Four Years after our Robbery

Custom Lego Brickheadz models

Today marks four years since I was robbed.

Someone entered my home, presumably between 12-6am while I and the rest of my family were sleeping, and liberated the premises of my LEGO collection. And nothing more.

I wrote a blog post on the day of the theft to catalog some things and hopefully find the person(s) responsible. I wrote a follow-up post a year later to share that, yes, we were able to re-purchase everything and, no, we still had no idea who did it.

They didn’t rob our house. This wasn’t a random attack in a random neighborhood.

They robbed me, personally. 

And that’s the part that has stuck with me the most over these past 4 years. Someone whom I had invited into my home at some prior point in time, a person who had met me and maybe knew me well, chose to steal from me. 

Now, this was not the first time I’ve had belongings stolen from me.

I had a bike stolen once, when I was still a teenager. That stung a little. As an adult, I had my winter coat stolen off a coat rack while I on college campus for ministry work. That was cold, literally and figuratively. It was a bummer, too, because my car key was in the pocket and I had to spend something in the realm of $300 to replace that.

I didn’t take the coat theft so personally, though. Someone needed a winter coat badly enough to steal mine. Or they needed money badly enough to sell it, knowing full well they were leaving someone else in the cold (albeit temporarily). I hope they’re doing alright.

But this time was different. This was an extremely specific and targeted theft.

The stuff they took is largely irrelevant. Precious to me and my family, maybe, but it was only stuff. Insurance made it possible to replace the entire collection. Kind donors gifted our family with more LEGO than I can count. Our home, neighborhood, and town continue to be as safe as they ever were. Still, things continue to feel different.

I have not slept the same these past four years. I routinely wake up to bumps in the night. Some nights I’ll hear something as I’m falling asleep, get a full adrenaline dump, and be awake for another 30 minutes or more.

I want to know who they were to me before they slipped out of my life forever. I would like to know what was going through their mind before, during, and since. It would be great to get some closure.

What they stole was LEGO, but what they took from me was peace of mind.

Piecing it back together: one year after our lego theft

Pieces from the Lego Ghostbusters Headquarters set

It’s been a year since someone broke into our home, while we were sleeping, and stole only our Lego collection. This continues to be the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced and I hope it forever will be – I don’t know if I could handle anything stranger.

Throughout the year we have heard the same questions and suggestions over and over. Chief among them was the question, “are you serious!?” soon followed by, “did you catch who did it?”

In this post I’m going to attempt to address all of those frequently asked questions and provide some closure. I may update this post down the road, I may not. This should be the last thing I post on the topic.

Did you catch who did it?

No. No we did not. I don’t anticipate that we will, either.

Why not? Because most of what the thief grabbed was bulk Lego. They can know the assembled sets (which are the only ones I shared in my announcement post) but because they didn’t grab the manuals the rest of what they captured is random pieces. It’s the equivalent of someone stealing loose screws and bolts from a hardware store – how are you going to trace that?

Bins of Lego bricks
Sorting random Lego brick

Plus, it’s just as likely that this collection was stolen for keeps rather than for sale. Unless I stumble across the home where it now lives, I won’t see it again.

I did scour the internet for awhile after the collection went missing, finding what seemed like positive matches on a few difference occasions. Eventually I stopped looking when each lead turned into a dead end. I decided my time was better spent on billable work, otherwise I was just allowing the thief to rob me twice.

It someone you know, you know?

Yeah, we know. Without question it was someone who had been in our house before. That’s the only way they would have known where to find the collection and how to get in and get it. That doesn’t help narrow things down, though, and I decided early on that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being suspicious of my friends or family. So, if it was you, know that I’m not looking for you and would be happy to never learn it was you (but I would still like to know how you did it).

Did you get everything back?

Microscale Lego Firehouse
Microscale Lego Ghostbusters Firehouse

Almost – there’s just one set I haven’t been able to find for sale. Yes! Insurance covered the replacement cost of our entire loss (after meeting our deductible).

We immediately repurchased a few sets that were still available on, and we bought new storage drawers from Amazon, but that was it for the first year. Several generous people sent us Lego in response to our theft and we’re still floored and humbled by your kindness. More on that in a bit.

