No time to unclutter? Consider turning off your TV

I recently came across this inspirational and humbling quote:

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. — H. Jackson Brown

I have often claimed to not have enough time to do a lot of the things I’d like to do. I’ve made this excuse for things like working out, cooking dinner, doing laundry and cleaning the apartment. But, after I saw this quote, I started thinking about how I actually spend my time and realized that I watch a lot of TV.

According to this 2006 article, the average American watches over 4-1/2 hours of television per day! Over the course of a year, that’s more than 1,600 hours. What can you do in four hours a day? You could stop stressing out about a disorganized closet and help it find order. You could attend a Rolling Stones concert, and even watch the opening band. You could run an entire marathon!

So, the next time you think you don’t have time to unclutter, think about how you’re spending your time and whether turning off the TV for a few nights might give you those needed hours.

76 Comments for “No time to unclutter? Consider turning off your TV”

  1. posted by Ryan on

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    If you really want to declutter your living space I would strongly suggest giving up your TV. I gave mine up almost three years ago and I’ve never looked back. Best decision I have ever made! First, there is nothing good on TV. Secondly, there isn’t much my computer can’t handle that my TV did. That is to say, I watch movies on it and for the TV shows I cannot live without I rent, borrow from the library or buy the seasons and watch them on the computer.

    Stop spending thousands of dollars on a TV when you can get a nice computer that does so much more.

    Ryan

  2. posted by David on

    Good point. We don’t have a TV since 4 years and hardly ever miss it. We watch a DVD once in a while, but a movie ends eventually and you don’t have a continuous program by itself; you have to take action in order to continue watching. I think that helps a lot.

    What might also help is to make a list of your activities for a weak and write down how many hours they take. If they sum up to more than 168 h/week you have a serious problem and you should start quitting activities.

  3. posted by Dan on

    As a fellow first time poster, I’d like to echo Ryan’s sentiments.

    My wife and I still have a television, but we gave up cable a long time ago. I can’t say that we miss it at all. When we do use the television it’s to watch DVDs of movies or programs. We end up watching much less TV and the time we spend watching it is filled with only quality material (as opposed to most of the low quality programs on television). Between the internet and DVD rental services like Netflix, we don’t miss it a bit.

    The best part is with the time that’s freed up by not watching TV, we’re able to spend quality time together, see more of our friends, pursue our hobbies, and unclutter our lives.

    Cheers,
    Dan

  4. posted by Chavi on

    So true. Last night I needed to get some things done, but the TV is always on (white noise) and it was distracting. I turned it off, and managed to get the things I need to get done, done in time to hit the sack at 10 p.m. πŸ˜€

  5. posted by Karen on

    I’ll admit, I enjoy my TV. I only watch specific shows (nowhere near 4 hours a day!) but I enjoy the ones I watch. (I find that I enjoy good TV shows more than movies.) I sometimes do decluttering in front of the TV. I find that Iron Chef America (one of my guilty pleasures) is a great accompaniment to cleaning out a drawer or going through paperwork.

    As far as simplifying my TV watching, I love having Tivo because it means I only record the shows I really want to watch. When I’m done, the TV goes off.

  6. posted by Brian on

    I can understand the benefit of getting rid of cable, I’ve tried it a couple times. but what gets me back to having cable is that sometimes i just want something on. when we ate, or needed to sit down we really missed having the ability to just turn on some noise. I know that there is nothing good on TV but I could only re watch my dvds so many times before it was unbearable. A computer could fill this need to put on some noise but it would have to have speakers, a big monitor, and a couch in front of it.

  7. posted by DrJ on

    We got rid of our TV two months ago. Not only is our lounge room that much nicer, but we have more hours free and we actually talk. Plus I’ve gotten back into board games, which I love but could never convince my husband to join in.

  8. posted by Shay on

    I admit it, our household is part of the problem…We keep our cable subscription largely for the sports season. We’re huge fans of the local teams, and if we had to go out for each game, it’d get pretty expensive and inconvenient. I wish I could say TiVo’s helped us with this, but its habit of recording recommendations means there’s always something good on that I want to watch. *sigh*
    I do exercise regularly and read plenty of books and enjoy yard work or other getting outside, but I do wonder what I could do with those couple extra hours…

  9. posted by Michele on

    Not just the TV: internet, too!

    Thanks for the quote. I have a similar attitude — though it’s not particularly friendly — when I hear from my fellow law students that they’re pressed for time. I tend to think, “Here, let me play my single mom card. It reads, ‘I don’t want to hear about your time management problems.'”

