pghkitten: (winry technogeek)
[personal profile] pghkitten
I am in a self-congratulatory mood today because [ profile] scholarinexile and I took a major financial and cultural step that we've been contemplating for a while, expedited by 1) the fact that we've been trying to be more responsible with our finances in order to make things like vacations, home repairs, and babies easier in the nearish future, 2) the fact that I'm beginning to realize that truly decluttering my life means more than getting rid of old clothes and books, and 3) the fact that my recent #occupytogether-mindedness has made me think a lot more about my place in the capitalist society and the kind of inefficiency and waste I'm promoting by mindlessly giving our resources to a corporation that gives us a product we simply don't use very often. We called Comcast last night and scaled back to the barest minimum plan they offer: 20 channels, plus HBO (because we are not ready to give up True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, and Game of Thrones).

Because of our insistence on keeping HBO, we can't do the barest minimum and get rabbit ears yet, although if their streaming service is successful enough, I hope they'll eventually decouple it from the big cable companies. I'd be willing to pay them directly for a subscription if it doesn't end up with something like Hulu or Netflix. If that happens, though, I'm fine with getting rid of cable entirely. It still bothers me a bit that we're stuck with the evangelical and home shopping stations even on the bare bones plan, and it bothers me that the Comcast representative actually tried to lie or at least throw up huge roadblocks to make reducing our plan more difficult.

But occurred to me more and more recently that I was watching a ton of stuff on NF and very little on the actual TV; pretty much the only time it was on was when I was cleaning up things in the bedroom or when I had the On Demand music stations on during Craft Night. The only thing I felt like I would miss was HGTV, and that was even an artifact of nostalgia. I realized that most of the shows I remember liking--the ones that have to do with unusual houses or decorating for people with a budget less than 10% of what we paid for the house--are long gone. It's all House Hunters-type shows with buyers going through an infinite number of identical McMansions that people are trying to unload after the real estate crisis, boring programs spun off from random ideas posed by Design Star winners, and horribly depressing programs where that big bald guy in overalls shows you all of the awful things wrong with your house that the inspectors missed. It's the same with all the networks that once, we ostensibly were interested in watching: the "SyFy" network doesn't show science fiction anymore, the History and Discovery Channels only intermittently show decent stuff between endless showings of Sarah Palin Presents: Alien Nazi Crab Hunting Pawn Shop Wars, and I can only watch so much of that one guy trying to eat fifty-cut supreme pizzas by himself on the Food Network. Those few paltry options aren't worth continuing to pay almost $100 a month for half a dozen ESPNs, Faux News, the Bass Fishing Channel, the unwatchable messes that MTV and VH1 have become, and the rest of the channels that now subsist almost entirely on boring reality TV. I have no interest in propping up that failing system anymore.

So now we've got the local networks and PBS, we've got the one station that actually produces content that keeps us eagerly coming back week after week, and between Netflix and Hulu Plus, I think the *only* shows we're mildly interested in watching that we can't get through either option are The Big Bang Theory and Community. And our queues of available shows probably already provide us with enough TV-watching to last the rest of our natural lifespans (not even counting all of the unwatched DVDs we have), so I don't feel too deprived.

I'm just so happy about this, which is why I'm talking about it incessantly. I'm proud that we're capable of making decisions that fit our actual lives. It's not always easy to do that. While we were in the decision process, I became aware of a motif that was running through my thoughts about canceling. Even before my mind was occupied by the #occupy movement, I was interested in the idea of moving economic systems from a free-market mode of eternal growth to one that relied on sustainability (in a macro sense) and being happy with enough (in a micro sense). It's related to the motif of decluttering my life and time that I've frequently talked about on here. I became aware that my sense of the ideal cable TV-watching strategy was related to my misguided sense of the "American Dream." As an intelligent kid who had the "Most Likely to Succeed" banner hung on her more than once, I figured that my smarts and my comfortable experience growing up would transition flawlessly into having an increasingly good job and improving finances throughout my life. It seemed like a natural progression. When I was growing up, we only had 13 stations on our TV for a long time. Most of our relatives had cable long before we did. We only got it when I was around 10 or so, and even then, the only premium network we ever splurged on was the Disney Channel. I felt like it was a big step toward the "good life" when Adam and I started getting HBO a few years ago, and thus, that when we finally "made it" to financial success, we'd get to have the top cable TV tier and a nice HDTV and we'd pretty much have it made. Nonstop growth until we reached the top, basically. The only reason I could think of to reduce our cable bill instead of increasing it was some sort of shameful financial trouble where we had to cut costs.

So it might be clear, then, why the idea of reducing our consumption being a *good* thing is kind of revolutionary in my mind. I feel like I'm beginning to be able to put the brakes on the destructive instinct to keep amassing as much as we can, even if it's stuff we don't need. I feel like I'm beginning to improve my ability to prioritize, which is extra important given that even more than money, Adam's time is a resource we need to cherish if he's going to have to continue shouldering massive workloads as an adjunct. I feel like this is a way--small, but with much larger ramifications, I hope--that we can reduce the amount of stress in our life. I'm happy to be doing something that could lead to better health and having more time for all of the non-sitting-on-the-couch things I want to do with life. And I'm grateful for the opportunity to conduct an experiment in simultaneously living as small and simply and as happily as we can.

Of course, the fact that I've just massively expanded my access to things I actually do want to watch might mean that the experiment massively backfires and I turn into a corpulent couch potato watching Battlestar Galactica and old episodes of Daria. ;-P But I'm still feeling pretty happy about it right now.


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