Financial Fast coincides with plans to clean, count blessings

OK. So now, Michelle Singletary is psychic.

Well, that’s not true. But it felt that way last night when I began reading Chapter 6 of the 21-Day Financial Fast, which coincides with DAY 6 of the fast the Washington Post columnist is leading people on across the country.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 12.09.35 PMI had had a great DAY 5, and was up late. So I began reading Chapter 6 early.

I need to read Chapter 6 every day – even when this fast ends. Its title: You Can’t Buy Contentment. Its purpose: Reminding us to be content with and thankful for what we have.

I was already on that road. As I searched my closets for something to wear to a gala, I stopped for a minute and saw all the stuff I had. And I felt overwhelming guilt that I had not been thankful enough for what’s already in my house.

The gala went great, and as I sat having a cup of coffee, I was happy. But it didn’t last long because I began whining in my head about what I couldn’t do Saturday.

Saturdays are my favorite day.  Saturdays are the day that, no matter what, I get to choose what I’m doing. There is no activity already on the calendar, no work, no meetings, no plans.

I usually have a great lunch somewhere outside my house, alone or with friends – and I go to the movies. My daughter and I used to go to the movies on Friday nights. We’d see movies as soon as they premiered. When she grew up, I continued to do that like it would kill me to hear conversations Saturday about a  movie I hadn’t seen. And I began preferring to go alone most times  (I’m one of those people who cannot stand conversations in theaters. I think there should be fines).

hr_Jack_Ryan-_Shadow_Recruit_14I had already begun to whine in my head about not being able to see the new Jack Ryan movie. And that lemon artichoke tilapia that I love at a nearby restaurant? It was calling me!

But, I told myself, the movie will be playing for at least a month and will show up on the DVR. And the restaurant will still be open in February. (Thank you, God, for giving me a moment of clarity about why I’m doing this fast in the first place).

So I decided I’d keep myself busy Saturday by cleaning house, getting rid of stuff  I didn’t in December when I normally take bags and bags of things to the Salvation Army.

I kept reading. And there on Page 85 of Michelle’s book was a remedy for a lack of contentment and a great way to remember what you have.

“Clean every room.”

I stopped reading, told Michelle to get out of my head, and went to bed.

But today, that is what I’m doing. Between breaks for Facebook and Twitter and coffee, I’m doing an inventory of all I own and what could be blessing someone else’s life now.

Michelle suggested making an inventory, but I don’t want to waste that much paper.

But I’ll tell you this: I’m going to need bigger bags.


Moments in Home Repair #1

There are few greater feelings than buying a home. And I’ve felt those great feeling five times. But with great contentment and great pride and great personal privacy come great responsibilities. I’m reminded of that every time something goes wrong, and inevitably, it’s my fault.

Walter came over to paint the dining room table and chairs. For those of you who know me, you know who Walter is. Friend extraordinaire. Substitute husband. Stand-in brother. Builder of TV cabinets and bookcases. Explainer of how to use an electric drill.

Anyway, painting done, Walter went into the downstairs bathroom. Now, my house is such that I live most of my life on the top two floors and rarely go down to the den, guest rooms, bathroom – and that room, the one where the furnace and water heater are. I should have spent more time in that room.  So when Walter went down to that bathroom, it was the first time anyone had been in that bathroom in more than three weeks. I do occasionally go down to clean and flush the toilet, something about the pipes being lonely, but I had been out of the country. So there was no way for me to prepare him for what he found: an inch of water on the floor.

I figured a burst pipe or the toilet. Walter immediately went to the water heater, which was still leaking as we stood looking at it.


Walter does many things. But he doesn’t do water heaters. I called my plumber, Karl, who came over the next morning and gave me the news within minutes.

New water heater.

But here’s the point of the story – and the small moment that makes a difference. Karl said, “It looks like a maintenance issue.”



“Uh, Karl? Was there something I was supposed to be doing to it?” And even as I asked, I recalled Karl telling me a while back, maybe a year, maybe more, that I needed to turn something and empty something. I didn’t write it down.

He promised to give me a maintenance lesson on the new water heater. And it’s something I only have to do four times a year – turn a screw and empty the built up sediment into a little bucket. If you do this regularly, the heater lasts a long time. If you don’t do it, ever, then you get years’ worth of sediment built up in a heater that might spring an irreparable leak.

I’ve written a note to tape to the wall with the dates to do sediment release.

I want to get them on Walter’s calendar.


Change . . .

After years of being sick of them, I finally had a handyman tear down two walls in my house.

Yes, that might seem a little foolhardy. But these two walls taunted me. The previous owners of my home had decided they wanted a larger kitchen, so they built two walls into the living room, an L-shaped extension. They hung cabinets on these three-quarter calls that didn’t go all the way to the ceiling, plugged lights into tops of them – and voila, bigger kitchen/big chunk of living room missing.

So I had the walls removed.  Now light floods what has become one big great room! Except, the rest of the kitchen is sitting there taunting me. So, now I have to move the kitchen.

Into the breakfast nook.

So I’m doing two things:  1) Watching all my favorite shows on HGTV to decide what I want to do with the Great Room. And 2) Watching all my favorite shows on HGTV to decide what to do with the kitchen.

“Property Brothers!” Where are you when I need you! Well, I actually only need one Property Brother, Jonathan Scott. I don’t want to buy a house, so I don’t need Drew.

Actually, I would love for Candice Olson from “Divine Design” to come and transform the place. But she is based in Toronto. I’m not moving the house. And she’s doing two TV shows, so I can’t imagine that she’d drop everything just for my small project.

So somewhere between Divine and Doable lies my own plan for my own home. I’m working on it.

Yes, I know. You’d love to see before and after photos.

But I can’t do that until their is an after. So stay tuned for details on The Case of the Missing Walls.