Why Dating Didn’t Work (Reflections on 2019)

Last January, we created a project called 48 Great Dates, whereby we were going to alternate the planning (and execution) of a weekly date for 48 of the 52 weeks in 2019. From the get-go, our endeavor to do something “fun” was anything but. We found that either the planning part was a hassle or the “do something fun” part led us to do things that were somewhat fun but actually took us away from doing something we really wanted to do. Example: Going to play indoor mini-golf on a beautiful January day when we really just wanted to be outside.

After a few weeks of headaches with the dating game, we decided to change the rules. We opted instead to just try to do something together, without interruption, at least once a week. We could plan it in advance, or not. It could even be something we were going to do anyway – like go to a festival or pick peaches at the U-pick farm. This seemed to work out better (in the beginning) but even with the modified rules, we lost interest.

Now let me clarify. We lost interest in the dating game, not in doing things together or in each other. What we actually learned was that we didn’t really need to “date”. We weren’t disconnected or failing to find time for one another. We spend at least 150 of our 168 hours each week together. Even when one of us is writing (me) and the other is working out (Angie), we are in the same space together. I can see her jumping up and down in front of the TV and she can see me giving her annoyed looks from across the room as I try to concentrate.

All jokes aside, we love each other tremendously. We tease each other relentlessly – it’s just one of our things. And we do so many things together – from washing dishes to putting a jigsaw puzzle together – that dating seemed so contrived.

We managed to put together a montage of 38 outings or activities that you can loosely call dates in 2019 but quickly decided that this was a project we would not repeat or recommend (unless you are actually in the dating phase of your relationship or are indeed trying to rekindle a spark that has gotten buried in the busyness of life). You’re welcome to read about each date (the good, the bad, and the indifferent) on our 48 Great Dates page and see if there are any ideas you might like to use. We did do some fun things, a lot of which would be great to do as a family or “just because”. Many of them, we’ll probably do again ourselves (we just won’t be calling them dates).

For the other nerds out there who love numbers and statistics (like me), here’s the details of our project:

  • We spent a total of $492.55 on 38 dates.
  • 13 dates cost $0.
  • On average, we spent $13 per date ($19.70 per date if you factor out the free ones).
  • Our most expensive date was #24: Camping in Crossville ($65).
  • 19 dates took place outdoors and included U-pick farms, nature walks, and letterboxing.
  • 9 dates took us to places we might not have visited otherwise, including a book signing at Whole Foods, the Tennessee State Museum, and Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace Museum.
  • While it seemed (to us) that many of our dates revolved around food, only 6 dates were all about dining out.
  • 5 dates took place at home and included movie night, making tamales, and a spa day.
  • My favorite date: #13: All Ablaze for Good Food
  • Angie’s favorite date: #27: Pickin’ Again – Peaches!

Though we might not repeat this dating project, we didn’t come away empty handed. We learned a few things along the way. First, we learned that creating a 365-project simply for the sake of having a 365-project doesn’t work for us. We have many, many goals and ideas for the direction of our life as a minimalist couple. Taking on a project that’s’ not necessarily aligned with those goals is somewhat counterproductive. Midway through our dating project, we found that we were just doing things because we said that we would, so we stopped. We still did the things we would normally do for fun but we rerouted the time and energy wasted in planning dates to other parts of our life. Second, we realized that we have fun together doing nothing. Angie and I could both be curled up the couch reading a book and we’re just as happy as we are when we’re out on the town.

Reading time!

And last but not least, we learned that what makes our relationship successful isn’t the amount of time we spend with one another or even how that time is spent together. It’s wanting the same things in life and having common goals.

As you know, we have decided not to do a 365-project in 2020. Instead, we’re focusing on a couple of goals – some fun, some serious, but all important. Be sure to check those out at in the post New Decade = A New Take on Old Ideas and leave a comment below with your thoughts on 2019. Was it a successful year for you? Did you complete a 365-project? We’d love to hear your story!

New Decade = A New Take on Old Ideas

After 5 years of having an annual 365-project, we have decided not to do one this year. At first I thought it would be hard to go into 2020 without a plan – a defined direction for our year – but I soon realized just how much opportunity lies in not planning.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have goals. We do. We even have a bucket list of things we want to do this year. The big difference between 2020 and years past though is that there’s no overarching theme, no point we’re trying to prove, and no lessons we’re hoping to learn. We just want to do things that move us further in the direction of our overall life goals. What are those goals, you might be asking. They’re pretty simple – to live intentionally, to continue to avoid debt, to remain lifelong learners and experimenters, and to explore the world around us.

