How to Live Without a Smartphone in 2021


Updated July 2021

If just wondering “how to survive without your smartphone” made your heart leap into your throat… you’re not alone.

This life without smartphone essay will teach you how to survive without your smartphone so you don't have to laugh incredulously like this mustached man.

“Take my smartphone away?  Ha!  No.  Errr… wait.  You’ll give me more time?  Ummm… okay.  Maybe I do want to hear this ‘how to survive without your smartphone’ business.  Carry on.”  photo: gratisography

Smartphones can be both lifelines AND a soul-suck.  Behavior scientists make sure it’s almost impossible to keep your smartphone from getting its grubby hands on your sanity.

Smartphones have become a defacto modern convenience – like dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves, cars, and Keurigs. Many readers own all of the latter and couldn’t imagine being happy without them. Other readers are joyfully:

  • washing their small set of dishes by hand
  • using time at the laundromat to read a great book
  • heating up their food on a stove or in a toaster oven
  • getting exercise every time they leave the house, or…
  • using commute time to read, think, or listen to new ideas
  • making their coffee by boiling water and pouring it over crushed beans
Living without a smartphone gives you more control over your attention, which in turn gives you more control over your time... so you can spend more time doing things we all love - like drinking hot beverages outside in gorgeous places.

Whoa. What if life-without-smartphone made it possible to do more slowing down and more enjoying of places like this? Can we live without smartphones? Can we? photo: matthew sleeper

We overvalue convenience, not noticing how it actually robs us of many of the things we most want:

  • time for new ideas
  • slowing down
  • a body that likes and gets regular movement
  • connection
  • habitual gratitude

If you’re serious about getting your time and attention back…
If you’re serious about living without a smartphone in 2020…
…saddle up and read on!

"Why you don't need a smartphone" and more in this life without smartphone essay. Saddle up and ride off into the sunset... free from the attention and time suck of a smartphone!

photo: alex wigan

Life without Smartphone:
Step 1 –  What is Your Why?

Good luck trying to accomplish anything in life without first knowing why you’re doing it.

If you’re even remotely inspired to figure out how to survive without your smartphone, it’s because you know it’s keeping you from living your values. But what are those values?

There’s an exercise I call “How to Have Time to Do Everything” that helps you identify what the most important things are to you in life.
The prompts will help you get a picture of how you’re budgeting your time. Follow the steps to illuminate what you most want in life.  Then you’ll know “why” you’re wondering how to survive without your smartphone.

Go give it a try!

Life without Smartphone:
Step 2 – What are Your Wants?

Now that you’re back, what’s at the top of your list?

Me: friends and family, health, cooking, eating, meditation, yoga, reading, and unstructured time for adventures, wandering, and exploring.

I’m not saying these are the things I’m doing. Just the things I say I most want to do.
How about you? What do you want more time for in your life?

Life without Smartphone:
Step 3 – Substitutions

You should now have a list of the things you most want in life. How many of these things require a smartphone? On my list, not a single thing requires a smartphone. I could certainly find a way to use one, but I can have and I can do all the things I want to have and do using alternatives.

  • Friends and Family
    Keeping in touch with these folks or making plans requires communicating. I text or call from my little Nokia or from my computer using Google voice.
  • Health
    Instead of using a zillion apps to track my steps, calories, workouts, etc. I use offline techniques.  I have a spreadsheet where I write down what I did for exercise each day, so I don’t need to track my steps.  Instead of counting calories, I stopped eating fructose to control my appetite and got in on the intermittent fasting health craze.  My workouts are a six month program that I have written down on three sheets of paper.  I listen to music on an iPod.  If I really need to “map my run,” I use google maps on the computer.
Can we live without smartphones? Yes! Of course! This life without smartphone essay has substitutions for things people often think they need a smartphone to do - e.g. go on a run at sunrise like this woman

I also run for time instead of distance, which keeps life without a smartphone very simple.  I love it!  photo: seth macey

  • Cooking
    When I need a recipe, I crack open a cookbook, call someone, or look it up on the computer.
  • Eating
    I manage this without leveraging a smartphone… I bet you do, too!
  • Meditation
    Instead of an app, I use techniques from a book that I’ve scribbled down on a scrap of paper I’ve been carrying around since 2012.  To get me in the headspace to meditate – instead of guided instructions – I do some Wim Hof Breathing.
This life without smartphone essay will explain why you don't need a smartphone and how to survive without your smartphone. Pretty soon you'll be meditating by the water just like this woman, blissfully smartphone free!

Just chillin’ like a villian doing my Wim Hof Breathing. If I, in my life without a smartphone, forget my piece of paper with my meditation prompts… I just pick one I remember from the list! photo: kalen emsley

  • Yoga
    I really love my yoga videos.  I use YouTube on my computer.  There are downloadable yoga videos and also yoga cards.  Oh, and yoga classes.
  • Reading
    I adore having a book in my hands.  I love being able to turn back a few pages or several chapters to re-read something that’s suddenly relevant.  The batteries never die on my books.  I never forget to charge them.  When I forget my book on-the-go or think it’s too heavy to carry, I just stare out the window, strike up a conversation, think about my day, pay attention to my posture, or enjoy some people watching.

