The Not So Successful Side Hustle: An Update

You may recall that I recently started an unsuccessful side hustle. I never claimed to be an entrepreneur and I definitely am not much of a salesperson, but last year I thought I would try my hand in selling some stuff online. The last time I posted, I was just trying eBay, but I asked for your opinions on FB Marketplace and you all said to do it, so I did. 

I won't say that it started off easy. First of all, I was afraid. I don't really love people knowing my details and FB shows your name and could possibly involve your address. I am not a huge fan of people coming over to my house, unless it is specifically scheduled, and I do not really want people inside my house. However, I decided to do a Shonda Rhimes and call this "the year of yes" and just get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

The first thing I listed was a stationary bike. I immediately got three replies, all offering me the exact amount I had listed it for. Hurray!! Or should I say, hurray? My Spidey senses went up, I looked at the profiles of the buyers and all of them were created in 2023 and had no personal info. I blocked and reported all three. My first adversary, slayed! After that, weeks went by with no further inquiries. 

I decided to try something a little more simple, cheaper and that did not need two people to lift it. I listed an end table, had an inquiry the next day, and had a pleasant conversation with the buyer over messenger. However, our times were not jiving, so face to face pick up was going to be difficult. I decided at that moment to offer to leave it on the porch and she could get it when she could and just leave me money. I figured if she wanted it that bad, she could just take it. However, she was super sweet, came and got it and left me money and then communicated (gasp!) that she had done so. I was converted! 

After that I listed a bunch of other things and after about six months, I have mixed feelings. Firstly, there are a ton of flakey people. So many people ask if the item is available and even if I reply right away, they ghost me after that. I have had people ask questions about details that are in the description (and I always include dimensions, info about stains, chips, tears etc.). I want to tell them to read the bloody description and stop wasting my time, but I usually don't. I have had people fully commit, ask me to hold the item, set up a time and then ghost me. I have had people set up a time and then come an hour early! People are strange. 

However, I have had some good ones and I thought I would give a seller's perspective on the perfect buyer. 

(1) The perfect buyer does not use the auto inquiry "Hi, is this available?" (often used even when the items are plural, by the way). 

(2) The perfect buyer has personality and says something like, "Hello [insert seller's name here], I was wondering if this was still available. If so, I would be able to come and get it today." ***side note, are there a lot of sellers who don't take down their listing even if they have sold the item? There must be, because I get A LOT of  "is this still available" inquiries. It's still listed! Yes it is still available!***

(3) The perfect buyer sets up a time to get the item as soon as possible. An actual time, not "tomorrow" or "later today" or my favorite, "after 9 pm." (they clearly don't know me). The perfect buyer then messages their ETA when they leave, when they are 5 mins away and when they are outside. I love these people! LOVE THEM. 

(4) The perfect buyer does not set up a time, come to my house and THEN ask if they can get the item for half off. The perfect buyer haggles in advance, settles on a price and then sets up a meeting time. 

(5) The perfect buyer pays cash, in exact amounts, but I will not be mad if they want to use Venmo. 

(6) The perfect buyer sends a photo of the item later, happy in its new home. 🧡 

So clearly everyone is different, and I am sure the buyers out there have some horror stories about the sellers (and I want to hear them!) but it seems like sometimes common courtesy is just lacking. I actually went down a wormhole of this reddit thread and wow, there really are some way worse horror stories than I have had! 

But wait, let me tell you about the saga of the suitcases. I have a set of suitcases; there are three of them, they are hard sided, they have four spinning wheels. They are nice suitcases. I only used the smallest of the three a couple of times, but I decided I was a backpack person and they sat in the garage for years. I listed them for about half of what I got them for, even though they are essentially unused. Since I listed these cases, I probably have had almost a thousand clicks on them. And for some reason, everyone who is interested in the suitcases has some issue or other. 

The accursed luggage. 

The first guy seemed like a creeper as he did not ask any questions about the cases, but just asked for my address right away, so I ignored him after that.

This lady told me she wasn't a flake, which made me suspicious.  Also that looks like a copy-paste. Hm. 

Several other people set up times and then ghosted me. Here is an example. (before this first clip, I told her I would be available from 12 pm to 1 pm). 

At 12:57, no word. So I messaged her. 

After this, she gave me another thumbs up and then the next day, did not show, did not message, nothing. 

