I Spent the Entire Weekend Without My Phone and This Is What I Learned

Health & Wellness

I needed a phone cleanse, likely over a year ago. Recently, I was sitting at my desk and I picked up my phone consecutively three times in a row to open Twitter, all while staring blindly at two computer screens with thirty tabs open. My phone notified me last week that I’d used 2 hours and 22 minutes of screen time A DAY. I’m not going to make up excuses that I use Waze when I drive or look at email a lot at work. That is too much damn phone usage. 

That’s why I reserved a quiet weekend to put away my phone. I called my parents. I let my fiancé know. I deleted all of my apps, just in case I had a weird out-of-body-moment to grab my phone and check Twitter without even noticing. I put my phone in a vintage “Wolf Box” where my fiancé and I keep our passports, credit cards, and souls. I put my phone in the trunk when I left the house just in case I had an emergency. Do you see how sad this is? My phone has become another body part. I can’t go anywhere without it. And if I do, I need to put forth an extensive emotional battle plan.

Beyond being slightly depressed by the absence of technology, I was scared. I was scared to stand in the elevator at my apartment and become present with any stranger I was riding up with. I was scared to be disconnected from friends. I was scared my brain was finally going to have the freedom to wander during those weird, mulled hours of the day. My phone has become my numbing device. I needed to know I could be without it. I needed a reality check.

A few weekend guidelines:

    • I can take my phone wherever I go. I don’t like to drive without it so, in case of emergencies, it will be sitting in my trunk.
    • I can use it as an alarm. I have to get up super early on Saturday and I don’t own an alarm clock anymore. Sad truths.
    • No texting. No googling. No Weather app-ing.
    • No casual phone calls (only reserved for emergencies and when my mother calls me—I’m sorry, mama wins).
    • No taking photos.
  • No social media.

Deep breaths. Here’s how it went and what I learned:


7:18 am: I wake up. Miraculously, two minutes before my alarm. I often scroll through Twitter while on my phone on the toilet (sorry, universe). So, it felt overly intentional to go hide my phone in the Wolf Box before going to the bathroom. In the bathroom, I notice every detail. I notice there are designs of eyes on the toilet paper (WEIRD). I notice I need to sweep. 

Lesson #1:  My phone is a brain sump pump (Writer’s Note: Sorry to use this metaphor so closely to me peeing with my phone in my hands). Without a screen, details pool up around me. I’m not distracted by 140 characters. I have some weird thoughts. I notice things I wouldn’t have caught before. I am so full of ideas. I instantly crave a personal writing session. What was in my wine last night?! This is invigorating!

8:04 am: I’m on my way to the horse barn where I ride every Saturday. I realize I can’t listen to Spotify in my car. No podcasts. I have to listen to the radio. “Mama” by Run the Jewels is playing on 100.7, Real College Radio. I like it. I write down the song in my notebook before leaving the lot, so I can save on Spotify later. I also realize I can’t use Waze to find my quickest route to the barn. So, I simply drive. And for some reason, that slows my heart rate.

Lesson #2: I’ve become more patient. I’m not rushing on my phone to type directions or a podcast. I’m not frustrated by the lack of Wifi. I don’t get distracted by an app. And another app. Patience opens my headspace and believe it or not, TAKES AWAY MY ROAD RAGE. I JUST DRIVE CALMLY LIKE A NORMAL PERSON!

12:24 pm: I bring home fresh eggs from the barn. They’re beautiful. One of them is green, from the Easter Egger chickens (yes, that’s a breed!). I want to take a picture of the egg’s peach and soft hue. I want to send that picture to my mom, or post on my Instagram story. Then, I feel melancholy for the first time. I have to enjoy these and their beautiful colors alone. And that has to be okay.

Lesson #3: Beauty can be enjoyed quietly, independently. Small moments that catch my breath become part of how I view the day privately. There is really something charming about that.

1:06 pm: I realize I can’t tell Jake, my fiancé, anything about my day. He’s been out all afternoon and I have so many random things I’d like to share with him. I hung out with his cousin at the barn this afternoon and I want to tell him how well-versed and beautiful and mature she has become. I want to tell him how crazy the St. Patrick’s Day crowd is on West 7th. I’m tempted to write an outline for when he comes home. But, feeling a little psycho, I write in my journal instead.

Lesson #4: Communication isn’t an hourly job. Cherish the moments you have with people face-to-face. More importantly, cherish moments with yourself. 

2:15 pm: I’m meeting my best friend for brunch. She knows I’m trying to exist without my phone this weekend, so we planned a time and place yesterday to prepare. Usually, I send her a “leaving” text or a “running 5 minutes behind” or an “I got a booth in the back!” But now, we have to rely on pure chance and trust. My phone is in airplane mode.

