How to Change Your Life and The World Right Now

Warning: This is not a feel good holiday post. If you would like to come back and read this in January, I completely understand. If you want to start living a better life today, keep reading.

I am a firm believer that slow, deliberate change lasts longer than radical decision making. That being said, I am a sucker for immediate gratification. Who isn’t? I want to lose weight now, get rich quick and follow my heart, but I know that changing my eating habits and working out, compound interest and planning responsibly, will get me closer to my dreams than other fast and furious methods.

Let’s be honest, it takes serious time, energy and commitment to change. or start a Smalltopia. It may be months, or years even, before your new diet or exercise program starts paying off, or becomes a lifestyle.

I know you want to make changes. I know you want a better life. I’m not a mind reader, but if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading a blog about living life on purpose. So, knowing that change takes time, but also wanting immediate gratification, what do you do?

There are two things you can do today to see immediate results. They will take minimal effort to accomplish, and you will benefit in more ways than one.

Cancel Your Cable TV

Why do you watch TV? I used some of the following excuses.

  1. I want to watch the news and be informed.
  2. I want to unwind.
  3. I’m hooked on (insert favorite show here).

It took me more than a year after I started thinking about living a TV free life to actually pull the plug. The first thought that came to mind after I did it was, “I’m free!”. The second… “Why did I wait so damn long?”

When you make that one phone call, you will immediately have more time and money.

The Benefits of a TV Free Life

Without TV, I eat less, workout more, save more money, have more creative ideas, write better stuff and have a better sex life!

Now, if you want to gain a few pounds, feel sluggish, have a lighter wallet, brain fog, and less sex, call the cable company, or the company that takes your money in exchange for your 500+ channels and ask them if they have any upgrade specials. Otherwise, cancel service today, and then blog about how you did it, or share your story in the comment section. Believe me, it will be a powerful story and I can’t wait to hear about it.

Stop Using Your Cell Phone in the Car

Why do you use your cell phone in the car? I used some of the following excuses.

  1. I use my time in the car to get things done.
  2. Someone might need to get in touch with me.
  3. Oh! This is important, I have to take this call.

Really believing my ridiculous words, I was sacrificing my life, the lives of my passengers and the life of every driver around me. When you stop paying attention, while you are driving, you are going to make a mistake. You can hope and pray that the mistake won’t be fatal, or you can just stop. You might think I am being dramatic, but this is serious stuff and distracted driving is a big problem, with an easy solution. If you’ve ever wanted to change the world, now you can.

Stop using your cell phone in the car does not mean; only text at stop lights and check voice mail instead of returning calls or just check your email messages. Please don’t tell me that you never use your phone in the car. If that was the case then I wouldn’t be so damn scared on the highways. It seems as if every other car I pass is being controlled by a distracted driver.That is scary.

Unless you are a brain surgeon or work with very time sensitive organ transplants, please do not email me and say something like, “What if someone needs to get in touch with me in case of an emergency?” I have heard that line so many times. If you are that worried about being reached in an emergency, pull over every 20 minutes and check your phone. Otherwise, know that with fewer distracted drivers, there will be fewer emergencies.

I am not typically the whip cracking type. Usually, my intention to lead with love, and guide with grace, because I want you to incorporate changes that work to make your life better with less. Today’s changes demand a little tough love. These changes, these two changes have rocked my world. My world, and the world is safer today because I choose not to use my phone in the car. I wasn’t risking lives watching TV, but now that I’m not, I’m more engaged in my life and the lives of those around me.

Cancel your Cable.

Shut your phone off.

Engage in life.

Save lives.

Change the world.

More than ever, I want to hear from you today. Have you made these changes? Why not? Please share your stories, questions and concerns!

New to Be More With Less? Read more about what to expect, and this post with links to important posts and reader favorites.



  1. says

    Courtney, great reminder about things which are really important in our lives.

    I couldn’t agree more about not using the mobile/cellphone whilst driving. A few years ago, I even launched some car stickers to promote my message to all driver who still insist on using the cellphone even though it is now illegal in the UK to do so.

    Here’s my site for the stickers.

