SASM 015 – The Forces of Order and Simplifying with Dan and Vanessa Hayes

Vanessa Hayes

Let me just get this out of the way.

Dan and Vanessa Hayes of Simple Life Together are my kind of people.

They come at life in an authentic, vulnerable, candid, and generous way. And if Keith Ferrazzi writes a third book (fingers crossed), they would be a perfect case study in the philosophy Keith shares in Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back.

Vanessa and I started interacting after she left a comment on my Professional Organizers article and offered to help get me featured on Lifehacker (like she has been). Well, it turns out that both she and Dan listen to Smart and Simple Matters (SASM) and this set the stage for one of my coolest experiences at New Media Expo (NMX).

I was chatting with some folks at NMX when I heard a voice from behind me ask, “Joel?” I turned around to see a guy who I didn’t recognize, but he had a warm smile on his face.

“Hey, I’m Dan Hayes”, he said and still it didn’t click. “You know, Vanessa Hayes’ husband”, he continued. Click. The light bulb went off and the connection was made. Dan didn’t recognize my bald head from behind and think, “I bet that’s Joel.” He recognized my voice from listening to SASM. I gotta say, that was pretty cool!

I knew I wanted to have Dan and Vanessa on the show after chatting with him for about fifteen minutes. Their story was so good, their mission was so persuasive, and their attitudes were so cheery that it seemed impossible to not have a good time and generate a ton of value on SASM.

The podcasting set up they have for their show made it really easy to record my first episode of SASM with two guests. When it comes to a dynamic duo that knows a ton about simplifying and organizing, you’ll want to turn to them for help.

So it’s time for you to discover more about and from this cool couple. If you like creating order and simplifying – not to mention laughing and great storytelling – then this is the one for you.

What You’ll Learn

Spreadsheets are no joke, but joking about spreadsheets is fun. You’ll learn much more than original spreadsheet jokes in this show.

I wasn’t sure what they [spreadsheets] were. I took the linen out of the closet and laid it around the bed. I called that spreadsheets. – Dan Hayes

In this episode you’ll learn about:

  • How many hundreds of thousands of items the average American household has …
  • … And what this says about our relationship with “stuff.”
  • Ways other than 162 items on your fridge to honor what’s important.
  • Why most people need to organize and simplify their physical space before they tackle their digital landscape.
  • How getting into “listen mode” leads to less resistance and better results (in Professional Organizing and life).
  • How the OODA loop helps with your clutter and chaos issues.
  • Why digital file organization should be taught in school.
  • The problems of being overly-orderly and simple ways to combat it.
  • How to be the catalyst for starting your own community and movement.
  • Who’s the “Director of Common Sense” and why you need one.
  • Why I got reprimanded for not talking about spreadsheets and curating.

Resources and Items Mentioned in This Episode Include:


  • [03:43] How growing up in a military family and moving all the time shapes you
  • [10:26] The origins and impact of the Edit & Forget It Challenge
  • [19:05] How Vanessa tackles digital and physical clutter
  • [26:03] How crazy is Joel about the words “clutter” and “chaos”
  • [33:26] Dan’s digital tagging system with keyword rich titles
  • [40:31] Dan and Vanessa talk about their partner charities: Kiva and Charity:Water

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15 Responses to SASM 015 – The Forces of Order and Simplifying with Dan and Vanessa Hayes

  1. Erin says:

    Love the new segment, How Crazy Is Joel? Fun :)

    I enjoyed this conversation a lot. As my husband and I near the end of our get-rid-of-a-thing-each-every-day-for-a-year challenge (two more months!), I’ve been thinking about what simplicity will look like as we go forward, without this official challenge keeping us going. I certainly don’t want to end up back where we were. I’m planning to check out the Simple Life Together podcast — maybe it’ll keep me moving in the right direction!

    • I’m glad you liked the new segment, Erin. I think it’s a keeper, but I’m not going to bust it out every episode.

      Knowing you and knowing the direction you’re headed right now, Dan and Vanessa could be a great resource. Just don’t let yet another new source of inspiration and awesomeness derail your ability to work on keep your momentum going. :)

  2. Joel, This is a movement – I just wish I could get my husband on board. Oh he is on board with less clutter, cleaning out, pairing down but he loves to spend money. This might mean going to Home Depot for light bulbs and coming home with $80.00 worth of “great” things we “need”. As we clean out he brings in. It feels like a never ending battle. I am sending this post to him and urges him to pay attention to the information about the thousands of things Americans have in their home. My goal is to live debt free – so learning how to “not” spend is the first step. Thanks.