I went back and forth several times about whether or not I even wanted to rebuy everything. To go through the entire claims process, to spend the time searching for and purchasing each of the old sets via Bricklink, to reintroduce the liability back into our home. My smart wife (and several others) convinced me it is worth the effort because our kids are already super into Lego and that interest is only going to grow with time. Plus, let’s be honest, if I just let it all go then the terrorists win.

So, I’ve spent a lot of time over the course of a few months buying every set could find from our original collection. Wherever possible we purchased sealed sets from different sources – just to be extra sure we’re not paying for our stolen stuff (which would be highly unlikely anyhow, since the person(s) behind this don’t know which sets they took). We were able to find everything from our known collection except for one single set. I still can’t believe it!

Friends and strangers alike are incredibly generous

I have always known this in my core. It’s a primary driver behind most of my own motivations, too. Generosity is a muscle that must be exercised lest it atrophy.

Many of you, though, still surprised me.

Cardboard boxes of bulk Lego bricks
Boxes of gifted bulk Lego

There were several comments on my original post, as well as emails, private messages, and more from people who wanted to send us Lego in response to our story. Some of you even sent us things without even asking first, likely knowing I would have otherwise done my best to dissuade you. In one example, Meijer, the incredible supermarket where we prefer to shop, sent us a $150 gift card to buy some new sets after hearing our plight. There was no publicity attached to it and, as far as I can tell, these two sentences are the only place it has been publicly mentioned anywhere. They’re just good people.

I did my best to thank everyone privately after each instance and that hardly seems sufficient.

To all of you, again, I have to say thank you!

We continue to be humbled by your gifts and have been enjoying playing with them quite thoroughly.

Can we send you some Lego?

Thank you very much for you offer! But, no, please don’t.

I definitely wasn’t soliciting donations when I announced we had been robbed, and yet many of you just cannot help yourselves because you’re so awesome. If you are in a position where you have unused Lego, and you want to see new life breathed into it, we encourage you to seek out local foster parents or operators of after-school programs. There’s a good chance they would benefit tremendously from some new and unexpected Lego.

If you really do want to divest of the Lego, and you can’t find a worthy recipient, I would be happy to help find someone and facilitate the exchange for you. Please do reach out if that’s the case.

Did you hear about the [other] Lego theft?

We probably have, actually. I didn’t know this before our own robbery but have definitely been made aware of just how common a target Lego is for thieves. Now people will inform me about them on the regular.

Screenshots of other Lego theft articles
Lego theft news clippings

In most cases the criminals are robbing commercial institutions (e.g. Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Target, etc.). From there they might return the box with rocks inside, resell the stolen goods ( via Craigslist, ebay, Facebook, etc.), or just keep things for their own enjoyment.

I heard about at least one local-to-me case where a significant amount of Lego had been stolen from a warehouse (easily 4-5x the volume and value of our collection). In that case it was thankfully recovered around 18 months later, when that thief was busted for an unrelated crime.

In recent news there is a rather infamous case of a long-term Lego theft ring operated in Oregon – police busted a man with over $50k of stolen Lego still in his home. And there are many, many, many other cases besides these. It seriously happens all the time. Private Lego theft is far less publicized, so it’s hard to really know how common it is, but it would seem it’s not much of an outlier.

How are you sleeping since the incident?

Better, now that it’s a year behind us. But still not great.

Katie and I both had a lot of trouble falling asleep and staying asleep in the first month following the robbery. It got easier after we added security cameras and a monitoring system for all our entry points. We now have a few thousand dollars wrapped up in these stupid security encumbrances and I hate that.

I do still routinely wake up after a bump in the night, get a hit of adrenaline, and then have trouble going back to sleep after that. There are occasionally (rarely) nights where I’ll sleep very little. It was an extremely personal and violating crime and I’m afraid that will always be with me. But it is such a minor thing, too, compared to what so many other people live through and what it could have been. I remind myself of that on the regular to keep perspective.

What’s next?

Not much, as far as this case is concerned. We’ll continue acquiring the sets from our original collection, occasionally buy new sets, and keep enjoying Lego as a family.

Custom Lego Brickheadz models
My wife and I as Lego Brickheadz

The thief may have taken our things, may have taken my time, and may have cost us a lot of money, but they will not rob us of the joy of play as a family.