  10. posted by Julie on

    Getting rid of the TV would probably involve a divorce at my house πŸ™‚ but I have found ways to make it work better for me. The TIVO, for instance, helps me speed up my watching. No more wasting time watching commercials, or lame montages, or “previously on..” – I cut straight to the meat of the show. I also try to make TV time more productive by doing one of my hobbies (cross-stitching or making handmade greeting cards) while watching TV. We also have our elliptical machine strategically placed so I can see and hear the TV while I work out. I once had a roommate who used to do her ironing while watching her favorite soap opera that she recorded every day.

  11. posted by Eden on

    You can also do a lot during commercial breaks, if you don’t want to turn off the TV. I find I get more done if I work during the show/movie and regroup or rest during the breaks. A TV can work like a timer that way.

  12. posted by Cyrano on

    “There’s nothing good on TV.” – Someone who never watches TV

    I actually thing we’re in a great era for television, especially for cable. Niche programming is at full stride, and people are really getting to watch more of what they actually like. Food Network, Discovery, Comedy Central — it’s nothing new, but now more than ever people don’t have to sit through something that doesn’t appeal to them just because it’s not the demographic for that timeslot. Whole channels are dedicated to your interests. If you don’t like today’s programming, there are about 3 channels you can watch I Love Lucy reruns on.

    The best part about television is that even the major networks have improved a ton. Television dramas are incredible right now (Lost, 24, Heroes). It’s solid, moving entertainment, just as legitimate as a good novel.

    It’s not television’s fault we’re not productive. It’s just that it’s one of the things we prioritize over other things. Re-prioritize your interests or manage your time better (Tivo is great!) and you can do both.

  13. posted by Another Ryan on

    Gave up the TV three years ago. Best decision ever. One less bill to pay, more free time on guitar, and the ability to be a smug douche when people ask me which American Idol contestant I think will win. (Pfft. I don’t watch TV. Rots your brain.)

    Though, looking back on that decision, seems more like I gave up one time waster for another.

    Now I can’t get off the damn Internet. And I can tell you, the Internet is not going away anytime soon.

    Another Ryan

  14. posted by Kimberly - The Good Life on a Budget on

    I got rid of my television in January. I now spend my time trying new things, being social and working on projects around the house. It is much better than turning into a zombie as soon as primetime hits. The few shows I do want to watch are offered online. I can always catch up with them from my laptop.

  15. posted by jenny on

    Uh, Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein didn’t have eight to twelve hour a day jobs that were completely unrelated to their intellectual and altruistic pursuits, not to mention physically and emotionally draining. Pasteur, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein had wives who handled all of their domestic concerns. Helen Keller and Mother Teresa never married and had no children. And all of those people, save Mother Theresa, who had a whole organization behind her to handle her day to day concerns, had enough money to pay other people to worry about the kind of daily considerations that non-rich folks have to think about.

    So, make me independently wealthy, give me a live-in domestic servant who can’t quit her job without legal intervention, and take away my need to work for the greater part of my days and yeah, I bet I could be as productive as Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein! Even if I did watch TV!

  16. posted by Anne on

    20 years without a TV!

    uncluttered my mind, and home!!

    best part, you can rearrange your furniture for converstation, not a good view to tv

    yep, 4 kids, marraige of 18 years and no TV! My hubby didn’t have one when we married and we just decided nopt, ain’t happening!

  17. posted by Brooke on

    Great post! This is hands-down the most relevant post I’ve read in a long time, because a) that quote is one of two quotes in my signature for my email, and b) the biggest time-eater (other than my job) in my life is the tv, and I’m trying hard to change that. But I’m having a REALLY tough time getting my husband to get on board.

    Thanks!

  18. posted by j on

    β€œThere’s nothing good on TV.” – Someone who never watches TV

    True, so true. You might just as well say “No time to unclutter? Consider giving up reading” (especially blogs, but suggesting that wouldn’t pay the rent). I’m always amused by anti-TV snobbery. There’s nothing inherently “better” about spending your time reading “War and Peace” vs. watching “Deadwood.” It’d take you about the same amount of time to get through both. It’s a value judgment over which is a priority for you.

  19. posted by Jarick on

    I don’t watch TV but waste a lot of time on the computer. There’s really no difference. I will say I would want a TV to watch sports and movies, and the occasional Discovery/History channel program.

  20. posted by Ryan on

    Cyrano,

    I don’t think that you understood my post. It’s not that I don’t watch TV, I happen to really like shows like: the x-files, heros and scrubs. I simply stated that having a TV seemed pointless to me. I can watch everything on my computer that I could watch on my television. By getting rid of my TV I got rid of a useless appliance and got a tool that served more of a purpose than just a TV. That’s the point of this site, right?