    This life without smartphone essay explains how to live without a smartphone. It provides alternatives for all the things people use smartphones for like reading books. There are so many benefits of living without a smartphone, which this life without smartphone essay covers

    The benefits of living without a smartphone are numerous.  Sure, you give up a little convenience.  But you gain health, sanity, time for new ideas, the ability to be more present… exactly the things most of us long for!  photo: gaelle marcel

  • Adventures/Wandering/Exploring
    I love walking, biking, running, driving, or wandering with friends into new territory.  I love just turning down a road or path based on intuition.  When I’m trying to get to a specific place for an adventure, I will either look up the directions on the computer before leaving home, bring a map, ask someone who knows how to get there, or stop and ask for directions.

Life without Smartphone:
Step 4 – Remember Your Why.
Remember Your Real Wants

Here’s the scary part where you realize that getting what you value and what you want… might mean leaving behind lesser wants that didn’t make the cut in the How to Have Time To Do Everything exercise.

I’m just guessing “spending twenty minutes five times a day mindlessly scrolling Facebook or Instagram looking at pictures of the stuff people you barely know (say they) are doing with their lives” didn’t make it on to your list of wants?  What about:

  • Twitter?
  • Tinder?
  • Flipboard?
  • Taking 400 photos of your cat or every meal you eat?
  • Pintrest?
  • Candy Crush?

If the thought of giving up your daily Instagram binges is making you want to withdraw your previous claim that you want to spend more time with friends and family or going on adventures….

If your heart is beating faster at the thought of no longer scrolling your Facebook newsfeed several times a day…

It’s not because you like those activities.
It’s because you’re addicted to them.

Here's how to survive without a smartphone. Living without a smartphone is actually pretty easy when you realize you don't really need it for most the things you want to do.

I’m going to call my mom… just as soon as I finish this level.  Oh man, I really need to get changed into my gym clothes.  I’ll just check Facebook real quick.  Gosh, I really should do my meditation… just as soon as I’m done pinning all these awesome meditation articles!  photo: bruno cervera

Can I challenge you to consider that you don’t even like your Facebook or Instagram binges – you didn’t even put them on the list of things you most want to do with your time.  But now that you’re being asked to give them up, are your feelings shifting?

Smartphones make self-defeating behaviors… highly accessible.

In How the Internet Tricks You Into Wasting Your Life, I explain how all these platforms are designed to manipulate you.  They know exactly what it takes to trigger the pleasure center in your brain, giving you momentary “highs” that keep you coming back for more… even though using the platforms leaves you vaguely unfulfilled and out of time to do the things you really want to do.

You’ll only miss your addictive platforms for a few weeks… until the dopamine loops fade and are replaced by life’s actual, genuine pleasures.

One mom described watching a smartphone suck away life’s genuine pleasures from her son.   She said, “In his [new] phone, Chase had found a place easier to exist in than inside his own skin.  That was tragic, because inside the itchiness of our own skin is where we discover who we are.  When we are bored, we ask ourselves: What do I want to do with myself?  We are guided toward certain things: a pen and paper, a guitar, the forest, a soccer ball, a spatula.  Right after itchy boredom is self-discovery.

That mom is author Glennon Doyle, and she talks about it in her heart-exploding, New York Times Bestseller:

.

Now that we’ve

  • established the way smartphones keep us from knowing ourselves
  • addressed the reluctance to break away from addictive platforms & apps

…let’s talk about that final gremlin.  Usefulness!

Life without Smartphone:
Step 5 – Go Without

I know.  Your smartphone is useful.  Hella useful.

Many fear life without a smartphone would mean never getting to check the weather or the time.  Never getting to take photos.  Never getting to listen to podcasts.  Never getting calendar alerts.  Not being able to watch YouTube or listen to music.  Not being able to take a Lyft or Uber.  Not being able to use the maps apps to get places.  Not being able to manage your money.  Not being able to get your boarding pass at the airport.  Not being able to write down every cool idea, book suggestion, or info nugget you come across.  Not being able to ask questions of Siri or Shazam.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Hold. Up.  Calm down.

CALM DOWN.

Thinking about how to survive without your smartphone sends many people into a panic. You're okay. Follow this woman's example, and calm down. Let's talk about living without a smartphone. Can we live without smartphones? This life without smartphone essay has the answers and the action plan for you.

Does asking “Can we live without smartphones” send you into a panic?  Whoa, Nelly.  Let’s not forget the most important parts of our human lives have been taking places for thousands of years… without smartphones. photo: allef vinicius

I check the time.  I look at clocks on the wall.  I glance at the grocery clerk’s computer screen.  I ask the person standing next to me.  I could get real crazy and buy a watch!

