A new trend is trickling into real estate decisions, but it’s not just a popular shade of paint or pattern of wallpaper. People around the world are choosing to “unplug” their digital lives and, in the process, redefine the home.
“When people are looking at a house, they are not thinking, ‘Where can I plug in my iPhone?’ Dreaming about a home is really based around family,” said Tanya Schevitz, communications coordinator at Reboot, a think-tank of sorts behind the unplugging movement and other projects inspired by Jewish traditions. “It’s about envisioning a more relaxed family life that isn’t ‘turned on’ all the time.”
This Friday marks the fourth annual National Day of Unplugging, a 24-hour hiatus from technology started by Reboot. The group formed in 2002 when founder Dan Rollman was gazing at a sunset in Park City, UT and said to himself, “I never do this. I never take time to enjoy my surroundings.”
Fast-forward to today, and hundreds of thousands of people from San Francisco to Venezuela and Mumbai are stepping away from their digital devices for the sole purpose of recharging themselves.
“It’s a zeitgeist of living in the moment,” Schevitz said. “We’re not saying you have to unplug for 24 hours — just be more aware of your use.”
Schevitz and others have taken a pledge to ditch technology from sundown to sundown March 1-2, but the day promotes a prevailing lifestyle change. As a Silicon Valley-based mom, Schevitz knows this is easier said than done, yet she’s convinced that once you start to unplug, you’ll look at your house differently.
Without any major renovations, Schevitz has refocused spaces in her apartment to help her family spend time together without digital distractions.
The key? Setting guidelines for yourself. Check out these five tips for unplugging your home:
1. Bring back books and board games
Schevitz focuses on getting back to the basics with her family. “While everything is whirling around you, your home is your respite,” she said. “If you can sit and surround yourself with books and unplugged activities, life slows down.”
But kids today are so plugged in that it can be hard to compete. For a fun, kid-friendly unplugged idea, check out this bookshelf with a built-in pulley system:
2. Remove TVs from the bedroom
It might sound harsh, but Schevitz is a stickler on this one. While both she and her husband own laptops for work, they have reserved their bedroom as a quiet escape.
“My husband is always saying we should sit around and read together and turn on classical music,” she said. “It brings a sense of peace in life.”
Kids’ rooms are also a common location for game consoles and gadgets. The contemporary kids’ bedroom below provides a compelling alternative with built-in drawers for storing unplugged games and toys.
3. Spend time in the kitchen
“My son and I love to bake together,” she explained. “We love to get our hands in the dough without an electric mixer. It’s a bonding experience — popping something in the microwave is not.”
But what about contemporary homes with the latest cooking appliances already built in?
Schevitz admits the idea of having a completely unplugged house means you have to put more effort into undoing the amenities we’ve become accustomed to. But she argues that you are making your life fuller in the long run.
For inspiration, here’s a kitchen that has maintained an updated look and feel without electric appliances:
4. Dine in the dining room
Juggling her family’s busy schedule, Schevitz knows it’s hard to find time to sit and eat a meal together — especially without glancing at your smartphone.
“The expectation that people must be reachable all the time has created a society where people are on edge,” she said. “It starts to affect your relationships because they don’t feel like they are a priority.”
She thinks it’s doable to have dinner completely unplugged. “I can sit down with my family and pause and really enjoy it,” she explained.
Try designating a space in your home just for meal times to avoid eating in front of the TV or computer.
5. Use your imagination
“It makes no noises,” she explained. “He has to use his imagination to make them.”
And, imagination seems to be a big part of the National Day of Unplugging. Its website shows people from around the world who have sent in photos saying “I unplug to_________.”
How would you fill in the blank? Play a life-size game of chess? Take a nap?
Reboot is commemorating the day with device-free events in San Francisco and Los Angeles centered around music, arts and relaxation. A student group at the University of California Berkeley is going on a hike.
Schevitz says the goal is to bring people together. Recalling an “unplugged party” she hosted for Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, she argues: “Hey, if the founder of Google can do it, anyone can.”