    Enjoy your TV-free holidays:-)

  2. says

    The TV part was easy. It’s the cell phone part that is harder I have to admit but you would think would be easier being that is definitely the more dangerous. I will try it out today!

    • says

      Rob, You may go with some phone withdrawls, but after a week, when you see that nothing bad happened and that you are more aware, the change will stick! Let me know how you do.

  3. says

    Love, love, love!
    We got rid of our cable (still have the actual tv) six months ago. It changed our lives. My husband read more books in that first month cable free than he did in the previous five years. We still watch DVDs and the occasional tv show off of our laptop. At most we watch 5-6 hours of movies/DVDs/internet tv a week. The rest of our free time we spend with each other, exercising or conversing or doing something engaging.
    No cell phones while driving should be the law – hands free devices included. We don’t have a car anymore but I am even more mindful of my attention while driving because I am in a rental or Zip car a few times a month.

  4. says

    When my wife and I got married we made a purposeful decision to NOT have a television in our bedroom. Best decision we ever made….and for all the reasons you mentioned. We talk more and I mean real conversation…not chit, chat. We laugh a lot together. We have a great sex life. It is fantastic. We also don’t have cable…wait, we don’t even have a TV. If we want to watch a movie or even a television show we watch on and use one of our laptops.

  5. says

    I love this! We turned our cable TV off Nov. 29th, and I’m loving it. It’s been a struggle at times, as we wean ourselves off of it, but there’s instantly more time to my day to get things done that need done instead of having 4 hours of my life sucked away each evening after work by the TV.

    We still watch our TV shows via the internet. We figured that we rarely watched the shows the day they aired anyway (mostly watched DVR’d ones) so watching them on the internet the day or so after wasn’t a huge issue. We also got Netflix, instead, for the times we want to watch something like a quick TV episode or something from our favorite shows. And we’re avid video gamers, so we’ve been playing more of the games we love (which we always complained about not having time for!)

    But overall we’re more conscious about what we’re watching and how much time we’re spending in front of the tv. We don’t have the TV on just to be on, and consequently I don’t get distracted as easily when I’m trying to get things done (God knows how many times I’d clean with the TV on and spend half my time cleaning, the other half standing there staring at whatever was on the TV for no real reason). AND I felt instantly less depressed when we stopped watching it. Nothing makes you feel like your life isn’t good enough like commercials.

  6. says

    I couldn’t agree more with giving up TV! Did you know that the “average American” watches 40 plus hours per week? That is like having a full time job!

    Great post!


  7. says

    We haven’t had TV access in years and watch whatever we want via the internet of netflix. We have NEVER had a TV in our bedrooms. I admit that lately there has been more TV watched in our home, but it is by our 20 year old son! Typically hubby and I watch 6 or 8 shows online a week. Cool thing is you have no commercials!
    I will have to work on the cell phone thing! I am using a hands free set, but right now I actually am driving very little!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Bernice, Thanks for sharing your story. I know when I tried to drive hands free, it was even more distracting that using the phone. I never knew what button to push when. I would arrive at my destination forgetting where I had been!

  8. says

    Great post – I absolutely agree that those changes can alter your life. Several months ago we gave away our television. Between not wanting to waste house space on something we rarely used and reading interesting blogs and books like Deadly Persuasion about the harmful aspects of advertising I was ready to give it up. We do have a computer so we still enjoy movies, but I haven’t missed the television one bit.

  9. says

    Yeah, whatever the lady with the whip said 😉

    No, seriously, you make good points.

    There is a debate in some circles about whether incremental or dramatic change is the way to go.

    Personally, I believe very clearly, and very radically, making the *intention* to change is what is required. Not following along with others. Not giving it a try because the infomercial looked cool. But analyzing, sincerely considering, examining, introspecting the reason why the change is important — no, better — critical — to be made. And once you understand that reason, you can make the *intention* to change your behavior.

    This will give you the space that you need — the space between stimulus and response — that has caused you in the past to simply *react*. If you are reacting (to old habits, emotions, patterns) you will not be able to change your behavior. But if you have enough space (just a split second is all you need) to consider your response, and remember your intention, then you will be successful.

    That, and some encouragement from the whip-lady 😉

    Good post.