I check the weather when it really matters – planning which day of the week a friend and I are going to go for a hike.  I use my computer to do it.  But mostly, the weather is going to be what it is, whether I check it or not.  I work indoors.  And since you’re reading a long form article, demographics say you probably do, too.  It’s okay not to have the weather forecast at your fingertips.

We don't actually need smartphones to tell us weather forecasts. People as if we can live without smartphones and fear doing so would mean going back to primitive living... like predicting the weather using something like this weather vane. The life without smartphone essay proves otherwise!

When we talk about living without a smartphone, immediately people’s minds go to what they might lose. Weather forecasts.  Clocks.  Notifications.  Oh my!  But what about what we might gain?  There are so many benefits of living without a smartphone that (in my opinion and experience) outweigh the tiny conveniences that we might lose. photo: jordan ladikos

I take photos with a camera.

I listen to podcasts with my iPod or on my computer.

I get calendar alerts from an actual calendar that I look at every morning when I get up, every time someone asks me to make plans throughout the day, each time I remember I need to do something or run an errand, and every night before bed.

How to survive without your smartphone tip #7 - writing things down (vs. entering them electronically) may actually help you process life more efficiently - says this life without smartphone essay - even though using something like this pen-and-paper calendar can seem less efficient.

I know. Seems cray cray, right? Pen and paper? Soooo inefficient! And wasteful, right? But hear me out. You wouldn’t believe the extraordinary number of successful people who stick to pen and paper (a process that apparently causes your brain to encode things differently). photo: hope house press

I listen to music and watch YouTube on my computer or on my iPod.

I take Lyft or Uber when I’m out with my friends.  Other times, I build the relationships in my life by succumbing to the vulnerability of asking for help.  Other times I use one of these methods for requesting a Lyft or Uber without a smartphone.

I look at a map before I go somewhere new.  I write down direction cues on a piece of paper if necessary.  I stop and ask for directions along the way.  I’m forced to pay attention to my surroundings as I navigate them.  Whether it’s a one-mile trip or a several hundred mile journey.  Or a city I’ve never been to before.

In a world without smartphones, what would we do? We'd go back to depending on each other instead of a little computer. We'd be forced to connect. And according to this life without smartphone essay... we'd like it! Just like these old folks talking with canes have learned.

Conversation with other humans used to be cause for celebration instead of an opportunity to feel awkward. (If this is you, consider reading “How to Talk to People at Parties [and in Public].”) Not having a smartphone keeps me engaged with those around me and brings lots of joy to my life! And most people discover this nugget of truth eventually in their lives. The sooner the better, but it’s never too late! photo: cristina gottardi

I manage my money with a pretty simple spreadsheet.  I could use my bank’s report.  I could use a website on my computer.  I could use this hilarious lady’s solid advice and Google Docs.

I get my boarding pass from a machine or a human at the airport.

I write down ideas, book suggestions, and other new information on pieces of paper, in a document on my laptop… or… I let them go!

In a world without smartphones, we'd discover that - just as this can we live without mobile phones essay says - that life without smartphone is actually a really good life. Life without pen and paper and glasses pictured here would actually be much harder than life without smartphones!

Life without a smartphone: reddit has discussed it at length.  Irony, no?  I promise you.  Not only is pen and paper still an effective way of keeping track of ideas and lists… it might actually be betterphoto: david travis

I ask questions of the people around me, of Google if the computer is handy, on the phone with someone I know who might know the answer, or… I let them go!

No, I can’t do these all of things everywhere I want, anytime I want.  But that capability is not on my list of things I most want to spend my time doing.  It’s probably not on yours either.

Yes.  Without a smartphone, you can’t do as much.
But isn’t that what you want?

Don’t you want to stop doing too much?  Aren’t you always longing for more time?

Find out how to survive without your smartphone in this life without smartphone essay. Really, rather than ask "Can we survive without smartphones," it asks, "Can we survive with them?" Life without a smartphone 2018 and 2019 and 2020 and beyond is actually a life that gives us more. Not less. I am living proof!

Wait.  Life without a smartphone and all its conveniences give me… more time?  I’m not buying it.  (Read on, my skeptical friends!) photo: jason leung

Consider that all the things a smartphone allows you to do… take time.  All (or most) of the things a smartphone allows you to do were not on your list of things you most want to spend your time doing.

Time is a finite resource.

Consider that a smartphone nudges you toward spending your moments doing what’s convenient instead of doing what’s important to you.  A man I deeply respect once said, “How we choose to spend our moments is how we choose to spend our lives.”  How are you spending your moments?  How are you spending your life?

People ask, “Can we live without smartphones?”

I wonder… can we live – really livewith them?

Here’s to you and your courage to explore this subject.


Happy Journeys!

