Taking more noise out of life
October 2, 2019 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Maybe six months ago, I stopped listening to NPR/music on my 30 minute commute and most other drives. I don't remember how I decided to do this, but it feels good, like I've turned down the static/ambient noise a tiny bit in my life. Since then, I've done a couple of comparable things, but am looking for other suggestions.

I also killed Twitter altogether (have missed it exactly not at all), and unfollowed everyone on facebook that I don't feel like I have an active, friendship-shaped connection with. I try not to read a ton of news and very actively scroll past climate stuff. What else should I weed out?
posted by less of course to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have an adblocker installed on your browser? If not, install it immediately - I recommend uBlock Origin.

Unsubscribe from mailing lists. Delete RSS feeds you don't care about anymore. Delete bookmarks in your bookmarks bar (where they're easily accessible). Opt out of Slack channels. Turn off most of the notifications on your smartphone. Turn off the TV if you have it.
posted by gakiko at 10:37 AM on October 2, 2019 [12 favorites]

This is a very literal suggestion, but do you own a white noise machine? This one is amazing. The classic use is at nighttime, but I use mine during the day all the time. It allows me to have my windows open for fresh air, but I can't hear kids yelling/car alarms/doors slamming/unexpected voices/music at the pool across the street/etc etc. It shields your brain in a bubble and creates a portal of calm, where the rest of the world vanishes.
posted by missmary6 at 11:13 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Turn off all notifications on your phone except for phone calls and (maybe) texts. Seriously. All of them. It's amazing.
posted by Automocar at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2019 [22 favorites]

Try noise-cancelling headphones turned on but with nothing playing.
posted by StephenF at 11:22 AM on October 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

Long ago, I stopped going out on Friday nights when everything was so crowded. Sometimes I'd get some wine and have a quiet dinner at the home of old friend, sometimes I'd just stay in and watch a movie. It made for a calmer, more restful start to the weekend.

You might try using headphones and light music when out and about to help reduce the sensory overload of busy/overwhelming places like IKEA and hardware stores, but be sure you're paying attention to your surroundings. I also like grocery shopping during off-hours either very early in the morning or late in the evening.

Unsubscribe to promotional emails and set up filters so the only things coming into your inbox are the important messages.

Take holidays during the off season. When I visited Maine in mid-September, I sometimes had entire beaches to myself.

Declutter your home as much as you can -- aim for clean surfaces, no piles of junk mail, nothing that sits in plain view to remind you of work to be done.

Tidying up/resetting the kitchen and bathroom every night makes for great peace in the mornings. Hanging up the next day's outfit reduces stress in the morning. Making your bed every day makes for a pleasing, welcoming bedroom to come home to.
posted by mochapickle at 11:37 AM on October 2, 2019 [9 favorites]

This might be a little extreme, but I know people who keep permanent containers for things like shampoo and lotion, so their countertops have plain simple containers instead of branded bottles of things on them.

I know I sometimes find my kitchen countertop piling up with all the stuff I use often (olive oil, salt, vinegars, etc), and it looks a lot cleaner when I tuck them inside the cupboard.
posted by sallybrown at 11:38 AM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Unsubscribing from unwanted emails instead of just deleting them. Small joys!

Decluttering a la Marie Kondo to reduce visual noise was deeply soothing and helps me avoid procrastination and distraction.
posted by notethisbean at 11:38 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

There was a point where we had moved only the bare minimum of our stuff into our new apartment, and then spent some time there cleaning and puttering around. The uncluttered feel was amazingly peaceful. No maneuvering around excess furniture, no struggling to jam items into too-full closets and drawers, no visual clutter. I seriously considered abandoning the rest of our shit at the old apartment.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:44 AM on October 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

Excellent suggestions in this thread.

unfollowed everyone on facebook that I don't feel like I have an active, friendship-shaped connection with.

I went a step further and unfollowed or muted literally every single person and group on every single social media site and feed reader. I trusted that I would remember to check in on the few with whom I have that active friendship connection, and that has 100% been the case. Honestly, it is really, really pleasing to be able to drop in to their profiles and consume all their updates at once instead of them constantly being pushed to me – it alllllllmost evokes the same feeling as a larger in-person catch-up albeit without a lot of the warmth. I get a genuine thrill these days when someone says to me, "Hey, did you hear about Person X's news?" AND I HADN'T. Like in the olden days!

people who keep permanent containers for things like shampoo and lotion, so their countertops have plain simple containers instead of branded bottles of things on them.

I would also add removing the price tag stickers from things. It's astonishing to me how many people don't do that! The visual clutter always stands out to me like neon signs.
posted by anderjen at 11:48 AM on October 2, 2019 [9 favorites]

I don't own a television and don't watch tv shows or movies on my computer.
posted by mareli at 11:55 AM on October 2, 2019

Turn off all notifications on your phone except for phone calls and (maybe) texts.