If you, thief, are reading this, I still – more than anything – want to know how you did it. Feel free to drop us an anonymous letter and give us some closure. I’ll do my part and continue praying you eventually find your footing towards a better, meaningful life. And sorry for calling you a dick to anyone who will listen.

Stolen LEGO: Two weeks later, now with a $2000 reward

LEGO in grass and bushes

The past two weeks have been a blur. This is, by far, the strangest thing that has happened in my life to date. I sincerely hope it goes down as the strangest thing ever, because I don’t think I’m prepared for anything weirder than this.

Here’s a quick high-level summary and you can find more detail below:

  • Our LEGO collection is still missing after the LEGO theft on August 28th. We did find a small pile of LEGO outside (photo above); it looks like one set of drawers tipped over after being set down and these are the pieces that were left behind.
  • Today I’m announcing a $2000 reward for the successful return of our collection and helpful information on finding the person(s) responsible.
  • Our home owner’s insurance policy has us covered and will (eventually) pay for all replacement costs in full (less our $1200 deductible).
  • In spite of the above, several friends and family members have been amazingly generous and purchased gifts to help us start replacing our collection more quickly. We couldn’t be more thankful or grateful. Y’all are amazing!
  • We have installed $1000-worth of surveillance and security equipment to help us sleep again… which is finally starting to work.
  • We still need your help keeping eyes on the many different marketplaces and reporting leads.
  • Lastly, I’m bothered a lot by how inward facing all of this has been – my world view has had been too much about me these last two weeks. I’m looking forward to getting back to thinking about and investing in the rest of you.

$2000 Cash Reward!

Pile of Money
Photographic illustration. I promise I won’t pay you entirely in ones.

Yes, we can replace our collection 100% thanks to our home owner’s insurance policy (more details below). This will take time and will still cost us $1200 for our deductible. I’d like to speed that process up and just get the original collection back, so I’m putting up $2000 towards the successful return of our collection and apprehension of the person(s) responsible for the theft.

If you can help us get our collection back, or if you can help us find the person(s) responsible for the theft, we want to personally pay you $2000 for the information.

If you know anything about who did this, where to find them, or where to find our missing LEGO collection, I urge you to please contact the Grandville Police Department or me personally.

Thank you to our generous friends and family!

Despite being clear that our insurance will cover us, many of you saw fit to bless us anyway. Some of you sent LEGO, some of you offered to send LEGO, some offered money and time. I shouldn’t be surprised, knowing all of you like I do, yet here we are. It is so encouraging to know you and be related to you. You’re a wonderful reminder to be more generous myself.

Our insurance has us covered

This section was originally 1,000 words all by itself. I’ve pulled that out into a separate post that I’ll share later. For now I’ll give you a truncated version.

This week we’re getting a $1200 check from the insurance company, against a $7500 loss. We’ll get the rest too, but it’s not a huge windfall that everyone expects and assumes when they say “they’re just doing it for the insurance money”.

Before I go any further, I need to say this: we love and recommend State Farm insurance (and have for years before this incident, too). They have been easy to work with on all fronts: vehicle insurance, renter’s insurance, home owner’s insurance, life insurance, etc. Every time we’ve needed to call them about anything, on any front, we were able to talk to a real human almost immediately. Every. Time.

In short, the process for restoring our collection will be based on reimbursement. As we are able to buy the lost sets we will submit receipts to State Farm. After that they will cut us a check for money spent.

But what if we get the original collection back?

I asked the detective in charge of our case the very same question. There is a restitution process for just such a thing. If we’re able to recover any original parts of our collection that will come off the insurance claim. If we were already paid for a replacement then either the replacement or original will become the insurer’s property. As it turns out, this is both a straight-forward and common occurrence.


Increasing our home security

Security camera
Photo by Serge Kutuzov on

The most frustrating part of all of this for me is that someone was in our home, while we slept, and got away without us noticing anything. This is the only known break-in at this address since the home was built 60 years ago. And it will probably be the only one ever. But we can’t be sure of that, of course. And sleeping has become quite difficult now because every bump and creak puts us on high alert, tense dreams startle us awake, and so on.

So, beyond the $1200 deductible we need to pay for replacing our collection, we’ve spent another $1,000 on surveillance and security equipment for our home. We’ve also paid out far more in hours of attention and wasted anxiety.