    Also, can you please explain to me how TV has enhanced your life. All the endless hours one spends watching this so called “quality entertainment”, what else could be accomplished. I think if you read some of the other comments you’ll see that several people have given up their TV’s to find that they had more time for life enriching activities.

  21. posted by Meg from FruWiki and All About Appearances on

    I can’t remember the last time that my husband or I just sat and watched t.v. We’re always doing something else while it’s on, so I don’t know if we’d be much more productive without it. In fact, I get some of my best decluttering done when the news is looping.

    For the most part, I wouldn’t mind giving it up, but my husband has a few shows he still likes to watch. Ironically, I was the one who insisted we get cable in the first place after months of living with him without t.v. service. A lot of it has just been that I feel more comfortable with the sound of the t.v. on — something that I’m slowly getting used to going without.

  22. posted by CarolinaDivina on

    yay jenny
    we don’t do tv
    we have 2 kids and we both work 8 to 5
    that means after getting the kids from extended day, there is maybe 3 hours of the evening dedicated to feeding (homemade nutritious meals), cleanup and then cleaning the kids (5yrs and 1.5yrs respectively) then homework, squeeze in productive educational play for each and some outside time, toss in a load of laundry, reading time, sleep prep, prep for the next day (includes fine tuning lunch for tomorrow, arranging tomorrow’s clothes, on occasion ironing a shirt, packing schoolbag, placing everything on the launch pad)
    yeah
    no time…

  23. posted by allen on

    @jenny: Right on, i was going to say something to that effect, but far less eloquently.

    That being said, i DID get rid of my cable a few years back, because of the cost, and I found it did free up some of my time. I also feel that 4.5 hours MUST be taking into account those ppl who don’t do anything at home BUT watch TV, or the bed-ridden who watch all day, &c. Do they count time watching moview as this “TV” time as well? πŸ˜›

    That being said, turn off the tube, and you WILL have more time to do other things. πŸ˜€

  24. posted by Solo500 on

    And the next thing to go is my computer! Seriously, web surfing is 10x worse than TV ever was.

  25. posted by Andrew on

    I gave up my TV four years ago. Having programming blown at me through a metal box seemed a bit sick. I’m out with friends, reading and working in the garden more often. I realize that it isn’t for everyone, but try cancelling your cable for a year.

  26. posted by Melissa A. on

    In my house it would have to be turn off the computer as I rarely watch tv.

  27. posted by Mary on

    Am I the only one who watches “Neat” on my Tivo and then unclutters like crazy for the next hour or so?

  28. posted by Joe on

    My wife and I treat it a bit like working out.
    Hook the MP3 player up to some loud speakers, crank up the tunes, and go.

  29. posted by Erin Doland on

    @jenny and others — You make some good points, except that you should really consider doing something you love as a job! Why waste eight hours a day doing something “completely unrelated to (your) intellectual and altruistic pursuits”?? The people mentioned in the quote matched their jobs with their passions, and I think this is a great rule for life. Life is too short to do something that fills you with regret. At the very least, you should consider doing something that matches your intellectual interests. I’ve had my fair share of bad jobs, and I can tell you that it’s not worth it, no matter how large the paycheck. The mental and emotional anguish takes too big of a toll on life quality.

  30. posted by Marie on

    I haven’t had cable since 2001, and I don’t go online at home because it’s maddeningly slow compared to at work. My excuses are still intact. :p

  31. posted by Dawn on

    I disagree. In front of the tv is the best place to take on some clutter – large open space on the living room floor to spread out your stuff and organize it, and watching a show you enjoy can really make a chore easier to get though.

    @Erin: The unfortunate reality is that sometimes what you love to do doesn’t pay the bills.

  32. posted by Karen on

    We cut the (cable) cord about 6 years ago. Where we live there’s no TV reception otherwise, so, no TV. It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made in our marriage. I was surprised to find how defensive people were about their own TV-watching habits when it would come out that we didn’t have TV. We weren’t smug about it, we just had to fess up when people would refer to something on TV and we didn’t know what they meant. We keep the fact that we are TV-free to ourselves now if we can.

    My kids are very creative about how they use their time. My daughter plays 2 instruments, runs track and gets all As. My son is now a huge reader. It’s been great for them, and for us as a family. My husband and I spend a lot of time talking!

  33. posted by Mandy on

    How many of us have simply replaced the TV with reading blogs and surfing the web? Come on, be honest πŸ™‚ I don’t watch TV, but I sure do spend alot of time on the computer. One has replaced the other, and I bet many who are commenting here can say the same.