5:04 pm: My friend and I sat and talked for three hours, drinking tea and eating pancakes. She told me she’s been wanting to get off her phone too, specifically while with others. She tried it the other day when her boyfriend went to the bathroom during lunch. “I didn’t go on my phone when he left the table,” she told me. “And I NOTICED things I wouldn’t normally notice.” We talked about how our phones don’t allow us to absorb our own opinions. We talked about time, how quickly it passes buried in technology. I wonder how much time is being sucked from me when I’m on the phone and I don’t even notice. When she went to the bathroom, I didn’t rush for my phone. I counted how many tables around me were being interrupted by someone holding their phone with a fork in their hands: six.

Lesson #5: Time moves slower without screen time. It’s so important to sink into that and notice surroundings; take time back.

7:34 pm: I’m back at home. I can hear a group of people partying in the apartment below. This is when I find a deep sense of loneliness—like I’ve been cooped up in my house for a few days with a cold. I do some dishes. I grab a book. I read. I stand out on my deck and watch people walk by. I dust my bookshelf. Random movements seem intentional. And that makes me feel better. When I’m reading May Sarton later, she writes, “The key to being centered seems to be for me to do each thing with absolute concentration.” I feel that now.

9:01 pm: Jake is back home. I’m even more relieved for his company without my phone. I have been interchangeably watching Queer Eye and eating and drinking since 7 pm. I’m not thinking of my phone, save for tiny segments here and there. Whenever I feel a deep urge to be connected, I go to my journal. Instead of reaching out to the depths of the Internet, I claw down for whatever is sitting inside myself. I have so many personal moments. My brain finds this monotone, unshaken place. Contentment, maybe? I know it’s only been a day but I do feel better. Less and less needy. Less in personal identity turmoil, of sorts.

Lesson #7: Being without a phone has given my life such simplicity and frame of mind. Not much is complicated here; I can get closer to myself.


9:42 am: I slept in (partially to save time from avoiding my phone). Sundays are tough without constant connection. If Sunday were an orchestra, my phone is the conductor. I wake up and hold it in my face, check the news, the weather. I’m not proud of that—it’s just how it is. While the addiction serves me, I’m relieved today I have drawn a line in the sand. Instead, I read. I’m full of ideas again. I vow, whenever craving to share a thought on social media, to instead write it down on paper.

10:09 am: I want to know the forecast. I turn on the morning news and wait patiently for the local coverage to end. Sunset, 7:21 pm.

10:40 am: I feel an odd sense of mystery from lack of social media contact. It’s a privateness I haven’t felt in a while. It almost feels selfish, I’m so in love with the feeling. No one knows what I’m up to and in return, I don’t know anything about anybody.

2:42 pm: I have done so much today already it’s asinine. I made breakfast with my barn eggs; they were so gold. I grocery shopped. I CLEANED OUR FRONT CLOSET. Do you know what’s in entryway closets?! Nothing but dirt and garbage! I went to Goodwill. I washed the sheets. Now, I’m dirty and tired and wanting a phone break. I want a little of that numbness.

3:22 pm: I just cleaned the entire bathroom. Including the toilet. Maybe I really do have a phone addiction problem. I am feeling overcharged. Everything I do becomes deeply intentional.

3:44 pm: I want to text my family that my apartment is the cleanest I’ve ever seen it. Instead, I make the bed.

Lesson #8: Anyone want to get something done? Hide yo’ phone.

4:15 pm: I’m standing in the kitchen staring at the wall. I can’t remember the last time I had listless, with nothing to do. Jake walks in for something to drink. Startled by my nothingness, he asks, “Um, Brittany, what are you doing?” I tell him I don’t know, I’m standing. “Why don’t you sit?” So, okay, I sit.

4:45 pm: I want my phone. I feel far away, like I’m floating. It’s that time of day. So, I make a little schedule for myself. At 5 pm, I’ll cook dinner. At 6 pm, maybe pour myself a glass of wine. 7 pm, I’ll read and try a new face mask. I remember I used to do this in grade school, make lists and organize my night. I feel a little innocent again.

6:30 pm: I notice when I want to look at my phone, it’s a single moment when I’m not interested in something anymore. If I’m reading and a passage gets too long. If I finish a task and don’t know what to do next. During commercial breaks. A scene change in an episode of Queer Eye. They’re automatic urges. I can’t believe how many times a day I must stifle them.

Lesson #9: I realize I need to go on with my life without needing constant entertainment, new information, and relief from boredom. I must move slower and when triggers of screen time come, take a deep breath and move on.

On Monday morning, I didn’t feel the urge to grab my phone. I was stronger—my withstanding muscles were flexed, well-worked. Instead, after my alarm went off, I set my phone down in the kitchen and got ready alone. When I got to work, I finally let myself browse. And let me tell you, the reward.

In conclusion, I have this. Cleansing from my phone all weekend felt good. It helped me create boundaries for myself; it helped me understand when best connection serves me. I believe communicating is important and it serves us quite sporadically in our digitally healthy present. I enjoy my friends (and internet strangers) too much. On the flip side, I believe personal space and quiet and privacy serves us. A matter of detachment, of being pulled out of my orbit of noise, gives me the opportunity to enjoy without needing to possess anything at all.

