Moving On and Simplifying Life as My Focus

The biggest thing that I keep hearing from the blogging “experts” and many others is that your blog needs to stay focused within a certain niche for it to become a successful blog. I don’t know what their interpretation of success is or if it is the same definition as I would or will use for this blog.
I just don’t tend to agree with “some” experts, expert opinions.
However, I can’t really argue with the philosophy of needing a focus area for “One Foot In Reality”. After a lot of thinking about the direction my blog should take for a while (yes I have thought about this for quite a while), I have decided that the primary areas that I plan to write about here are:
  • Downsizing life
  • Simple Living
  • Self-Sufficiency
  • Frugality
  • Realistic Green Living
  • Emergency Preparedness/Risk Management
  • Technology that helps to simplify our lives and not just the computer
  • Needing less
  • Persistance
  • Resiliency
To me these areas are all a parts of the simplifying life spectrum and that is the real focus of “One Foot In Reality”. While this appears to be a very wide niche to be focusing on, in reality many of these areas are interconnected and this breadth will give me the ability to write about a variety of subjects that are all under the umbrella of simplifying life.
I plan to keep the writing light, informative and at times more than a little irreverent, but I hopefully will not let the “sailor” in me out very often, but he will make an appearance I am sure. A couple of things that I am going to try to avoid most of the time are politics (my views are my own and so are yours) and talking too much about education.
Been there done that for most of the time I have been blogging.
Please provide me with your constructive feedback, ideas or even (heaven forbid) to disagree with what I write here.
 If we disagree, that’s cool, but let’s both do so in a civilized manner.
Here is to the new direction that “One Foot In Reality” is going. Let’s hope that it is a fun and informative one where we learn together, the things that will simplify and I believe improve our lives.

Preserving My Family Heritage – Scanning Old Photos

One of the simple things that I have done this summer is preserving pieces of my family’s heritage, by scanning as many of the photographs that are in my mother and grandmother’s old photo albums.
This project has brought back memories of simpler times in my life and allowed me to see pictures of me that I haven’t seen in many years.  It also made me wonder about the lives of the people in the old photos, who they were and how they lived.
Below are some of my favorites:

There are so many more great pictures that bring back a gamut of memories.  I also have a bunch of pictures that I don’t know who is in the pictures, but I am sure that they are either relatives or friends of the family at that time. I am hoping that I can get with my Uncle and that he will know some of the Unknowns.

This is one of those projects that is just really tough to do, it is monotonous and to manually scan the photos is boring to say the least.  However the finished product makes it so that you can share these photos with the rest of the family, instead of them only sitting in their storage container in the back of my garage.  Also if something were to happen to the original photos, I still have online copies and the memories are not lost forever.
It is a simple project and one that is worth it, once you are done.  I just wish that I had done it when my mother was still alive.  I missed the opportunity to use her knowledge of who is in those pictures.
What are you doing to back up your heirloom photos?  How would you feel if you lost them?  We have all said that “Oh I want to scan my old photos, well stop talking about it and do something about it. It is simple once you get started – the first one is the hardest one.
Also do it while prior generations are still alive to tell you who are in the photos and some of the stories behind the photo.

Hanging Out Clothes – A bit Zen-Like

Sometimes the simple things cause you to think the most.  My wife does the laundry about 90% of the time, not because I am unwilling, but because she doesn’t like the way I did it when we first met and has done it ever since.  However, this morning I “helped out” by hanging the clothes on the line.

I had forgotten how long it takes to actually hang clothes on a line – about 15-20 minutes for a large load like we had this morning.  During this time I got to hear and watch the hummingbird fly around, the chickadees at the bird feeder, watch a plane go by overhead; listen to the bluejays calling to each other, a squirrel scolding me for being in their territory, a hawk screeching in the distance, motorcycles roaring by on the road and see the sun burning through the clouds.


How often do I just go through the yard and not pay very close attention to any of these sights or sounds – far too often I think. I am thinking of too many other things and how to get them done or I am just going from one place to another in the yard.

Hanging clothes on the line can be more than a simple chore that you need to hurry through, so you can move on to the next thing that needs to get done. Yes it is easier and faster to throw your clothes in the dryer and turn it on, but does it give you a chance to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of nature? Not to mention saving a little bit of money each time you don’t have to run the dryer for an hour.

