This Week I Quit Houzz
A popular interior design platform is the latest in the “This Week I Quit” series. Houzz has had its last week in my digital ecosystem.
It began in a familiar way. An email. We’ve had a security breach. We recommend you change your password. And I wonder, should I bother? Why not just delete my account?
This time it’s Houzz. A cool platform for interior design ideas. From 2011 to 2014, this was a bit of an obsession. I moved house (and country) twice in as many years. I had to set up homes in Singapore, then Tokyo, almost from scratch, having lived for the five previous years in a serviced apartment in Hong Kong with most of my belongings in long-term storage.
But, however helpful Houzz has been, once the need to think about interior design faded away, it was just another thing I’d signed up for, then forgot about.
Except there wasn’t a total forgetting, since reminders, like this security email, kept popping up. Interior design was a project. But joining a platform is like being in a relationship.
This is a cost of digital technology we don’t often talk about. This time it happened to be Houzz. But over recent years, the process has played out over and over again. It started with Tumblr. [IL1] And it’s become a journey into digital minimalism.
I find myself asking, each time, what contribution does this thing make? If it makes none, then it goes away. Because bad commitments are like bad habits and bad relationships. They fragment us. They leave us open to letting our attention drift away from being our best selves.
I think we underappreciate the cost of digital commitments. How can a password and login be costly? Do these digital shadows really haunt us?
I believe they do. They’re always waiting to call us. It’s like that mess in a cupboard that at some random moment you remember needs to be cleaned. But then you don’t do it. Because it’s not a priority. Or you tell yourself “out of sight, out of mind.” At least until it pops back into your mind. Or you have to open the cupboard.
There’s a tension between the way our human minds work and the digital versions of our minds we create online and in our devices. Our fleshy brains forget, and this isn’t a bad thing. But our digital minds don’t.
I first thought about this when quitting Facebook nearly 10 years ago. I had found myself suddenly beset by people I hadn’t heard from since school. But it wasn’t an accident that these people were no longer in my life. I chose not to have them around. I forgot and moved on. Which is what becoming an adult is all about. We aren’t meant to set our relationships in stone at a young age. We are meant to leave room in our lives to grow.
But, Facebook said no, you have to keep that door open. Why? Because someone who was not an expert in either human psychology or human history thought it was a good idea. No thank you.
Given Marie Kondo’s recent popularity. the joke has spread in whispers online about whether you could Marie Kondo your social life. Well yes, of course, you should. This is how people function.
We should Marie Kondo our digital life as well. Yes, of course! Does this platform or website spark joy? Let’s be honest. Few of them do! At least not forever.
None of this is to say Houzz is a bad platform. I liked using it. It helped me design two lovely homes. It works well and has good features.
But, when it comes time to designing another home, I want to work differently: from books rather than websites. My way of working with inspiration, ideas and projects is changing.
So, in the best Marie Kondo way, I put my hand on the screen, touched the email from Houzz, said thank you, and then hit delete.
This Week I Quit is an occasional series where I share experiences of quitting apps, platforms, habits and commitments in a quest to live a simpler and more focussed creative life. Last time I Quit Omnifocus and you can read the rest of the series here.