Taking Out the Trash: Goodbye to the Dumpster Fire that was 2020 and Looking Ahead to 2021

It’s time once again for Taking Out the Trash. Taking Out the Trash is a way for me to share my musings about various subjects that may or may not be related to the focus of the blog, and let the reader get to know me better. This week was supposed to be only about New Year’s Resolutions made and not made, but for me, 2020 was a year of loss as well.

I recently found out that my dear friend, my hairstylist of 26 years, passed away on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t Covid, Russell just peacefully died in his sleep. After a year of hearing about all these losses to Covid, I empathized when I read the news stories, but nothing can compare to actually losing someone you love unexpectedly. Russell was more than just a hairstylist to me and the kids: he was like family. He knew me since I was in college and I had, for several years, attempted to find someone who could cut curly hair correctly. He was cutting all the anchors’ hair for the TV station I worked at, and through a referral from the top anchor who mentored me in all aspects of my life, I was booked into his busy schedule. There was an instant connection.

Through the years, Russell was the one to do hair when I competed in the Miss Green Bay/Miss America pageant (that, my dear readers, is a story for another time), he did my hair for my wedding, he cut my children’s hair their first time and every time after that, and only charged me according to their age. He cut his rates when I went back to school and when Dave was laid off. During Dave’s most recent layoff, he even offered to cut all our hair for free but I wouldn’t hear of it.

Russell wasn’t just great with the shears, he was a great musician, playing piano for one church, teaching music at a local school, choreographing marching band routines for several schools. He was also very involved in color guard for many years, and even after he gave up coaching, he often went out-of-state to judge competitions. Just last year, Russell was reunited with his birth mother and found out he had all these half-siblings with amazing musical talent. He was overjoyed to know that’s where his gifts came from, and showed me an impromptu performance the kids put together one weekend when he was visiting.

Russell was only 56, which is far too young. My dad was 51 when he died, and I think being so young makes it that much harder for those loved ones left behind. It’s going to take me a long time to recover from this death. I don’t have too many close friends, but he was one of mine. So, as 2020 ends, I say GOOD RIDDANCE!

In other Taking Out the Trash News, I follow about 150 other blogs in my spare time. Of course, I don’t read every single post by every single blogger, but the majority of them are book bloggers and I at least try to read the WWW Wednesday posts to keep in touch. I enjoy connecting with like-minded people who enjoy reading as much as I do, even though in many cases their taste in books is completely different than mine. Which is also cool, because I’m exposed to all sorts of different books that I might never have heard of if it weren’t for them.

I’ve mentioned before that I used to blog in the 2010s on a different subject. I was a consumer advocate, hence the nickname The Bargain Sleuth. One of the posts I did and had great success with was the daily Kindle Deals post, and I still occasionally share them on this blog on my days off work when I have time to do them. The problem with finding all these great deals is that I buy the books and never have time to read them. So this year’s resolution is to not buy Kindle books unless it’s a book that’s already been on my radar and read the ones I already have. The same goes for audiobooks.

The other resolution I made is to not follow what everyone else says about a book, but to go with my gut. Since I started blogging, I have picked up some books and wondered why I was reading it. How did it end up on my TBR pile? Simply because everyone else was talking about it? There’s a fine line with getting suggestions on what to read, and reading stuff that doesn’t really appeal to you but everyone else seems to be reading it. So this year’s resolution is to only read books I truly want to read. Normally I tend towards biographies and history, although I have branched out and read quite a bit of historical fiction the last year.

Another resolution is to be more organized with the blog and plan ahead. On my old blogs, I had a calendar and kept track of all the free and cheap events going on in the area and scheduled posts ahead of time; the job got so big that I “hired” a friend to solely take care of that aspect of the blog. These past six months, I’ve had grand plans to focus solely on Halloween books and successfully did one week, when I really wanted to do a whole month of books with a gothic or Halloween theme. Thanksgiving didn’t even get a mention, as I was scheduled so far ahead and had little time with my work schedule to read anything else.

Same thing with Christmas. I have a large children’s Christmas book collection and wanted to highlight some of my favorites, but ran out of time because of my increased work schedule. I’ve also seen a lot of my blogger friends post top ten lists on their most anticipated books of the year, or reading goals and other book tags and I commend them. I have not had time to look ahead. I have no idea what’s coming out and when, except for a few NetGalley ARCs I already have. So this year I will be more organized with my theme weeks. I’ll use NetGalley more and another new site I was invited to for ARCs, and hopefully win some more Goodreads giveaways (I’ve won five in the last year) and have more books submitted by publishers for me to peruse.

But as I mentioned, this blog is a hobby, not a source of income like my previous blogs. I have a job already, one that I love. I just missed writing and connecting with like-minded people. When I was blogging before, I was putting in full-time hours and raising four little kids to earn around $300 a month. I got burned out with the pace after 5 years, and the advertising dollars started to dry up, so I quit. The only thing I’d like to do now is make enough money with my affiliate links to make this blog self-supporting since Word Press isn’t free. (In case you’ve forgotten, my affiliates can be found on the right hand side of the blog, as well as Amazon and AbeBooks.) I don’t think I’ll resort to paid posts although there’s nothing wrong with them for those that do, but their motivations are different than mine. And that’s just fine by me. I’m only competing with myself, to write reviews that are well-received, whether they are positive or negative, and have a conversation about the books I’ve read.

My other goal this year is to simply grow the blog. Each month I’ve gotten more page views and visitors, so I’m headed in the right direction. Slow and steady wins the race. I use a variety of social media, but have found very little return on investment with any one format. So I’ll continue to use them all, but won’t pay advertising fees to get more visitors. Facebook and Instagram are now mostly ad-driven, and the reach of a post is small despite how many people “like” your page or post unless you pay to “boost” your post. I’ve played that game in the past, and have found that most of the people who read my posts have Followed on WordPress or subscribed via email.

So, a sucky end to 2020, and 2021 is a year with lofty goals for me and Bargain Sleuth Book Reviews. Wish me luck!

Jennifer “The Bargain Sleuth”

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