How I Live Without Wifi: A Millennial's Unplugged Home
Updated: Sep 14, 2019
A little over four months ago, I vacated my, all things considered, pretty swank apartment in Downtown Richmond. It was an affordable one-bedroom in the middle of a hip neighborhood, two blocks from galleries, restaurants, and bars, and outfitted with more amenities than a single gal of my age deserves. Yes, that means I had a full size fridge, a dishwasher, AND an in-unit washer and dryer. I left, on my own free will, to go live in a tiny house in the country, with limited amenities, but perhaps most importantly for my millennial sensibility, my attachment to social media, and my addiction to Netflix, there is NO. WIFI. But… it’s actually kinda great.
I did not plan to live without wifi. When I first found the property where my home is now parked, the plan was for me to be close enough to the main house that I could connect to that network. By the time my home arrived in Virginia, we had changed the plan for the exact site, so my house would be parked out of range of the existing network, and I decided I would figure something else out. But once I moved in, I just had bigger issues to deal with: for instance, I didn’t have a long enough hose to hook up my water. The remote for my HVAC unit had been lost in transit and the emergency override power button wouldn’t work, so while I waited on a replacement I was heating my house with a single space heater in the middle of December. My grey water hose was backordered. I couldn’t figure out how to hang up my shower curtain hoop, so I was showering at the gym every day. To put it simply, I had bigger fish to fry.
I do have solid cell service on the property, but my current data plan doesn’t allow me much coverage to connect my laptop to the internet using my phone as a mobile hotspot. I knew I could switch data plans and get an actual mobile hotspot, one that wouldn’t need to be connected to my actual phone. At some point. But as the weeks went by, and getting a wifi hotspot stayed at the bottom of my priority list, I started to get used to it. Surprisingly, I started to like it.
Don’t get me wrong - I did not immediately go Thoreau: fishing and waxing poetic about the scenery. Nor am I telling anyone that they should pull the plug on their router. I did (and still do) my fair share of Instagram scrolling in bed, or streaming YouTube videos while I eat dinner. I am still a millennial with multiple part-time jobs, a blog to maintain, and a general need to remain partially connected to The Grid.
But in case you, like many people, are looking for ways to scale back your own wifi reliance, here’s how I did it:
Out of necessity, I got really intentional about the things I would use my available phone hotspot for, which was primarily when I needed to work from home. Basically, unless it’s truly necessary, I try not to use my phone as a hotspot.
Restricting usage of my mobile hotspot meant I had to build plans around how to use the wifi connections which I already had access to, as well as finding some new locales with free wifi available.
I started only syncing updates to my phone while I was at work, connected to the office wifi. Then I made a habit of going to the library after work a few days a week. I'll spend a few hours working or reading, while I also use the wifi connection to download content from Netflix and Amazon Prime to my iPad so I have some entertainment options later. On Friday mornings, when I don’t work my day job, I take myself out for breakfast at a local coffee shop so I can kick my day off by getting some work done on my website, or write a few blog posts.
The catch with downloading content is that I can only give myself a few options, because I am restricted by the amount of memory on my devices. To allow for different moods I might be in, I try to keep a variety of things available: one comedy special, one happy movie, one sad movie, a few episodes of a favorite show, a few episodes of a new show, and so on.
An upside I wasn’t expecting was that I have remembered how much I LOVE libraries. I’ve been visiting different libraries all over town with this new routine, testing out who has the best quiet study rooms, the comfiest couches, and the best views. This new routine also means I spend my time out of the house being more productive, so when I get home, I feel like I can really relax and not worry about working until I leave again.
I’m sure the more enlightened/less plugged-in members of my readership have been shouting at the screen: WHO NEEDS WIFI?! JUST READ A BOOK OR GO OUTSIDE! Yes, pushy, I was getting there. After my unlimited internet surfing withdrawals subsided, I started finding more analog things to fill the time. In the four months since I moved in, I have re-discovered a deeper love of reading that I haven't felt since I was a teenager. I spend a lot of time sitting and reading in my backyard. I also cook a lot more and spend more time working on projects around the house. I've planted an actual garden for the first time in my adult life, and have picked up a few new crafty hobbies. I’ve started actually listening to myself about what I want to do instead of just sticking to a routine of getting home, hitting the couch, and turning on Netflix.
By completely pulling the plug, I’ve broken my reliance on constant connection...
I’m not saying anyone should toss their wireless routers out the window. First of all, it's rude to litter. More importantly, the internet is not the evil force some people want to make it out to be! It allows you to work remotely, learn new skills, pursue side hustles, read all kinds of blogs and articles, and stay in touch with the people you love. But I’m not too proud to admit that when I have had unfettered access to a wifi connection in the past, I have been known to turn into a complete couch potato. By completely pulling the plug, I’ve broken my reliance on constant connection, and in doing so, I sleep better, I'm more productive, and in general, I feel lighter. Hopefully, I can keep these lessons in practice when I eventually plug my home back into the internet.