As I collapse in bed after a long day, I ask myself: Why? Why, with all the modern technology we have, does my life feel even harder now? My tablet, laptop, singing Samsung washing machine and dishwasher (#blessed), apps for everything, smartphone, earbuds, email, texting, social media. Weren’t they all designed to make life a little . . . easier?
While I love my technology, and all the modern conveniences of our time, I often wonder what we may have lost in the process. Old-school niceties, for example, are a fading memory thanks to the bustle of modern society. But perhaps taking a little time to get back to some nostalgic means of doing things would bring us a little peace and make us feel a little more grounded. Here are some lost arts that I’d like to resurrect in my own life.
01. Coffee and Conversation
We do this at Starbucks and Panera Bread, sure. But what I’m talking about is having a friend over for a regular coffee or tea. It’s far more intimate and meaningful. It’s about slowing down for an hour to catch up.
I remember my mom doing this often. It was either a morning coffee date or an afternoon tea. They’d share a hot beverage and visit for the sake of doing so. I also remember lazy summers drinking lemonade on the front porch, like those Country Time commercials of grandpa having a glass with his grandson. It epitomizes a slower time when people used to shoot the breeze sans $20 cocktail. It’s about making and spending some real face time a regular (and affordable) part of your life.
To make this work, you have to schedule it. If you work full time, find a weekend or weeknight slot. The time of day doesn’t matter. What does is connecting with a friend. Wine or a homemade cocktail is fine too—maybe better. No matter what you’re drinking, it’ll be an invite welcomed with warmth.
02. The Dining Room
Yes, most homes and apartments still have them, but they don’t often function as such. I converted mine to an office about two years ago. But when my husband, Tom, and I were first married, our house had a functioning dining room. We ate there and often hosted friends for dinner. We used it as a buffet table at family gatherings. It kept us away from televisions and computers. When my kids were little, my husband and I would linger, conversing over our coffee or beer.
It’s more than the dining room that I miss, it’s the conversation and family community came with it. Most homes are now set up as an open concept. The TV, dining area, and kitchen are one big unit. The concept is nice if there’s a “tech-off-during-meals rule,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case these days.
Choose one day a week during mealtime where there is a total media blackout. All gadgets get turned off, go into a bin, and placed in another room. All other screens get turned off, too. Try it, and see what transpires during mealtime.
03. The Sunday Drive or Stroll
Not familiar with this American practice of years gone by? I may be aging myself, but it goes like this: A Sunday drive is when our parents would take the car out for a cruise through the country. There is no destination in mind; it’s just a leisurely drive. Families might talk or listen to music. Growing up, this would take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours depending on where my parents decided to take us. Depending on the season, it might include getting some ice cream or corn on the cob at a roadside stand that we happened to see. It can be as simple as appreciating the fall colors. Or it might involve driving around to see holiday decorations.
Every Sunday might be a stretch in today’s age, but if you’ve never experienced this, give it a try. Pick one Sunday this month to go for a long drive or walk. Put the smartphone and GPS away. Just see where the road takes you.
04. Personal Time
I want more time. Time to think. Time to be. Time to change my mind. Time to read. Time to enjoy nature. Time to walk to the store instead of driving there in a mad dash. Growing up, I had so much time. Granted, my parents worked hard to provide us with time for ourselves. My husband and I do this for our children, too, yet we are always yelling at them to hurry up for this or that. Our modern conveniences all save us time, no doubt. But what do we do with the savings? We add ten or twenty more things to our list.
Do less, and enjoy more. Take a look at this week’s to-do list. Check off what is so important that you cannot survive without it, and drop the rest (don’t just “save” it for later). Try it for a week or two, and see how your life changes.
05. Enjoying the Moment
Think you do that anyway? Here’s the caveat: Do it without taking photos or vides on your device. Remember the days when we used to go to events and enjoy them without acting like the paparazzi? It’s hard for me not to get my camera out every time some minor event happens (such as the server bringing out dessert), let alone bigger events.
Try choosing one reliable person to take photos. The rest of us must put our phones away. Or decide ahead of time, is this photo necessary? Chances are that it’s not. Enjoy making a memory; you don’t always have to document it.
06. A Sense of Neighborhood
We live in a more mobile society than ever before. People today are busy working and move often. When they get home, they bolt in and bolt out. But when I grew up, we lived in real neighborhoods, not artificial subdivisions that populate much of suburbia across the U.S. We not only lived in our neighborhoods, but we also actually knew and talked to our neighbors. It was a real community.
At my mother’s request, it was not uncommon for me to go to my neighbor’s house next door or down the street to borrow an egg or some sugar. What happened to loving our neighbors, much less stopping to chat with them?
Host a block party or hall party if you live in an apartment. Or if that’s too daunting, take a moment to smile, wave, say hello, and linger for a minute or two when you see your neighbors. A kind gesture, such as bringing in their trash can or a package, can go a long way toward building a friendship and a tight community.
07. Reading in Print
I’m a total book and newspaper person and so is my husband. When we got married I wasn’t sure if our house would hold all our books. We also moved half a block away from a Taj Mahal–esque library in our small town. Even though two daily newspapers are delivered to our home, about 90 percent of the time, I’m reading online. I’ve been to friends’ houses where they own no books at all. Yet there is something so enjoyable and fulfilling about finding a quiet space and reading a real newspaper or a real book in my hands. I love the feel, the smell, the quiet.
If you don’t own any books or subscriptions, visit the library. Sit in its reading room, and take in some literature. See if you notice the difference between reading online and reading a paper version.
Resurrecting these practices will help us reconnect in ways that modern technological advances can’t. It’s about being personal, vulnerable, and authentic. It’s giving others the most valuable commodities we have—the gifts of our time and our truest selves. And those sorts of habits are never old-fashioned.