized Housing Unit (CHU) located a base on the outskirts of Basra. A CHU (pronounced chew) is a shipping container that serves as living quarters with minimal insulation, an AC unit that constantly fought a loosing battle against the desert heat, and a door that was equally successful at keeping out the desert dust. For my time there, my CHU became my Walden.
My things numbered well under the 100 item goal of many aspiring minimalists. My CHU contained a prayer mat I purchased at a market, a metal frame bed, a desk I fashioned out of a wood pallet and salvaged concrete blocks, a universal power adaptor that powered a iPhone 3, a Dell laptop, and a hot plate that shocked upon which I made espresso in a drip pot. I had a single change of civilian clothes, military gear, uniforms, my weapon, and a small set of books I brought over. I engaged in many nights of fierce combat over tea with a group of Iraqi and Indian players with a chess set donated by the U.S. Chess Federation. The USO provided a decent library of donated books and a game room for entertainment during downtime. I was fed well, slept in a clean bed, and had my physical and spiritual needs met. However spartan, the confidence that I had that the necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing) would be met meant that I was still experiencing a quality of life not universally enjoyed throughout much of the region I was in.
“If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements.”
-The Dali Lama XIV
This July 4th marked 170 years since Thoreau retreated to his small 10′ × 15′ cottage in the woods at Walden Pond to spend two years living a minimalist and self-sustaining existence.
‘Walden‘, aka ‘A Life in the Woods‘ was first published in 1845 and is Thoreau’s story of his experiment in living a simple existence in nature.
“We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.”
-Henry David Thoreau
While traveling recently, I happened upon The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. In it, Kondo lays out the KoniMari Method, her approach to getting rid of unnecessary clutter and organizing what’s left. In KoniMari, you pull out everything you own, examine what you have, and keep only those possessions that “spark joy.’ Distilled down, those possessions that give you joy and peace, you keep; those that weigh you down, be thankful for their service to you and ditch them (sell, donate, trash).
Kondo’s writing has struck a chord with me as I am currently holding on to quite a bit of crap that I would be better off ditching. In particular, I have been paying over $100 per month for over a year to a storage facility to keep things that I have had decision paralysis as to what to do with. Would I spend $1300 now to purchase those items I am storing if I did not already own them? Likely not.
I’ll apply Kondo’s method those things stored and see what results. To be continued…