My relationship with my phone has always been strained. Though I often pride myself in some areas of self management and discipline — whether that be in diet, frugality, learning goals — my connection to my smart devices has always been one that toes the line of dependence and obsession. 

And there have been many signs that this tenuous relationship has been persisting for a while: The frequent tapping of my left pocket to ensure that I have it on me, the random “grabs-and-unlocks” for no ascertainable reason, and that soft wool-itch anxiety at the back of my mind when I would inadvertently leave the phone in a different room, or indoors when working on the property. 

The power dynamic between myself and my phone has had a clear winner. Instead of me using the phone like a tool, the phone has been using me… making me a tool. 

I’ve attempted many methods of curtailing this need to constantly check my phone. I’ve pursued notification batching, notification silencing, do not disturb windows, and the removal/restriction of all social media. I’ve used the lovely Siempo launcher, which provides a minimalist distraction free launcher for Android phones — which only ultimately provided me with series of annoying challenges and complex routes to get to the content I wanted from my phone. (Though I still highly recommend it.) And, all of these methods, in some way have fallen short of my expectations and desire to regain control over my life.

With the birth of my first child I had a crystalizing moment one evening: I realized that if I continued to pine after the world through 4.5 inches of amoled I would essentially be building a much larger screen between myself and my daughter. If I continued to foster bonds to others digitally, I’d be fraying the intimate ties to my family at home. And ultimately I’d be slowly eroding the most valuable foundation in my life, the one I’ve built with my partner. 

I’m happy to say that realization prompted a radical change in my behavior with my phone: Saturday through Sunday I look at my phone four times, at noon and six in the evening each day. And that’s it. When I’m not checking my device in those brief windows, my phone lives in an old wooden box that I’ve drilled a hole in to accommodate the charging cable. 

This practice has freed me to be so much more engaged and present with my family, my pet, my parents, and the beautiful household that my wife and I have have been building. It’s let me start using my phone like a tool. The power struggle is shifting. 

And it’s not just my internal narrative that has changed, my partner observed tangible changes in my behavior and it’s been greatly appreciated. 

So if you were wondering about the title of this post, the value of an empty wooden box, you now know: it’s priceless and it’s paying out dividends I never could have imagined.

If you struggle with your relationship with your phone, or if you find that your phone gets in the way of your relationships — I would highly recommend that you take on the practice of boarding your phone! And please report in — I’d love to know if and how it impacts your life!