no time for clocks

This is a photo of Jo asleep in a hammock in the forest while camping.
My preferred way to lose track of time.

It is lovely to wake up to bright sunshine again.

In the last couple of weeks it has been dark while preparing to go to work but since we changed our clocks last night to mark the end of Daylight Saving Time, we are now greeted in the morning, for awhile at least, by a well lit sky.

Now, as I wait for my tea to steep, I notice the clock on the microwave needs to be changed. It takes just a few seconds to force time back with the push of a button. I am reminded that, other than this one appliance, our phones, we have no other way to tell the time. Why is this?

As a minimalist, I likely would not make the design decision to hang clocks on the walls but I suspect that the real reason for having so few timepieces around has to do with feeling like time is chasing me. There is something about being reminded each moment that I have less time to accomplish a task or that I have to get somewhere. A reminder that my beautiful day is coming to an end. I have never owned a watch because somehow it feels like a handcuff!

How do I live without always seeing the time? Well, I note that I am always aware of it, but in broad stretches. I think I just don’t want a constant reminder. We use our cell phones for an alarm to get up. I have a routine to get out the door that takes 45 minutes and with a quick confirmation via the microwave, I can see I am on track. I have allotted 30 minutes to arrive at my destination so there is no need to check what minute it is. I will get there when I get there, more often earlier than planned because sometimes I walk faster than normal. And if I take transit, there is no point wishing for the subway to roll in faster or more often. If I have given myself enough time, then normal transit delays should not interfere with my plans. If working at home and I procrastinate, I might set an alarm on my phone with an amount of time I wish to focus at my desk. When I give myself an evening off, I have no idea of the time, even when I go to bed. I am tired when I am tired.

I realize I divide my day into larger segments but I try not to acknowledge time more than that. I believe this approach helps calm my mind. It has also honed my inner clock. If anyone asks me the time, I am usually within 10 minutes of the correct answer. What are your thoughts on this? I would love to read stories about your relationship with time and the devices you use to keep track of it. Perhaps try this exercise next time you are on holidays – when you have a completely unstructured day, hide any clocks and just see what happens when you do not know what time it is. Please share your results 🙂

17 thoughts on “no time for clocks”

  1. I like your approach. I gave up on my wristwatch when I started carrying a phone that had the time. I really enjoy the moments where time doesn’t matter, like when camping or sometimes when on vacation. I was laid off from a job about 5 years ago, and during that period time really didn’t matter, the hours and days just melded together. Other than having no income, it was really nice.

    We don’t have a wall clock, but it still seems like we are surrounded by clocks. Alarm clocks by the bed, one on the microwave, on the stove, on my computer, and phone.

  2. I dislike wearing a wrist watch. I did without for many years after reading Tom Hodgkinson’s book “How to be Free” and he suggested throwing away the shackle of a wrist watch! The book is written tongue in cheek but good fun and some good suggestions. Occasionally I need a watch when on the move, to check train times etc. but mostly I try to do without. It does change your perspective and like you, I find I can guess the time within about ten minutes or so. I am slightly thrown when the clocks go forward and back each year but after about a week I find I am back to knowing the time within about ten minutes or so. When I have to wear a watch I have one I can wear on a chain round my neck like a piece of jewellery but no more wrist watches – ever!

    1. Thanks Frances for the Hodgkinson no watch reference! So you dislike wearing one as well. I wonder how/when we learned to feel this way. I know many people who love to wear them. Any ideas?

      1. I think for me it was starting to question ideas. We always do wear a wrist watch…. Well, why? As Eric says, it is easy to tell the time if you want to. Clock on the computer, microwave, phone etc. Plus which, I found it liberating when I was out and about. It is much easier to live in the moment and enjoy what is going on when you are not constantly checking your watch. From a practical point of view I always seemed to be buying straps for the watch, batteries for the watch. So that was one thing I no longer had to do. Anything that makes life simpler, I am all for it!

        1. Very mindful of you!
          I had not thought about the expense/maintenance associated with owning a watch (it has been so long for me!) If not for fashion, why bother? “Easier to live in the moment” – I love that!

          I was just reminded of something in regards to finding other ways to check the time. My partner works in an office and needs to be on time for many meetings. He went back to wearing a watch because he was pulling out his blackberry too often and getting distracted by it’s contents! The simplicity of glancing down at his wrist works better for him.

          1. I am fortunate enough to be retired, and before that I was self employed so as long as I got the work done it didn’t matter. Lucky me! I find I need a watch when I am out and about so that I can check on train times and things like that. Otherwise it doesn’t matter. I realised that I did have an obsession with time that had no bearing on the life I actually led. It was liberating to leave that obsession behind me.