I’m not going to give up any details about what we bought, though, as that would defeat the purpose of getting the security system in the first place. I can tell you what we’ve done in general, though, and what you might want to consider for your own home (where we both know a break-in will never happen because you live in a safe neighborhood and lead a private life and keep everything worth stealing either locked up or secret, naturally).

We purchased a combination of cameras and sensors from different providers. This mixture allows us to monitor all doors, floors, and windows. I intentionally picked parts from multiple systems to ensure redundancy. If one layer fails or is compromised another can still secure the area. Everything we’ve installed is connected wirelessly and has battery backups. Outbound signals for the security system will utilize its own 3G antenna if WiFi is unavailable. Our modem and router have their own battery backup as well.

If someone opens a door, or enters through a window, we will be notified immediately. If someone bypasses those security measures and makes it into any room in our house, the secondary system will still notify us immediately. And if someone can cut our power or our internet we will still be notified immediately.

If this sounds like overkill, that’s because it is. Now that the integrity of our home has been compromised, though, I don’t expect we’ll ever live without it. As a rational, thinking human being this bothers me to no end. This is a totally emotional response to a statistical uncertainty. But my rational thoughts aren’t what keep me awake at night.

A quick side-note on counting on other people’s security cameras

Many people asked us if any neighbors may have had security cameras pointing at our home. I was polite and brief in all of my answers about that: no they don’t. Do your neighbors have cameras pointed at your home? Would that make you more or less comfortable?

The more elaborate answer is: even if they did, most cameras have a usable line of sight of about 30 feet, and that’s reduced to about 15 feet in darkness. Even HD cameras still capture barely-useful footage in that full range, which reduces the truly useful distance even further. I could go into a lot more detail about the limitations of the optics and sensors themselves but I think that much detail is useless and will sound condescending. I’ll just sign off as an authority who is both a technophile and a person who has studied camera equipment for more than a decade now.

Casting a wide net

Fishing net
Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on

There are so many digital marketplaces for LEGO. Holy smokes! I knew about a lot of places, but then people reached out and pointed out so many more. Now I’m watching all of them. If you can help watch any of them, too, I would greatly appreciate that.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of sales outlets to get you started:

And you can find the list of stolen goods and photos of the collection in my previous post.

I’ve also reached out to a number of resellers, advertised buyers, and Lego User Groups (LUGs) to make them aware of the theft and keep eyes peeled for our stolen goods.

As you can imagine, keeping tabs on each of these sites is a serious chore. That’s why I’m looking for help to keep tabs on all the listings and why I’ve offered the $2000 reward.

Reporting leads

If you have any promising leads or information to share, please do! You can reach the Grandville Police Department through the non-emergency line at (616) 538-6110 or email Our case number is 17-6191.

You can contact me via email using my first name at this domain. I’m on twitter as @rzen. I’m also on Facebook and am usually absent there, but will make an exception for discussing this.

Thank you!

Help! My entire LEGO collection was stolen!

Did you take my entire LEGO collection? Because somebody did.

If it wasn’t you, can you help me find the thief?

A list of sets, some photos of the collection, and media coverage appear at the very end of this post.

Read the follow-up post, with details on a $2000 reward

Read the one-year-later epilogue

When did this happen?

Sometime after 12:00am ET on Aug 28 (when I got into bed) and 9:00am ET on Aug 28 (when I returned to my basement office) some person(s) invaded my home and relieved our basement of practically every piece of LEGO. And that’s it. Nothing else in our locked home, or unlocked garage, was touched. None of our expensive electronics (computers, monitors, microphones, etc.), none of my expensive camera equipment (body, lenses, lighting, etc.), none of my woodworking tools (table saw, mitre saw, drill press, router table, etc), or any other things of any kind.

It sure sounds like a prank. A very ill-conceived and poorly timed prank. That’s the explanation that makes the most sense of this situation. But nobody has stepped forward or returned anything.

[Minor addendum, after thinking more critically: most of the computer equipment, except for desk-mounted monitors and microphone, were on the main floor of the house with us; the camera equipment was hidden from sight; and the tools would have been very difficult to remove due to their size]

How did this happen?