Update 2021: if you are an American switching to a “dumb” phone – make sure it’s got 4G!  All major carriers are phasing out 3G (what many many non-smart phones use) in 2022, and in the lead up – as the infrastructure is removed – service will get slower and slower.  Recommendations about who to switch to are coming soon. 


Related:
How I Survived a No-Smartphone Roadtrip
How Smartphone-Free Travel… Rocks Your World!’
How Travel Forces You to Be Present

Offsite:
The Simple Joy of “No Phones Allowed”
The American Life is Killing You


You’re also a life hacker?  Check out:

Grabbing Life by the Handlebars: Retirement Before 30
Why a Hard Working Perfectionist… Doesn’t Want a Job

Body Care:

Why I Still Run Barefoot, Despite No Scientific Proof of Benefits
Fructose vs. Sugar: Why I Don’t Eat Fructose
Why I Drink Kombucha

Prefer listening? 👂

Related Podcasts:
Note to Self (WNYC)
Your Undivided Attention

  • Note to Self (WNYC) discusses quandaries facing anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age.
  • Your Undivided Attention exposes the hidden software designs that have the power to hijack our attention, manipulate our choices and destabilize our real world communities.

Does this article seem like a game-changer?  Share the love!  The world could use more people who know how to exist happily without a smartphone.



59 comments

  • May 4, 2021 at 5:40 am

    Unfortunately, after much consideration, I’ve decided not to get rid of my smart phone. I have one of the cheapest phone services the US has to offer, and their smartphone service is actually cheaper than their dumbphone service. WTF! I’m poor enough that it matters, given I live exclusively on SSI and food stamps. I’m not completely writing off the possibility of ever ditching it, because I think about it all the time, but right now it’s just too much.

    I am trying to change my relationship to my phone though, I want it to be a TOOL and NOT an “entertainment” (IE mindless distraction) device. I have found this post extremely helpful and insightful, even as someone who isn’t willing to completely part with their screened device.

    Strides I’m already making towards my goals:
    >I too, exclusively use an iPod/mp3 player for music and always have, always will.
    >I already left most social media like facebook, twitter, tumblr, reddit, and instagram.
    >Of the social media I still use, I will exclusively visit from my PC. I use 2 hobby-specific forums, YouTube and WordPress.
    >Deleted YouTube from my phone today, which was actually ridiculously complicated.
    >I am planning on drastically cutting back on my YouTube usage in general too.
    >Deleted WordPress from my phone just now, since the app makes it feel more like a social media due to it’s “reader” function. On PC I only ever read or interact with other WP blogs when I stumble across them! Just feels like maintaining my own blog on my own website when I use it on PC.
    >Libraries finally re-opened for in-person browsing, so we went today and I got a big stack of books!

    All the apps I will still use my smart phone for are absolutely things I could find alternatives to. But since I am not getting rid of it, I might as well use it for those things. Apps like calendar, calculator, maps, banking, camera, zoom for my therapy appointments, etc. Utilitarian apps. And then obviously and most importantly the calling and texting features. I’ve heavily ‘decluttered’ my phone of all the apps that can suck me in and distract me from real life.

    Again though, I found this post extremely inspiring. I love that there are still people out there who live their lives without smartphones. I was actually very late to the smartphone party, getting my very first as an extremely old hand-me-down from a friend when I was 18. I realize now that I was blessed compared to others in my generation, who started getting some of the first ever smartphones in middle school. I know it can be done, I did it before! And maybe someday I will do it again, even if today isn’t that day, because this post is evidence that it is still possible. Thank goodness!

  • May 3, 2021 at 1:21 am

    Thank you for your thoughtful and inspiring article Jema. I appreciate you. As a 63 year old public school teacher, about to retire, it’s heartbreaking and a tragedy to have witnessed such an exponential increase this past decade of my wonderful, young students whose minds have been hijacked by excessive smartphone use. Empathy, curiosity, enthusiasm for learning, passion for living, feeling truly alive, “play” and creativity, connection with humans, all but seem to have vanished, just as many adults, mostly without their even knowing. I hope you reach more and more souls out there. People are adamant about saving the environment? That’s secondary in my opinion. How about saving the minds of human beings!? Thanks again! Great job!

  • April 21, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    What do we do when certain industries force smartphone usage? I have never had a smartphone and I just learned that I can no longer go to any baseball games, as *all* ticketing is now handled via the MLB app. There are no alternatives. No smartphone, no baseball games.

    • April 30, 2021 at 6:55 pm

      I have to get creative sometimes, but usually find a workaround! If you want to go to a game solo or with friends who also don’t have smartphones, that’s trickier. Ideas that come to mind… I bet the ticket is bar code or QR code based. Get a friend with a phone to help? Grab a screenshot of the code and print it out to take with on game day?

