Hang Up Your Phone. And Connect.

If we can leave shoes and coats at the door, why not phones?

She grew up in San Francisco using her ingenuity and creativity to make ends meet. “Scrappy” – that’s Yvonne Israel O’Hare. As a little girl who got in trouble and was sent to her room, Yvonne recalls taking apart her bureau and putting it back together “just to see how it was made”. At twelve she taught herself to sew. Along the way she developed a love of well-designed, well-made and good-looking things. When she was a teenager Yvonne’s mom, a widow raising four girls, gave her two choices: work and earn the money to buy used clothes or make them yourself. So Yvonne not only made but also designed her own dresses. She wanted to stand out. “I didn’t want to look like everyone else.” Later Yvonne used her people and DIY skills to become a photographic stylist. “In those days you had to be super resourceful. Stylists did it all: props, location scouting, casting, wardrobe.”

In 2007, before the first Story of Stuff film had even come out, Yvonne heard our founder Annie Leonard speak at a Teens Turning Green event. She was hooked. The message of Story of Stuff resonated with all the values Yvonne holds dear: connection, community, do-it-yourself thrift and ingenuity. She’s been a fan and generous donor to The Story of Stuff Project ever since.

About that time, her own daughter was a teenager and Yvonne had become concerned about mobile phones. There were the unproven health risks, not to mention the social factors: the lack of autonomy for kids now constantly within reach of their parents; the lost art of paying attention, of connection and communicating; the increase of isolation (kids texting instead of talking to each other during recess).

Yvonne became known as the mom who had an open door and great food always available—but who wouldn’t allow mobile devices—certainly a catch-22 for any teenager. On a long drive to the country when Yvonne wouldn’t allow phones in the car, a friend of her daughter asked, “Then what will we do?” Yvonne answered, “Watch the cows.”

Yvonne’s repeated concerns about allowing cell phones in her daughter’s high school having fallen on deaf ears, she began to think about what else to do. As a family they spent a fair amount of time in Hawaii, where many households request guests leave their shoes outside. Thus the idea for Mobilhome was born. “Mobilhome came out of a desire to combat [the cell phone connectivity] dilemma. We don’t want to dictate to people what to do. The idea is, it’s there—when people see it, they see the preference of the host to hang their phones at the door and come in and connect.”

From design to execution to finished product, Mobilhome took nine months to complete. There were many places along the way when she ran into dead ends that Yvonne could have easily given up. But at each step, the connections she had made to craftspeople, neighbors and good friends gave her the strength to keep going. Trading, bartering and collaborating with these folks enabled her to jump otherwise insurmountable hurdles and come away with a beautiful product. “I wanted something not fussy, but beautiful, well-made, biodegradable.” As I think you’ll agree, Mobilhome is all that—but it’s more than that. The product is almost incidental to the idea behind it: Let’s be present with each other.

Committed to crafting a high quality, handmade product and paying her craftspeople living wages, Yvonne realizes Mobilhome’s pricepoint may be outside the range of many. That’s why her next step is creating a video for her website in which she’ll be giving some great DIY advice on making your own Mobilhome.

Whether you invest in Mobilhome, get crafty, or just lock your phone in a drawer, you’ll be amazed at the richness of life when you unplug for an hour – or even a day. What does life hold for you when you’re not online?

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