I honestly can’t say. My family was home the entire day on Sunday, Aug 27. We had a few close friends over for lunch that day – people we’ve known for years and who depend on their credible reputation for their careers (and, before you ask, everybody is on the suspect list, including me). My boys and I played downstairs throughout the afternoon. The LEGO was fully present and accounted for throughout all of that. I was personally up and about the house until midnight, and then awake and out of bed again by 6:30am on Monday, Aug 28. Our house was locked when I went to bed, and again when I left for breakfast at 7am. My family was awake throughout the house from the time I left (7am) until 9am when I returned home and went downstairs. That means the break-in most likely occurred between 12:00am and 6:00am on Monday, Aug 28.

Someone came into my home. While we were sleeping. And removed nothing except thousands of dollars of LEGO. Small, rattly pieces of plastic. Either with a crew that should be large enough to be noticed, or with many trips up and down the stairs.

I want it all back, of course, but almost more than that I want to know how they did it. How did they get all of the drawers, parts, and sets out of our house without any of us hearing?

How much did they take?

Table with 9 bins and 316 drawers of sorted LEGO
The sorted collection. 316 bins of pieces separated by part type.

We’re still working on the total volume, but I know it was generally in the realm of “a lot”. Enough to fill two 18Gal storage bins, at least. The good news is, I have a good idea of which pieces and which sets went missing.

You see, I spent some time last summer sorting my childhood LEGO collection and putting it into small-parts drawers (see above). I had quite a few misc sets and figures that I then put on display across the top of those drawers. I also happened to take copious amount of photos of the process and some of the cooler sets that are now (that is, were) in our collection.

Back when I was still a teenager, my mother had the bright idea to round up all of my LEGO instruction booklets and put them into a folder, which eventually expanded to fill a full box. And the thief just so happened to leave ALL of the manual in the box on the floor.

Box of LEGO instruction booklets
My fine collection of un-stolen LEGO manuals

The real kicker, though, is that they took the sets that Katie and I were actively building! Rather large gifts that we had gotten each other recently. They took these partially-assembled sets and all of the pieces that I had just finished laying out and organizing into plastic dishes across a table in our basement.

Here’s what the table looked like yesterday:

Katie, building the LEGO Disney Castle
Katie, building the LEGO Disney Castle

And here’s what things look like now:

My office, stripped of LEGO
The space formerly known as “the LEGO table”

Table with just a few empty containers
Our stripped and barren table

Those vile rats even took all of the tupperware and an ice  tray that the pieces were sorted into! I mean, just look at all this tupperware!

Tupperware and such
All of our glorious containers, now AWOL along with the LEGO that was in them

How can someone help?

First, theft is covered under our home owner’s insurance policy, and we’re working through the proper channels to sort that out. We are actively working with the local police department on this active case.

Our collective hunch is that the sets are being sold off individually and the rest of the pieces sold in one or many bulk lots. The best way you can help is to keep your eyes peeled for used LEGO that’s up for sale. Maybe via Craigslist, maybe via Facebook, maybe via ebay, or pawn shops, or elsewhere. The seller is probably going to list them within a couple hundred miles of Grandville, MI (49418).

Which sets are missing?

We’re working on a list of that and I’ll update this post accordingly as more info becomes available. Until then, below is a short list of the assembled sets and loose minifigs that we know were taken.

Any leads?

Please either contact the Grandville Police directly via 616-538-6110 or or email me privately. My email address is my first name at this domain.


How about some more photos?

Sure thing, here’s a partial gallery documenting some of the sets and parts!

Media Coverage

So far this story has been covered by Inside the Magic, the Miami Herald, and Fox 17 news (WXMI) in Grand Rapids.

Ditching your DVDs for a Better Home Theater Experience

Recently a number of people have been asking me about what I did with my collection of 240+ DVDs. I still have them, but they’re packed away in storage. Last year I set out on a quest to digitally rip every movie we owned so that we could easily watch them on any of our devices in any room of our home.

I’ve already blogged about the streaming part of my setup, we steam movies using Drobo FS and Media Tomb (note that if you buy a newer Drobo, like a Drobo 5N, you can instead use a much slicker app named Plex).

As for the ripping and cataloging of our discs, my good friend Terry White laid the foundation by documenting his entire DVD to MP4 conversion process. The punchline, quite simply, is to use Handbrake for OSX and select the “Universal” preset.

That’s pretty much it. Rip via Handbrake, store on any device of your choosing. If you put them on a network-attached storage unit (NAS) you gain the benefit of having them always accessible anywhere on your home network. If you use a device like Drobo you gain the additional benefit of automatic redundant backups (so if a drive fails you’re not completely hosed).