      I would venture it’s both annoying and a blessing to be forced into interdependence when one doesn’t have a smartphone. Needing others can feel really terrible while deepening relationships in fantastic ways. The most connected times of my life are often the times that don’t feel the way I think I want to feel (not vulnerable! Not dependent on others to help or else!). Good luck!

  • April 13, 2021 at 4:53 am

    Dear Author,

    You are a beautiful individual! I hope our paths cross one day.
    God bless you in your life, may it be rich and full all things good.
    Thanks for the encouraging article

  • April 13, 2021 at 4:51 am

    I need to get rid of all technology. Its the only way forward for me, too many temptations on phones/computers and any other type of ‘screen’ that at best, waste my time, at worst, destroy the health of of my body, mind and soul and….and…I could go on.

    I need to embrace a poor lifestyle and become a stoic minimalist.

    I’m a young guy in my twenties.

  • April 3, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Thank you for the time you put into writing this article. I want to get rid of my iPhone for sure. I’m 56. Gotta figure out how to get my pictures off first. Another area to research is the radiation people are getting from their cell phones. I currently have and EMF patch on my phone. Also, how we are being watched and listened to by our cell phones. I have come to the conclusion that I need to go back to a landline. At first I was checking out basic phones like the Cricket etc but they are still cellular. So landline it is. I’m feeling the ill effects of this damn phone and so done. Thanks for listening.

    • April 14, 2021 at 6:08 am

      Hi Julie – you’re welcome! Good luck on your no-cell adventure – sounds like true bliss 🙂

    • April 27, 2021 at 3:00 am

      You are all absolutely right. Technology has gone too far and got out of hand. The madness has to stop. I feel a longing to live ‘off the grid’. Why? Passwords, login details, backup codes, backup email, scams, identity theft/fraud, spam emails, adverts, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, adverts, photos, recharging battery, adverts, locked out, 2-step verification, adverts, adverts, adverts….. check emails, check Facebook, change password, adverts, adverts,adverts………..oh, and adverts. Enough. Is it time to change my password? Again. Again. Again. Adverts.

  • March 2, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    It’s possible to have a smart phone without having social media. I have an iPhone and I don’t have facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

    For me, I need a smartphone because I have executive dysfunction and a lot of things and apps on my phone actually do help my quality of life and help me function.

    • March 3, 2021 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Jennifer – thanks so much for adding your voice to the conversation! I’m curious how you landed in this place for folks dissatisfied with the role a smartphone plays in their lives. Do you remember? Cheers!

  • February 28, 2021 at 2:20 am

    Ok, that’s great! I know because I’ve never had a smartphone. Im a young woman who made this choice and I feel great! The only thing that’s become annoying is that more and more, people or institutions will assume you have an smartphone, so it becomes a problem!! Example, you lost access to outlook because you are in a different country, and they give you no choice but to receive a code by text to prove your identity. Stuff like that where it really became a problem made me afraid that I wouldn’t have a choice but to buy a cellphone. I hate it. I love my freedom and not being addicted/brainwashed at every hour of the day. Didn’t that kind of thing happened to you?

    • March 1, 2021 at 5:25 am

      Hi Edith – I definitely experience that annoying “just XYZ with your smartphone to access this thing!” But there are enough people left in the world without one that there are often still workarounds. Sometimes things get annoying and I have to lean on my smartphoned loved ones – calling them up on my nokia and asking them to book me an uber or something. But those hassles are few and far between and worth not having my attention fractured into a million pieces all the time, my behaviors/neural networks incessantly trained in directions not of my choosing…

      Regarding receiving codes by text – I do have a “dumb phone” that gets texts. If I didn’t, life would get much harder – especially because I love talking to my friends on the phone!

      Good luck out there!

  • February 9, 2021 at 2:04 pm

    To the writer of this piece….I love you. I just love you.
    It is about simplicity. People old enough might understand this because their formative years pre-date instant gratification as we have today. It is not as if previous generations did not have their indulgences – in the 1970s, there was concern at how much television watching children were doing and whether that would have an adverse effect. But those habits were nothing like the enslavement today we have to our smart phones, cable television providers, and the like.

    • February 12, 2021 at 6:56 pm

      Amen to the richness of a simple life! 🙂

    • May 4, 2021 at 5:52 am

      I envy the people who grew up in that time, even though I know every time has it’s own struggles. I read another brilliant article that detailed how we just don’t have any “me time” nowadays like they did back then. No more aimless days spent bored and daydreaming. We’re constantly connected. My parents were in that generation, the last generation to grow up without the internet, born in the late 60s. I asked my mom what was different back then. Something that stuck with me out of what she said- when you were looking for someone you’d look for bikes. Bikes meant that’s where the kids were, and you could tell if your friend was there if you saw their bike! That sounds so interesting to me. I also grew up playing outside unlike a lot of kids now, before the internet was quite as pervasive, but it already existed and I’d use it. Even in the early 2000s, things were different than they are now, simpler times, and I find myself longing for a future that more resembles those simpler times. I was extremely late to the smartphone party thanks to extreme poverty, but now anyone can get their hands on one, most homeless people have them where I live. I now realize how lucky I was to have spent my formative years having times when I was forced to disconnect.

