The Burbee family agrees to abide by their own set of "Live with Less" rules for seven days. They are asked to eat every meal at home, give up their bottled water and soda habits, limit their use of electronics and get rid of disposable plates, cups, napkins and paper towels.
To start the week off right, Kriss packs a picnic lunch for her family to eat after church instead of going to a restaurant. "I have noticed that we are the only people in the entire park with cloth napkins, but I kind of think it's cute," she says.
At first, Tim struggles with Oprah's five-minute shower rule. "That's a race against the clock, let me tell you," he says. "I'm not so sure I'm getting clean, and I think my wife's noticing."
On the third day, Kriss adds a rule of her own to save gas. Instead of driving Lily to school, Kriss tells her to take the bus, which doesn't go over well. "I hate the bus," Lily says.
Tommy has the toughest time adjusting to life without his computer and video games. "I can't live without it!" he tells his dad. "It's my only thing. ... I'm not doing it. Stupid, dumb experiment."
Kriss says seeing Tommy cry about electronics makes her realize she's been irresponsible with how much time she's allowed her children to watch TV and play games.
"It made me sick to my stomach to watch him so out of his element, not knowing what to do with himself after the first couple days," she says. "He would go from room to room, wandering around, not knowing what to do. My son is 5, and I am riddled with guilt."
Looking back, Kriss says watching Tommy adjust to life without video games was like watching an addict go through withdrawal. "I used to watch the show Intervention. Just seeing some of the drug addicts, the heroin addicts—you'd see the same reaction. They were unreasonable," she says. "He didn't understand, 'We're cutting you off.' He hated me, and it made me feel terrible."
Though it was an uphill battle, by the end of day three, things start looking up for this family. Instead of retreating to their rooms, Lily and Tommy choose to sit on the couch and read a book together. "It's a beautiful moment at the Burbee house," Kriss says.
On day four, the Burbee family begins embracing their new lifestyle. Instead of watching sports one night, Tim chooses to read his children to sleep.
During the day, the family goes for bike rides, and at night, they play board games to pass the time. "At first, it was to keep them occupied because we didn't want to break a rule," Kriss says. "After a while, everything just got kind of natural."
Tim says he's proud of his children for not asking to turn on the television and proud of his wife for cutting back on the amount of food she wastes.
Near the end of the challenge, Lily says she still misses her Starbucks drinks, but she doesn't want things to go back to the way they used to be. "The experiment is really helping our family," she says. "We get more time together, and I just really love being around my family more. We're going to keep doing it."
Tim and Kriss also want to preserve the sense of togetherness they felt during the seven-day challenge. Before they started living by the rules, Tim says the first thing he'd do when he climbed into bed every night was turn on the TV. If his children were lying next to him, he says he'd shush them so he could hear the program. Now, things are much different.
"My kids wake up in the morning, and we talk," Kriss says. "They don't ever ask to watch TV. ... It's been good for my marriage because there is no TV on in the bedroom, and we're talking, all of us."
After the challenge ended, Kriss says she and Tim sat down and came up with a new set of rules that they plan to enforce from now on. Each family member will be limited to a seven-minute shower and one hour of television a day, unless they're watching a family movie. Telephone calls are also restricted to five minutes.
Kriss says Tommy's video games are still stored in a box, and he hasn't asked for them since the challenge ended. If he does ask for them some day, Kriss says he'll only be allowed to play for 30 minutes at a time, twice a day.
"We were checked out," she says. "We're checked in now."
Just a few years ago, Shannelle says she was living the life many people dream about. She was making a six-figure salary, wearing designer clothes and dining out four nights a week. Then, in 2006, she watched one of Oprah's Debt Diet shows.
"Before I saw the Debt Diet show, I was focused on just consuming and not really knowing what I was consuming," she says. "I had the hottest, the latest, the cutest, the best. I lived in 675 square feet, and I couldn't understand where my money was going."
Shannelle made the decision to cut back and live on less. "I don't think I had any idea before how wasteful I was," she says. "A lot of things I thought I needed, I didn't anymore. ... Now, more closet space represents the uncluttering of my life."
Instead of going to the beauty salon once a week, Shanelle now goes once every eight weeks and does her own hair at home. She's also cut her grocery bill down to $30 a week. "I want to make sure that I only use what I need, not what's available to me," she says. "Life is not about spending. It's about living."
Changing habits to be less wasteful can be hard, but it can also save you a lot of money. Oprah should know. Harpo goes through about 1,600 paper cups a day—or 32,000 cups a month—which employees use for water, coffee and tea. Some people even double their waste by "double cupping."
All that waste adds up to serious money. Harpo spends approximately $41,000 each year on disposable paper cups!
In the spirit of this show and honoring our planet, Oprah declared April 14, 2008, "No Paper Cup Day" at Harpo. Every single paper cup was locked up. "Fortunately, there were no riots at the coffee machines," Oprah says. "I'm proud to say everybody figured it out. In fact, are you listening, Harpo? I'm making it permanent. ... Maybe you at home can do this at your company too."
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