While doing this “chore” you stay in one place until you get it done, the outside critters don’t seem to be too overly concerned by you being there and go back to their normal activity shortly after you get out there, which was very surprising to me.

All their activity made the hanging of clothes a little longer than it needed to be, but I enjoyed stopping to watch their antics and listening to the different sounds of being outside.  It was something that I needed to do, most of the time when I am outside I am always doing this or that, when I should be of slowing down more, to see what is going on around you, enjoy that time and not always be rushed to get something done – now.

It is strange how something as simple as hanging the clothes on the line can, help re-connect you to what is going on in your yard and what is important.

A Day in a Simple Life

There has been a meme going around the Internet about doing a day in your life.  I got tagged, so here is a day in my now much simpler life.  Since most days I do not have to be in a specific place, at a certain time my schedule is flexible.  If I really don’t want to do something that day I do it a different day.

When I talk about time, or use the words: about, approximately, etc., it generally means within a half an hour.  That is the beauty of my semi-retired schedule, it isn’t in absolutes, it is very general give or take that 1/2 hour time frame.

  • 6:30 – The wife and I talk about the day and what we have planned. Make the bed, etc.
  • 6:45 – Take Bennie for his morning 1.0 mile walk. This is not a power walk and we have several places where he stops and sniffs.  We make him sit and wait for each car that goes by. Usually there are 5-6 cars (the people are going to work) in that 1/2 hour walk, not that much traffic, but a heckuva lot more than there used to be.
  • 7:15 – Household chores, cleaning up what messes the 5 cats made, sweeping, the morning routine cleanup.
  • 7:30 – 8:30 – Have breakfast, 90% of the time I have a 1/4 cup Quick Oatmeal, 1/4 cup blueberries (and other seasonal fruit), Flax seeds and honey mixture, along with a banana and 16 oz of black coffee.
    During this time I read my emails, Google Reader, check Facebook and Google + and think about what really needs to get done during the day versus what I want to do. I think about a blog post and go over several ideas.
  • Around 8:30 I go into the library and “read” a chapter or two of my current bathroom book.
  • 9:00 – I go for a run/walk, my knee is progressing so I was up to 2.0 mile run (this week I had a setback, but will be back soon) and 1.0 mile walk.  Then lift weights in back of the garage for about 10-15 minutes
  • 9:45 – Take Bennie for his long walk, usually around 3.0 miles or start project work around the house, if wife and stepdaughter walk Bennie.
  • 11:30 – Stop for lunch.  Usually have a fresh garden salad – straight from our garden, Thousand Island dressing, homemade leftovers or a peanut butter sandwich (Teddy brand) with homemade jelly/jam. To drink – a herbal tea of some sort and water. With a mini chocolate or two for desert.
    Read my emails, Google Reader, Facebook, and Google + and work on a blog post or read a book (electronic or paper).
  • 1:00 – Work on projects around the house. The next couple of months will be cutting firewood mostly, but need to repair/paint front steps, replace back steps.  Mostly general house maintenance stuff that you don’t have time for when you are working full-time. I have a pretty large “honey-doo” list that needs to get done before colder weather.
    Some afternoons are devoted to bonding time with Bennie in my recliner, I take a nap with him in my lap 😉
  • 3:30 – Take Bennie for another 1.0 mile walk
  • 4:00 – Check computer/finish blog posts up, read and relax
  • 4:30 – Shower time – Definitely needed
  • 5:00 – Help with making supper and eat with wife at the table.  Most of the time wife makes homemade meals of some sort.  We very seldom eat out.
  • 6:00 – Put things away leftovers and do dishes.
  • 6:30 – Last Bennie walk of the day (stepdaughter has taken over this one for now), shoot 20 shots at target (archery)
  • 7:00 – 10:00 – Work on computer, play NeverWinter Nights 2, research topics that interest me, read books, do little projects. We usually have the Red Sox game on in the background or else something on from NatGeo, One of the History Channels, Discovery or something like that.

Around 10:00 go to bed and read for a while.  Right now my bathroom book and bedtime reading book is John Seymour’s “The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It”

Bennie is a 5 mile a day dog, if he doesn’t get those 5 miles in, he can be a hell on wheels – I guess it is the Jack Russell Terrier in him.  Some have called him ADHD on speed.