Here is another good one. This lady messages me on Tuesday afternoon and says: Hi do all the wheels work smoothly? I just had to return a luggage set to a lady on market place. The wheels ended up being all wonky and not wheeling properly. I’m leave for a long trip Thursday and need something durable. 

So I am thinking that she sounds like one of the ladies I used to serve at Nordstrom; they would buy shoes but as they were buying them would complain about shoes and you knew, you JUST knew that they were going to wear them once and then return them (which goes against your commission if they do) after wearing them. Also, their party or whatever would be the next day and they would complain about how they just can't find anything perfect (and you would be thinking that it doesn't seem strange to you!) yet! 

BUT I message her and tell her that the wheels work great but I am only available Tuesday evening, not Wednesday. She goes on to then ask me my address (why!) and I give her the general area, thinking that we have a sale. Then she asks for $25 less than the listed price, which by the way is about 25% less, and when I counter, she doesn't agree, but just asks if we can set up pickup for tomorrow, and I reiterate that I am not available Wednesday and then... she ghosts me. Mind you, this exchange took place over six hours. So she texted me at the last minute (for her vacation) and then draws out the conversation and then doesn't want to come and get it as soon as possible!? I don't get it. 

On the other hand, if you ever DO want to get into a side hustle, for some reason around here, plants are the way to go. Remember I talked about emptying out my plant room? Well, I was going to just put them all out on the curb with a "free" sign, but I thought what the heck, I will give FB a shot. I listed about 15 indoor plants and over the next day, I sold about 9 of them and made almost $200! Listen, I listed them cheap, including the pots, but I was going to give them away for free, so I was super happy. Drinks are on me! Plus, if you recall, many of these were propagated by me, so aside from the pot and the time, they didn't really cost me much to begin with! 

Plants for sale!! 

Do I know how to make a short story long, or what!?!? Thank you for listening, and thanks to those of you who commented on my original post and prodded me to just give it a shot. 

Do you have buyer or seller horror stories? Are people in your area as flakey as the ones here? But most importantly, why are the suitcase people so weird!?!?!? I need hypotheses! 


A Few of Elisabeth's Thoughts On Travel

As you know, I love to travel! I am always curious about how other people plan, how they started their travel journey, where they have been and what they liked. I think that talking to others is a great way to get ideas for future trips and also a great way to form connections with other people. I also love to ask questions and am a very curious person, although I think that some people are not as impressed by it as others!! Luckily, my guest is not only an avid traveler, but she also doesn't mind me picking her brain and is happy to answer my questions with gusto! 

She probably does not need much of an introduction, so I will get right to it: please welcome my guest for today, Elisabeth. I was drawn to her because she loves to travel, is friendly and easy to talk to, is frank about her feelings, is a staunch thrift store shopper, and is just an all around good person. But enough out of me, let's get to the Q and A already! (Also, you can find my answers to Elisabeth's questions over on her site today!) 

For the readers who don't know you, please tell us where you are from, a little bit about who you are and one thing that even those who know you may not know about you. 

I have lived my whole life on the Eastern side of Canada. I was born in New Brunswick, moved to Nova Scotia as a toddler, moved back to New Brunswick as a teen, and then moved back to Nova Scotia as an adult! Aside from the winters, I am a Maritimer at heart. 

Baby Elisabeth

I’m married to an incredible man named John (here's some backstory on our entrepreneurial history together) - and we have two children; a 12-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son.

I had to think for a while about what surprising fact I might not have shared before (this may hint that I’m an oversharer). Most people know I hate water on my face, have a crazily sensitive back, and am a direct descendant of William Wallace (aka Braveheart). What I don’t think anyone knows is that, in another family setting, I likely wouldn’t be writing these words today. Because of some high risk factors my mother had been warned not to have any more children after her third…seven years later she found out she was pregnant with me. My parents were shocked and the doctors were not amused. They told my mother in no uncertain terms she needed to terminate the pregnancy because they were certain I would have life limiting challenges. That wasn’t a decision my parents could support ethically, so my mom spent the rest of her pregnancy assuming I was going to have severe mental and physical limitations.

(Another lesser-known fact: a month after I was born, I won a local beautiful baby contest. My parents still have the trophy.) (K: I get that; you were a cute baby!) 

If I were to come and visit you for a three day weekend, where would you take me and why? 

This collage belongs on a travel website!

