Miscalculating My Mess

This past winter, my friend – henceforth known as Pickles – challenged me to the 30-Day Minimalism Game (full details here). Each day we were to chronicle what we donated or tossed; e.g. one item on Day 1, two on Day 2, etc.

I didn’t want to play because, between regular (long) hours in The Young Human and at physical therapy, my bed beckoned. But Pickles was facing off against her charming Picklettes, so she wanted adults to play, too.

I told her I’d encourage her and comment on her photos, but I couldn’t do the daily updates. After all, I don’t have a smartphone and I deliberately cut back on having a so-called digital life. 

Secretly, I planned to cheat. I’d just figure out the total, spend a weekend collecting items, and post a list at the end. However….

There are 465 items to “win” the challenge.


It was impossible.

On Day Nine, there should have been 45 things in the donation box or the dump. There were nineteen in the former. The three trashed items were worn-out clothes that I immediately replaced. I couldn’t find anything more unless I got rid of things I had already decided to keep. I began to consider how to cheat without breaking the rules. For example, there are 52 cards in a deck, plus jokers.

But I wasn’t going to lie to my friend. I told Pickles that I could be her cheerleader, not a player.

I admit I was more baffled than thrilled by how much I’d pared down my belongings. I’d streamlined my life to make room for writing – and It showed. So why did I think I had so much superfluous stuff?

I figured it out a few days ago.

When it comes to projects involving material possessions, I grossly miscalculate how big and bad they will be.

Case in point: My rooms at The Young Human Factory needed to be organized and packed up.

Last Friday marked the end of another year.  A crew and equipment arrived this week to tear off the roof and replace it. In-between, I had to prepare for the inevitable fallout of a construction project.

My colleagues and I weren’t given any instructions, just warned that we cannot return until July. Even the custodians, who know everything, had only a bare outline. Therefore, I set an entire Saturday afternoon aside to gather summer materials, clear all horizontal surfaces, and pack away items in (I hope) dust-proof places.

Less than three hours was all it took.

That included sorting through several binders of paperwork given to me  by a former colleague.* I was amazed that even the office, which seems disorganized during the year, needed superficial changes

I begin to wonder how many other projects that I view with dread – rearranging the garden, organizing boxes of photos – aren’t nearly as bad as they appear.

*She lasted less than five years in the profession and went to work for the military in some capacity. No doubt she uses the skills she learned in The Young Human Factory to break the wills of recalcitrant spies or something similar.

Broken Habits

St Anthony in charge of my thumbdrive

St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost items and other things that need to be found. He is in charge of this dinky thumb drive.

I lost my car keys. They must be somewhere in the house, and since La Casa de Tontería is small, you’d think I’d quickly find them. But no.

They weren’t in yesterday’s garbage. I found three pens and a thumb drive beneath the sofa cushions. The catch-all table is clear. Still no keys.

My annoyance with myself is rising. I made it a habit to hang the keys on a magnetic hook on the inside of the front door. I also had habits of making the bed, hanging up my jacket, and packing a lunch.

It amazes me that letting one good habit fall creates a domino-effect of destruction.

But pardon me now. I have to continue the hunt.


Pinching Pennies to Spend Dollars

It’s the time of year when I have to think about what projects I can get done during the summer. Recent flooding rain and rapid-growing weeds have made the choice clear: fill in low spots, fix drainage, and create some weed-free zones where water collects. (And replace the shed… hoo boy!)

Unfortunately, there are costs involved, including hiring a surveyor to figure out if my neighbor’s fence is on my property and where the new, smaller shed can go since the township has decided to enforce zoning laws.*

I am reining in discretionary spending.

One of the usual culprits is eating out. I live in a tourist area with wonderful restaurants, so I could eat out every day per month without a repeat visit. The bonus is that, with a culinary school nearby, the food tastes great and healthy options abound.  Just yesterday, Baby Bro and I enjoyed an Irish-style pub dinner.

The downside is the cost of eating out instead of dining in, which Simple Dollar explains well here.

Another surprising cost is what I call “hobby costs”: materials, tools, and classes for things I rarely do. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new container of stripper and later found a half-full container in a cupboard. In the last few months, I’ve purchased drawing paper, new pens, and an extra ink cartridge because I couldn’t find my existing supplies.

I will spend a bit more time hunting in closet corners “from here on out,” as we say around here. I’ll also make gardening my chief hobby until it looks presentable.


*If I haven’t told the story of “Jerkface MacGuyver and the Builders Without Permits,” I will try when I’m feeling stronger. It’s like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” but with township officials in place of the bears.

September 2018 Progress Report

It was the best of times, it was the mediocrest of times. (NOTE: not a real word)

Budget Planning

My dearest, oldest friend laughed when I told her about the no-spending challenge. To paraphrase, she thought I was just asking for trouble. After paying for a transmission repair, dry cleaning, and bandages and ointments, I agree! That’s not including the waste of money on groceries like beans and grains I cannot eat on restricted diet.

I will not go into the details. Suffice to say that my savings account dropped drastically.


I need a plumbing inspection, a survey, and an estimate on a shed. Due to budget constraints, I contented myself with collecting papermill boxes (free!) to serve as weedblockers when I transplant plants.

I also gathered acorns to put out for the squirrels this winter. Bonus: fewer seedlings sprouting from various and sundry places.

American Life Cleaning VS the Middle School Mafia

Faithful readers may remember that last year The Young Human Factory shuffled the duties of employees, resulting in my new position as a Quality Control Inspector for the self-same hooligans that terrorize the neighborhood. This year, there are MORE widgets stuffed into my room.

They are like adorable deranged monkeys on Kickstart, Redbull, and whatever bad-idea beverage they can get their paws on.

Case in point: Last year, a boy got in trouble for picking paint off the walls while a substitute was covering the class. This year, while I was in charge of the room, one of the teeming horde continued the deconstruction. It dug through the blah beige of the Nineties, through the turquoise of the Eighties, and down to the Seventies’ persimmon orange.

I had to halt the production line and proclaim a Bold New Strategy(tm) of historic site preservation before anyone passed the psychedelic Sixties and reached deep enough to break through the brick and into the Tenth Dimension.

On the flip side, they say thank you and please and I spend only a couple hours each day contacting their progenitors, the discipline officer, and law enforcement.

But as a result, I come home and achieve little besides daily chores. Better luck this month!

August 2018 Progress Report, Part I

I had possibly the worst circumstances I’ve ever had for progressing on my goals. The antibiotic I took at the beginning of the month made me photosensitive and lightheaded. The final one gave me side effects that interfered with digestion and sleep.

As much as possible, I rolled with the punches. Wide awake at 2 am? Time to spackle the bathroom walls. Too dizzy to stand on a ladder? Work at the table.

In the end, I got quite a lot done. Continue reading