Unplugged // My Month Away from Facebook

>> Monday, February 27, 2017

So, I didn't write about it on the blog, but I took February off from Facebook. It's something I had been meaning to do for quite some time. I signed up my senior year of college -- and that was 12 years ago. Phew. I think that finally pushed me over the edge was all the political talk, the constant stream of news and opinion pieces, and my own nagging feeling of being addicted to social media.

I'm proud to say I actually did it.
I quit.
I survived.
And, dare I say, thrived with my time away.

So much, in fact, that I have decided to effectively quit for another month. Well, mostly. The thing is, Facebook is somewhat of a necessary evil these days. It's a way you can connect with people you don't get to see. And when you live away from many of your close friends -- it serves as a handy form of communication. Especially for an introvert like me who doesn't like talking on the phone.

Alright, here's how I did it.

Step 1: I posted a message a few days before the start of the month explaining that I was going to sign off for the month. I told my friends that I had downloaded Facebook messenger as a means of communication, but I also provided my email address if anyone wanted to get in touch with me.

Step 2: I . . . just . . . stopped going onto Facebook. I will be completely honest that in the first day, I was actually really surprised  to find myself typing in the address in my browser bar . . . like every time I had a spare moment. It became almost laughable. But after a week or so, the automatic nature of it faded and I just stopped going onto the site.

That's really all you need to do. If I continue my hiatus this month, I plan to take the following measures to improve my experience.

  • I may block the site somehow on my phone. It wasn't as much of an issue on my laptop because I primarily am on that for work purposes. Does anyone have a recommendation for blocking the address on my phone? I know there are some site blockers out there.
  • I will switch off notifications that get sent to my email. The only times I did feel compelled to log on this month were when well-meaning friends shared some cool stuff on my wall.  
  • I may try to find an automated way to share my blog posts via Facebook. Though, it wasn't too bad just quickly logging on, typing up what my blog was about, and then logging off.

 Some things I learned during my time away.

  • First are foremost, you can live without Facebook. I am still alive. I filled my mind with far less useless knowledge this month and had much more time to read things that actually meant something to me. I also took far fewer quizzes to tell me what Golden Girl I am, etc. And you know what? That stuff is interesting for sure, but definitely not necessary in my life, or so I discovered.
  • Your real friends won't forget about you. In fact, you're forge more meaningful friendships and spark more interesting conversations with the people who take the time to contact you off your wall. Yes, I did hold on to my Messenger capabilities and will continue to do so. But instead of sharing mindless random stuff, I send a good friend a great bread recipe because I knew she had been looking for one and otherwise made plans to meet up with people, you know, in the flesh.
  • There's a lot of other stuff you can be doing with all the time you spend surfing. I read a good chunk of my Hamilton biography this month, I also cleaned much more of my house, and I spent more one-on-one time with Ada doing crafts. Now that the weather is warmer, not having a feed to scroll through should prove even more exciting for my personal life and hobbies.
  • Fringe friends don't bring me joy. There's something relaxing about flipping through your feed and seeing what so-and-so is up to from all those years ago. The thing is, after I've spend some time away, I realized that maybe I don't care that X person is having a baby. Sure it's nice, but I haven't spoken with her in five years. Or Y and Z went to Europe? That's nice. I actually only ever met them a few times. So, maybe I have no business creeping on their vacation photos?
  • Along those same lines, it takes a lot of energy to maintain "friendships" that don't necessarily fill my cup, so to speak. I remember seeing a TED talk about the number of people you can have meaningful relationships with and how anything more is just draining. Yeah. Quitting Facebook is good as a remedy for that situation.
  • I have other social media addictions. Instagram, I'm looking at you. I quit Twitter long ago. I only do Pinterest in spurts while nursing. But Instagram is definitely something that sucks me in. And you know what? I may need to work on it. Right now, I'm cool with that. I try to keep most of my browsing to nursing sessions and a few breaks every now and again. Not being on Facebook so much allowed me to find some new feeds I love. Right now Kaity at Fare Isle is my favorite.

