In 2020, we hosted Adele of Simple Life Musings on our Instagram stories home tour series. She lives in a dreamy D.C. area home (once featured in a Hallmark movie!) with her husband and seven children. You can watch the whole tour here.
One unique element we loved about their home is a “technology free room” — a library, music room, and game room which their family has designated as a physical gathering space totally free of technology. Our readers and editors were intrigued and wanted to hear more about how this room is used, so we invited Adele to share on why their family values this space.
EM: How did you have the idea of a technology-free room?
Adele: We recently moved to Virginia from California, and as we were moving, we were considering each room and how we planned to use different spaces.
One thing that popped into our minds, was, the previous spring, we had been on a trip to New York, and had the opportunity to go with some friends to the Yale Club. When you walk into the the Yale Club it feels a bit like you’re entering a library in a bygone era — it’s really old school, they have a strict dress code, and a lot of rules around technology use.
But you come into that space, you look around, and you just see people talking to each other, playing games, things like that, and we thought that was really cool. It was just such a juxtaposition to what you usually see at a public space like that, with everyone on their phones.
We made new friends that night and had such a great time, and when we moved, my husband said maybe we should try to create our own “Yale Club Room” where there wouldn’t be any technology use. A space where we would prioritize talking to each other, playing games, reading, things like that — and that’s how this room at our house came to be.
EM: How do you generally use the space? What does the room look like?
Adele: At any point during the day, there is always at least one person in here reading (we have seven children). All of our books are in here. Sometimes the kids will play in here, build a fort in here — we also have a fireplace in here so in the wintertime it’s really a gathering place and we spend a lot of time as a family there in the evenings. I think having it focused around that center makes it more interactive. We sometimes play music together in here as well.
Lately we’ve been playing board games like Blockus and Apples to Apples — we have a big coffee table in the middle for that. The kids will play chess, sometimes, and my husband and I will read the newspaper. There is a rocking chair in the corner where some of the kids have figured out if they read very quietly it takes a long time to find them to help with dinner clean up 😉 and there is a prayer corner, too. But mostly, it’s really a room to read and interact with others.
EM: What are the benefits that you’ve noticed from having this room? Is it ever hard to enforce the rules?
Adele: I think this year especially, there is more technology in our house than there ever has been before. But in this room, we have the freedom not to be on our technology — to play games, listen to books, and just talk with one another, without the burden of being on our phones or computers or checking texts or social media. We’ve developed all these hobbies and interests as a family, and our family culture has really thrived because of it.
I will say that none of our children have phones right now. Our eldest daughter is 13 and we feel very lucky, because in the community where we live now, none of the other kids have phones either, and that was not the case in California. So “enforcing the rules” hasn’t been much of an issue with the kids, honestly, if anyone slips up it’s usually me or Ben, absent-mindedly walking in one evening with the laptop or something like that.
In this room, we have the freedom not to be on our technology — to play games, listen to books, and just talk with one another, without the burden of being on our phones or computers or checking texts or social media. We’ve developed all these hobbies and interests as a family, and our family culture has really thrived because of it.
But it truly is so easy for me to go on social media, or for Ben to be checking in with work. There is this idea in our culture that technology gives you the freedom of having a more open schedule — you can do things here and there, and that gives you more flexibility and freedom. But I think it’s actually the opposite. You’re always distracted, and there is always the possibility and the temptation to be working or scrolling.
It ends up eating up more of your time instead of giving you more flexibility. That’s why this room is such a gift, because it’s a physical space that’s very separate, and it truly has given us our evenings back.
EM: If you don’t have a full room to dedicate, how would you suggest implementing similar technology-free “zones” or even times of day?
Adele: I think in the rhythm of family life, the one place that lends itself most to this is the family dinner table. And I think there, the discipline of putting your phone away, and the kids too, is a small action that goes a long way.
I think in general it’s just helpful to consider technology use as a designated activity. To have a physical space where technology belongs. In our home, the children have to come to us and ask to “check out” a piece of technology if they need or want to use it for something and present their case on why. But it’s just about making sure you have a healthy relationship with it, and that it’s not creeping into every moment of your (or your family’s) lives.
And besides that, as a technology user, I’ve noticed that when I have periods of time without technology, it makes using it a better experience. Instead of mindlessly (and endlessly) scrolling, I’m saving up my time for looking at things that are more edifying and beautiful. For example, I look forward to the Theology of Home daily email collection every day, it’s so well done and gives me so much food for thought instead of just dabbling in a few things here or there.
It’s about making sure you have a healthy relationship with technology, and that it’s not creeping into every moment of your (or your family’s) lives.
For me, I don’t want my kids to feel like they’re competing for my attention with my phone. I have a social media account, but I have a time limit set for 30 minutes and then I put it away. And then there are days that I don’t get on social media at all. And I love those days — doing something something really involved and engaged and loving and not documenting a bit of it, it feels like a treasure. In this age when we are sharing everything, that intimacy feels really special.
Technology is so woven into everything that we do now, I think it’s a very bold but amazing move for a family to carve out physical space, or time-wise, space in your family life, to really be engaged.
Do you have a technology-free room in your home? How are you implementing technology usage boundaries in your family? We’d love to know! Share your thoughts in the comments below.