My relationship with my iPhone began in March, 2013, so I’m a relative newcomer to the world of smart phones. Until my first iPhone, I was a flip phone girl. Texting was not a reliable way to communicate with me (much to the chagrin of my friends). I rarely took my phone with me anywhere. I liked my life the way it was and resisted adding a smartphone, but because of some changes in Scott’s job we were going to have to start paying for his phone and, the way it played out, it would have been financially silly to stick with my old flip phone. But I was slow to accept technology from suspicious origins. (How exactly are those minerals mined? And by whom? And where?) I don’t like the idea of planned obsolescence. And worse, I thought that an iPhone could become a distraction more than a tool to live a more efficient life.
And it has been just that. It’s been both a distraction and a tool to live more efficiently. This summer when I was running our organic lawn care company, I couldn’t have done it well without the phone. I used it to take photo of lawns, to update customer files on the go, to map my route from house to house, to text and email customers. It made my life a million times easier and it made the business better. My customers had a better experience and a stronger partnership with me (and therefore healthier lawns) because of my phone.
But since the end of the lawn care season, the phone has felt like an anchor, dragging me down, slowing me down, and suffocating my relationship with my kids.
Until recently, my phone charged in my kitchen. When I first got it, I was (uncharacteristically) not intentional about where I plugged in my charger. And there it stayed, on the kitchen counter between my kitchen workspace and my desk, where I could charge it but also check on it at any time. Not just when it buzzed because someone was trying to get in touch with me, but also any time I wondered what was new on Instagram. Or Facebook. Or whether my latest tweet had been noticed by anyone. It allowed me to respond to emails in the least efficient manner possible (by typing or dictating into my phone, which takes about fifty times longer than responding on my computer). It distracted me and slowed down my life.
The tool that was supposed to be making my life faster, easier, and more efficient ended up making my life more distracted and disconnected from the people who matter most. My family.
Sometimes I’d be doing some “important” business on my phone (often it actually was important and time-sensitive, but other times it was something that could have waited until later) when one of my kids would strike up a conversation with me. Not wanting to say, “Hang on a minute…let me finish what I’m doing,” I’d converse with my daughter while still working away on my phone. After I put down my phone, I’d realize that I had no idea what we’d just talked about.
No idea. Ouch. It was as bad as if I’d been drugged and that’s not the kind of life I want to live. I want to be alert and engaged with my kids and my husband, but my phone was keeping me from living a connected life.
But I had a plan. For a while I’d been on a search for a piece of furniture that I could turn into a charging station. I know, I know…I could have moved my charger down to my bedroom or up to the office or somewhere, anywhere, else in the house where the phone and I would be separated. But that didn’t feel right to me.
This summer I finally found an old secretary that needed some love. It came from a smoker’s house and was pretty beat up, so it only cost me $30. I knew that it would fit nicely at the bottom of the stairs, a level below the kitchen and on the path I take between my bedroom, the garage, and the kitchen. It was a convenient spot to keep my phone — out of the way enough, but not too out of the way.
The secretary sat in the garage, making my whole garage smell like an ash tray, until last week when I finally had time to work on it. You might have seen it in this Instagram post.
This weekend I finished updating and refinishing that secretary and it’s finally sitting in my house, dutifully doing its job as a charging station and iPhone manager. Later this week I’ll show you photos and tell you all the steps I took to revive it, but for now I want you to know this: I love it. I love the piece of furniture and I love what it is doing for my life. I feel settled.
Here’s a quick diary of how the transition has gone so far:
- Sunday, 5:00pm. Secretary is FINISHED. Hinges are in, drawer pulls are on, charging station is ready and plugged in. The iPad, my iPhone, the walkie talkies, and my Nook are all charging inside. Scott is using the drawers for extra cords, batteries, flashlights, and chargers.
- Sunday, 5:15pm. I’m in the kitchen making dinner and feeling…anxious? Disconnected? Worried? Every time I look over toward my desk and don’t see my phone, my chest gets a little tight and my breath shortens. But I keep on making dinner and I don’t walk downstairs to look at my phone. Even when there’s a break in cooking, I stay the course. Instead of going downstairs, I stay by the stove and look around my kitchen for something else to do.
- Sunday, 5:45pm. The kids are outside dribbling basketballs and I could read some news on my phone while I’m waiting for dinner to finish cooking, but instead Scott pours me a beer and we have a solid, undistracted conversation about his career. We also talk about organic beer and why we haven’t found an organic beer that we like (yet).
- Sunday, 9:00pm. The kids are in bed and I’m headed that way too (I’ve got an urge to watch Bridget Jones’s Diary from the comfort of my warm bed), but I stop to check my phone on the way to my room. I spend five minutes on it before I put it back in the secretary for the night.
- Monday, 7:10am. I’m up and stop at the secretary to check my phone before I head up to the kitchen. I turn it on. Nothing urgent so I turn it off and put it away. I remind myself to grab it before I go for my morning walk.
- Monday, 8:50am. I’ve just dropped off Callie at school and am walking down the trail with the dogs when I realize that my phone is at home. I think back to the anxiety I felt last night when making dinner without my phone nearby and I laugh out loud. This transition back to semi-disconnected living might be easier than I thought.
Have you ever struggled with the role that technology plays in your life? What do you do to mitigate the effects of technology on your relationship with your loved ones?
Psst…click here to see the piece of furniture I transformed into a charging station. I really love how it’s changing my relationship with my phone…and my family!