  10. says

    Great food for thought, as usual Courtney. I don’t watch much TV at all, I just don’t have time. But since I’m also a creator of TV it is a great place for me to watch trends, new visual styles, and seek out interesting voices. It can be an art form just as much as films, sculptures and paintings are. It can teach us about our world, inspire us and educate us. But, there’s so much crap and much of TV use is about escaping and zoning out so it’s not a force for creativity or learning in most people’s lives. I get that and agree with everything you’ve said. There’s a saying in the TV biz, that the content is just filler for between the commercials. I avoid almost all commercial TV and watch what I want “on demand” so I can pause, rewind, and absorb some of the really great content that’s available when and how I choose.

    Never use my cell in the car anymore, partly because it’s now illegal to do so in my hometown. Makes more sense to focus on protecting my life and the lives of those in my car, than making a call or texting anyway. Just common sense really. Took me a while, but I get it now.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Katie – The crap is the problem! I love going to the movies, and used to enjoy some TV, but after awhile it seemed like I was watching unintentionally. Whenever I sat down to “see what was on”…I could always find something, but rarely something worth the time I was spending.

      It has to be challenging in that industry to share TV as an art form but if anyone can do it, my guess is it’s you.

  11. says

    Totally with you on it all (now). Wasn’t good at the no phone in the car in my younger years. Now that I don’t drive anywhere (but the grocery and long distance travel) I hardly keep up with anyone (including family). Shows how much I used to use my phone while driving when I drove all over in the last town I lived in. Scary. Now I’m just trying to find my time for connecting with others. Lately I’ve started the alternative, which is calling while walking. But I just enjoy walking not on the phone so much more. Which also shows how distracting talking on the phone is, because I notice it distract me from what I can see on my getting to and from. Which should be a MAJOR indicator of how not safe it is while driving… if it impacts my walking and I just end up wherever I was going without having seen anything along the way.

    • says

      Kristy, I love how aware you are of how the phone distracts you, even when walking! What did you do to find more time to connect with others? I think it’s the most important thing we can do but life does get in the way sometimes.

      Glad we are connecting!

      • says

        I am still figuring that out. I am not in the best place with that right now as I find I just communicate with others less frequently. Currently I’ll call family and friends during my lunch time walk from one job to the next, but I reserve my morning walk for walking. I like the quiet in my head and about town at that time of day. But if my brain is already swarming I don’t call at lunch either. I’m working on it…? I have attempted to write emails more as I communicate best that way anyhow, but I know my family values talking on the phone.

  12. says

    Hi Courtney,
    I’ve never used my cell phone while driving. While I watch very little TV, I’ve been reluctant to give up the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, infrequent doses of Charlie Rose and occasional movies or British dramas. My excuse is that my husband’s a heavy cable user.

    You’ve got me thinking about trying it – even if TV’s in the house, I don’t have to watch it. OK, decision time. I’m going to start with a TV-free weekend (tomorrow & Sun) and take it from there.

    Thanks for galvanizing me into action!

  13. says

    Every time I read posts telling readers to cut the cable, ignore the cell phone, get rid of the TV… all I can think of is how much time I spend reading minimalist blogs and writing to my own blog and I just hope no one is going to pull the plug on me because I am cluttering up their day. I know for sure I spend way too much time on my computer. Be careful what you wish for.

    • says

      Colleen, I actually think it is really important to be aware how much time we spend doing anything and how that adds to our quality of life. If you are reading or writing blogs that have no value, that doesn’t sound like a good investment of time.

      TV and Cell phones can be very distracting and I would say if someone was reading blogs at the dinner table, or during a conversation, that would be distracting too. It’s all about how we use the information that’s available to us.

      There are some blogs I read, but once I stop being informed, inspired or entertained…I stop reading them. It gives me more time to read the blogs that really make a difference to me.

      That said, just because a blog or website isn’t useful to me, doesn’t mean it’s not just right for someone else.

  14. says

    I’ve been TV free for 3.5 years. I still watch some shows on but limit my watching to 5 hours a week. I think I filled up mindless TV watching time with mindful blog reading time. At least there are no commercials (I have an ad blocker installed) and I usually learn something so it might not be a lost cause.

    Chicago (where I live) has a ban on talking on cell phones while driving. Tickets are $50 per infraction.

