Better Me, Better World

During the month of December we schemed and dreamed about the kind of project we wanted to do in the upcoming year. Coming off an interesting (though less than spectacular) look at personal happiness in 2017, we knew we wanted something that was exciting, something that would make a visible difference in our lives, and something we could both get behind with enthusiasm. For a while it seemed we were on two divergent paths. We wanted to reconnect with minimalism and again the idea of a no-spend year got bantered around, as did uber-frugality and buying a tiny house. Yet at the same time, we also wanted to step up our pet project – reducing food waste – and see if we could do something more on that front. After going back and forth on the pros and cons of each, we came to the realization that the two paths are actually connected. We can do both.

And so a theme was born – Better Me, Better World.

Our recent Happiness Project really drove home the fact that for a project to be successful, it has to be specific and measurable so on each side of the equation, we set some goals.

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

  • Set a budget and stick to it. Strive for no unplanned spending.
  • Buy used when possible.
  • Eat a mostly plant-based diet, with no more than 10% of meals containing meat.
  • Do something active 3 times a week.

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

  • Plan meals.
  • Continue food rescue – focusing on making reduced-to-clear/quick-sale items the first point of purchase when grocery shopping.
  • Buy local foods.
  • Grow a garden.
  • Compost year-round.

For our Food Waste Project, I set up a separate page to give a little background information and outline the bigger picture of what we’re hoping to accomplish this year. If you’ve followed any of our past dumpster diving expeditions, you’ll want to check it out for sure. We tallied our dumpster finds and even we were astonished! That page lives here: 2018 Food Waste Project.

We’re definitely excited about 2018. We’re sure that it will be full of fun and adventure, lots of laughs and learning.

What’s on tap for you this year?


Our 2017 Happiness Project

Happy New Year to everyone! May 2017 be your best year yet!

We are certainly hoping that our 2017 goes well and is a year of great happiness. To make it so, we’ve been tossing around all sorts of ideas for the past month on where to focus our attention for the next 365 days.

First, we thought about a no-spend year. In fact, Angie loved this idea. She thinks we spent too much money this year. I’m pretty sure we spent the same amount of money we usually spend (with the exception of car repairs, which were more). It just seemed as if we spent more because much of our spending was not for ourselves.

We also talked about a zero-waste year, until I explained that zero-waste meant absolutely no non-recyclable packaging whatsoever. Since we don’t have a bulk store within 30 miles of us, we thought this might be more stressful than it was worth. Instead, we decided to continue recycling, composting, and being mindful of the waste we produce.

Our next thought was a vegetarian year. That was nixed too since my mom is making ribs today and not eating would hurt her feelings. We care a lot more about showing appreciation for her efforts than we do about eliminating the already minimal amount of meat we eat in our diet. Plus, her ribs are out of this world (and she only makes them once a year).

So what did we choose?

On Thursday, I was leaning toward declaring the no-spend year the winner when something happened that changed my mind. My sister, her mother-in-law, and my 2 nephews came over to pick up their Christmas gifts. Most of the visit was spent listening to them talk about my niece and all of the “bad” things she had done that year. At some point, I’d had enough and in a headache-induced haze, I blurted out something that sounded like, “Our New Year’s Resolution this year is to focus on our own happiness. We can’t be involved in this back and forth drama anymore.”

Sadly, instead of taking my words to heart, the drama only accelerated, with some not-so-nice things being posted on Facebook that evening. This pretty much ruined the rest of our day and only succeeded in making my niece feel awful and unloved.

Following this little incident, Angie and I spent the some time talking about our own path in life, how we had allowed ourselves to repeatedly be sucked into drama since moving to TN, and how that drama was impeding our own happiness. We didn’t have these problems when we lived in Florida. Our time was our own and with it we pursued only those things that made us happy. Now, each day starts with dread…dread of when (not if) the phone will ring and someone will want something from us. It’s awful to feel this way and even more awful to look back on an entire year of our life and realize how unhappy we have been (compared to what we used to be).

My harried declaration to my sister has now become our actual resolution for this year and we are launching a Happiness Project for 2017.


I first read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project in 2010. In the book, Gretchen spends a year studying happiness and applying what she learned to her own life. At the time, it was inspiring and a lot of what she said really resonated with me. Today, it makes even more sense to me. To her quote above, I’d add the negative emotions of frustration, disappointment, and anger – all the things that I’ve felt this year. Something indeed has to change and by refocusing our attention on happiness, we aim to make 2017 a year of gratitude, triumph, and peaceful joy.

A lot of folks resolve to be a better person in the new year and set various milestones to achieve this goal. We just want to be the people we used to be – the nutty, happy couple who could do anything they set their mind to. Happiness for us begins with regaining control of our time and doing things for ourselves again, so to kick-off our project, Angie and I both made a list of the things that make us happy. The commonalities were:

  • Travel
  • Enjoying quiet time together reading, writing, coloring, or watching TV
  • Being outdoors
  • Letterboxing
  • Being resourceful – figuring out how to do things for ourselves
  • Saving money and finding bargains/freebies
  • Cooking and/or trying new foods

Around this happiness list, we created some specific goals for 2017. Those goals are posted here: Our 2017 Happiness Project Bucket List

Over the next year, working this bucket list will be our focus – not my family, not their drama, and definitely not the unhappy year that is now behind us. I invite you to follow along as we take a proactive, positive approach to achieving happiness on our own terms.