Generally I don’t leave the house more than a few times a week – I am a bit, no a lot of a homebody and that is what I wanted when I went into semi-retirement.

That is pretty much a day in the life, not a real stressful day, but I get a little bit done each day and take time to do the little things that I never had time for in the past.  Like sharpening my saws, cleaning out my side of the garage, properly preparing surfaces for painting (instead of just slapping paint over it).

In other words, I have the time to do things right, instead of half-assed.  The added benefit is that I notice my ability to focus on something is improving.  My stress levels are more in line with what I want from life, compared to what they were when I was a teacher.

As I get more of the honey-doo list done, I plan to start learning and practicing new skills, that might be interesting or fun to learn. A lot like I recently learned how to sharpen a saw.   Useful skills that can be used around the house.

That is a day in my life.  Kind of boring, but you know something – I like it.

What does your day look like?

Sharpening Great-Great Grandpa’s Pulp Saw

I was wandering around the garage yesterday, it was a overcast, gloomy day and I was looking for a little project to work on to keep out of my wife’s hair.  Then I looked up and saw the old saw, that didn’t cut worth a damn anymore, but has been with me pretty much everywhere that I have lived.
About 30 years ago my grandfather gave me this old wooden pulp saw (buck saw), that I had often used when I was a kid growing up and making those old forts, wagons and other projects where I got to saw wood.  He didn’t want me using his good saws, so he let me use that “old thing” hanging on the wall.
Over time I got the story behind the saw. I found out that it was my great-great grandfather Overlock’s saw that he used to buck up his firewood, until he couldn’t do it anymore and when he died, my grandfather got the saw. It hung on his garage wall for several years, until he let me use it as a kid and eventually gave it to me.

It is my understanding that this is the same saw – it looks a lot better then than it does now.

I have used this saw off and on to cut some wood or a pine board or two.  But over the past few years it really hasn’t cut well and I have kept it more for sentimental reasons than its usability. Until yesterday, I haven’t performed any maintenance on it other than wiping it off and my grandfather just had it hanging on his garage wall for however many years.  So I don’t think that this saw has been sharpened since the 1930’s.
Yesterday I got a wild hair across my you know what and decided to clean up that saw and see if I could sharpen it, so that I could use it again – just in case.  It turns out that I don’t have a clue about sharpening cross-cut saws and decided to stop before I screwed it up beyond repair.  Well last night I did some research on sharpening saws. I didn’t realize that there was nearly so much to sharpening a saw besides grabbing a file and going to it.
Some of the best resources that I found were on YouTube and in Google Books.
Leonard Lee’s – Complete Guide to Sharpening
There are a lot of resources on the Internet and YouTube to help you figure out how sharpen most anything, but those were two of the better ones for me.
There is no doubt in my mind that I didn’t do a perfect job sharpening or cleaning up the saw. However, I think I did okay, because it is a tool that I plan to use to cut wood, not hang on a wall as an ornament.

But I am glad that I took it apart, one of the pins was almost broke in half, which would have been a pain if I was using the saw and it broke.

I took it apart sanded the wood down a little to get the worst of the gunk off, used some rust-remover on the blade and then with fine grit sand paper cleaned the blade up as much as I could.  It wasn’t a perfect job, but…

I think that those who have used the saw before me would have approved of the effort and of my decision to not paint the wooden handles and leave them with the worn look. To me it just looks better looking like an old saw should look, than it would with a new coat of paint.
Next question will it cut wood any better than it did before?

Yes it does – zipped right through this 4 inch limb without any problems. Just had to adjust the tension a bit.  It cut pretty good, who knows maybe I did something right.  If I had to cut a lot of logs this way, I bet I would be in pretty good shape before the end of the summer.

We had thought about buying a new blade for her buck saw and throwing out the old one, so if I messed it up, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I even went ahead and sharpened my wife’s buck saw and now that works a whole lot better too.  No I am not a master saw sharpener now or anything like that, but at the same time is a skill that I am glad that I have learned.  It will save me $$$$ and also make manual wood cutting a lot easier. Time spent sharpening a saw is time well spent.
Isn’t it amazing what having a little more time on your hands and a changing perspective do to help you become more self-sufficient.  YouTube is a great place to learn skills that you don’t presently have and want to learn. I know that it helped me a lot when it came to sharpening the saws somewhat correctly.
A year ago, I would have bought new and thrown out the old blade for the buck saw or just left the old pulp saw hanging on the wall as an ornament, instead of being able to use it as a tool that will work when I need it too – times are a changing.

