Monday, 1 July 2013

zen habits: A Year of Living Without

zen habits: A Year of Living Without

A Year of Living Without

Posted: 01 Jul 2013 06:05 AM PDT

Or, How I Made Room for Life

By Leo Babauta

For the next 12 months, I’ll be conducting a personal experiment that I’m calling A Year of Living Without.

It’s my way of finding out what’s truly necessary, of simplifying my life, of making room for other things.

I’m testing the boundaries of my needs. It’s good to test your personal boundaries now and then (or, if you’re me, all the time).

So what’s the Year of Living Without?

Each month, I’ll go the whole month without one thing I do every day. Something that I tend to not want to give up, for various reasons.

I’ll give up something for a month, then evaluate whether it was something I enjoyed giving up, whether it’s worth leaving it out of my life, or if I want to put it back in after the month’s over. The next month, I’ll try giving up something else (see the list below).

The 12 Things I’ll Live Without

Each month, I’ll try a different experiment:

  1. July: Coffee. I drink about 1-2 cups each morning, and it’s the first thing I do each morning after I meditate. I’ve quit coffee a couple times in the past, as experiments, but haven’t found it to be useful or enjoyable. I’m going to give it another try. Starting today. Replacement habit: tea.
  2. August: Sitting for longer than 30 mins at a time. I work online. I also read a lot online. And do research, pay bills, watch some videos, etc. You get the picture — a typical life in the Western world, probably. I’m going to ban myself from sitting for too long — after 30 minutes, I have to get up for 15 minutes and do something else. Sitting too long is killing us. Replacement habit: yoga (at least for a few of the breaks).
  3. September: Video entertainment. While I gave up cable TV years ago, Eva & I still watch shows on iTunes/Netflix for about an hour or so at night (without commercials). I also watch stuff on YouTube once in awhile, though not much. I’ll cut all of this out. Replacement habit: read books.
  4. October: Sugar. I love vegan desserts. I don’t eat them much anymore, but for this month, I’ll eat them not at all. Replacement habit: veggies, fruit.
  5. November: Computer/Internet in morning (except to write). I use the computer for email, to read longer articles and blog posts, to pay bills, to manage my tasks, etc. I won’t be able to do any of that before noon. Only write, or do non-computer stuff. Replacement habit: write a novel.
  6. December: Refined carbs. Honestly, I don’t do many refined carbs anymore, but I do “cheat” with the kids now and then. For this month, I’m going to ban them completely. Should be fun to do during the holidays! Replacement habit: veggies.
  7. January: Using Internet all day (except to post writing). Similar to November, except it will be all day long (including evenings). This means no email in January either, probably, though I might need to find a system to keep my Sea Change membership going during the month. Replacement habit: write book.
  8. February: Alcohol. I drink 1-2 glasses of red wine a night, usually with Eva. On rare occasions I’ll have a beer. Not this month. Replacement habit: tea.
  9. March: Cell phone. For a long time, I had no iPhone, only a dumb phone. It was completely good enough for my needs. Then Eva bought me an iPhone, and I use it fairly regularly (not addicted). But I’m going to go a month without using my iPhone (or any other cell phone). Note that we don’t have a landline. Replacement habit: drawing.
  10. April: Buying new things. When I was in debt, I was really frugal. I haven’t been as much of a tightwad now that I’m completely debt-free because it’s not as necessary. This month, I’ll buy nothing new. Replacement habit:creating, borrowing, sharing.
  11. May: Restaurants. I don’t go out to restaurants much, except on dates with Eva, to socialize with friends, or to treat the kids. This month, no restaurants! Replacement habit: nature, cooking meals for people.
  12. June: Computer. No computer at all this month. I’ll write with pen & paper, and maybe ask someone to post things for me on Zen Habits. Yikes. Replacement habit: meditating, stretching, writing, drawing.

This list might change as the year progresses and I find other things I’d rather give up, but this is what I’m planning for now. I’ll do at least one post each month about what I’ve learned.

At the end of each month, I’ll decide whether I want to keep doing without that month’s Living Without item. It will really depend on how the experiment went.

Some things I’ve already given up:

  • Owning a car
  • Meat
  • Dairy & Eggs
  • Cable TV
  • Having a lot of stuff
  • Fast food
  • Facebook
  • Packing a lot of stuff when I travel

I’ve enjoyed giving all these things up. They’re not sacrifices, but a joy.

Why Am I Doing This?

If you ever thought something like, “Oh, I could never give up cheese!” (or coffee, or sugar, or your car, or TV, or Facebook, or the Internet), then you know what I’m faced with. I’m faced with a year of this reaction, inside myself.

And I’m faced with a year of learning that, perhaps, none of it is true. We can give up that which we hold dearly to. We can push those boundaries, and feel them push back, and be OK with the push.

I’m doing this for myself, to learn about myself, but also to show others that our initial reaction is false. We can give it up.

And in the process, make room for something that just might be better. You’ll never know until you try.


Some questions you might have:

Q: How can you give up the Internet when you work online?
A: Well, I plan to still write, but do little else. I’ll figure out a system where I can write but not do anything else online. I haven’t worked out the details yet.

Q: Isn’t this a bit extreme?
A: Possibly, depending on context. Honestly, I don’t think some of this will be incredibly difficult, but the computer-related ones will be hard (and alcohol seems like it’ll be missed as well). And I’m not afraid of a little extremes — when we push ourselves a bit, we learn about ourselves.

Q: I’ve already been going without these things for years!
A: Awesome! I don’t claim to be the first to do these things. This is simply a series of personal experiments, to see what I can learn. I would love to learn from you — share your story with me on Twitter or Google+, give me some tips.

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