What about file size?

Across our movies, the average file size is 1.5GB. This means that our entire DVD collection clocks in at ~375GB. Not bad.

Hope this helps!

Maybe we’re too caught up on efficiency. We spend …

Maybe we’re too caught up on efficiency. We spend our lives fine-tuning our ability to make money – which is a good thing – but then we use that money to avoid doing some of the only things in a human life that can provide actual fulfillment. We pay someone else to raise and teach our children. We pay someone to build our home, and then someone else to heat them. We pay others to manufacture our Christmas trees. On the one hand, we passionately believe that work is a good thing, and important. But we’ve fallen prey to a philosophy that holds work as a means to an end, not an end in itself. We’ve forgotten that good work – hard work – is in itself fulfilling. Build something. Chop some wood. See if I am wrong.

Weirdest Incident Yet…

Here at the Richards Manor, we don’t get a lot of foot traffic. We’re a young married couple with no kids, surrounded by retirees, 10+ miles from our nearest friends.

Despite this, however, our doorbell rings at a surprisingly regular rate. Not daily, mind, but almost certainly weekly.

It’s a game I like to call “Doorknob Roulette”

Lately, I’ve taken to making a game of things. See, I never know who is going to be at the door (except that I can guarantee it’s never a package delivery man, because they seem to be of the mind to toss our package in the garage and go… I almost never know when something has been actually delivered).

Usually I’m greeted by a solicitor of some kind (cut your heating bill!, paint your home!, get new cabinets!, need a new roof?). Once in a while it’s a neighbor who needs technical assistance (usually with their printer, or scanner, or email). On the rarest occasions, it’s a neighborhood kid asking to shovel our sidewalk or mow our lawn.

If it’s clearly a solicitor I’ll sometimes let them ring the doorbell and then leave without answering, never admitting that I’m home (after all, it’s 2 in the afternoon… who is home at that time of day?)

Today’s incident, however, is the weirdest I’ve encountered on my doorstep…

The person on the outside was a teenager, probably 14 or 15 years old. Standing a ways behind him on the sidewalk was (I suspect) his mother. He rang the doorbell at least twice before I could get upstairs to answer, and I think a third time as I was getting to the door.

When I opened the door he asked, “Does a kid named Angelo live here?”

When I said, “No, it-” he cut me off and said, “Cuz a kid named Angelo threw a rock at my little brother… cut his head open. And he said his house was over here in this area…”

I interjected again, completing my thought, “No, it’s just my wife and I… sorry.”

Then he and his mother both said, “Okay, thanks for your time!” and trotted off.

Uh, what?

I wasn’t really sure what to do with this tiny glimpse into someone else’s life I was given so, naturally, I thought the only logical conclusion was to share it with everyone en masse.

I wonder what will happen to poor ole Angelo in the event that these two ever catch up with him. Vigilante street justice? Perhaps… If they wanted to have words with young Angelo, I wonder why his mother was in the background and not the person knocking at the door. Really, I wonder why she was even coming along at all if the boy was the one doing all the knocking… That’s the most bizarre part.

Have you ever had anything this strange at your door?

Working from Home is Not for the Faint of Heart

When I tell people what I do, and that I work from home, far too often I hear, “I wish I worked from home and could do whatever I want…”

Well, today I’m here to set you straight.

Working from home demands a vast amount of dedication and self-discipline. It isn’t the cakewalk that you’ve made it out to be in your mind. When you work from home, you live where you work. How many of you would like to live at your desk or in your office (literally, not figuratively)?

Aside: I wrote moste of this while in the thick of freelancing and as a form of therapeutic recreation. It really helped me put a handle on how I was working and helped me take control of my life in a way that has had dramatically positive effect for myself and those around me. Here’s hoping it helps you, too.

Work Habits

On many occasions, friends and family have quipped about my habits of working in my PJs or sleeping in til almost noon. What they don’t realize is that it’s usually because I worked until 4am the night before and likely resumed working immediately after waking.

But, there’s no commute.

And therefore, nothing stopping me from being at the office at any hour of the day.

At least you can set your own hours!

True, and I’m very grateful for that when I need to cut out for an hour or a full day for various errands. Most often, though, it just means I’m working all hours of the day every day of the week. Once again, there is nothing to stop me.