Going Green – Well Sort Of – Maybe

Weird title isn’t it?  What do I mean by it?
Basically it means that we are doing things that are considered “green” more and more, but at the same time like most people today, we enjoy the comforts and devices available to in the U.S. now. I don’t think that there are too many of us that voluntarily want to go back completely to living the pre-1800s lifestyle. Even if it might be a helluva lot better for the planet or if people don’t smarten up a lot pretty quickly.
My experience of going “green” is it is not usually an epiphany type moment, where you suddenly realize the error of your ways and drop or stop everything that you are doing and voluntarily change your lifestyle and “go totally green” overnight.
For me going green was/has/is being done in stages and with stops/starts, side trips, a two steps forward/one step back type of journey.  Instead of a simple progression of getting greener and greener from where I began to where we are now.  I have a feeling that describes the journey that most of us have taken while we try to become more “green”.
Being on a fixed income, really doesn’t allow us to do things like solar power, wind power and our home itself does not lend itself to other improvements easily, so we do what we can, based on our abilities and limitations.
As we move forward, I do want to look at more “green” growing methods, hygiene, cleaners, new furnace thermostat, water retrieval and food storage systems. However, the biggest change that I want to affect over the next year would be to buy more locally, instead of buying things that need to be shipped in from all over the world.
While we have been and are making progress on this journey to be green, we still have a ways to go to be where we want to be.
We are making steps forward, relatively small steps, but steps nonetheless.  However, we still live in the modern world and I do plan to enjoy those conveniences and being able to use the things like my MacBook Pro and all the other tools for as long as we can.
As much as we might want to think that this modern lifestyle will last forever, I do consider it essential that we also have backup plans and equipment in place for times when the modern conveniences either don’t work or if things have changed considerably due to an emergency situation or other events.
I guess that being prepared for the unexpected is just part of the old Coast Guard motto “Semper Paratus” – Always Ready.
Becoming more “green”, sustainable or using less is becoming a major part of our voluntary reduction to our lifestyle.  I guess they go hand and hand to some extent.
What are you doing to be more green?  Do you have any suggestions for me?

Two Hikes in Waterville Maine

We try to do a couple of local trails a week. This does a few things – it gives me an opportunity to get away from the house and the usual routine, use different muscles than I normally do and if I have any new gear I want to trail test, I can.
Most of all, it get me outdoor where I can listen to the birds sing, see nature and just enjoy my surroundings in a non-threatening environment.  You know part of the simpler and slower life that I have chosen.  I would much rather do this, than go to a mall or fight the crowds at a ball game.  I guess I enjoy peace and solitude too much.
The first hike was in back of Inland Hospital in Waterville last Wednesday, which is fairly new and the first time we had been on these trails.  We were a little rushed for time and there were a lot of people using the trails, so we didn’t stay around too long, but we will be back to try it when it is a little less busy.

Normal Picture
I am looking forward to exploring more of these trails later this summer, especially after everyone gets back to school.
Today’s hike over at Colby College. We have hiked this trail several times over the years (I used to trail run on it), it is a nice trail and has enough ups and downs to be slightly challenging right now with my knee.  I need to challenge what the knee can do and push it to do more.  This is a good trail for that, but it doesn’t over do it either.
It was a gorgeous day for a simple walk in the woods, I can’t think of too many things that I would rather of done this morning.  Perfect day.

Family Heirlooms and Minimalism/Simplicity Attitudes

Originally posted at Simple Is Working on 7-24-11

This morning I was going through my Google reader and came across Simple Living and Grandma’s Lace | Silly Simple Living, I commented there because I think she did the right thing.

I agree with what she says here completely – this comment also got me to thinking.

One of the core tenets of simple living is to live within the space you have, and reduce what you have to fit within the space that you can afford. I like to call it the “get rid of it” doctrine.

Yes that dangerous thing again damn it – “thinking”.

Figuring it Out

This morning I finally figured out what bothers me about certain segments of the minimalism and simplicity movements or lifestyle.  The attitude that segments of the simplicity and especially minimalism movements have about getting rid of what you have – do they go too far?