    • says

      Kat, That’s awesome! I don’t think TV is inherently bad, but it’s that mindless channel surfing that drains the soul. It’s YOUR life so the fact that you are mindfully choosing to do what you want with your time is so important.

  15. says

    My problem is I canceled cable tv months ago but I am still watching way too many tv shows thru iTunes and hulu. This past week I have been finding shows to eliminate so I can spend time on other things like reading.

  16. says

    We got rid of cable about 6 years ago. The TV altogether left the house about a year ago. It is all good.

    Just last month we subscribed to Netflix to see what we had been missing. What a joke! We find ourselves stopping many of the movies within the first 20 minutes. I can justify giving away 2+ hours of my day for movies that make me feel like I am brain dead. The subscription is already on the way out of the house.

    I will admit that it causes some fun feelings and moments. Some people find it difficult to talk to me because I have not seen the latest show. We have found that the holiday shows were part of our family tradition — so much more then we thought. A few times over the years it would have been nice to just “zone out.”

    Regarding cell phones — I don’t own one. However I know I could not do both at the same time.

  17. Tim says

    Courtney, I am fairly new to exploring the world of minimalism. It all began at the end of August when I lost my heart rate monitor strap in my own home! After that I said enough is enough, I have got to get control. Around the same time I came across Zen Habits. Since that time I have slowly but surely reduced the clutter in my life. I have been practicing my own brand of minimalism and don’t feel like I need to be too radical about it. Although I will say that I am trying your 333 challenge and have found it to be extremely liberating! At first it was difficult to pare down but only 3 weeks in I already see that this way is so much better. It is really great looking at my sparse closet knowing the only things in there are stuff that fit me well and things that I truly love to wear.

    We are about to cut out our cable TV but haven’t done so yet. We have decided to take a small step and replace the cable with over the air TV and we are waiting for the antenna to be installed on the roof before we make the final commitment. We have two teenage boys and this is the compromise we ended up making. We also have Apple TV and Netflix so I am certain we won’t miss it and we are also looking forward to the savings. Ironically enough, like your husband, I too am an avid cyclist and a big fan of watching the Tour De France on Versus. This alone is my sole attachment to cable which I am very confident that I can get over not having. Thanks for inspiring me with all of your great blog posts!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Tim, It sounds like you are making lots of progress. Perhaps with all of your savings, you can see the Tour De France in person one year. 😉

      So glad you are participating in Project 333!

  18. T.M. says

    I tossed the t.v. around 5-6 years ago. One of the best things I have ever done! I use the phone very little…in or out of the car :)

  19. bev smith says

    I pulled the plug on my cable company and my tv. It was such a shock to the company it took them 3 months to comprehend and realise i was being serious. If im really desperate for a tv programme i pick up online after the event. It as saved me over £400 a year and i just had the basics. Couldnt live without the internet though.

  20. says

    excellent post. I grew up in a home where the TV came on at a particular time every night and then all activity and conversation beyond “Shhh!” stopped. That must have registered. When I went out on my own I lived without not only cable but a TV all from 1993 until 2004. Now our internet provider combines services so I cannot get internet service without subscribing to “basic” cable TV. Still, even though we pay for the minimum, after a while they gave us the full boat stations anyway…I figure because it doesn’t cost them anything and its in their best interests that we are subject to the full boat of commercial advertising. …if we turn on the TV that is. My prediction: Television as information provider/entertainment as we know it will be history by 2015…gone. At best there the television as a device will be no more than full time internet/gaming console.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Several people have told me that they can’t have internet without cable and I don’t understand. I have an internet service provider that also offers cable and phone but you can get only one if you want.

  21. says

    we don’t use cable, instead rely on an antenna & get only a few channels. That means we end up watching PBS, and I can honestly say that this one thing may have shaped my green consciousness more than any other. When I saw something intriguing, I followed up by reading about it. Timely reminder about the cellphone–needed that!!

  22. Swan says

    Love this. We decided the other day that we are canceling our cable in January. Hulu, netflix and a roku box can provide us with any onscreen entertainment that we wish, and we really don’t have much we want to watch anyway. Thanks for writing this up.