  34. posted by Kayla on

    so true… I’ve been trying to cut tv time to just my select evening shows a few night a week… I know I’m not as bad as most, but I could still improve.

  35. posted by Jen on

    I have to agree with Jenny – those particular famous thinkers did have more resources that equated to more time.

    My TV watching time is the only time I’m idle. And I’m really starting to think I’m not idle enough, because I’m on the go a good 80 hours a week, between my day job, my online pursuits, errand running, chore doing, cooking healthy, working out, hobbies… I could keep a staff busy, and I’m not even touching some of the stuff I’d like to do. Like have a social life.

    Then again, my place isn’t cluttered because I learned the best way to declutter a long time ago: don’t accumulate clutter. Once a year or so, I realize I need to do maybe an hours’ decluttering, and I’m done.

  36. posted by Barb on

    Thank you for reminding me that it is not time that I lack, it is focus.

  37. posted by bms2000 on

    We have 2 kids, 7 and 6, and no TV. Our TV used to live in a closet and only got dragged out when we really wanted to watch something. Then it died, and we didn’t replace it. We’ve never had cable or anything like that. We too use our computer to watch DVDs. My husband’s laptop has some TiVo like function (I don’t understand TiVo, and don’t really care if I do or not), but we find the only things we ever record are the occasional geeky Nova special. We can go 2 weeks around here without watching anything. It just doesn’t occur to us most of the time. If I do watch something, it’s because I have some tedious number crunching to do, and I need to stay awake.

    I hate TVs on aesthetic grounds. They are big, clunky, take up a lot of space, and suck a lot of power in the case of the newer ones. I have a small house, and the focus of the living room is the fireplace. There is no place to put a TV that would not look stupid in this space.

    I do find it interesting that TV is a very polarizing thing. If I mention that I don’t have a TV, even in a nonjudgemental, matter of fact way, I get accused of being a snob, over protective of my kids, crippling my children’s social life, etc. etc. People, it is just a form of entertainment. It is not the be all and end all of human existance. Is it so radical to just not like TV?

  38. posted by EJ Finneran on

    This is one of the reason I don’t have cable and rely heavily on getting my TV shows through iTunes/Apple TV.
    1) It prevents me from “Surfing”
    2) It makes me really think if this TV series is worth my time/money.
    3) I actually save money. ~$480 a year for a cable subscription would pay for roughly 12 TV seasons. And I don’t even watch half that.

  39. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Dawn — I used to think that I had to work at a job that I hated to pay the bills, and then I decided to cut the bills. I should write a post about how I went from making six figures to making barely any money and how it was the best decision I have ever made. So many things I thought I had to have, and now I can’t even remember what those things were.

  40. posted by Michele on

    I don’t think TV has to be an all-or-nothing proposition. I watch 0-5 hours a week of carefully selected shows and never feel like my time in front of the TV is wasted. There are actually more shows I’d like to watch, but that’s where it starts to interfere with my other priorities so I don’t. I’ve learned a lot from TV – for example, I knew enough to be my own general contractor from watching home improvement shows. I also watch some shows for entertainment, and this has value to me if I really enjoy it.

  41. posted by Debbie Jordan Kravitz on

    For those of us who enjoy the occasional TV series, there can definitely be a middle of the road between giving up TV for good and wasting four+ hours a day.I agree with the poster that mentioned taking advantage of the commercials for some “speed de-cluttering.” And when you sit down to enjoy a show and realize it’s a repeat, take advantage of the 1/2-hour or hour block to devote to a larger project. Really, it’s all about making our own choices of how we want to spend our time-but if we choose to spend them unproductively we only have ourselves to blame.

  42. posted by supersocco on

    Television: Drug of the nation, breeding ignorance and feeding radiation.

    -Heroes of Hipoprisy
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgOWTM5R2DA

  43. posted by MHB on

    I haven’t had a TV for almost two years now, though we do have a large computer monitor and do set it up from time to time to watch some shows or a movie on DVD – but that’s a rare treat.

    Obviously, all of us here are blog-readers, but here I am reading information, processing it and formulating a response, rather than passively taking in whatever’s on the tube. Also, I’ve always been a newspaper reader, and now I get most of my news from the internet, as well, so I don’t feel very bad about most of the time I spend online. There are some great shows on these days, but I figure I can get the DVDs and enjoy them when I want to, and without commercials – not unlike the Tivo fans here.