Now I am a big, no a huge proponent of getting rid of things that I no longer need, want, have space for, etc. If you would have saw my actions over the past couple of months you would understand how much I am trying to simplify or minimize, and get rid of “stuff” (junk) that I have accumulated over the past 10 years.

Here is my soapbox.

I think that segments of living simply and minimalism go too far, when they start getting rid of things that are their family heirlooms or part of their family’s story, under the guise of not holding on to things because have only sentimental value and are unnecessary to your current lifestyle.

This bothers me, because I have been there and done that.

What I did

When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I saw family heirlooms or most sentimental items as junk or unnecessary clutter.  Most of those things I had been entrusted with from my families past or were part of my immediate family’s history was just “stuff” to me then.

Most of that “stuff” I gave away, sold to get some extra cash or simply threw away, as they were unnecessary to my life. Their part in my family’s story meant nothing to me back then, I can remember bragging about how I didn’t let sentiment affect me when I was getting rid of that “junk”. A lot like some of the popular minimalists or simplicity gurus seem to be doing in their blogs today.

What happens when your perspective change?

Many of the things that I got rid of during that time of my life, I will never, ever see again and yes there are many items that today, I regret having gotten rid of.  They were parts of my family’s heritage that are now lost to my children and grandchildren.

As I have gotten older, I have become more interested in my heritage and the things that have been a part of my family’s history. Many of those things may not have any real value to others, but are heirlooms and there were reasons why they were kept and passed down to the next generation.  Each “thing” had its own story and a part in my family’s lore.

A picture of the item item is not the same thing as holding the rifle that your grandfather shot his last deer with and the story why he never shot another deer; or the wood saw that your grandmother’s grandfather bought new during The Great Depression and the story behind what he had to do to get that saw. The hours and hours that were needed to create a quilt by your great-great grandmother and the stories told around what she did to get the material for that quilt and how the quilt was passed down from generation to generation.

As the oldest child, I was my family’s next lore keeper and I did a shitty job of it when I was young. Luckily my mother didn’t give me many of these things or others until I was older and understood the value of these family heirlooms.

What I believe now

My suggestion to those proponents and devotees of more extreme forms of minimalism or simplicity, is to really, really think before you get rid of something that has sentimental value to you or is a piece of your family’s story. If you don’t want it now, give it to someone else in your family for safe keeping, because there might come a day, when you will be like me and regret having gotten rid of something, simply because it was taking up too much space where you were living, you didn’t have room for it in your present lifestyle or you were only hanging onto it for sentimental reasons.

Something else, if you do have a family heirloom, please write the story behind the heirloom and why it is important to your family’s history. The oral histories are great, but what happens if something happens to you and you are not there to pass down the importance of something’s place in your family’s history – that is when the next generation simply sees that “thing” as something to get rid of, instead of a part of their heritage.

Perhaps the idea of using “Common Sense” is a good rule of thumb when getting rid of stuff (especially family heirlooms or sentimental items) while trying to live simply or with minimal impact. Before you get rid of something ask yourself.

  • Will I regret not having this item to give to my children or grandchildren?
  • Will I miss this piece of my family’s history or the story it represents?

Finally Simple Living and Grandma’s Lace | Silly Simple Living states

You can take back my simple living membership card if you want, I don’t feel one bit sorry about my indulgent splurge :-)   There are times when preserving family history is more important the minimizing possessions.

I think that her final statement sums up my thoughts about this post better than I could.
Think carefully before you get rid of something that you will not be able to replace once it is gone, I wish that I had.  Simplicity or minimalism are not about losing your heritage, they are about improving your life. Think about it.