  • February 4, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    Thank you for this! I gave mine up over a year ago. I think it was about 3 months of withdrawal but then I learned to walk around just listening to the sounds around me and do chores around the house without itching for a podcast. Don’t have an ipod either, but I occasionally steal one of my kids’ ipods if I have to do a long drive. Got a watch, but I don’t use it much with the pandemic. A road map of my city, which I used a lot at the beginning. A little notebook to write down ideas and reminders. I started a three binders: trail maps, recipes, and songs and they make me really happy. I love that I can read a book now or have a conversation and not get that itchy feeling. I still struggle to get off the laptop but I like my little old-school slide out phone. My friends let me know if something important is going on (I also don’t use social media) but I miss a lot too. The only think that might make me get a phone is if we need a “health passport” on our phones to travel or enter public places. I wonder if that will make me start again.

    • February 6, 2021 at 4:04 am

      Hi Megan – what a delight to hear about all your peace and presence! Your binders sound wonderful. Do you look up directions on the computer?

  • January 16, 2021 at 6:26 pm

    HI Jema,

    Great article. Thanks for putting this out there. Really like the fact that you putt your simple diy ways of getting around without a cell phone. I am a fellow life hacker living with out a cell phone for several years. I finally put together https://livecellfree.org/ to share that it is possible to do so in the 21st century. Would be great to connect with you and share our experiences in regards to bringing awareness to others about the important of reducing cell phone consumption, if not entirely getting rid of it. Best regards, Eric

  • January 16, 2021 at 4:24 am

    Hi I read this because I’m 14 and want to get rid of my smartphone but the thing is I need to it to communicate to my parents because I go to boarding school but I hate having one and idk what to do

    • February 5, 2021 at 4:04 am

      Hi Jb – I’m going to look into more providers of basic phones. I’m thinking of replacing my nokia – the headphone jack is going out. I’ll update this post when/if I find “dumb phones” that are great smartphone replacements.

      • February 9, 2021 at 2:09 pm

        Jema – your search for a dumb phone probably won’t be a chore.
        I use a tracfone. It’s fine for rare communicating. My plan is that I recharge it for about $20 once every 3 months – just about $7 per month to buy 180 minutes or so.
        I use it sparingly, and mostly as a wake up alarm. Its a supplement to my landline, which is through Basic Talk – another low cost option.
        Anyway, the dumb phone is made by LG, and looks like a 1/2 sized Blackberry, if you remember those.

        • February 12, 2021 at 6:58 pm

          Thanks, Jason. I’ve started looking here and there for what my next step will be when my current nokia bites the dust. Tracfone has come up a few times as a likely option. I was thinking about trying to put together a resource for people seeking “dumb phones,” but there is sooo much to understand about all the bits and pieces of telecomms. Thanks for contributing your strategies!

      • March 14, 2021 at 5:28 pm

        Hey Jena – If youre looking for a great “dumb phone”, the Kyocera duraXV extreme is pretty awesome. It has great battery life, waterproof, dust proof, drop proof, pretty much life proof. It’s sold from verizon but I’m sure it could also work on other carriers.

        • March 21, 2021 at 8:03 pm

          Thanks, Kyle! Whoa – I just looked it up, and they want $240 for it?! These phones have historically been $50! Yikes. Any idea why it’s so expensive?

  • December 9, 2020 at 4:58 pm

    Thank you Jema for sharing this. I am dealing with the want to rid myself of a smartphone to potentially get rid of some internal anxiety, and be a better mother. On the other hand, I have family and friends on group messages that would take it personal if I left iMessage for example.
    Anyways, reading your post makes me feel like it is possible, and gives me some hope to dream about myself being able to do it someday. Keep on doing this great stuff!!! I love it.

    • December 14, 2020 at 12:32 am

      So glad to hear you found the words helpful! Good luck on your attention management journey! (I highly recommend the book “How to Do Nothing” if you have time. All about the “attention economy”!)

  • December 8, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    Our whole house runs Sonim XP5700’s. We left iphones in late 2017. We have never looked back. few months ago a friend came over with brand new android. it was not a phone it was a electronic screaming thing. no way. not going back. not long after we got rid of the smartphones, we ditched amazon stick, we got rid of our macbooks, we got rid of apple tv, we got rid of every single smart tv we had aquired since 2013, it became a purge. we traded our smart tvs for tvs made between 2002-2008. we have never used our phone as a our only camera, and we moved to cf31 Toughbooks from macosx. we moved back to home media, dvds blus, we bought bdps, older non connected ones, and thats where we are, and we live in peace.

