Working the Plan

To Do List
Creative Commons photo by Justin See

By Dave

I may not be a planner by nature, but I definitely married one. While I plan because I have to, her eyes light up and there is a raw energy in her voice when she tells you about her latest strategy to tackle a problem. She not only loves to plan, she finds comfort in it.

It’s not that I just get up and live moment-by-moment without a clue of what comes next. I’m a teacher, so the need to plan is a by-product of my job. If I didn’t know what I was coming after the vocabulary review of a book chapter, any semblance of learning or organization can be expected to fly right out the window.

But transferring that skill from the classroom to home is not always that easy. At home, I want to be done with work and any reminder of it. While grading takes over some time and space in my sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of students and lesson plans and pacing guides, I want my home to be free from the structure that dictates my daily life.

The problem, however, is that the organization that helps my classroom run more efficiently, can be applied to the home environment to achieve the results that will make a long-lasting difference.

So, as much as I don’t like the idea, the only way this whole experiment is going to work is if I’m willing to use a calendar and start making some plans for success.

The Cuisinart Conundrum

IMG_2432By Renée

When we got married nearly 21 years ago we were given a top-of-the-line Cuisinart Food Processor. We had not registered for said item and since neither of us could really cook there was a reason why it didn’t make the list. But it was fancy and expensive and we couldn’t bring ourselves to just get rid of it. We moved it from our first apartment to our first house and then to a second house all the while it remained unopened in its original box. When the decluttering bug first bit me, that was one of the first things to go. Using the mantra of “do I use it or do I love it” it clearly didn’t make the cut and out it went. Fast-forward several years later when we actually did start cooking more and we needed a food processor but could only afford a very basic one. So of course, we launched into a whole debate over why we got rid of a perfectly good thing that now we would use and love. Crap! I’m not going to pin my decluttering downfall on this particular incident but it certainly didn’t help our cause. After making do for several years with what we could afford we finally bought a 2017 version of the 1997 Cuisinart Food Processor. We use it about three times a week, and by we I mean Dave.

This time around we have set aside $300 to replace any items that we regret getting rid of. Now I don’t mean just regret but that we find ourselves repeatedly MacGyvering some solution for the thing we got rid of. I am calling this our Decluttering Safety Net and so far it is creating fantastic freedom to let go of things without worry.

Not Quite Lord of the Rings


By Dave

Anyone who knows me well probably is aware the whole “absent-minded professor” vibe I give off isn’t really an act. I’ve been known to “misplace” things from time to time, though, to be fair, when you “misplace” things as often as I do, you really don’t like using the word “lose”. The missing items usually turn up again. Eventually.

There is a story I tell that is, quite sadly, true, of the time I lost my high school class ring. It had gone missing for more than a year and, using my charm and gift of persuasion, convinced my mother to purchase me a new one. After much begging and pleading, I was the proud owner of a replacement ring.

But, like I said before, things in my life rarely stay “misplaced” forever. A few months later, the original ring turned up in the small, 5th pocket of my jeans (It is important to note I lived with my dad and did all my own laundry. Had my mom been in charge of this duty, I imagine the ring would have reappeared in rather short order).

Fast forward a quarter century to a recent weekend where my wife was in the midst of decluttering and finding a permanent home for our holiday gifts. Much to my surprise, she discovered a gift card for my favorite pizza place, one that serves a nice deep-dish pie not easy to find in Southern California.

Where was it, you might ask? It was actually buried beneath the tissue in my Christmas stocking. And if it had not been for my wife and her love for organization and minimalism, who knows when, or if, I would have found said gift.

If only the same could be said about my class rings. The first one was, like I said, found.

The second one has been, well…misplaced.


You Have to Start Somewhere


By Renée

I’ve been reading books on decluttering and minimalism trying to find the perfect way to get my house cleared out and am dealing with some serious analysis paralysis. As I looked around our 1300 square-foot, three bedroom house I starting asking myself what needs to go? Of course, my mind immediately flew to the master bedroom closet shelf where my almost 21-year-old wedding dress resides. I felt my stomach clench and then I realized that this was not the place to start but rather the place to end. If I have learned one thing in my reading it’s that you start with something easy. You need to build momentum so that you will stay energized and make it to the finish line.

Going from room to room and looking over what we have I noticed that there are three layers of stuff in our house. The first layer is what I call The Eyesore Layer. It’s the clutter that makes our house look like a mess and makes me say bad words and get angry. The second layer is The Excessive Layer. These items are put away and not a mess but we have too many of them. Books, clothes, DVDs, CDs and dishes make up this layer. The third layer is two categories that we have a similar motivation for keeping, The Emotional Layer and The Expensive Layer. Gifts and keepsakes added to things like watches we don’t wear or kitchen appliances we spent a lot of money but didn’t use after a month.

We’re going to start with the first layer and work our way down. We’re beginning with what my husband calls the junk room. It’s our third bedroom and was supposed to be a craft room for me but then really turned into a dumping ground for anything that we didn’t have a place for. I’m setting a 15 minute timer for today and diving in.

Time to Leave Neverland


By Dave

Let me start by clarifying that minimalism is my wife’s thing.

That’s not to say she is wrong and I am “putting up” with some hare-brained scheme. What I mean is that she has caught the vision and I haven’t yet (and, to be honest, I’m not sure I want to).

Part of the difference between us is that a little bit of chaos kind of works much better with my spontaneous, up-for-an-adventure nature. I want to move on to the next thing and cleaning up my mess from the last fun thing slows me down. An excuse, perhaps, but one I have let drive my actions in the past.

While maintaining a house up to the standards of June Cleaver or Carol Brady was not a daily expectation in either one of our homes, at my house, we took things to the next level. I won’t get into specifics here, because it isn’t all my story to tell, but a little bit of “slothfulness” in this area wasn’t considered one of the Seven Deadly Sins in our home (perhaps in retrospect it should have been).

But when I walk by the junk room, where the furniture for my wife’s studio is trapped by so much clutter that it look like we’re trying to build a conservatory in a war zone, I am convicted it’s not healthy to avoid this problem forever.

So, whether I am ready to do so or not, I suppose it’s high time to leave the responsibility-free Neverland I have created for myself and get aboard the Minimalism Train as it leaves the station.

Hopefully in a year there will be enough change to make the effort worth it.

Making Sense of Our Mess


By Renée

You are probably asking yourself “Who are these crazy people and why are they inviting me into their messy house?”

We really aren’t crazy at all; we just have a problem we’re trying to solve. I know that should really explain it all but you were probably looking for a little more to go on. We’ve been married for almost 21 years and next to our money problem which we sorted in 2011 (thank you, Dave Ramsey), keeping the house tidy and decluttered is the number one thing we fight about. We came to this marriage having been raised in very different homes but neither of us ever really got the hang of being organized and picking up after ourselves. We decided that this is the year we are going to figure this out once and for all.

This past summer I started listening to podcasts for the first time and experienced something I call “drinking from the fire hose,” which really just means that I was exploring lots of new ideas at once. One of these ideas that I really started investigating was minimalism. I started reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts and trying to get a feel for what it is, what it isn’t and how it could work for us. The more I read about minimalism the more I realized it was what I was craving.

Due to some health issues I realized that we have way more belongings than I can possibly manage with my energy level, so downsizing our stuff will be key. Knowing that I accomplish more with external accountability, I came up with the idea for this blog and hopefully if there are two or three people out there reading it, that will be just the motivation I need.