First, I’d say: 
Oh goodie! You will LOVE Nova Scotia. Then I’d get down to organizing an itinerary.

Day One: We’d start the day at our local farmer’s market to grab a fresh breakfast and coffee while listening to local musicians play outside. Then we’d hike the waterfront/dykeland trail all the way to Grand Pré (a Unesco World Heritage Site). We’d walk back to town (an 8 km round trip) for a well-earned lunch at my favourite local eatery: the Naked Crepe. We’d wander around the various stores in downtown Wolfville for several hours and pop into my favourite cafe for a warm drink and some baked goods before driving out to Scott’s Bay for an evening of beachcombing, complete with a bonfire, seaside picnic, and incredible views of the setting sun.

Day Two: We’d hike Cape Split (one of the most famous trails in all of Nova Scotia; about 13 km return), picnicking at the summit. Then we’d make our way to Blomidon Provincial Park to take in the soaring bright red cliffs, and trek through the mud to the water's edge. On our way home we’d stop at Medford Beach, which is located just fifteen minutes from my town but it looks like another planet. We’d explore all the formations before heading home to clean up and then I’d make a home cooked supper (Chicken Mango Curry, rice, and cornbread). 

Day Three: We’d start at Peggy’s Cove - perhaps my favourite spot in all of Nova Scotia - followed by a trip to the South Shore. We’d spent a few hours walking around Lunenburg and Mahone Bay (quaint little towns full of colourful shops), followed by a stop at a local white-sand beach.

Cape Sable

If we had a bonus day, I’d hire someone to take us out to Cape Sable - an island just off the coast of Nova Scotia with one of the tallest lighthouses in the country (103 ft.) and a whole lot of sheep. It’s breathtaking and you would love it. (K: That all sounds perfect, plus I see you added some hiking; thanks! Also I can't wait to try your curry and cornbread! Also I am so glad that Peggy's Cove made the list.) 

What was the first place you remember traveling to, who were you with and what did you do? 

I’m going to cheat and answer this three ways. 

The first place I traveled regularly was our family cottage. It had no electricity or running water and it was the most magical place on earth. We’d go for 3.5-4 weeks each summer and be completely off grid. I LOVED it. My siblings were a lot older, so in later years it was just me with my parents, but early in life it would have been our whole family of 6. I’ve been there every year since birth, so that doesn’t really feel like the answer you’re looking for?

The next travel adventure was taking a 2.5 hour ferry from Digby, Nova Scotia to Saint John, New Brunswick to visit my maternal grandmother. These trips were SO exciting and I always went with just my mom. 

The last memory I'll share is when I was 11 - the first time I left Canada. We drove to South Carolina for my sister’s wedding and I thought it was the most exciting thing I’d ever done in my life. Everything looked different. Miles instead of kilometers on speed signs, gallons instead of liters of milk at the grocery store. I was enraptured. I turned 12 on the day she got married <3 (K: I bet that was fun; my first experience in real life with km and l was when I was in my 20s!) 

If the above was not by plane, tell us a little about the first place you went to by plane. Do you remember how you felt about flying for the first time? 

I flew to St. John’s Newfoundland when I was 19 for a conference where I presented research from my Honour’s thesis. I don’t really remember how I felt; likely very embarrassed that I was the only one who had never flown and nervous I would mess it up somehow. (K: my first international flight was alone and my parents came with me to the gate! Remember those days?) 

What travel experience has been your favorite so far? And tell us one place we should go to if we go there ourselves. 

I don’t know if I can answer this? I have loved Paris and Rome the most, but I wouldn’t want to go there alone. I always prefer to travel with someone (preferably John), but if I had to explore a place alone, I’d likely pick NYC. (K: I love NYC and could wander the streets for hours and never get bored)

I will give you $10,000 but you have to spend it on travel to somewhere you have never been before. Tell me where you would go and what you would do. 

Either the Amalfi Coast - it just looks so beautiful - or Scotland. I know the latter is an odd choice, but I’ve always wanted to go for some reason; maybe because my family roots are strongly tied to that region? I also really want to go back to Iceland, but technically I've already been there...albeit just on an extended layover. (K: I have Iceland on my short list and can verify that you would love Scotland!) 

What is your opinion on traveling abroad with children? Is there an age that is too young? Are there certain places you would go or any you would steer clear of?