 Next steps in my journey.

With the time I save not scrolling around on Facebook this month, I want to:

  • Get together with a real life friend at least once a week. It's easy to get caught up in being too busy or too strapped to nap schedules. I already have plans to visit a friend of mine who lives slightly out of town later this week. I think once I get in the habit, it will become more automatic to find space for these connections in my daily life.
  • Find a better work-life balance. My job requires me to be online often for writing. Blogging gets me a bit bogged down online most days of the week. I may experiment with having a posting schedule that would free up a couple days a week to spend entirely computer and device-free. More to come with this soon as I hash it out.
  • I also plan to participate in the National Day of Unplugging on March 3rd this year. It's great to quit Facebook, but I also think lessening my time on screens in general is a bigger goal I'd like to achieve. Especially after I read the Hands-Free Mama book a couple years back.
  • I'd also like to pick back up my cross-stitching hobby that I left behind before Eloise was born. It brought me a lot of joy, and I do think I still spend too much time on my phone in the evenings. Stephen and I were just discussing having a couple TV-free evenings, and cross-stitching may be just the thing I want to do with my free time.

Another revelation:

I've also realized that a major reason I liked being on Facebook was to share photos of the kids with my friends. The thing is, I don't need to share so many. No one cares that much. And I don't want to have tons of photos of my kids online. I think it's actually more for me. The process of taking photos brings me joy. Looking at my photos makes me happy.

Instead of sharing this with the world all the time, I am going to sign up for Chatbooks and regularly get some photo books printed out that I myself will be able to look at and share with my family. Has anyone else used Chatbooks? What is your opinion? I'll be sure to do a review soon! I loved their commercial on YouTube!

OK. Who here has quit Facebook? Did I forget anything? Anyone feel motivated to take a trial break this month? I'd love to hear your thoughts!!!


Green in 15 // Living a More Sustainable Life

>> Friday, February 24, 2017

When I was deep into my college years, I was taking mostly writing + anthropology classes. I also flirted with a minor in environmental studies. Over and over again, we'd calculate our ecological footprint and then spend a lot of time talking about ways to be more sustainable. It was a practice I completed often. And -- at the time -- my footprint was impressively small.

I've toured pioneering co-housing communities, interviewed people who have built their own straw-bale houses, lived in a town where composting has been mainstream even at restaurants, farmers markets, and beyond for years longer than I've been alive. Where local food and farm-to-table seems like the natural choice.

It's funny how moving an hour or so away can make sure a difference . . . but when you don't have a community set up for cultivating this type of lifestyle, it's much more difficult to do it on your own.

So, I thought I'd revisit this whole activity of calculating my carbon footprint. (Here's how you can, too. It takes less than 15 minutes!) The quiz is sort of difficult and required a bit of estimation on my part. Anyway, our family's result was 35 tons of CO2/year. That's actually pretty good. Apparently 44 percent better than average. Before I pat myself on the back, I think a lot of that has to do with not doing any air travel or travel in general, basically ever.

If you're not thrilled with your results or -- like me -- you just want to do better, there are tons of little tweaks you can make in your routine to get there. These are the absolute basics. Consider it a refresher course. In other words, we ALL know this stuff and just need reminding.

If you eat meat, you can try eating less of it. 

Obviously, this is a vegetarian site, so you know I'm all about loving plant foods and all. I think our family could shift to a more plant-based diet because we do get dairy heavy from time to time. Even people who are hardcore carnivores can make a big impact by going meat-free at least some of the time. If you do choose to eat meat and animal products, try choosing local sources as often as possible.

Do the waste-free thing. 

One of my professors used to carry around a fork and spoon inside of a clean napkin everywhere he went. That way, he wouldn't need to use plastic utensils AND he'd have some easy "packaging" if he wanted to take something home. And the man even used that large napkin to bring salad greens home -- sans dressing, of course.

I've written more about our quest to create less waste, so if you're interested you should give it a read.

