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!

Better Me, Better World: Year in Review

Tomorrow starts a brand new year, with 365 exciting opportunities to do something you’ve never done before. How cool is that?? I know I’m pretty happy about it. I’m happy to start something new but I’m also happy to post the results of our year long Better Me, Better World project. We had two goals this year – to live simply and strive toward zero food waste. Here’s how we did on both:

Better Me Goal: Live simply. Prove that we can live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life with less.

Yard Sale Puzzles

Last January, we set a budget and for the most part, we stuck to it. There were some splurges along the way, mostly at yard sales and the Farmer’s Market, but we had no extravagant expenditures. Even when I had to get a new cell phone, I bought one that was two generations old and on sale. Our vacations were cheap. Our fun dates out were frugal. Our fun days staying in were also filled with cheap activities – knitting, coloring, putting together yard-sale puzzles, watching free documentaries, and reading. This year, we read 52 books between the two of us.

Frugal living allowed us to save $7,166 toward retirement, travel, and emergencies. Our net pay from my job was $29,778.72 this year. We received another $3,557.32 from side hustles, gifts, and proceeds from our decluttering efforts. While I know saving 22% of one’s income is something to be proud of, I still feel conflicted when it comes to money. This is something I plan to work on in 2019.

Another of our Better Me goals was to eat a mostly plant-based diet, with no more than 10% of meals containing meat. I’m pleased to say that only 8.8% of the meals we consumed in 2018 contained meat. We had a total of 322 completely meatless days. As the year went on, we made a few other adjustments to our diet. We started taking a harder look at ingredients and buying more organic, non-GMO products when possible. (Our rule of thumb on fresh produce is that saving a fruit or veggie from becoming waste trumps where it comes from. In other words, dumpster finds don’t have to be organic or non-GMO.)

Hiking in Lafayette, TN

We (or rather I) attempted to be more active. Angie already does some sort of stretchy resistance band/jumping around the room routine 2-3 mornings per week. My thoughts are with her, but my body is usually sitting at my desk. To trick me into exercising, Angie would often tell me that we were going to walk to the dumpster or the thrift store or go to the park for a picnic (followed by a walk). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being outdoors. I enjoy hiking and paddling (both of which we did this year) but if you call it exercise, my brain refuses to allow my body to participate. If you call it play, we’re all in though. And if you call it yard work or gardening, I will stay outside all day – hauling compost or raking leaves or pruning plants – until my muscles are as sore as any athlete. With that being said, we did try to take more walks this year. I’m not sure how far we walked/hiked though. We were up to 110 miles at the beginning of August when my fake Fitbit died. I have yet to replace it.

Self-score: A-

I always think there’s room for improvement when it comes to living more simply. There were times this year that we used our wallet instead of our brain to solve a problem and in every single one of those cases, the problem got worse. For example, we spent $160 on 2 pair of barefoot running shoes because we read that it was a “more natural” way to walk and would reduce stress on our feet. Within just a few weeks, I went from sore, tired feet after a long walk to full-blown plantar fasciitis. It was awful! Then there was the matter of the folding kayaks. We thought owning a kayak again would get us out on the water more often. The first time I tried to fold my origami kayak, I nearly passed out from heat exhaustion. It took 4 people 30 minutes of wrestling with plastic to get it set up, only to have it collapse inward in the water. We ended up selling both pair of shoes and both kayaks at a slight loss. The better path would have been the $25 super comfortable hiking boots I ultimately bought on sale at Academy and renting a kayak for the afternoon.

Better World Goal: Zero-food-waste. Prove that one couple can have an impact in reducing global food waste.

Volunteering with SoSA

When we first set this goal, our plan was to simply continue our food rescue efforts (aka dumpster diving) at the grocery next door, possibly interviewing other dumpster divers and talking with management about their food waste policies, but their remodel in the spring shut down the store for 3 months and for a while thereafter, it seemed as if the amount of food being tossed out was improving. Not to be deterred, we opted to go in a different direction and help reduce food waste through volunteer work. In April, we worked with Compost Nashville to direct food waste into its proper receptacle at VegFest. From May through July, we worked with Society of St. Andrew to glean the Nashville Farmer’s Market after market day. Through our efforts, we rescued and donated 133 pounds of produce to our charity of choice, the Nashville Rescue Mission. Overall, SoSA volunteers gleaned 11,520 pounds of food from farmers’ markets in Tennessee during the 2018 summer and fall season.

Throughout the year, we did keep an eye on the dumpster next door. Our total dumpster haul for the year was 348.11 pounds. The majority of this was comprised of fresh produce, breads, and 3 spiral-sliced hams. We shared our finds with 10 individuals. A few non-perishable items were placed in the Blessing Box, a brand-new free pantry outside of the Baptist church down the street.

We also had the opportunity to talk with a few key folks in our community about food waste this year. During Grit, Grace, Grub, a culinary scavenger hunt hosted by our city’s Chamber of Commerce, we spoke at length to the manager of one of the local chain restaurants involved. She was impressed with our project and even brainstormed a few ideas with us on how she could reduce food waste. Our biggest success though was when we were contacted by the executive chef of a full-service 76-suite independent living (55+) community that was just opening an hour north of us. His board wanted buffet style meals served 3 times a day and as a new facility, he was concerned about the potential for food waste, since full occupancy could take at least a year to achieve. He had been told that donating cooked food was illegal and he wanted to know what his options were for reducing food waste. We talked to him about the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 and he presented our information to his board. The facility now donates their food overages to the local homeless shelter and battered women’s shelter.

At home, we continued to plan our meals and source local foods first and reduced-to-clear items second. We scored well with both, and with our tiny garden, which produced cowpeas, squash, tomatoes, blackberries, snack peppers, jalapenos, radishes, cilantro, and green beans this year.

We also increased our composting efforts, adding a new finishing composter (made completely out of rescued materials) for year-round composting. In total, we turned 115 gallons of food and yard scraps into dirt for the garden. Though we did not have a zero-waste year, we did manage to reduce our food waste to only 15.73 pounds for the year (for our family of two). About ¼ of this waste came from a problem with our refrigerator/freezer door that defrosted several items before we knew it. Maintenance replaced the fridge and we salvaged what we could, but I was afraid to eat the meatless meatballs and bay scallops after they had been thawed.

Self-score: A

I think we could have done a little better on our food waste but I’m not going to complain too much about having less than 8 pounds of waste apiece. (The average American wastes 250 pounds of food per year.)

How was your year? Did you reach or exceed your goals?