Elisabeth and fam in New York

How do I put this delicately? If I had the choice, I would always travel without kids at this point. John and I have done: Sydney, Australia (not to be confused with Sydney, Nova Scotia), the Dominican Republic, Paris, and Rome solo while my parents watched the kids. It didn’t feel like we could ask my aging parents to keep managing that responsibility, hence taking the kids to Barcelona. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I would rather be going just with John.

All that said, we did take our daughter to Denmark when she was a toddler. We have some great memories but it was also pretty miserable since her sleeping and eating was thrown completely out of whack. I’m a bit nervous about Barcelona and definitely would prefer to only travel with my kids (internationally at least) once they’re both teens.

Baby A in Denmark

Other people have very different feelings about traveling with kids. 

On the other hand, we have done a LOT of road trips with our kids and keep them very engaged with local adventuring. I never went outside the country before I was 12, so the things our kids have experienced already in life far outpaces my own. (K: they may not know it now, but these travels will shape them so much, and in so many good ways!) 

Tell us about something weird or scary that happened to you while traveling.

Hmmm. I’m drawing a blank here…I guess I could mention the time we booked the wrong dates for accommodations on the Cabot Trail. Once we realized our mistake, there was literally only one place left we could find an availability. There was a reason it was still available. The door to our motel room was wide open to the outside when we arrived, there were dead bugs all over the floor, and in the morning I realized my feet were getting wet. Turns out a pipe broke flooding our entire room! When John went to tell them at the check-in desk about what had happened, they didn’t seem the least bit surprised. We did not stay for the included breakfast but our daughter loves to retell this story so it has a happyish ending since it provided a lasting family memory. (K: Yikes! I once had a room in India with a poo-scented shower and dead mosquito guts on the walls and it was a horrible night of sleep, but I guess the worst experiences make for the best stories sometimes!) 

One state I have never been to is South Carolina and I know your sister lives there! If I went there for the weekend, what would you suggest I do? 

Charleston is lovely; walking across the Ravenel Bridge, strolling through the battery and looking at all the cool architecture makes for a great active adventure. The beach at Sullivan’s Island is lovely on a sunny day.

In Columbia - where she lives - the Riverbanks Zoo is wonderful if you have kids in tow. I’m not a zoo person, but this is my favourite of any I’ve visited. I also really love their new riverwalk; it snakes along a river and the whole (long!) path is lined with tall black lamp posts. It looks like something out of Narnia. 

Columbia River Walk

I’d also highly recommend befriending my sister and having her family take you out on Lake Murray for some tubing, a delicious picnic, before rounding out the evening by watching the sun set over the water. (K: Sign me up! I love new friends and tubing and picnic sounds great!)

Tell us about your travel planning process. Do you and your husband share tasks or does one of you do more planning? How far in advance do you plan? Do you stay in AirBnBs or hotels or BnBs, etc.!!? 

John books the flights and hotels. He consults me for the broad things - dates, general locations - but does all the rest of this process. We generally stay in hotels. He gets points by staying at many chains, and we make use of the bar fridges to store snack/breakfast items. We generally book plane tickets 4-5 months in advance, book accommodations 2-3 months in advance, and I start planning 2 months before we head out.

generally handle most of the itinerary. First I pull together a (very) rough draft of places from my initial research. Then I like to use search strings like “Best Free Things to Do in X” and “Hidden Gems in X.” I’ll read a dozen “Hidden Gems” articles, see what overlaps between them, and write down places I think would be especially interesting for us. Then I research each spot and pin them to a Google map if they seem to warrant a visit. 

Once the map is complete, I look for patterns and try to group our activities within a set radius each day (for example, for our Toronto/NYC family road trip in 2022, we spent our first full day in New York in midtown, the second day in Lower Manhattan/Brooklyn, and the final day in uptown). (K: I love using Google map pins! I did this with the Alaska trip and it made things so much easier!) 

What is your perfect day when you are "on the road"? 

Waking up refreshed, but early so we get to our first stop early to avoid lines. (The weather would be perfect of course; not too hot, not too cold.) We’d grab a coffee along the way, and maybe a local pastry or breakfast smoothie. After touring the first place, we’d meander for several hours, looking at local architecture or visiting some of those “hidden gems” I've discovered in my research. John would take lots of incredible photos. We’d enjoy a leisurely lunch and then head to another “main stop” before strolling around until we see a little market or store where we’d pick up supplies for a simple picnic enjoyed in front of a famous monument or square where we’d watch the sun go down and enjoy the magical transformation of a city/town/lake at night. (K: This sounds like a great day to me!) 