Some of my favorite waste-free tools include:

Use your car less often. 

This seems like an obvious, but if you live in an area like we do -- public transportation (or alternative modes, like biking or walking) isn't so friendly. Small communities like Ithaca and large cities have it figured out. But where we live, the routes are spotty (and dangerous) between areas and at times quite inconvenient. Still, this is an area where we could surely improve. I'm trying to group my shopping trips with other errands so we don't need to head out on multiple occasions, for example.

I also try to walk as much as possible to run errands despite not living in a very pedestrian friendly area overall. Our neighborhood, though, does have some spots that are handy and close-by. For example, we've changed our pharmacy to the one that's closest to our home, we use the vet that's closest, we use the doctor (for Stephen and myself) that's closest, we chose the preschool that was closest so I could walk, etc., we often go to the diner that's a half mile away simply because we can walk there.

Turn out the lights.

One thing I always find funny (and I mention this because they're coming today), is that my in-laws are always turning all the lights on in our home. I never notice it being dark or too dim when they aren't here. We just . . . don't turn on many lights. Maybe in the kitchen while we're cooking. Otherwise, I try to rely on the daylight and as few lamps as possible. We've also moved to LED bulbs in many rooms.

Now that the daylight hours are longer, this one is an easy change! At very least, turn out the lights when you leave the room.

Buy less, want less, etc.

This whole minimalism trend (because you have to admit, it's become a trend) does have something worthwhile inside of it. And I know not everyone does minimalism because it's the "cool" thing -- but all the videos on YouTube may make you scratch your head. Anyway, buying less is great for your footprint. Or if you do buy, maybe consider buying more items second-hand. (Poshmark, ThredUp, and other online shops make this easier, too. But I still favor my local stores because they are the least expensive.)

Here's an outfit I wore this week that was entirely second-hand, save the VT-made bag I bought on Etsy from my talented internet-friend Tessa at Foliage.

Of course, always try your best to reuse and repurpose your stuff before buying, too. I'll be back in the future with some more specific ways you can move toward sustainability in your home. If you're new to the blog, check out my Green in 15 series, my homesteading posts, and some of the related links below. There's tons of good reads in the archives!


Green in 15: Revamping Your Cleaning
DIY Natural Lotion Cubes
Powerful DIY Laundry Detergent
Cleaning with Vinegar
5 Green Cleaners That Work
5-Minute Homemade Deodorant
8 Ways We've Eliminated Plastics
Cleaning Produce The Natural Way
Chemical-Free Clean With Castile Soap


Five Year Age Gap // Video

>> Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I had some time yesterday to sit down and share some thoughts on what it's like to have two kids who are nearly 5 years apart in age. Well, they're actually 4 years and 7 months apart almost to the day. It's a question we actually get quite often when we're out and about. I don't really feel like it's a gigantic gap, but it seems to rouse some commentary.

Anyway, here's the video!

Larger age gap benefits:

  • Older kid is independent
  • Older kid can help with a lot
  • Both children get lots of one-on-one time (yay naps!)
  • One child is at school, so it's easier to work from home
  • Only one in diapers
  • No need for double gear

Larger age gap disadvantages:

  • Not at same stage, different areas of needs
  • Out of  practice with baby stuff
  • Hard to return to sleepless nights
  • Two sets of toys for different ages (small pieces! EEK!)
  • Need to respond to needs of little sometimes before helping bigger kid
  • Some items like car seats are expired and can't be reused

I probably missed some stuff. But that's the gist. I hope this is helpful whether you're considering a larger age gap between your kids or simply finding yourself in this spot due to stuff you cannot control. We're thrilled to have both of our girls -- no matter their ages. And if we do choose to have another kid (I chat about that in the video -- we are still undecided, just trying on the idea!), we'll be happy whenever he or she comes.

By the way, I am working on getting my videos to be better quality. I think I finally achieved the best I can do with my iPhone. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel to subscribe if you like these videos. And if there's anything you'd like to see me chat about, also let me know in the comments or maybe on Instagram.

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