With that being said, we sat down together (okay, we were actually in the car) to discuss our vision for the coming year. Out of that discussion came a few rules, a few goals, and a whole lot of cool ideas that we’d like to share with you. So here goes…
The Rules

Some folks like rules, some don’t. Rules can be important when there’s an activity or behavior that you don’t want to continue or repeat, and our rules are born from that concept. There were a few things we did in 2019 that we don’t want to do again (ever) because they detract from our goals. So we wrote them down:

  • Don’t buy anything that we don’t immediately need. The foundation of minimalism is reducing clutter. Even well intentioned purchases – like 50-cent garage sale flower pots for the patio garden we keep trying to create – can become clutter (especially when you realize nothing is ever going to grow on your patio).
  • Don’t chase money. Every job, gig, or side hustle needs to make sense from both a financial and time perspective. A $10/hour job that takes 10 hours is not the same as a $25/hour job that takes 4 hours – even though the end result may be the same.
  • Don’t bring garbage into the house. As much as we’d love to, we can’t save every piece of clothing, household good, and furniture item from the landfill. Sometimes other people’s garbage has to stay where it’s at. If we don’t have an immediate use for it or can’t take it to a thrift store, we just can’t bring it into our home.
  • Don’t let fear hold us back. The secret to our success has always been in trusting ourselves first. We appreciate (and respect) the advice of our family members but sometimes those words only serve to create fear. Life without a “real job” is a scary prospect for most folks. We are not those folks and we have to remind ourselves of that – every day, if necessary – especially if we are going to make this unconventional plan of ours work long term.

But enough with the dos and don’ts. Let’s get to the fun stuff.
Our Goals

With all the time we have from not doing the things we don’t want to do, what are we actually going to do? Well, we (as in I) will be doing a bit more blogging. I plan to make 2 posts per week this year, instead of just one. You can look forward to seeing something every Wednesday, along with alternating Fridays and Mondays. I’m still playing with the idea of using a theme – like Minimalist Mondays or Field Trip Fridays – but I’m not sure yet. I welcome your thoughts on that.

It also goes without saying that our biggest goal/challenge this year is going to be living on our jobless income. This is a post all unto itself and I plan to cover it in more detail later this month.

As for our fun goals, we each got to choose one for the year and surprisingly when we shared them with one another, they went together so well you’ll think we conspired to create them (but we didn’t). To set the scene – I told Angie at breakfast one day to think about what fun thing she’d like to accomplish in 2020, based only on the theme “20 in 20”. After lunch, we shared our ideas.

Angie: To go on 20 hikes in 2020.

Me: To visit 20 Tennessee State Parks.

See?! Great minds think alike! So that’s our 20 in 20 goal – to go on a hike in 20 different TN State Parks this year. There’s no length requirement, just a requirement to get out and go.

Playing on that 20 in 20 theme, we also thought it might be fun (and good for us) to do 20 minutes of physical activity (ie. stretching, walking, or something similar) ever day this year. We usually don’t have a problem being active but this will help on those days when we just want to veg out (like today).

Speaking of veg, we will be super-focused on growing and preserving our own food this year. We have plans to add a new raised bed to the garden and maybe a small greenhouse. This will give us more growing space, which we desperately need since our blackberries are in full production and we won’t be planting anything near them going forward. We kind of had a jungle in that bed last year.
The Cool Ideas

Road trips, road trips, and more road trips! Okay, yes, we miss traveling.

Combining our love of gardening and travel, we plan on going to the Baker Creek Seed Festival in May. We have friends in the area and can’t wait to see them, plus it really has been way too long since we’ve been on a road trip. We also hope to complete our minor league baseball mission – to attend a game of all of the Tampa Bay Ray’s affiliates. We started this when we lived in Florida and only have one left – the Durham Bulls.

When dreaming up cool ideas, all sorts of stuff pops into your head. (You know I’m right.) Some of it’s possible, some not so much. From a list of about a million different (crazy) ideas, these are the things that made our actual 2020 Bucket List.

  • Make soap and candles
  • Tour a farm
  • Milk a cow or a goat
  • Watch the sunrise and sunset all in one day
  • Catch a fish and cook it ourselves
  • Learn to use chopsticks
  • Play tourist in our own town
  • Walk across the largest pedestrian suspension bridge in the US (it’s in TN)
  • Sew new curtains for the entire apartment
  • Go snow tubing
  • Hike a section of the Appalachian Trail

So there you have it. A year of planning not to plan anything except the stuff that furthers our life plan 😉

What are your goals for 2020? What items made your Bucket List?