Do you have any follow up questions for Elisabeth? Who is the travel planner in your household? What place(s) would you go to if you had $10,000? 


West Coast Adventures

Happy Tuesday and for those of you who had yesterday off, I hope that you had a great long weekend! I had an adventure filled several days actually, and drove more last weekend than I have in a couple of months! First was a stop to Grass Valley, a town where gold was discovered in 1850. Their main mine, the Empire Mine was the richest hard rock mine in California, producing 5.8 million ounces of gold in its operating history of 106 years. Just to put that in perspective, currently one ounce of gold is sold for about $2,000.00! I spent a couple of days spending time with family, playing games and hiking around Empire Mine, which is now a park with dirt paths for hiking. 

Mill St. Grass Valley in December

Next, I headed to Monterey and Carmel for the annual MLK girls trip with K, A & L. We had a great time searching through the tidepools for fancy shells, eating candy, playing in the waves and watching the sea otters try to crack things while floating on their backs (they are so cute!) We also drove the 17 mile drive, which winds along the coast and has some great views! I think the girls were happier to just find shells on the beach and were not as impressed by the drive, but we had fun all the same! It rained a bit on Saturday and Sunday, but overall we had pretty good weather and I even got a tad burnt! 

Carmel Beach

Lone Cypress Tree - 17 Mile Drive

L looking for otters at the Monterey pier.

On Monday, I went with a friend to hike San Francisco's crosstown trail, which is a 17 mile trail that goes from Candlestick Point, which is on the southeast side of town to the Cliff House, which is on the northwest side of town. 

Crosstown trail map (found here)

It is actually a really cool taste of the city, and goes through some neighborhoods and parks that I had never been in before. It also tries to go on a lot of dirt, so it would randomly just pop into the trees on a path that you may not have even noticed. It also went on a lot of hidden stairways (which I have talked about before) and I found some of those too that I had not been on before. All in all, it was a great way to see the city in a different way than I had seen. However, it did go through some of the places on my 10 things to do in San Francisco list too, for example, we went on Irving Street and stopped there for pho!  

16th Ave. tiled steps - very cool mosaic! 

16th Ave. stairs with Ocean Beach in background.

Moraga stairs with downtown San Francisco in background.

Ocean Beach

This was the second "town tour" walk I have done in the last month; the first was the same kind of thing in the city of Pacifica on new year's weekend. So now I think I need to make one or find one for Oakland and that can be the next one in the tour of the town series! Maybe I will try to include some of my favorite nooks and crannies on my next tour! 

How was your weekend!? Have you ever been to the California coast? Have you ever done a walking tour or a long walk around the neighborhoods of your town? 


Looking Back: 2023 Money Pie

Who is ready for a slice of money pie? As you may know, I always do a debrief with myself at the end of each year to see where all my money has gone! I also do a quarterly net worth statement just to get a read on where things are, but I will not be posting that here! :) 

In 2023, I am happy to say that I decreased my overall spending from 2022 by about 12% and came in below my yearly (8 year) average by about 9%. The main drivers of this decrease were the travel and home categories, which I will talk more about below. 

Here are the categories in the order of largest percentage to smallest. 

Home: 63.2%. Interestingly, last year my home category was 63.7% of my overall spending and in 2021 it was 64.1%, so I guess no matter how you slice it, the home category continues to be almost two thirds of my spending! This category includes mortgage, utilities, taxes and insurance, as well as other misc. items, such as home improvement, maintenance and furnishings. 80% of this number is mortgage and property tax.  You may remember that I mentioned last year about how I was paying a little extra into my mortgage? This year, given the good rates on cash, I stopped doing that and put the money into high yield savings instead. Due to this, I decreased the actual dollar spending amount in this category by about 13% from last year. 

Transportation: 12.2%. This normally includes Lyft/Uber, public transportation, car insurance, maintenance, registration, gas, tolls & parking, but this year I added bike maintenance and parking fees to the category as well. Despite commuting by bike from July to December, I still had public transportation costs, but the main culprit in this category was body work after my car got broken into. I also got four new tires for the Red Rocket and did a full body tune up on Bertha. 

