The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.
Sachi and I spent months packing, piling, cleaning, and eventually moving from Seattle to Orcas Island over multiple trips in our car. To most people, this probably sounds completely unappealing and that’s a very reasonable reaction. No one likes to move, do they?
In observing her over the past six months, I have come to the conclusion that moving is actually right down the middle of what gives Sachi an abundance of satisfaction. She was born to move.
Let me explain. Sachi, in every situation, has thought ahead and has a plan that’s been tested in her mind for longer than she wants anyone to know. When she sits on the couch next to me, I can see her mind spinning through scenarios before coming out of nowhere with a remark like “we need to put air in the tires”. I’ve learned over time that these conclusions, while often lacking context, have backstories and lots of reasoning.
In this case, she had been planning a trip to Orcas that included the use of a cargo carrier that attaches to the back of our car. This carrier sits pretty low and when we exit the ferry, it can potentially drag on the ferry deck. This is especially true at low tide. She had reviewed the tide charts and thought we might be able to avoid damaging the carrier if we boarded a ferry in the late afternoon when the tide was higher, and put air in the tires for extra lift. In this case, I hesitated because I didn’t think it would matter, but in the end, I agreed and we put it on our to-do list. Sometimes, she just needs to get an idea out of her mind and then decide later if it’s worth doing.
In discussing it with her, I’ve learned there are two ideas that drive her incessant planning. The first is optimization. She looks at nearly everything from the perspective of there being a “right” way. This is not a moral judgement, but one that is focused on efficiency and effectiveness. If she has a chance to think about it for long enough or do a bit of research, the right way will present itself. On countless occasions, I’ve made suggestions about how to improve a process only to find out that she had considered it and dismissed it, like, four ideas ago.
The second driver is regret avoidance. I’ve rarely seen Sachi more disappointed than when she misses an opportunity to optimize and feels the sting of regret. In this case, regret is a signal that the desired result was possible, but went unnoticed or unoptimized. This realization, that the present could have been better with a bit more consideration, really does sting. To her, it feels like a personal failure.
Now, Sachi and I are very different and I admit that she’s helped me become a better, more observant planner. But man, I sometimes long for a bit of chaos. When everything has a bulletproof plan, there’s not a lot of room for surprise or serendipity. I miss the days of living closer to real time, when events force you to make decisions on-the-fly. There is magic in letting the chips fall where they may.
A good example is our dogs who are managed like any other project. Generally, I want them to be free and get used to being off-leash now that we’re out of the city. Sachi wants to keep them safely on-leash, and there are valid reasons why this is the case.
On a recent occasion, we parked the car outside the Yurt where I said, “Screw it”, and let the dogs out of the car without leashes. The moment Piper hit the ground, she saw a deer and chased it across our neighbor’s property and disappeared down a steep embankment toward cliffs by the water. I ran after her, yelling useless commands at the top of my voice. Piper eventually trotted back unhurt and followed me back onto our property, where we encountered Sachi by the car with a smug smile on her face. Magical, right?
This begs the question: would I trade one for the other? Do I really want chaos or cost instead of complete optimization? Not in a million years. Sachi’s approach to planning smooths rough seas on a day-to-day basis. For every instance of optimization that I notice, there are three that happened behind the scenes. These are things like placing a new roll of toilet paper on the back of the toilet when the roll is about to run out or keeping our bottles full of water in the car.
Once it became clear that we were probably moving, planning went into overdrive and honestly, she was happier than I’d seen her in a long time. There were a million things that could be planned and optimized and organized and strategized. You’ve never seen an adult so happy about bubble wrap and cardboard that’s designed for packing plates.
Now that I think about it, there is another driver of her planning and optimization that’s related to our move: frugality. Her default option in most situations is DIY. She will gladly spend extra time to do something herself if it means saving a few dollars. And it’s not really the dollars that matter, but the principle.
When we first got together, we had a huge bowl of coins and my first instinct was to take it to a Coinstar machine in a grocery store and pay a small fee to get it counted. Sachi wouldn’t have it. She went to the bank and returned with little coin sleeves and rolled up dozens of sleeves of coins with no fees involved. This is still what we do and once again, I’ve come around to her way of thinking.
In preparing for this move, we had to figure out what to do with over a decade of financial documents that filled multiple filing cabinets. Sachi looked up IRS recommendations and found that we only needed a fraction of them. We could get rid of the rest, but how? They contained sensitive information.
My first inclination was to take it to a shredding service who would destroy them in minutes for a fee. That didn’t make it past Sachi. Instead, she put our little office shredder to work over multiple days and thousands of documents. It would run until it overheated and stopped. After it cooled down, she’d be back at it. We recycled over a dozen trash bags of shredded documents for free. Sachi was incredibly satisfied and I shrugged. Her satisfaction was more than enough for me.
This kind of planning also applies to food. Any time we are about to leave home for a few days, Sachi’s planning manifests in what we call “eating down the house”. This means planning meals days ahead so we leave without buying anything new or wasting any perishables. The perfect scenario for Sachi is leaving with just enough food to pack up and eat on the road. In moving out of an entire kitchen, the mother of all eating down the house projects commenced, sometimes producing strange but still delectable combinations served with a side of optimization and without the sting of regret.
On the last night at the Hunter House, the entire kitchen had been emptied, except our trusty coffee maker, which was about to make its final journey from Seattle to Orcas Island. Before heading to bed, I always grind the coffee and fill the coffee maker with water so it’s ready in the morning. With the grinding done on the final night, I panicked for a second. What about the filters? Had we packed them deep in some unknown pile of boxes? I opened the cabinet where they usually resided and sure enough, it was completely bare, with the exception of a single coffee filter, obviously placed there by Sachi, with a plan in mind.