  • November 21, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    Cell phones are the literal definition of insanity for me. I keep trying the same thing with them, and expecting a different result – having a social life. Whatever it is, phones don’t agree with me. But what it really means, is that the people behind the phones don’t. My journey to life without a smartphone, for one year, began this month. I’ve never felt better – using the internet and literal payphones to stay in touch, and even considering getting a home phone when I get an apartment again. We’ll see how it goes!

    • December 14, 2020 at 12:36 am

      Good luck on your journey! I’m planning on taking a break from the internet in a few months… really looking forward to that extra peace for awhile. Cheers!

  • April 28, 2020 at 8:56 am

    Probably a bit old this post.. But it’s April 2020 and I still don’t have a smart phone. TBH even my landline is currently out of order. In lockdown it may present me with small inconveniences. I also should add I don’t drive nor own a credit card. (must add here, I have no debts, then again I have no saving either.) I can not order online, which is a bit of a mixed blessing nowadays. I must also cadge a lift or take the bus to get anywhere and yesterday I admit I had to use my PC to facebook someone to ask then to ring my partner to tell him his car alarm was going off, like I said my landline is kaput. I love the examples above for I neither grind my own coffee nor microwave my food and I still wash-up by hand. I’m not a technophobe, I was honestly proud of my mobile back in the 90s. But when life is normal the computer, which remains stationary and is switched off most hours, is enough. My only beef is, I feel with apps and payments I may be compelled to buy one. The last thing I need as a starving writer is another outgoing expense.

    • June 29, 2020 at 4:29 pm

      I feel as though I will be forced as well, and I am not happy about it. So much money for a device that is useless to me. I don’t use any social media at all, and, my house is full of computers. Really would rather spend my money on important stuff, like food.

  • April 25, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    Haven’t yet had a smartphone. Due to a obsolescence issue looming for me and my mom’s old flip phones at the end of the year, both of us will be having to upgrade to something newer. Will probably get mom another flip phone while I will have to decide whether the convenience of a smartphone is necessary or to go with another flip phone myself with a new number and carrier. Have had the same number for twenty years now and an increased amount of spam calls. The smartphone route would allow use of call filtering apps, but just ignoring the phone works too!

    • April 26, 2020 at 4:48 am

      There are definite benefits to a smartphone! The vigilance to work against coded behavior psychology to maximize time on device takes a lot of attention, but some can do it!

  • February 10, 2020 at 1:06 am

    What kind of phone do you have? Did you pick that phone because of specific reasons or simply because it was the first “dumb phone” you came across?

    I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while but haven’t pulled the trigger for various reasons.

    Do you find yourself using your iPod a lot more, almost as a fix to the smartphone that you used to have? Do you carry it with you everywhere or is it only something you leave at home and just use there?

    Just looking at practical ways to balance this out.

    • February 11, 2020 at 7:38 am

      Hi Jeremy – I went with H2O Wireless and got a little brick Nokia through them. I picked it because it was cheap and hopefully indestructible. It’s been dropped several dozen times now, and is still in one piece! Since writing this article, I do find myself using my iPod for lots of listening – podcasts, recording messages and sending them back and forth to friends. I hate using tiny screens, so although I can be tempted to access the internet when I have wifi, it’s just so painful that I mostly don’t. Hope that helps you on your journey!

  • January 10, 2020 at 3:36 am

    I’ve never owned one. Never saw the appeal, and they’re grossly expensive and are rather poor phones and terrible computers. No thank you.

  • November 5, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve been thinking for quite a few years to get rid of my smart phone. I spend way too much time on it and I don’t enjoy the moment of life. I catch myself just doing stuff to post about it so I quit social media 2 months ago and now I’m realizing I use my cell way to much. I’ve decided when this phone dies I’m going to an old flip phone and I’m never going back. Thanks this article really helped me.

    • November 9, 2019 at 10:34 pm

      I’m so glad to hear it, Shelby! Here’s to living in the moment!

  • October 30, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    thank you for sharing, I have started last month of going without a smartphone and only using a nokia 3310 2017 version. Now, I am battling the want to go back in using smartphone, not because it is necessary but I just felt so. I studied the source of this feeling and it seems it’s because of my surroundings (people using smartphones, games, facebook etc) and the old habits which my mind was accustomed to;. Also, I think it is just an anxiety effect of making a habitual change, I believe the anxiety will pass as I continue walking this path of freedom

  • October 20, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Hi, I had a smartphone for about 2 years, but never used it for its capabilities. I don’t use apps other than for podcasts and learning things. I never track exercise and I’m one of the fittest people I know. So when it died, I got a small nokia which only needs charging once a week and is incredibly cheap to run. It tells me the time just as well and if people really want to contact me, they ring or text or email.

    One of my other big reasons for it, is that I work in front of a screen 5 days a week. A smart phone would be over-egging a very much over-egged cake in terms of my brain health and atteniton span.