Travel: 6.6%. This category includes airfare, car rental, lodging and any groceries, dining out or transportation incurred while traveling. Although I did not travel internationally and much of my travel consisted of tent camping and eating my own meals, some of the other costs incurred during travel were quite expensive this year. I went to Alaska, and the rental car alone was about $1,500!! It was an SUV though and we actually slept in it several times, so saved on hotels, thank goodness. However, even with this, I spent about 50% less on this category than in 2022. 

Misc.: 4.4%. This category includes gifts, haircuts, legal fees, fees for credit cards, tax prep software and education expenses. I had to pay for my yearly CFA dues, legal fees to set up a trust and annual credit card fees, but other than that, the bulk of this category was for gifts! (PS no haircuts in 2023 😊)

Groceries: 3.7%. This category went down by 38% from last year, mostly due to the fact that part of my purging process was to stop buying new stuff until I had used up older stuff! I would say that I did a pretty good job and have had fun being creative with cupboard items, but I still bought the regulars like butter, eggs, fresh veggies and cheese. My other saving grace for this category was less trips to Costco and/or only allowing myself to buy what I went in there for! I do have a tendency to grab yummy looking things oh a whim, but this year I put a stop to that! Funny though, out of my six visits to Costco, I bought tortilla chips on five of them. Some habits you just can't break. 

Dining Out: 3.5%. This category includes eating out, coffee and booze. This one is a little misleading this year, as I decided that in an effort to spend time with people and have experiences rather than buying more things, I would enjoy meals with them! Given this, I bought meals for friends several times. I could technically call this "gifts," but for now I am going to leave it as dining out. However, it does inflate this category a bit, and I had a 200% increase over last year. 

Entertainment: 3.1%. This category includes music, theater, sporting events, cycling and running & camping expenses. In 2023, I went to two shows (Les Mis and Book of Mormon), a couple of sporting events, but my biggest categories for this are still running (32%), hiking (20%) and cycling (19%). My biggest purchases were race fees (three races), a new GPS watch and a new rain jacket. 

Health: 2.6%. This category includes health insurance, out of pocket costs, massages, medicines and vitamins etc. This year most of my visits were covered as preventative, so the bulk of this cost is the insurance itself. 

Shopping: 0.8%. This category includes toiletries, clothing, misc. home items & appliances, electronics and books. Basically this year I bought three things in this category: a new camera, a 3-pack of underwear that I hated and feminine products. Trying to purge more has really made me think about things more before buying. Also some of the camping etc. items I did buy are included under the entertainment category. 

I do also put some money aside for investments and saving each year, but since this money is not yet "spent" I do not count it in this analysis. I also do not include income taxes, but if I did, they would probably be my highest category! However, since I don't have much control over them, I am going to leave them out for now. 

Do you do a yearly review of your finances? Do you have a budget? What is your biggest spending category? 


Looking Back: Purging Progress Report Q4

Well folks, the year has ended and it's once again time to be accountable for what my plans were at the beginning of the year. As you know, I try to purge a little each month every year so that I don't get a glut of things that I have to eventually go through all at once. My three areas I wanted to work on for the last three months of they year were reading nook, health and plants. 

Reading Nook: This is a room with several bookshelves and a nice chair to sit and read in, plus it has windows on two sides, so it has a lot of light. For this reason it is also my plant room. I wanted to read some books on my shelves and get rid of them, as well as get rid of the books I have kept with the intention of reading again but not reread. 

Reading Nook -- Before

Reading Nook -- After (don't mind the disassembled shelving)

I found I was keeping books just to have them, but decided that if I moved again, I do not want to move boxes and boxes of books just to display them. I have only bought a handful of books over the last 10 years and am really utilizing the library exclusively these days and I don't really reread very many books (with the exception of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, of course). I also do not really love holding up a heavy paper book as much any more! 

How am I doing? I am going to say that I kicked ass in this category. I basically got rid of all books except for a few travel or education books, and a few books from my childhood, and a half a dozen that I have not read yet but still may read. I literally went from three bookshelves to one, and plan to get rid of that one in the next month also. 

What is next? As stated, I will read the handful I have left, get rid of the last shelf and I will have a whole room to play with! Expected completion date: end of January. 

Health: I try to get all of my health related things done by November, but if I haven't, this is when I check in with myself and get them scheduled by the end of the year. This works schedule-wise, but it also important for insurance, which often pays a certain amount of dollars or for one preventative visit per calendar year. 