I’d go one step further. My phone is permanently on silent (unless I’m waiting for a specific call or message). I see and respond to missed calls and messages when I choose to lift my phone, not when my phone summons me.
posted by billiebee at 11:56 AM on October 2, 2019 [17 favorites]

I drive a Subaru and did an easy web search to see if I could silence the lock and unlock chirp when I use my key fob. It was kind of a fun series of tasks that took about a minute to do. I absolutely love having that noise out of my life!
I'm certain other car models have a system to silence the lock and unlock feature. And, with my car at least, I can still activate the chirp by pressing the lock button 3 times, if I need to find my car in a parking lot or if I'm feeling uncertain about whether I for sure locked it.
posted by cristalina at 11:59 AM on October 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

This is substantially higher effort than turning off the radio, but last July I started keto and the simplicity it brings to food choices is astonishing. Whole swaths of offerings now read as "not edible" to my brain and it's honestly kind of weird to watch people digging into them as if they're food. I mean, clearly I still know carbs are edible, but the mental clamoring I didn't even realize was going on has been silenced. "Resisting" carbs is my default position, like how you probably "resist" foods that don't taste great to you and that you don't know why other people enjoy.
posted by teremala at 12:09 PM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Lots of good suggestions, thanks. So far my favorite is unfollow everyone on fb. I'm thinking of doing it RIGHT NOW but it feels weirdly...transgressive?
posted by less of course at 12:16 PM on October 2, 2019

Wear foam earplugs when you’re working. Feels weird at first, but then after a few times, your body will interpret the earplugs as a cue to concentrate.

Don’t take your phone when you go to the washroom.

Don’t put your phone on the table during meals or work. Take it completely out of your peripheral vision so you forget it exists.

Change your phone screen to greyscale - makes social media way less interesting.

There’s a Chrome extension called Kill News Feed or something similar that makes your FB feed empty. I think it only works on the computer, I don’t think it works on the phone. It’s amazing.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:17 PM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

You don't have to unfollow them all if you just quit using it. My account is the same as it was the day before I abandoned the place. Occasionally I use it to see business information, or I search for the specific person I want to check on (this initially felt a little creepy but I've gotten over it).
posted by teremala at 12:24 PM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Blackout curtains in the bedroom / eye mask. So much more restful. I also don't hang artwork in the bedroom or bring my laptop in there.

Keeping my car empty except for the gloveboxes, tire chains, and an emergency bottle of water.

Writing "addressee unknown" on junk mail that's not for me so I stop getting it. Unsubscribing from email and snail mail.

Grocery shopping from bulk bins and keeping most of my food in mason jars. Keeping appliances I don't use daily in cupboards.

I wear big ol' earmuffs if there's noise at work so people can easily see that I can't hear them if they need my attention.
posted by momus_window at 12:43 PM on October 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

What about sensory noise - soft clothes, soft sheets, soft underwear, soft bras if you wear them, or even going bra-free is something I've started doing.
posted by bleep at 1:17 PM on October 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

Cancel your home internet. Too extreme for some people, for sure, and it won't work if you need to do work or research at home. I work a 9-5 in an office and have access everywhere else in my life: work, coffee shops, phone data plan. No internet at home creates a lovely oasis of no news, no interruptions, no feeds, no notifications. It is blissful. I'm also a total book nerd and my major hobbies are cooking and reading. Even just one unplugged day a week would be great.
posted by carrioncomfort at 1:27 PM on October 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

Your phone might have a grayscale option in the settings, if it's modern enough. Try switching the colour off for a while -- it's interesting how often designers use red to attract your eye.

Go into your computer's colour settings too. Even if total grayscale is too extreme, you can turn down the saturation to 10 percent of the default and it will make a difference. (The specifics will depend on your OS and graphics settings, but it's probably possible to do).
posted by rollick at 2:48 PM on October 2, 2019

Turning off text notifications is amazing.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:12 PM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Set do not disturb hours for your phone (and communicate the boundary to those around you). You can designate contacts that can still get through by calling for emergencies. It's amazing, especially for dedicating regular time to deep work like writing.
posted by veery at 4:20 PM on October 2, 2019

This is more of a literal noise thing and not something that's probably feasible very often, but I find going from the city into a quiet area where I can't hear cars *amazingly* refreshing.
posted by pinochiette at 4:20 PM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

You don't have to unfollow them all if you just quit using it.

True, but just speaking for myself, the muscle memory of automatically and unconsciously going to Facebook in bored or unoccupied moments can be amazingly strong and hard to overcome, especially if there's still *some* enjoyable or valuable content on there. I knew I didn't have the "just quit" ability in me, so purging my feed to a blank slate was an interim step to help reinforce behavior while reminding myself of my larger goals.

posted by less of course

Also, eponysterical!

posted by anderjen at 4:38 PM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Stop reading any magazine that is designed to make you want something. Stop shopping, unless you really absolutely truly need something. Call up companies that send you catalogues and ask them to take your name off the list.