  3. Hi Jo,

    After searching online ‘minimalism in Toronto’ I filtered through a few sites. Came across yours.
    With the reality of time – How you are enjoying and indulging each day without the various time reminders are quite commendable.
    Yet, we all should enjoy ‘life’ as such. Or do we?! I cannot remember the last time I owned a watch. Years, I mean … Years! Hmmmm.
    Ironic enough, even my vehicle’s clock is still set on the Spring’s Daylight Savings Time. I do not see myself revising it … Why? lol
    So happy I discovered you … Now I am going to surf your blog in greater detail.
    Nice to meet you!

    1. Thanks T for visiting! I hope you enjoy my other posts.
      Did you know there is a minimalist meet up group in Toronto? I have been to a couple of meetings – it’s fun! Search in Facebook under Toronto.
      p.s. your car clock – lol! 😀

      1. How funny – my car clock is also set wrongly…
        I rely entirely on my phone, but most of the time. Mostly my stomach telling me when it is time for breakfast, lunch, a snack and an evening meal… and of course when I am tired and go to bed. I usually wake up at the same time each morning, too.
        Luckily, time is not of the essence for me and I haven’t worn a watch for at least 15 years and then not very often before that. I think I originally went along with the fashion because everyone else did (such as the tradition of a young woman being given a nice watch to show she was growing/grown up). Those days have passed, literally!

        (I came over from Miss MInimalist and am enjoying browsing your posts and your thoughts, thankyou!)

        1. Thank you for your kind words 🙂
          Ah yes, the stomach – we can always rely on it to tell us what it needs, regardless of the time. Haha!
          Interesting comment about a young person being given a watch. I can imagine it being a rite of passage, to represent embarking on an adult, professional life.

    2. I too am retired, and I still choose to wear a specific Timex 24/7. It is the only watch I’ve found that passes my requirement that I cannot feel its presence on my wrist (also my requirement for earrings).

      I serve on some committees and seem to have endless health-related appointments, so I really do want to know exactly what time it is periodically. I also plan ahead to arrive at least 10 minutes early for most of these events, to reduce any anxiety or stress that might be encountered driving the 12 miles to the town.

      But I plan my calendar to allow entire days at home when I can ‘drift’ from project to project with no pressure whatsoever, or NOT. I can sit in front of the computer sans time limit, or watch something on TV that catches my attention, or view a Netflix movie, etc. I like drifting thru time!

      1. “Drifting thru time”. That’s great!
        Marilyn, you seem to have a nice balance of using time (and the objects that provide this) and yet you allow yourself to be timeless when you want to be. I definitely believe in unstructured stretches of time.
        I have been struggling to find words to describe ‘why’ it is necessary for me to take breaks from knowing the time. Your choice of the word pressure resonates with me!

  4. I actually love my clocks. I have a small collection. I have my husband’s Grandfather clock that his dad hand crafted. I have my Grandmother’s Cuckoo clock from the Black Forests of Germany. Then three other cherished clocks my husband has bought me throughout our 45 years of marriage. I enjoy the ticking of the pendulums. I listen to the chimes. I sometimes try to capture the picture when the little bird pops out of his door. When I see the clocks I am grateful for the time I have been given to enjoy the beauty of this world and my loved ones. I, too, am “run” mostly by my internal clock but I also enjoy looking at the clock and knowing what time it is in China where one of my children and her family live. I look at my cellphone clock when I have appointments as I value other’s time and don’t want to be late or inconvenience them. I feel sometimes as minimalists we come across too harshly. The point of minimalism in my mind is the ability to be at peace in a crazy, wild world. To focus on Whom lived the life He did so we can have the life we do.

    1. I love this, thanks Deborah!
      These clocks seem to bring you so much joy! Rather than being about time, these pieces seem to serve you with lovely memories, a meditative sound, the fun in their movements and the connection to family. As a minimalist, I make a point of mentioning an often neglected part of the conversation – decluttering (emotionally, mentally and physically) allows us to experience peace in the emptiness, definitely, but then we get to choose what to occupy the space with. This post talks about my love of beautiful and functional teapots! The goal is to feel satisfied with our lives, in whatever way that means to us. I venture to say that if you start to feel overwhelmed by the clocks, then you may feel motivated to clear them out but until then, enjoy! 🙂

  5. Whoah, I love that picture at the top. I can “smell” the forest. 🙂

    Living without the time… that’s a challenge! I do notice, however, that I do lose track of time, often, when I do things I love such as working out, reading and writing. 🙂 Oh, and chatting with friends.

    1. Camping is my favourite way to lose track of time – it is the light and darkness that guides our activities 🙂

      It looks like you are describing a component of ‘flow’. The expert on the subject, researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, talks about motivation and choosing to enact discipline by finding the sweet spot of flow during tasks (I don’t know if chatting with friends fits into this – lol!) Working out is a good example – finding a balance between challenge and skill, and losing yourself in the experience. I am like that with writing too!

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