Lesson #10: We need to observe the world, develop our own opinions, take a deep breath, and decide when to put the phone down and look up.


BY Brittany Chaffee - April 11, 2019

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add a comment

  1. I Spent the Entire Weekend Without My Phone and This Is What I Learned – Business Blog

    April 11th, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    […] Continue reading I Spent the Entire Weekend Without My Phone and This Is What I Learned at Wit &… […]

  2. Hannah

    April 11th, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    This is awesome! I should really put my phone away for a couple days tbh. It’s crazy how normal it is nowadays to be glued to our phones.

    Hannah / Words & Latte

  3. Brittany Chaffee

    April 12th, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Thank you for reading, Hannah!! It feels SO GOOD to do so. At first it feels a little robotic, but I can guarantee after you’ll be feeling free. My newest rule for myself is not picking up my phone right away in the morning. I try to wake up, relax, get ready and then get on email. It’s so refreshing!

  4. Elizabeth

    April 11th, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Loved this article – it was so well-written, and I loved the lessons sprinkled throughout as they came up!

  5. Brittany Chaffee

    April 12th, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Thank you so, so much! It’s so true – there are many lessons to be learned without our phones in tow 🙂 If you try the challange, let me know what you discover! <3 <3

  6. Friday Faves | foodiecrush

    April 12th, 2019 at 7:00 am

    […] have an option to opt out of on her: Could you spend a whole weekend without your phone? Here’s what this woman discovered and it is gold. My daughter is going to hate me while we do this together, but I’m hoping […]

  7. Laurie

    April 12th, 2019 at 8:04 am

    What a great lesson! I hope this article gets shared a lot. We don’t have to give up our phones, but we need to notice when its just a habit. Know when to look up!

  8. Brittany Chaffee

    April 12th, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Yes!!! I love that! Connection is important. But sometimes the sky wants us to watch it for a while and just BE US. Thank you for reading!

  9. El

    April 12th, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Brittany – thanks for a lovely, beautifully written and insightful article. I’m one of those people (read: dinosaur) who are NOT glued to their cell phone – and I’m alternately amused and concerned by how people can be so tied to their devices. In the pre-cell phone world, I remember thinking that I could get additional work done on the 45 min commute home – then feeling very grateful that I couldn’t be reached and had that respite, that quiet time, just driving! Something that you discovered – or perhaps relearned? – on your cleanse weekend. Despite its many capabilities, I don’t use my cell for much more than a phone (yeah, duh!), for texts, taking/sending photos (never done a selfie though!) and checking the weather. I carry it with me for emergencies, but usually have to think about where I last put it down, before walking out the door.
    Technology has a place in the world, no question. What you have highlighted is that technology does not and should not replace real interactions between people. If technology creates a barrier between real people – i.e. people sitting together, but busy on their phones – then I believe that it should be viewed with concern. (IMHO!) Please don’t lose the impetus of what you’ve started with this experiment – I’m guessing that you’ll feel much better for it – as will the people who follow your lead! Cheers!

  10. I Spent the Entire Weekend Without My Phone and This Is What I Learned | High Class Buys

    April 12th, 2019 at 7:19 pm

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  11. Alan

    April 16th, 2019 at 3:31 am

    This is awesome!

  12. Brittamy

    April 16th, 2019 at 9:04 am

    Thank you so much, Alan! I appreciate you reading!!

  13. Brittany Chaffee

    April 16th, 2019 at 10:09 am

    El –

    That is the nicest comment! Thank you very much for reading. This little challange for me was so important because it’s set some boundaries for myself that I used to have when I was much younger – and didn’t have a phone to rely on. Have a lovely week and enjoy the sky 😉

  14. Mykki

    April 16th, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    This was a super interesting perspective to read, because honestly I don’t touch my phone very much during the day – I’ll take an important call or text and go through my Duolingo lessons in the evening, but otherwise I’m not on it much.

    So it’s really fascinating to see the other side of this, because I just can’t imagine caring that much about a device that it doesn’t leave my hand! 🙂

  15. Brittany Chaffee

    April 16th, 2019 at 4:33 pm


    I am SO ENVIOUS OF YOU!! Unfortunately, my job has me on my phone via social media all the time, and I find myself getting so caught up in technology – which is definitely why I needed this cleanse. Stay wonderful and wild! I have a lot to learn from lovely people like you!

  16. Weekly Roundup - wit & whimsy

    April 19th, 2019 at 5:01 am

    […] you ever done a phone cleanse? This diary was fun to recognize our addiction and had me thinking – could I do one!? Not sure I’d […]

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    April 20th, 2019 at 6:02 am

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  18. Grace

    May 4th, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    Wow. I have got to do this.

  19. Brittany Chaffee

    May 5th, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Grace – Yes, yes! It was SO hard for me todo. I’m so embarrassing and had to plan out a week or two in advance so I could get mentality ready. But by the time I was without it, I realized I definitely didn’t need to worry so much. It felt so great. Let me know when you try it – and how it goes! <3

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