It’s amazing how much headspace is taken up by unnecessary wanting.

(As a side note, I think decanting things into label-less containers is beautiful, but it’s also trendy and aspirational, so for me it nets more noise instead of less.)
posted by the_blizz at 5:27 PM on October 2, 2019 [5 favorites]

also I sometimes have to take breaks from the blue because damn the world is bleak
posted by the_blizz at 5:32 PM on October 2, 2019

I know people who keep permanent containers for things like shampoo and lotion, so their countertops have plain simple containers instead of branded bottles of things on them.

I remove the labels of things I can't tuck away. I have containers in my shower that just say SHAMPOO and CONDITIONER. Most of my dry goods food I buy in bulk and keep in jars in the kitchen, not its original packaging.

I try not to watch tv with ads and when I do, I mute the ads. I don't read most popular magazines.

I use the facebook birthday feature to help me decide who to unfollow. If I see them on a birthday list and don't know who they are, I unfollow. FB Purity can help you filter out other stuff in chunks on FB.

I have my notifications on my phone mostly off. I turn my phone ringer OFF when I go to sleep (people know how to get ahold of me in case of emergency but there's almost no such thing as a true emergency in my life). I tried the greyscale thing on my phone (and set it so three clicks on the home button turned it on and off) but it wasn't for me.

I read a book for 30-45 min in the morning and the same amount at night, so it eases me out of online time.

I don't listen to the radio in the car and only listen to podcasts or nothing. No phone calls or texting while driving.
posted by jessamyn at 5:57 PM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just completed a 30-day digital detox per Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism. I eliminated all web browsing except for three sites I restricted (Metafilter was one of those) plus email. I didn’t look at any news sites, and I don’t listen to radio or watch TV news, so I had almost no idea what was going on in the world and still don’t. I quit Twitter, and I’ve never been on Facebook. Still deciding what to allow back into my life, but really, it’s been a great experience. The cold turkey aspect worked well for me.
posted by FencingGal at 6:06 PM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Aside from ditching all social media and downgrading to a flip phone, I bought a few magazine subscriptions. The physical product is calming in a way that reading the same thing online can never be.
posted by fso at 4:43 AM on October 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Eat mindfully without any music, books, TV, phone or other digital distractions. I admit I have trouble with this myself - I check work email over breakfast but I keep meaning to break this habit. It's annoying to have to put out fires figuratively halfway through my breakfast cereal.
posted by whitelotus at 6:15 AM on October 3, 2019

Ereaders with eInk screens are significantly more calming to read on than phones and computers.

Seconding that reducing tactile information (ex, clothes) and visual clutter are really helpful. Also: casually making the bed every morning is surprisingly calming.

Most people in urban or suburban areas suffer from noise overload. Not listening to things all the time, using earplugs, turning off noisy appliances that aren't in use, noise-canceling headphones, even installing sound isolation materials can be a big help.
posted by Ahniya at 3:58 PM on October 3, 2019

Guests tell us that they like our compost toilet because it doesn't make any noise when you 'flush' (by adding carbon matter such as sawdust).
posted by aniola at 10:15 PM on October 3, 2019

It's already been covered a few times, but I cannot stress enough how much avoiding as many ads (and other things-designed-to-make-you-want-things) as possible has improved my life. I'm not tempted to impulse-spend on things I don't want or need, not made to feel bad about myself for not conforming to whatever beauty and fashion ideals I fail to live up to, and not exposed to the ignorant stereotypes that are inherent in advertising.

My strategies:

- Browser ad blockers, yes, and also Do Not Track and all the "Do not use my data to show me personalized ads" settings enabled
- Unsubscribe from mailing lists as soon as I see the email
- Refuse to sign up for any additional mailing lists. In the rare instances there is a thing I definitely want to buy and a mailing list will get me a good deal on it, I make sure to unsubscribe as soon as it's served its purpose
- Throw catalogs and other junkmail directly into the trash immediately after removing them from the mailbox
- No live TV
- No live, terrestrial radio (and especially no morning shows or talk shows) and no ad-based music streaming services--I love having music on all the time, but it's my own music collection
- No online video gaming
- No mobile games designed to be addictive and encourage in-game purchases (it was hard to give up Candy Crush, not gonna lie, but I'm happier now)
- Very limited social media, and what there is is ruthlessly curated: basically if you wouldn't be welcome in my home if you showed up in person unannounced, I'm not going to follow you (some exceptions, but that's the general rule)

I also try to avoid visible branding, and when I can't avoid it, cover it up.

The downside is that when I'm visiting family or otherwise in a place where I don't have control over what's on the TV or radio, I am a little overwhelmed and annoyed.

Laying it all out it looks like a strict and deliberate strategy, but it really didn't start that way. It was one change at a time, and each subsequent change organically arose from how good the last one felt.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:07 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

« Older Want a texting program that alerts me when I get...   |   How do I make a rectangle in Paint.net? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.