    In my life without TV, I’ve taught myself to sew, done a lot more home cooking, cultivated a small container garden, planned showers and other parties for friends, and – oh, yeah, started grad school. I manage to get my homework finished with time to spare. All this while working full-time and being married and having something of a social life. Now that I’m used to not having a TV, I’m not sure where I would find the time to watch it.

  44. posted by Lily on

    I’m anti-antiTV-snobbery myself πŸ˜‰
    I have a life beyond tv, that’s the point. I’m not “afraid” of it. Going to extremes is always wrong imho.
    …I wouldn’t give up the Simpsons and Futurama reruns, it’s great tv, smart and inventive.

  45. posted by lionel on

    Less TV means more books, Means a better-developed imagination, Means more creative people.

    Less TV also means less useless stuff being advertised at you, tempting you to clutter your life with things!

  46. posted by Craig on

    We are not turning off the TV. Nor are we giving up digital cable.

    Giving up TV would be like giving up books and reading to us. We’re not giving up books and reading, either.

    We love our TV. It is a member of our family, along with our dog, except the TV doesn’t have a pulse.

    I refuse to watch TV on my computer. My computer is for checking email, surfing the web, doing creative writing, working on my blog, or even working remotely. The computer belongs in the computer room, not in the living room.

    I watch TV on my TV, not on my computer.

    For my part, I enjoy watching History, The Discovery Channel, SciFi, BBCA, MSNBC, and all the other lovely offerings.

    In our house, our digital cable TV stays ON. Sometimes even when we’re not there. Our dog likes watching TV, too.

  47. posted by Anne on

    @Erin
    I should write a post about how I went from making six figures to making barely any money and how it was the best decision I have ever made. So many things I thought I had to have, and now I can’t even remember what those things were.

    **please do!!! we just did it and wow, 2 months into this, our family is closer and life really is better**

  48. posted by DaddyO on

    When we canceled satellite TV service a few years back, life improved and strife decreased. Our two boys fought less, read more, and improved skills in many areas other than memorizing inane dialog from useless programs and commercials.

    Observing my kids’ peers, I see the ones who are struggling in school are almost always the ones who watch a lot of television.

    In most homes television programming is a marketing cannon with a minor side effect of entertainment. We still have a television and watch DVD programs. It really hits home when you watch an hour long episode of something and find only 40 minutes have gone by.

    It’s worth it to turn it off and find other things to do!

  49. posted by Jeannine on

    This is great advice, but readers shouldn’t think they need to completely give up TV — just accomplish small tasks during commercials! We have TiVo, but I rarely fast forward through commercials, and instead use that time to empty the dishwasher, dust the living room furniture, or fold a load of laundry. It’s amazing when you do a bit of this here and there, the work doesn’t pile up. Also, your house doesn’t look like a disaster by the time Friday afternoon rolls around. By keeping on top of things during the week, you can actually relax and enjoy the weekend!

  50. posted by Kat on

    I find it fascinating to watch people who don’t have TVs go to where TVs are on and that they can’t look away. They stare blankly at it and anything that is on. I have found most people who give up TV, don’t replace it with productive things, they end up on the internet or in the case of a friend, out drinking.
    Like everything, TV is good in moderation. You can learn just as much by watching TV as reading a book.
    And remember some people are more audio learners than visual, so TV can be better for some.

  51. posted by Tabatha on

    i have super cheap cable that i don’t watch, only b/c my internet is a lil cheaper with it than without it. i bought a 600$ computer monitor that works as a tv, and i can hook up my dvd player and whatnot. i pretty much wasted my money b/c now i have a laptop and watch most stuff i do watch online. my boyfriend watches tv when he’s here on the weekend but only till i wake up, or to catch up on some sports since he doesn’t have cable. he paid about the same for his 30in hdtv he barely uses except to play an occasional video game when he has time.

    i agree on not working a job just for the money. i am about to give up a job and work part time somewhere probably making minimum wage so i can move and be with my boyfriend a go back to college.

    tv is a waste of time. when i gave up the classic cable i had so much more time and didn’t sit in front of the tv watching nothing and randomly flipping through channels with nothing on.

  52. posted by Cynthia Friedlob, The Thoughtful Consumer on

    I must agree with Solo500 who said that web-surfing is far worse than TV.

    The internet — often a wonderful source of information and fun — seems to have an almost hypnotic effect on some of us. And it’s easy to think that you’re being “productive” because you’re reading interesting blogs and browsing interesting websites.

    As a blog reader and writer, I hope no one abandons the ‘net, but I’m quite willing to ‘fess up about how much time I spend online that could be better spent doing something else!

  53. posted by Jane on

    We gave up TV 2 years ago, not out of principle, but due to a dispute with the only TV provider in our county. Initially, there was a withdrawal/weaning process that took about 3 months to get over. I had no idea I was so addicted to TV!