    P.S. The tough love whip cracking pic was a fun choice to go with the feel of your blog.

  23. Trudy G. says

    Cracks me up to read about all those who gave up ‘tv’ still manage to watch shows via netflix, hulu, internet, etc. Maybe I’m missing the point but the only thing these people are saving is money spent on their cable bill, not their time. I have cable tv and have no intentions of giving it up. But then I don’t have one in my bedroom and don’t channel surf just to find something to watch. My treadmill is in the living room so I still can get my exercise while watching tv. And my DVR gets heavy use eliminating commercials. And frankly – 4 hours a day watching tv – WOW! Seems like someone needs to learn some self control.

    And I don’t think that talking on cell phones is all of the scary driver problem. Yes you see people driving like idiots talking on them but you see just as many not talking still driving like a moron. And if you eliminate cell phones you need to eliminate all talking in the vehicle. People can get just as distracted talking to the person sitting next to them or worse, a person riding in the back seat…

  24. Bruce P. says

    I don’t talk on my cell phone while driving, unless it is my wife calling. Usually it is a request to pick something up on the way home. I’ve had people complain about my not answering my phone saying, what if it is an emergency.”
    My voice mail announcement now ssays, “…I’m either in a meeting or driving. Company policy forbids using a cellphone while driving. If this is an emergency, dial 911! Otherwise leave a message and I’ll get back to you when I get a chance.”

  25. Jhante says

    Excellent post! I did all of these and more over 2010. My first inspiration was when my cell phone plan ran out, I decided to try a few weeks without it… never been happier! I only needed it for travel and I bought a pre-pay phone for only the times I travel. Then cut off the TV. Try explaining to the cable co. you only want house phone and internet but NO TV… they just don’t get it, it took 20 minutes to get my point across! LOL We had Netflix, but found we went on a movie binge an then stopped using it mostly, we were to busy with our hobbies and exercising, so cancelled that last week. Halved the number of shoes I own and made more space in the house (donated to a women’s safe house). What else can I remove from my life to make more space for my husband, my hobbies/sports, and travel?? “Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” ~ Frank Herbert The best of luck to everyone simplifying their life and making priorities count!!

  26. says

    LOVE this! I have been thinking along these lines for months and I’m finally implementing the things I feel convicted to do…simplifying life….more is not better….less is actually more….live life.
    I’m so glad Drew “introduced” me to you. :)

  27. says

    Heh. It’s funny. I read the title and came here all pumped only to find I already do these things. :) I pulled the plug on TV nearly 6 years ago. Beyond the big events (such as the Olympics or the big political things) I haven’t missed it even an iota. In fact, I also stopped listening to commercial radio in favour of my iPod for music, and National radio (in my case the CBC) when I want to hear the radio. Add to that the adbocker on my browser, and I’ve lived commercial-free for nearly 5 years. It’s gotten so that whenever I DO find myself watching TV or hearing the radio it’s mindblowing to me just how much of my life I’ve wasted watching and listening to what other people thought I absolutely ‘needed’. There’s no way I’m ever going back to all that.

    As far as driving goes, yeah, that’s a no-brainer. If you’re travelling at 50+km/h in a vehicle weighing a ton, you sort of want to be paying attention. :)

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  28. says

    Thanks for cracking the whip on the cell phone issue. I am absolutely terrified to drive these days, it seems nearly everyone is swerving all over the road. Also, it is generally culturally accepted to do it and when I tell friends how dangerous it is, they either act like I’m being a cop or tell me they’re a good “multitasker.” It really drives me crazy.

    I haven’t ever used a cell phone while driving, except during one short job when the boss insisted on it, and it made me really uncomfortable. I had seen her answering her phone during complicated traffic decisions. Insanity.

    We went without cable for four years and it was great. We hadn’t been big TV watchers, but we didn’t notice the times we’d turn it on and an hour would go by. If you put just an hour a day into any activity, you can become accomplished or expert at it. So I prefer not to put it into watching television. We did have it reinstalled for people who were going to be staying in our house (when we did a house swap) and now we watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but only a couple of times a week. That hour is hard to give up, and often we’re out or prefer to read or watch a movie or do something else.