How am I doing? Check, check, check! I did save the best for last and had my mammogram literally the last week before Christmas, but otherwise I was pretty much good to go. Side note: I had a riveting conversation about the dangers of bicycling in San Francisco with the mammo tech while standing in the room half naked. Good times. 

What is next? I need a crown and was putting it off for two reasons. (1) I hate the dentist and I don't want to do it! (2) the insurance I had did not cover it at my dental office, so I switched from a PPO to an HMO and now that it is a new year with new coverage, I can schedule it. I also get dollars from my company towards my HSA if I do certain activities (sleep, water, wellness check etc.) so I will get that done ASAP because compounding rules! Expected completion date: end of February.

Plants: I love plants and I often make clippings and replant them and so I have a plethora of plants. I didn't really have a plan for these, but knew that I need to start doing something about them. 

Too many plants! And this is just a fraction of them. 

How am I doing? This year I gave away a few clippings to different people, but I still have too many.

What is next? Next up is to either sell some on FB marketplace or give them away for free. Expected completion date: end of January.

In addition to the above items, this year, I have also kept a bag in my closet for donation items and if I put on a shirt and it is too short, it goes right in the bag. I have taken at least one run to Salvation Army per month this year. I also keep a "to shred" bag, where I can easily throw paper items that need to be shredded and then I can take them to work and shred them little by little. I am also still working on selling some of the more valuable (or sought after) items online. 

One (of many) load(s) of donations!

I would say that all in all, I think my year of purging went well and hopefully that means that 2024 will be a breeze, as each year there should be less and less things to go through. I really do want to pare it down even more though, as it really is amazing how much stuff we accumulate over the years. My other goal is not try not to "stock up" on things, which is very hard for me, as I like to plan ahead, and to buy things when they are a good deal! There is always room to improve, I guess. 

Did you get all of your health check ups done by the end of the year? Do you keep/reread physical books? Did you have any purging goals for 2023 and if so, how did they go? 


Best of 2023: Books

Happy New Year! According to Goodreads, I read 205 books in 2023, or roughly 70,000 pages. Here are a few stats.  

Breakdown by star rating
5 stars (loved/it was great): 14 (7%)
4 stars (liked a lot/it was good): 80 (39%)
3 stars (liked a little/it was okay): 75 (37%)
2 stars (barely liked/it was not that good): 23 (11%)
1 star (it sucked but I finished it): 0 (0%)
0 stars (DNF): 13 (6%)
Average rating including DNFs: 3.2
Average excluding DNFs: 3.4

Breakdown by type
Audiobook: 165 (81%) 
eBook: 27 (13%)
Paper Book: 13 (6%) (of these, 8 were from my own shelf)

Published in
2023: 63 (31%)
Other years: 142 (69%)

I guess the moral of the above stats is that if a book sucks, I just DNF it, rather than finishing it, hence the case of no one star ratings. Also this year my proportion of audiobooks read increased by about 6% over last year. My number of books read in total increased by about 29%. I would guess that much of this increase is due to the fact that I have been listening to less and less music and/or podcasts and leaning more towards listening to books. I still find the need to pump up a run from time to time with some Lil John, don't get me wrong, but I often stray more towards books. 

You can find a list of all of my favorites from prior years on my bookshelf page or on Goodreads

I am usually a little bit stingy with my five star ratings on Goodreads. However, this year I had fourteen books that I thought deserved that high rating! Here they are, in no particular order! 

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. What can I say, this is a cute book. I did not hear all of the hype; I just picked it because it had a bright cover and came up on my list on Libby when I was searching for books. It is about the relationship between an old lady and an octopus and a younger, kind of troubled boy. I enjoyed the characters, the story was engaging but not too fluffy, and I was entertained throughout. 

Dinners With Ruth by Nina Totenberg. I do like RBG and enjoy learning more about her as well as hearing each different point of view from the different authors I have read. Nina was a reporter who became friends with Ruth despite their age difference. This book details their friendship as well as some of their accomplishments, especially geared toward equality for women. 

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama. In this novel, Obama talks about her relationships in life, but especially the ones with her mother and her kids. She has some words of wisdom like "start kind" which could be kind of corny coming from the wrong person but from her it makes sense. 