    We had a dvd-by-mail subscription for a while but that was starting to take up as much time as TV and we canceled that too. We now rent videos from the library (which due to the selection are often PBS/BBC productions from the 1970s). We do learn more now when we watch TV and we have reclaimed a few hours each day but I agree with the other readers that there is something instinctive about having some unproductive “downtime” and that it is easy to fill that time browsing the Internet or indulging in other guilty pleasures.

  54. posted by Chris on

    Looks like one person has commented on tivo. Here are the facts. There are advantages to tivo.
    1)a tv show is always 1/4 comercials. Meaning you can watch 5 hour of TV in 4 hours time. The trick is to let it record things and never watch live TV. When you graph this as time spent watching TV over time doing other things the dispacement is lower or for the math people a non linear line. Or it curves down so the more you watch TV the more time you save. Now if you don’t have a TIVO you watch TV on a 1 to 1 ratio. Meaning you are directly taking time away from something else. This is a straight line on a graph so you have to pay attention to how much tv you watch because you are really giving up the time. Meaning your time is worth a whole lot more. I hope that didn’t confuse people.
    2)Sports: what I do works great I will start a game and go do something for half an hour or an hour. And go back and then flip through commercials. Now if you are a racing fan you can watch a full length race in 20 min. I can watch everything in 2X speed. Because it is digital the picture is still perfect at fast speeds.
    3)Kids:Are you a person who babysits at weird hours or they only can watch certain programs. You record them all and they can watch TV and be interested in what they are watching.

    I only watch certain programs for maybe 1 to 2 hours a day. And because I work 2nd shift I can’t watch them live so this keeps me from channel surfing and I only watch what I record. Other wise I am cleaning or doing college home work. Just a little info about TIVO

  55. posted by Magnus on

    I’m voting for selling that huge plasma tv, buying a better bed, and sleeping for 12 hours a day. Mmm.

  56. posted by Alex Fayle on

    I watch about an hour or two of TV a day, and I also work for myself. I use TV shows as breaks from what I’m doing.

    Most of my work is heavy brain-work. TV is fluff. I often have a hard time staying focused, so I work for 20 minutes then give myself 10 minutes of play, which is usually a scene or two of a TV show.

    I stay caught up on my favourite shows and my productivity is much higher when I try to be more dedicated to only work.

    Cheers,
    Alex

  57. posted by Nina on

    I don’t watch tv tv, as in surfing from one channel to the next, but I study film sciences and love films and also good tv shows. And I must agree with some of the posts that in the last few years some shows have been made that are very good and entertaining. I think as long as you are aware of where your time goes, it’s ok to watch films or tv. Hey, it’s your time.
    But I also agree with the notion that when people complain about not having enough time they should really look at what they spend their time with. Me for instance, I spend much more time reading blogs (amongst others this one), then watching tv. But I enjoy it and I still have enough time for other things.
    One thing I do find scary is when I see some parents put their small children in front of the tv for hours (or worse, give them a tv in to their bedroom).
    About the post of having a job that you love or at least enjoy (most of the time. I personally don’t believe that there is a job in the world where you like every thing about it), yes I would like that for myself too. But the reality is that most of the time work is there to give you money to pay the bills and live a hopefully fairly comfortable life. If you hate your job and it’s making your whole life miserable, then thats another thing. But it’s utopic to think that everyone can have their dream job.

  58. posted by MinimumWage! on

    TV is a medium because anything well done on it is rare.

    I have worked in the TV Broadcast industry for over 12 years and have become so sick of it that I have decided to go back to school and get another degree. I can’t tell you how many people I know that work in TV that rarely watch it, including the stations that they work for, or even have many positive things to say about it. This is a weird industry. It seems to attract people that enjoy the actual work that it takes to create the product, but dislike the content of the finished product.
    I quit watching TV in college and although there are a few programs that I will watch if my wife has the idiot box on, I will not go out of my way to make an effort to watch them or feel any need/desire to turn the TV on. I know that I get a tremendous amount of things done that I would otherwise be unable to do if I was addicted to the TV. That is what I think it is an addiction. Watch what happens to those who try to stop watching it. My wife gets all cranky like a cigarette smoker craving nicotine when she doesn’t get to watch her shows. It is a weird addiction, but like quitting smoking it is really hard at first, but you get used to it, and going cold turkey is the best way to quit-both of them. Just quit watching it, you’ll feel physically and mentally better within just a few days, you will be able to interact with those around you and get a whole helluva lot more done.
    That’s my rant.