But you can work anywhere! You could take a vacation any time!

Except, if I’m on vacation it means I’m not working, which means there is no active income entering our bank account. To counteract that, the simple solution is to work on the way to/from or during the vacation. Does that sound like a vacation to you?

Working from home sounds pretty awful, why do you do it?

Because I can set my own hours, work in my PJs, sleep til noon, work from anywhere AND there’s no commute. Plus, I pretty much get to do whatever I want. Haven’t you been reading the headings?

If I can be serious for a moment, working from home obviously has both benefits and detriments. Setting your own hours is only wise if you have the discipline to stop working and the ability to find value in resting and leisure activities. If you miss that, you miss everything.

(Pro-tip: you might want to read that last bit again.)

It took me four and a half years to realize that taking a break was not only relaxing, but paramount to a successful, healthy work life.

Discipline for the Uninhibited

If you’re like me, discipline is a word that makes you a bit uneasy. It means structure, routines, order, strictness, boring stagnant misery. Well, that’s how I used to feel anyway. Discipline is actually an integral part of complete, unrestricted freedom. No, really… just check out some of these examples.

Finding Freedom in Routines

As boring as it seems, a strong routine is actually the fastest way to a fun, relaxing lifestyle.  Creating a routine for yourself is one of the most important steps you can take towards freedom. Sure it’s foolish to try to schedule “fun” into a weekly calendar, but it’s more foolish to believe you’ll have time for fun if you don’t schedule a definitive end time to your work.

Here’s a brief example of my typical daily routine:

  • Awake
  • Breakfast
  • Shower
  • Personal Reading
  • Field Emails (1hr or less)
  • Get stuff done
  • Lunch
  • Field Emails (round 2, 1hr or less)
  • Get stuff done
  • Quit work, switch to personal projects/relaxation
  • Dinner
  • Personal work/relaxation
  • Bed

Respecting Your Time (Avoid Time Sink)

The biggest destructive force to a good schedule and routine is time sink.

The quality of your free time and your work are intimately connected. If you guard your free time and keep it sacred, totally devoid of any work, you’ll find that you will be more productive and less distracted while you work. Similarly, if you keep your work time entirely focused and free of interruptions you’ll find that you can work fewer hours and commit more time to hobbies and rest.

If you don’t respect the boundaries between work and leisure you’ll quickly find yourself discontent with the work you complete and unsatisfied by the quality of your down-time.

Take it from a guy who knows first-hand: when you refuse to rest you will actively seek, and feel justified in, taking distraction-filled breaks throughout the day. Later, when you feel compelled to rest you won’t be able to because you’ll have this nagging feeling that you didn’t get enough done and you need to accomplish just one more thing. Which leads me to my next point…

Manage Your Expectations (The reason you’re dissatisfied)

The leading cause of unhappiness isn’t poor circumstances or unfortunate events, it’s a mismanagement of expectations.

Consider all the times you’ve felt unfulfilled in your work, or like you had an overwhelming number of items left on your to-do list at the end of the day. Also consider all the times the new (phone|computer|movie|whatever) left you wanting. Is it because your job is overwhelming? Is it because those products/events were overhyped or under-delivered? Or, is it because you set an unrealistic expectation of how much you could do in a day, how long a project would take, or how incredible the shiny new thing truthfully is?

Leading a satisfied and fulfilled life is deeply rooted in managing your expectations properly. When you set realistic expectations for yourself, and others, you’ll soon find that your job is better than you realize, there will always be more days to get work done, and that how you’re living today – right now – is vastly more important than how much better your life can be in some unspecific time in the future.

Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around…

That’s what it’s all about, folks. Discipline, dedication and healthy expectations. If you have those three things, you can change the world. Or, at the very least, you can work from home in your pajamas and not go horribly wrong.

Spend Less, Give More

This year, instead of wasting your time, money, efforts, sanity on dutifully following the same old Christmas routine, try a new approach.

Christmas is a season to remind us of giving. Read that once more. Not of giving gifts, but giving ourselves. It’s not the only time we’re expected to do this, either. Christmas serves as a reminder, a reminder of how we should be all year long.

So, consider this your wake-up call. It doesn’t take money or affluence to make a difference, it just takes you and your time. Make it happen!