Queen of free: Silence the noise, enjoy what really matters

By Cherie Lowe

I’m not sure when I first noticed it. A notification on my phone would ping and I would cringe. Emails tumbled in one by one by one by one.

The headlines blazed with tempting topics and the video tutorials called my name. Online subscriptions and junk mail began to slowly and steadily build until I began to long for simpler days.

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology, both for personal and professional use. I spend most of my days on social media platforms connecting with friends and family all over the world.

I’ve been blessed with a platform of tens of thousands of followers allowing me to share our story of freedom from debt and creative ways to save money.

But recently, I’ve decided to intentionally scale back my online noise. I made a few crucial switches to change the ways I interact with technology. And while I’m not living in a cabin by the woods penning articles on parchment with a quill, the methods I’ve employed have helped reduced my stress and frustration.

Simplest is best

A few months ago, I hated anyone who texted me. It really wasn’t the sender’s fault and it wasn’t that I didn’t want to know what was new in their world. It was the blasted chime my phone automatically used for the text notification. The muscles in my shoulders tensed and the hair on my neck stood up every time I heard it.

I don’t know why it took so long for me to put together the tension caused by a solitary sound, but one day I decided to glance through the settings and choose a new noise to notify me of incoming messages. I chose a sound that was light and airy instead of the harsh default.

I’m sure in the days to come, both my ringtone and other notification noises will begin to annoy me again, but for now I love it when my phone rings. Sometimes the simplest of changes really are the best.

Lighten email load

Because of my work in social media and freelance writing, I have a number of email accounts… like more than 10 accounts. It’s obvious I have a problem, but each account has a separate designation. There’s the account I keep simply because I’ve had it since I was a junior in high school (it is an AOL account in case you were wondering). I have a gmail account for work things and another account from our service provider where emails from school, church and personal friends land. There’s one account I use for coupons and freebies.

Needless to say it takes only a good night’s sleep for more than 100 emails to greet my weary eyes in the morning. It was more than a mammoth task to clean up my accounts. I used the online platform unroll.me to unsubscribe from hundreds of emails. I just repeated the process a few minutes ago and let me tell you I feel about 100 pounds lighter. I don’t even why or how I signed up for over half of those.

I also made the choice not to install the mail app on my smart phone. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but for the most part no one who emails me needs immediate attention. A response can be made hours later. I don’t need to know.

Not-so-social media

I can Tweet, Pin, Facebook, Insta, and even G+ with the best of them. I love social media. But I also long for days when I didn’t know every political leaning, meme based humor or lunch entree of the 1,000-plus people who call me their friends. Studies show we can really only have close connections with about 150 people. Between pages, products and people, I have about 10 times that number floating through my feed.

Rather than dump everyone I know, I chose to hide some of the folks who I don’t know as well. We remain friends online and I can go to their profile to see cute photos of their sweet baby or read about their new adventures in life, but I’m not overwhelmed with too many voices at once.

You may also want to revisit which pages you “like,” too. If it doesn’t bring joy to your life, nix it. If it causes you to long for things you don’t have, drop it. On the flipside, you can set your preferences so that you can see posts from pages that are life-giving first.

For a season, I also removed the Facebook app from my phone. I found I was spending way too much time mindlessly scrolling through updates. After a hiatus, the desire dwindled and after cleaning up my feed, it doesn’t suck as much time from my day or cause as much noise.

Why does it matter?

Our days are numbered. None of us know exactly how much time we have on this spinning orb. Every single minute counts. Without a doubt, the last words tumbling out of my mouth won’t be, “I wish I spent more time online and deleting emails.”

Visual influences trigger deep desires to want more than what we have. More noise equals more financial woe unless you have a will of steel. One of my biggest aims of 2017 is eliminating static so I can more effectively listen to the voices that really count in my life. I’ll continue to employ these simple hacks to usher out the noise and bring in more joy.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net