  59. posted by Kenney on

    I agree that TV can be a giant time-suck, but I really dislike anti-tv snobbery. Nothing good on tv? Seriously? There are programs on television that are incredibly stimulating, entertaining, and/or informative.

    I like to read books too, but I’m not going to act like reading the latest James Patterson book somehow makes me better than a person who watching CSI.

    Likewise, replacing a tv with a computer and dvds…is the same thing as watching tv in my eyes. Yeah, maybe you bypass commercials, but if you’re watching a season boxset of Grey’s Anatomy through download or dvd on a laptop, are you really spending your time better than a person who watched it over broadcast?

    All told, I think the internet is much worse than TV as far as wasting time, at least for me. I find myself fooling around on message boards, enthusiast news sites, or doing research for a while, and next thing I know 3 hours have passed.

  60. posted by Carmen on

    How many people in that inspirational quote had the responsibility of taking care of children? Answer: 0

  61. posted by European Girl on

    This obsession with tv is tipically American. I wouldn’t dream of watching 4 hours of tv a day, it’s like coming back from work and watching it till I go to bed. Giving up tv and discovering books and open air? That made me laugh! I have a tv and watch selected programs AND I read a book per week, cook, unclutter, go to the cinema, cycle, visit new places, etc.
    Besides, the comparison between tv and web makes no sense, there’s much much more on the net, information, culture, opinions…

  62. posted by Ryan with a capital "R" on

    Geeze, and I thought the quote at the top of this post was going to be smuggest thing in the thread. I also have exactly the same number of hours in a day as William Johnson, Irene Czapla, Rose Mariucci, Robert Price, and Juan Huertes. Haven’t heard of them? Me neither. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t happy, fulfilled lives. I’d rather be happy than great or famous. Many of the people on that list weren’t happy.

    I always enjoy people who don’t have a TV declaring there’s nothing good on. How do they know? They haven’t seen Ugly Betty, The Office (either version), the new Battlestar Galatica, or Mad Men. If they’re renting a TV series on DVD, how is that different? Why not ask someone who lives in Boise about Broadway shows?

    I work full-time. I run 50 to 70 miles a week (I’m not very fast — a 70-mile week usually involves about 11 hours or so). I make ice cream one or twice a week. I cook our meals. I enjoy reading comic books. I also watch 2 or 3 hours of TV a day via TiVo — more on the weekend if I watch a baseball or college basketball game. (Yes, I fully acknowledge that it absolutely helps my time management that we don’t have kids.)

    Erin, if I did what I loved to do, I’d bankrupt my family in a matter of months. I make good ice cream but opening an ice cream shop would be committing financial suicide (I saw it happen a few years ago to an ice cream shop I loved — between DQ, Friendly’s, Baskin-Robins, and Cold Stone the market is already pretty saturated in my area). I really like living indoors and I’m not willing to give that up. So, instead, I make ice cream for myself, my friends and family, and to bring to social occasions and I enjoy it at that level.

    Part of turning a hobby into work is that you’re turning a hobby into work.

    signed,

    I got up at 4 and ran 20 miles before work and I feel pretty damn smug about that

  63. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Ryan — I don’t pursue my hobby as my work, that wasn’t my point. I just don’t think people should spend their lives in jobs they hate. I did end up writing a post about it that will run on the 29th … so stay tuned.

  64. posted by Cyrano on

    Ryan,

    While you might be able to watch some television on your computer, you will not be able to (at least legally) watch all TV shows.

    As far as enhancing my life through TV is concerned, off the top of my head Good Eats has had a huge impact on my life, and one of Alton Brown’s major imperatives is getting rid of unitaskers and teaching people how to take control of their kitchen.

    I highly recommend it. Since you have no TV, you can (not legal!) check it out on youtube. A lot of times I’ll listen to an episode on my phone on my drive home so I can pick up groceries to make a meal that day.

  65. posted by Recovering Food Waster on

    I’m with Solo500…I don’t ever watch TV, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to time-wasting. I can while away hours on the internet with the best of them!

    It’s really about learning to prioritize(like someone else said)…if you’re prone to wasting time, you’ll probably waste it with or without a TV.

  66. posted by Karyn on

    I’ve spent most of my adult life without a TV, and I can’t say I’ve missed it. It’s not a matter of “snobbery” so much as opportunity cost: Given the choice, there are many other things I would rather do than sit in front of the TV watching even a “good” show or movie. I have a TV and DVD player, right now, so I have something to watch DVDs that interest me. Even so, I will go for weeks at a time before I get around to watching a movie I’ve been wanting to watch. Reading–whether the printed page or on a computer screen–gives me the space in which to mull over ideas and think at leisure. It’s just a different process from getting information via TV, a process I prefer.