Struggling With Labels

I have struggled with the labels of: minimalism, frugality, survivalist, simple living, being green, emergency preparedness, self-sufficiency and the many other labels out there for the past couple of months. Which one of these labels fully describes the direction I am going with my life?
My problem with labels is they are something we use, to associate ourselves with or others use to categorize people with a particular lifestyle or movement.  That way people can be stereotyped into certain images that people have of that label.  Also others who associate themselves with this label can even try to coerce them into doing things the same way they do – after all you have identified with this label and I have been doing it longer than you, therefore, you need to do things this way – “it is how people here do it”.
What happens when you don’t fit the stereotypical image that you or other people associate with a life style or movement. Do you have interests that cross-over and between several labels that seem to be at opposite ends of the political or other spectrums?  I think that this causes problems for those who attempt to pigeon-hole people into neat categories of how those people should act and think all the time. Especially when they expect them to act one way, when in reality they believe just the opposite.
Maybe that is my problem, I don’t really fit the stereotypical person that others think of when they use these labels.
To me that is a good thing – who wants to simply be a stereotype anyway. Besides people like us confuse the hell out of other people, we just don’t always do what is expected of us – 🙂
Here are my thoughts on a few of those labels:

Minimalism/Extreme Simplicity/1800s

Minimalism appeals, because it calls for you to get rid of “stuff” and “things” you don’t need now. I generally don’t really get attached to “stuff”, but there is “stuff” and then there is “stuff”, see my Family Heirlooms and Minimalism/Simplicity Attitudes post.
Minimalism is a process that takes time to figure out what is necessary vs what is nice to have. The problem I have minimalism or extreme simplicity is that once you get rid of something, you may or may not be able to find what you need down the road either at a price you can afford or are just not available. Or the worst case is that you need what you got rid of to get through a sticky situation.

Simple Living/Being Green

This sounded an awful lot like the direction we were headed. We already were doing some/many of the the things that seem go along with this choice: canning, making jellies, having a garden (my wife is great at those things), using less gas powered tools, foraging for some food, doing a bit of hunting and a bunch of other things.
Personally, I am not big into keeping our own critters beyond the 5 cats and dog that we have. We have thought about raising some pigs, goats, chickens, etc., but that would adding a whole other level to our life, that I am not ready to cross yet. I could do it, but it is just not who I am right now.
The Green part is something I am trying to more of, but it is hard to voluntarily move away from the conveniences of our modern world, to where we don’t use them. Recreationally I have done a good job with this, but when it comes to tools, I am going to use what makes my life easier for as long as I can.

Survivalist/Emergency Preparedness/Self-Reliance

This is actually just being ready for the unexpected. I am not the gun-toting militia survivalist Maineiac (misspelled on purpose) that is stereotyped in the media, who believes that the EOTWAWKI is coming and getting ready for it

However, I do know that bad things can and do happen, when we least expect it. The weather (ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.) or man-made disasters (nuclear accidents, oil spills) or even extended periods without electricity or gasoline. I do believe that there will be shortages in the future of basic needs, unless we move away from fossil fuels, to more “green” alternatives.
I believe that I need to be able to survive these situations without waiting for government handouts or having to leave my home. Food, water, shelter, security can and should be taken care of at home when at all possible. If I have to leave, I need to have a plan and the equipment to take care of us, during that emergency. This to me is using common sense.
The song by Hank Williams Jr. “A Country Boy Can Survive” says a lot. My dad and grandfather taught me about things that don’t have damn thing to do with computers or technology and a lot about how to survive without all this technology.
I just have to remember some of the things that they taught me.  Perhaps that is some of the journey that I will be on over the next few years.

Frugality

Getting the biggest bang for your buck. Spending money consciously instead of spending it “spur of the moment” or buying things you really don’t need or want. Being frugal means to me, instead of replacing something and going to get something new, you check out why something is not working, attempt to repair it and if it still doesn’t work then replace it if you still need it.
This also doesn’t mean that you go out and buy something simply based on the cost, as most of us know, that quite often you get exactly what you pay for. Being frugal is not being cheap, but it is being fully conscious of how, when, where and what you spend your money on.

When I K.I.S.S. this

I will take pieces from all of these labels as we downsize our lifestyle to meet our current income levels and how we want to live.
After writing this post, I really am not struggling anymore with what label I fit into after writing this post because I don’t really fit any of these labels. Use whatever label you want to describe the lifestyle we are molding, but to me it is much more than just living with a label.
I think that the title of my blog kind of says it all – Simplicity is Workn. No extremes, just living simply and fully with what is left of my time here.
Here is to a good life and keeping it simple stupid.

Are you doing the right thing for the right reasons?

My iPhone Plan is History

One of the things that I have done over the past month to simplify my life was getting rid of my iPhone and the $80 a month bill.  Yes I had to pay an early termination fee, but paying the fee saved me almost $700 in the remaining monthly payments, which made my frugal side very happy.

