Written by Chef James Barry

Written by Chef James Barry

As a boy I was taught to “save” things; becoming sort of a mini-collector. At that age it translated to comic books and toys and as I got older, letters and all things related to school.

In many ways, being a collector was easy because my parents had a basement in their house in which all our collectibles were stored out of sight. Within the shelter of my parent’s home, I was able to expand my saving to all things I came across, particularly those things we call “freebies”. Then, when I was in my 20s, my parents divorced and everything in the basement had to go. I grabbed anything I thought I could sell and spent the next 7 years lugging all this stuff around hoping to profit off all this “free” money.

In February, month two of my yearlong media fast, I ran up against this “free” instinct. I can’t remember the last time I flew a plane and didn’t take advantage of the movies and other free media. It highlighted my free-spree conditioning where I feel obliged to take anything (and I mean anything!) that is free. From food samples to computer screen lint brushes with random company logos, I can’t pass up something that is free. Until now.

freeThis media detox may have just cured me of taking freebies. With everything I take, buy, or receive, the chains grow heavier and longer. I now see that with every material good – free or otherwise – comes the responsibility of ownership.

If that item has no meaning or practical use, it immediately becomes baggage that I will only have to unload at a later date. Far better to travel light, enjoy each moment, and maintain a high quality of life.

Going media free has been a conscious reminder that time and space are precious. Life as we know it is already too short. My little girl is almost 8 months old, yet it feels like her birth was just yesterday. I’m hyper aware that these are the most precious times. You don’t need a kid to know that any day of living is a good day. That means enjoying and being grateful for all things: functioning legs, sunny days, the “Good Morning!” smile my daughter wakes up with, the gentle kiss of my wife, the food on our table, community, family…and on and on. Every minute I stayed up late watching television or movies, was a lost minute of something else. Every piece of clutter I brought home was precious space consumed. That doesn’t mean every minute needs to be accounted for, but there is an awareness of choice with how we spend our time and fill our space. 

Fundamentally, going media free is about creating space as much as it is about being media-free.

Whether de-cluttering the mind or your environment, doing one will lead to the other.

It is nature’s law that once you take a step in one direction, your perspective broadens. Whether you are ready to admit it or not, time is precious for all of us. Filling that space with freebies leaves little space for the miracles of being alive.

What freebies and other time- and space-takers do you have in your life? What freebies can you say no to?

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