There was a moment in time when everyone wanted to show off every little tech upgrade made to their homes. I’m talking about the biggest flatscreen TV with the highest resolution picture, the most tricked out speakers, or the latest model of the iPad, strategically placed, ready to control every last aspect of home life.
Makes sense: When groundbreaking technology was just starting to enter our lives in meaningful ways, it was exciting. Today, the opposite seems to be happening. We’ve got so much tech at home, we’re constantly untangling chargers, searching for remotes, and are often staring at multiple screens at once.
So it’s no wonder recent articles point to a trend: families taking the tech out of their homes. The New York Times even made the case that while screens have invaded public life, banishing tech at home has become a mark of status and wealth. The devices that are the most popular are now the ones that make themselves scarce, and you probably have at least one friend who’s doing a “digital detox.”
All of this comes from real concerns many of us have. While I may love tech more than your average girl, I’m also uniquely plugged into its potential pitfalls—especially at home. I worry about how much time my kids spend on screens because of what they could find, how their social skills may be affected, and how their body- and self-images are being shaped in the era of Snapchat and Instagram.
I’m also aware, because I test (and install) so much of it, which tech truly adds value to our daily lives, and which is just good marketing. Spoiler: Much of it is the latter.
Not to mention the simplest reason of all: When we’re home, I want my family to connect. I want us to look into each others’ faces; I want us to talk, listen, and read. There’s less of that kind of interaction these days, so when you’re home, you’ve got to encourage it as much as possible, even if it means (gasp) getting up from the sofa to adjust the lights.
All that being said, it’s definitely possible to have a high-tech home that just feels low-tech in all of the important ways.
Make Screens Scarce
When we talk about tech invading our spaces, we’re mainly talking about screens. (Cords are pretty infuriating, too, but you can just shove those in a drawer. They don’t lead you down a two-hour Instagram rabbit hole.) So, there are a few smart ways you can minimize the presence of screens in your home, while still keeping them around.
First of all, you can disguise them. At our beach house, we installed a Samsung Frame TV, which is wrapped in an oak frame and displays photos when it’s off. I really didn’t want a big black box on the wall signaling that the purpose of the living room was staring at the television. Instead, it blends right into the gallery wall, but we can still do a Netflix night when we want to.
Frame TVSamsung$1399Shop Now
Similarly, the Google Nest Hub comes with a cool feature: Its smart screen will dim and change the color of the display to match the lighting in the room, so it doesn’t stand out garishly and draw attention in the evening. If you want to set it to a photo, you can.
Nest HubGoogle Nest$129Shop Now
Something else to ponder: Do you need an iPad to control your home? Or can you build smart features into wall switches or remote controls that won’t send you news notifications or social media alerts. The Neeo remote for my Control4 system controls the entire house without me having to pull out a phone or an iPad. Having a voice assistant like Google Home or Amazon Alexa helps with being able to use your smart home without having to whip out your phone or a tablet.
Aside from camouflage, another way to minimize screens is to make it super easy to put them away. Design your home office with a designated drawer so when you’re finished working, you close up that laptop and stash it every time. (Installing a charging drawer is an even better solution.) And make sure there are spots like that in the bedroom or living room for kids’ iPads and phones when they’re not in use. If they’re laying around, you’re more likely to reach for them too often.
Make it invaluable
I don’t recommend ripping things out of the wall because you are afraid technology is ruining your home life. I do, however, think it’s nice to do a tech audit every once in a while. What do I really use on a regular basis? What do I really enjoy using? What makes my life easier or better?
X Yale Smart LockGoogle Nest$249Shop Now
MyQ Smart Garage HubChamberlain$29Shop Now
Some of the invaluable upgrades that tech has brought to my home include being able to control my locks, garage door, and thermostat remotely. And being able to turn off every light with a tap of one button by my front door. Worrying less about my home while I’m away, saving time, conserving energy are all benefits that make the tech in my life meaningful to me, and not just another high tech (and high dollar) layer of complication. Plus they all give me more time to focus on the analog business of spending time with your family and engaging in self-care, which makes them more meaningful still.