    • Hey Jane,

      Well, since you’re sending the link to the show notes to your husband and he can theoretically read this reply, I’ll keep it positive. :) Actually, instead, I’ll send a link to your comment to Dan and Vanessa to see if they want to offer some tips on syncing up on big goals like living debt-free. The end of the podcast isn’t intended to be the end of the conversation. Thanks for keeping the conversation going, sharing your pursuit of a simple life, and thanks for listening!

    • Hi, Jane! This is Vanessa Hayes from the interview. I understand your frustration….as a matter of fact, Dan (my hubby) and I used to be the same way. Sure we maintained our spaces by letting things go as we brought in the new…but we started to treat it as a ticket to go ahead and spend because we’re so good at letting go! But we were still spending! And spending on things we really didn’t need. We had to take a long hard look at what our no-kidding, priorities in life were….which boiled down to not wanting to be a slaves to our possessions and wanting to live comfortably when we retire. It can be difficult to change the mindset of your loved ones…it takes time, effort and good communication.

      If I may…you might want to listen to our 1st podcast on where Dan and I talk a little about how we chose this new journey to simplify as well as our 11th podcast with Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist where he talks about how to work with your family: If you feel inspired to work on a life plan…Michael Hyatt has a free Life Plan ebook:

  3. Shanna Mann says:

    I love how much your guests learned from their parents about this stuff. Sometimes I have a hard time articulating that when people ask me “Where did you learn to …?” and it’s hard to express the net of values and lessons that my parents instilled in me. I was impressed with how succinctly Dan and Vanessa were able to talk about that.

    Also, I love the military acronyms. That’s a system for thinking that I wish I could pick up!

    • Oh, you liked the OODA loop too? That one stuck with me, kind of like all the awesomeness my own mom and dad have imparted upon me. There’s no greater gift in the world than having amazing parents, Shanna. I’m glad you and I get to experience what that’s like and benefit in all the untold ways that having amazing parents now helps us. I remember some of the stories you’ve told me about your mom and you’re lucky to have hit the baby lottery in getting her.

    • Shanna, It’s so funny that you liked how we articulated the part about how Dan and I learned from our parents. We actually didn’t expect that question (which now on reflection I don’t know why because Joel’s asked that with his other interviewees…duh), but I guess the answers came naturally. I think as we get older and as we analyze how we want to parent, you can’t help but think about the good traits of your own parents and how they influenced you. No…mine weren’t perfect but neither am I and I’ve never questioned their love for me. I hope at the very least my children feel the same way about me ;o)

  4. Joel…your shownotes are hilarious!!!! Sorry about the reprimand…I was simply dumbfounded about the spreadsheets and curating ;o)

  5. We just finished celebrating Mardi Gras here in New Orleans. Now there’s a holiday that would give any minimalist the shakes. Floats pass by and throw loads of beads and toys out to eager crowds. We came home with so much stuff, and I kept thinking about what we were going to do with all those trinkets.

    New Orleans does have some neat programs for recycling beads for next year’s parades and for donating beads for people who couldn’t be here for the parade. I think we’re definitely going to have to make good use of that this year.

    • I would totally be thinking about the physical and environmental impact of those beads if I was at Mardi Gras. Dang it! I should have gone before I was a minimalist so I could have enjoyed it fully. I bet I’d still have a good time if I went though.

      It’s funny how we reflect upon recent events and tie together past experiences with the present. I’m curious to know what your comment would be if Mardi Gras wasn’t on the mind. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks about how differently they would experience something if only it was a year earlier or a year later?

      • Yeah, it’s certainly different after just being at the parades. We stuck around for a while after the parade was finished and watched the cleanup crews come through. It’s amazing how much stuff they pick up after the celebration is over.

  6. Daniel Hayes says:

    Joel- I just wanted to say that Vanessa and I had a blast on your show! I’ve been at Michael Hyatt’s Platform Conference for the past 3 days and have been completely immersed in that, so I apologize for being late to the game wih my comments. I know you hear this all the time but your show is really such a fantastic resource and obviously your tribe is pretty fanatical about simplifying. Thanks for having us on and please keep it up. We been following you since your first episode and it’s great to have you as a friend and kindred simplicity spirit!

    Thanks, too, to all your listeners for all the great comments (and to Vanessa for picking up my slack while I’ve been offline!)

    • Dan, you’re not late to the party. The party’s just getting started as this episode is going to be a resource to tons of folks over the years. I hope you got as much out of Michael Hyatt’s Platform Conference as we both did out of New Media Expo. I’d love to be able to hit the conference circuit as often as you do and maybe some day I’ll be able to. First I gotta simplify more and actually make some income from this business I’m running.

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