28 January 2009

Most of the luxuries and many of the
so-called comforts of life, are not only not
indispensable, but positive hindrances to
the elevation of mankind.”
  - H.D. Thoreau

How many gadgets does it take before you know you've got too many? Honestly, I don't have the answer, but I wish I did. This question rises after I realized that I spend a goodly portion of my life tending to things that I acquired in the hope that they'd tend to me.

The breakthrough moment of insight arrived as I plugged an electronic device to recharge it into the socket. The device had completely discharged without me having once touched it since the last time I charged it, about a month ago. As the little green LED indicator flashed, I wondered why I was holding onto something that apparently existed for the sole purpose of increasing my utility bill. I held onto that question, and then asked myself another: what do I get from owning this thing?

It didn't take long for me to ask that second question about nearly everything in sight. I picked up each item, running my hands over it, considering what value I'd attached to it, what need in me it addressed, and most importantly, what was required of me to maintain it. 

After a while, I'd learned a good deal about myself, and also about where my days were disappearing. Dusting, cleaning, winding, charging, storing, packing, unpacking, lubricating, upgrading, accessorizing, and washing all featured in some way or another for every item. 

The total time spent on those ancillary activities measured in double-digit hours every month, a sobering fact.

Rattled by my calculations, I made a list. My goal now is to rid myself of one time-sucking toy every month, until I really am down to things I cannot reasonably see myself living without. The way I figure it, if something requires more time or resource from me than it saves, we must part ways, no matter how alluring it is.

Excuse me. I hear a distant beeping noise--must be coming from a needy gadget that needs comforting.


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