All The Broken Places by John Boyne. This book is about an elderly woman living in London. When a new family moves in downstairs from her, it brings up some memories of the past, which are mostly surrounding her escape from Nazi Germany at age 12 and the fact that her father was the commandant of one of the concentration camps during the war. It goes back and forth between the two time periods, weaving a story of guilt, complicity, grief and remorse and in the end, she has to decide whether or not to reveal some of her long kept secrets. 

Quit Like a Millionaire by Kristy Shen. Although I work in the finance industry, I enjoyed this book because it is written in a simple manner that anyone can understand. Shen talks about growing up in China where her family lived on pennies per day, to moving to the US where she learned how to invest so that she could quit work early and travel the world. Her plan is pretty simple and you may have heard it before but it is still a nice reminder that we can live more simply than we do and perhaps spend more time enjoying our lives now rather than always working so hard to make more money for the future. 

In Love by Amy Bloom. Get your tissues out for this one. This is not a spoiler, but this book is about a woman whose husband gets diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and he decides to die with dignity rather than living out his life with the disease. Obviously this is not an easy decision and Bloom goes through some of the struggles that they face as they work through the plan. 

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys. Although this is a YA book, it touches on something that we sometimes forget about here in the US, and that is the fact that as late as 1989, people in Romania were still under communist rule. The main character is a teenager who has normal teenage dreams but is held back by the government oppression and has to decide whether to do nothing or to fight back and risk the lives of his family. 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This is not the first time I read this book and it will not be the last. It is about a girl in Brooklyn and her family struggling to survive as they go through life. Life is not easy, food is scarce, and some of the lessons are hard, but Francie and her family persevere. The reread was heighted even more by the discussion had as part of Engie's cool blogger book club

Good For a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man's World by Lauren Fleishman. I really enjoyed this inside peek into the world of elite running. Lauren not only talks about the difficulty of being a woman in a mostly male sport (or at least one where the males are more prized), but she also gets into some of the eating disorders that the young runners had and it was very eye opening. I also read The Longest Race by Kara Goucher (4.5 stars) and was appalled at some of the things that were done to some of the elite running women. 

The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin. This one is all about sex, drugs and rock and roll. Okay, maybe more like drugs, jail and redemption. I am not going to lie; I had no idea who this woman is, but she was the ghostwriter for Desmond Tutu's book and The Sun Always Shines, which I enjoyed. The first chapter had me railing against her, as she dragged her three year old from place to place in an effort to score drugs. I wanted to slap her! Then she gets arrested, and chronicles life in jail, which I found fascinating. When she finally gets out, it is a struggle to manage life, try to find a job, not break parole, find housing, and stay clean. She finally does all of this, becomes a successful writer and even gets to meet Oprah and the Dali Lama in the end! So yes, it is a feelgood "rags to riches" kind of story, but I enjoyed hearing the ins and outs and some of the struggles that people face in a world that I am not part of. 

A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney. Get your tissues out again; this is a father's heart wrenching story about his young son getting diagnosed with terminal cancer. I didn't really know who the author was, but he is a comedian and actor, and he does a good job of putting his emotions into this book but still making it light, if that even seems possible. 

Drowning by T.J. Newman. I know that I joined the momentum train on this book, but I found it was a fast, easy, entertaining read. Was it profound? No. Did it make my runs go by faster? Yes. A plane goes down over the ocean and it hits the water, bursts into flames and sinks. What happens to the passengers? Do they survive? And if so, how? Read on to find out. (P.S. I also read Falling but was not as enamored by that one). 

Go As A River by Shelley Read. This is a story of a girl growing up in Colorado in a farming town in the 40s. It goes through her life of love, her relationship with her family, the hardships of life at that time and her struggles to get by. There were some details in the story that sounded so real that I had to fact check and they were real! 

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent. Birchie recommended this with the caveat that it was strange and she was not sure what to think of it at first. It was a thriller about a woman in her 40s who lacks the mental maturity of someone her age. When her father dies, she puts him out with the trash, just as he has told her to do. This gets the attention of the police and the surrounding community, as well as the media. Due to this she later gets some unwanted attention and finds out things about her past that she did not know about before. It's twisted and dark, but I enjoyed every minute of it. 

A couple of additional nearly five star reads were You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith, Kindred by Octavia Butler, I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai, and The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb. 

What was your favorite book of 2023? Do you mostly read audio, eBook or paper books?