    As for having background noise, well, there’s always music. πŸ˜‰ For creating a relaxing, focused atmosphere at home, I especially like music suited for “meditation” or “healing/reiki/yoga.” Those who like more upbeat music, substitute the genre of your choice.

    And here’s a thought: how about SILENCE? …just once in a while. Sometimes background noise is just auditory clutter. If you could hear yourself think, what would you think?

    @Erin: I will look forward to your “downscaling” post. I’m another one who did something similar, except that I wasn’t making six figures and I’m working a job that’s pretty routine but frees my time and energy to think and read and write, which are *my* passions in life. Are you interested in downscaling stories from your readers? It appears at least several of us have taken that road!

  67. posted by ClickerTrainer on

    My grandmother used to sit on the porch for a couple of hours every night. That adds up to 14 hours a week! Time she could have spent uncluttering her house! She should have got rid of that darn porch.

    πŸ˜‰

  68. posted by Anoel on

    I hate this advice and find it ridiculous. How about you give up movies, books, music or video games? It’s fine if you don’t like TV but there are some people like me who love TV as their preferred narrative and artform. There IS good stuff on there if you know where to find it. Have you tried The Wire or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Arrested Development? I could name many more that are GREAT television shows. TV is necessarily if you want to see an episode of your favorite show immediatly. There are also DVDs and the internet if you don’t like commercials or want to watch it on your own time. I’d rather have time enriching my life and enjoying it than on uncluttering my house. There is plenty of time for that on the side. It’s all about priorities and moderation.

  69. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Anoel and others — The article doesn’t say to get rid of your t.v. The article says don’t become obsessed with t.v. to the point that it takes away from more meaningful tasks. There is a huge difference between the two suggestions.

  70. posted by Matthew on

    Here’s another angle on it:

    Best thing about giving up TV? Less exposure to advertisements has meant I end up wanting less. And when I want less, I buy less. When I buy less, I have less clutter to keep up. (Same principle for cutting out magazines that are more ads than content.)

    Tivo helped a bit, but most shows have found subtle ways to incorporate brand awareness into their programming.

  71. posted by Colin on

    I’m glad that Jenny and others pointed out the inherent silliness of workaday folks comparing themselves to people who didn’t have to deal with daily administrivia.

    Television is a tool. You can use it, or it can use you – it’s no different from any non-essential activity that you undertake for leisure purposes. We all have our cultural biases about its general worth, but it fundamentally boils down to what you want to do that’s non-essential.

  72. posted by European Girl on

    Best thing about giving up TV? Less exposure to advertisements has meant I end up wanting less. I turn off sound during ads… I don’t pay attention and anyway they look silly that way πŸ˜‰

  73. posted by bms2000 on

    If I said “I don’t ski”, I would get very little response, even here in the skiing obsessed Northeast. A few people might say “You should try it” but no one would judge me as weird, radical, or accuse me of acting superior.

    However, if I say “I don’t watch TV”, people look at me like I have 4 heads, or they accuse me of being elitist (even if I don’t say anything other than “I don’t watch TV”), or pity me as cut off from society, etc. etc. Or they assume I am on their “All media is evil” band wagon and that I also must be a birkenstock wearing organic farmer hippie. What is it about TV, as opposed to all other forms of entertainment, that causes this knee jerk reaction in people, whether they watch it or not?

  74. posted by dancing monkey on

    I can relate to the need/desire for background noise especially while cleaning or showering or cooking or other moments that the father in Cheaper by the Dozen called “unavoidable delay.”

    Personally, I prefer the radio to the television for this purpose, because with television I always find myself fixated on the screen, unable to focus my eyes on the task at hand no matter how silly or inane or uninteresting the broadcast might be. Makes it difficult to knit or other things. I even stare at the screen in restaurants airing sporting events! It’s a ridiculous flaw, I know.

    That’s why I hate it when the BF turns on the set and channel surfs first thing in the morning. It’s a jarring introduction to the day, there’s nothing good to watch at that hour AND it’s a huge distraction for me, when I didn’t even turn the thing on!

  75. posted by Choosing Your Time Wisely: My Challenge to You on

    […] I came across a blog post that suggested if you do not have enough time to un-clutter, you should consider turning off the TV […]

  76. posted by Choosing Your Time Wisely: My Challenge to You | Virtually Organized on

    […] I came across a blog post that suggested if you do not have enough time to un-clutter, you should consider turning off the TV […]

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