    We do still have a tv however, and it is a nice one. We work in the film industry and we want to watch films on a nice screen. That’s how they were meant to be watched, not on a computer. Some TV shows might be okay to watch that way.

    Thanks again.

  29. Janet says

    Courtney, I just found your post this morning on Zen Habits – great stuff.

    Before I met my husband I was working and going to school at night and on weekends. I didn’t get cable because I knew that I would be glued to AMC and TBS watching black and white movies until my eyes fell out of my head – and I simply didn’t have the time. I met my future husband who also had never had cable because he doesn’t watch that much TV. We are now 58 years old and don’t desire cable at all. Anytime we do see bits of shows that are called ‘must see TV’ we aren’t that impressed. I realize we’re not the norm, but so be it. (We don’t do – and won’t do – Facebook either!)

    We run our own business, make art and read a LOT. How would we get everything done if we were glued to the tube?

    And the phone bit – I have never answered the phone in the car. As far as I am concerned all that cell phones have done is to create disruption in our lives on a minute by minute basis. I know a lot of people reading your blog weren’t around to remember this, but we used to go through an entire day without being in constant contact with each other. We were able to concentrate on what we were doing for longer than 10 minutes at a time. No more. I don’t see this as progress at all.

    Maybe if all these technological umbilical cords (phone, text, twitter, etc.) were helping us to be more productive, focused and enlightened people, I would be willing to change my thinking. But when you listen to or read the average exchange you quickly see that they are doing the exact opposite for all of us.

    • Jhante says

      So true. Many people have never experienced even a weekend of silence or learned the rejuvenation that comes with periods of solitude. My husband and I read tons of books, articles, work on crafts and more importantly, we do it in the same room so we can converse with each other face to face, and we aren’t yet 30. So it’s a choice in values also. Something I wish some of my friends would adopt. I refuse to get another cell phone and have started writing letters again. I don’t get any back (I get phone calls or emails), but I’ll keep sending them :-)

  30. says

    Hey Courtney; like others, I’ve found you via Zen Habits.

    I’m 23 and decided about a year ago that I only used my television for DVDs (it hasn’t been hooked up since I moved in 3 years ago), and that I could watch them on my computer. At my boyfriend’s place we’ll occasionally watch TV if we’re killing 30 minutes before we leave to go out, and watch something we really enjoy (or David Attenborough’s brilliant documentaries), and otherwise I’m free of it.

    I don’t have a car so can’t text and drive, but since I’ll be getting one soon (it’s very necessary in my position and city) I’ll make sure to put it on silent before I drive so I don’t even think about it!

    • says

      As for the news, we were at a friend’s place and the news happened to be on. The first three items were pointless entertainment items (I live in Australia, and Oprah’s visit took the first 10 minutes); there was a 20 second piece on Julian Assange with no detail, and then on to another celebrity item. I wondered how I felt I could ever feel informed watching it, when I get much clearer and informative news from wikinews and other online sources, along with background and detail, for events that happen world-wide. Even then, my greatest source for understanding many things in the news has been university studies which provided and history and background to many of the conflicts and issues today.

  31. Rori says

    I got rid of cable a couple of years ago. Best decision I ever made. We went crazy for about 2 weeks (my children were small, about 4 I think), then we found stuff to do! Would love to do it again, but because the economy tanked I had to move in with my mom. Now there’s no way. When I can move though, I’m not even going to hook one up.

  32. Avinash Gunessee says

    Hello. I am Avinash from Mauritius island.

    Last month, I cancelled by cable TV subscription because every month I am tired of working like crazy and then paying all my bills at the end with no money for myself left.

    I have decided to live the simplest life by paying off many of my credits (except for a long term loan -not that much money).

    Being a soccer fan , I miss the live games, but now I no longer feel the need for it. I realise many of our wants are not our needs.

    Thanks a lot for your project and this blog site. We learn a lot.

  33. says

    I haven’t had a TV in my home since college (a room mate’s friend gave us one and it was only ever on when our friends were over when we watched it or played video games together). I had Netflix for a while but canceled it. I’ll be reactivating it early next month for a couple days when a some friends from college come to visit so we can watch a marathon of Avatar: the Last Airbender, but then will likely cancel it again as I really don’t miss it.

  34. says

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