    • October 23, 2019 at 5:20 pm

      Great to hear from you, Lolly! I’m so thrilled to know about yet another human standing up to the attention bullies of our world. Yes we can! Happy Nokia-ing! 🙂

  • September 11, 2019 at 2:34 am

    Great post, supremely inspiring!
    I do just want to point out that I don’t know who you were referring to when you attributed the quote “How we choose to spend our moments is how we choose to spend our lives” to a man you deeply respect, but it appears that author Annie Dillard is the person most famous for that sentiment. The full quote is also very inspiring!
    “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.”

    • September 11, 2019 at 8:00 pm

      Ha! Thanks for the insight, Robert. It could well be that said man is fond of quoting Ms. Dillard the way I am enthusiastic about appropriating Mark Nepo’s definition of love – “being present and responding.” I will have to ask him next time our paths cross!

      I’m delighted to read the full quote as I become increasingly interested in a scheduled life vs. the thrilling chaos and whim of my previous decades.

      Cheers!

  • September 6, 2019 at 9:26 am

    Wow, really amazing tips in 2019 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • September 2, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks for writing this! I’m at this point in my life!!! Smart phones are taking over our lives!!

    • September 5, 2019 at 3:39 am

      Yay! So excited to hear about anyone wresting back some attention. You might like the podcast called “Your Undivided Attention.” In fact, I think I’ll put it in the references section. Cheers, Kimmie.

  • July 22, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    praise the lord for flip phones!

    • December 6, 2020 at 4:18 pm

      I truly need to go back to a flip phone. My income does not support the cost of a phone. Have with pay as you go carrier & have had to buy a phone a year due to technology upgrades or whatever. Payments for service on smart phone have increased. Oh for the days of land line with a stable cost.
      Hoping for a more minimalist life in all areas going forward.

      • December 14, 2020 at 12:34 am

        I just tried to replace my nokia and was shocked to discover my carrier isn’t selling them anymore! Now I’m looking at moving to some other basic-phone-only brand.

        • December 14, 2020 at 12:35 am

          Oh… and tolerating a few issues with the nokia (headphone jack)

  • June 29, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    I never have had a smartphone, and never will. Too big and too fragile to be a phone, waaay to small, and entirely too limited to be a computer – and the costs are atrocious! As far as I’m concerned, smartphones are the domain of those who have more money than brains. As are Keurigs for that matter!

    • July 1, 2019 at 9:06 pm

      It will be fascinating to see what happens in a few decades! I wish Keurigs weren’t so single-use wasteful. I know they make a filter basket for ground coffee instead of the plastic pods. I hope all this convenience isn’t our downfall!

  • June 3, 2019 at 7:30 am

    Thanks for the great article. I just made the plunge and went to a flip phone. The alcatel go flip. It feels really good so far! Enjoying my days and see the beauty of life.

    • June 4, 2019 at 2:36 am

      That’s awesome, Russell! Congrats! Welcome to the club 😉

  • May 26, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    I really liked the way you expressed your views about not having a smartphone and living good.I really liked reading books but I never had time whenever I am not studying for my exams I am on my phone.I quit my smartphone for like 1 month but then I again started using it and I thought will power would just help but you know what never ever I will believe in will power.I started quitting my smartphone again.Its for good.

  • January 15, 2019 at 3:00 am

    Ironically I wrote this from my smartphone. Intuitley or subconsciously there must be some internal incentive to divorce myself from the toxic relationship I have developed with this technological cognitive appendage of sorts. Our perception and attention (amongst other neurocognitive functions) have hijacked and altered (hacked?) unwillingly and likely unknowingly. The doors of perception are losing the see-through looking panes they once had. Not to mention our drive for simplicity has been amiss and led us to time ravenous beast that devours each grain of the hour glass’ sand without mercy (or any emotion for that matter). It just… IS.
    Maybe we need to get back “just is” through simpler means of living again. To return to relying more on our senses again and more accurately receive and perceive the world that surrounds us would likely serve us… heal us. There is a disconnect… and one that goes beyond the interpersonal. An INTRApersonal disconnect plagues the masses. Our central nervous systems plasticity has very likely adapted to the power stimulation and reliance upon smartphones… the mind sees it as an extension of itself and I would gather that this had occurred at a price (given the path of least resistance approach nature tends to prefer at least in regards to adaptation). This leaves us less capable, less connected (both internally and externally), and vulnerable (acutely so) when our trusty appendage loses juice or is left home next to the Keurig. We need to return to simplicity for all of the potential complications.
    Yet here I am typic away on my smart phone attempting to conspire against it in some future where I remember everyone’s number without much effort.
    Thanks for your piece! Peace.-AM

    • January 15, 2019 at 6:29 am

      Glad to connect, Andrew. Appreciate your emphasis on the way smartphones not only disconnect us from others and the world around us, but also from ourselves! Good luck kicking the habit! 🙂

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