Stop and think for a moment about why you have a smart phone or what I like to call them – a mini computer in your pocket:

  • Use it to receive phone calls – duh
  • Text Message
  • Go on the internet
  • Check your email
  • Make or check calendar appointments
  • Access family, friends and client contact information
  • Check your Facebook account
  • Check your Foursquare account
  • Check your Twitter account
  • Check your Google + account
  • Check your LinkedIn account
  • Play games
  • Watch a movie
  • Listen to music
  • Take pictures/video
  • Read a book
  • Use as GPS device when travelling
  • Use as a Runlog or Workout log
  • and all the other apps you can add to your smart phone.

Now think about what you actually do with that smart phone.

  • Is it worth the $80 minimum a month for 2 years (the length of the typical contract), plus the cost of the phone?
  • Do you really use your smart phone functions enough to justify at least $960 a year?

My Experience

When I first got my iPhone over a year ago, it was something that I believed I needed to have and worked a deal with my wife to get it. After I got my iPhone, I thought it was the neatest thing since sliced bread and found reasons to use it all the time, bought this app and that app to make it even more useful to me.

I found that as a phone, the iPhone sucked big time, you can’t hear the person talking on the other end, checking my mail on the smart phone was annoying – I was always deleting emails that I wanted to keep, typing on it is pain in the butt, and it always needed to be charged when I needed to use my iPhone.  It also seemed that I was always checking this or that to see if anything new had arrived or happened at home, in restaurants, school, where ever I happened to be, I would pull out my iPhone and start doing something on it. Hell it got so bad that I felt naked if I didn’t have my smart phone nearby. The iPhone had become an extension of my life – the connected life.

When something begins to “take over” that much, it raises red flags for me.

At that point I got rid of a few of the more “need to see them apps” like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and deleted my email feeds from my iPhone.  I turned off all notifications that had once so stridently called for me to take my iPhone out of my pocket to check on what was going on – to be connected.

Once I did those things, I used my iPhone for music or reading eBooks at the gym, distance for walking and workout logs, taking crappy pictures, GPS if traveling someplace I don’t know where I was going.  Other than that I really didn’t use it all that much.  I don’t text message all that much and I am lucky to use 75 minutes a month of my phone minutes.

Most of the time I prefer to be on my Mac than trying to use the iPhone for productivity type items. Now try to take my Mac away from my “dead, cold fingers – it will be the only way 🙂  Not really, it is only a tool, but one that I use more than any other.

In April I began questioning the real need for the iPhone at the extra $80 plus dollars a month for a plan that I didn’t really use that much.  The more I thought about it, the more that I knew that I had bought into the marketing hype that says you “have” to have a smart phone. I admit it now, I bought the iPhone to be cool in front of my students and to the other techie types that I was interacting with, to show them that I was staying current in the “techie” world. After all you can’t be current in that world if you don’t have a smart phone.

Well that is not who I really am.  I have never been what you could call “cool”, a lot nerdy – probably, but definitely not cool.  When I came to a voluntary change in lifestyles earlier this summer, we didn’t have room for unnecessary items and the $80 a month could no longer be justified.  It had to go and on June 30th, the $80 bill went away.
Do I miss not having my iPhone? In a word – No.  If I need to call someone, I use my wife’s cell phone.

With my lifestyle change and changing interests I don’t need a smart phone. If I need the Internet, I am usually around the house 90% of the time and can access it with my Mac.  I can still use many of the apps that I had on the iPhone if I want to, it is the same as an iTouch.   So I really haven’t lost very much except access to 3G cell phone networks with this device.  Now I can do the rest for free.

I know that I will not miss that $80 plus dollars a month that I used to give to AT&T for a service that I definitely under-utilized.  It is amazing how your perspective quickly changes when you have less disposable income for unnecessary expenditures.  You learn to cut down and simplify your needs quickly.

I did learn that I am not immune to marketing hype – that company’s use to plant a false need into our lives and give corporations money that could be used for other more important things.

My experience may not be yours, especially if you travel a lot, but take a look at your smart phone usage if you have one.

  • Do you really need it or do you have it because you want to be “cool”?
  • Is this one area of your life that you could simplify?

It was for me.