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The Maximalist

By January Gordon Ornellas

Back in March, I led a workshop entitled, Seminar for Sociopaths. It was widely popular.

Two out of the three participants stayed until the very end.

I taught the importance of reuniting Tupperware containers with their significant lids.

Nine months later, it was time for a new seminar except this time my daughter Parker would be the teacher and I would be the pupil.

Like so many millennials, Parker has been heavily influenced by a certain movement.




This is a popular movement, recently inspired by Joshua Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus. These young men threw away all their crap, found perspective and now lead more meaningful lives.

Can’t I have a meaningful life with my crap?

The seminar started at 8 a.m., sharp.

Apparently, minimalists are tidy and prompt.

“I made coffee,” Parker said.

How sweet.

I opened my cupboard, revealing a parking garage of coffee mugs.

“You have 43 mugs,” Parker said, over my shoulder.

Not sweet! Entrapment!

“Well, it’s just that…”

She opened another cabinet. “And 22 bowls.”

“But, hey,” I said, “If two soccer teams show up, Frosted Flakes for everybody!”

She rolled her eyes, clearly not amused.

Can I have a different instructor?

Parker opened the oven, revealing an assortment of cookie sheets. “And why are these in the oven?”

“Overflow,” I said.

She tsked.

The chances of me passing this workshop were slim.

“Here’s the problem,” she said, opening the cupboard next to the oven.

In a matter of minutes, a plethora of kitchen appliances were strewn across the tile floor.

I was asked to identify and explain each one.

It was like a crime scene, but less fun.

“A waffle maker?” She raised an eyebrow. 

“I used to make waffles,” I insisted.


“Early 2000s,” I admitted.

She held up an unrecognizable yellow apparatus. “Do you know what this is?”

“Uh, I’m not sure...” I stammered, wiping sweat from my forehead. 

“It’s a donut machine,” she said. “Have you EVER made donuts?”

“No, ma’am.”

The waffle iron and donut maker were thrown into a cardboard box.

“I’m kind of thirsty. Maybe I could get a drink of water?” I asked.

“Sure, which of the 43 mugs would you like to use?” she said.

Man, I walked right into that one.

She pulled out an enormous baggie of plastic curly straws. “And would you like a straw with your water?”

Yes, please.

She shook her head.

I mean, no, thank you.

“I didn’t get rid of the straws because they’re not biodegradable,” I explained.

Let the record show I was saving the environment.

Parker was not impressed. She was too busy removing, classifying and interrogating. She continued to pepper me with questions. At times, I tried to infuse humor, but she wasn’t having it. I kept hoping Good Cop would show up, but no such luck. Parker was two Bad Cops rolled into one.

Finally, we were down to our last item.

A gigantic black spaceship-looking contraption with a red cover was placed in the center of the room.

“What is this?”

Well, there’s a blast from the past!

“It’s a wok,” I explained. “When your dad and I first got married, we were really into Chinese Stir Fry.”

“Thirty years ago,” she said.

I nodded. 

“And will you be using it any time soon?”


“Chinese food gives you heartburn, the handle is missing, and the cord looks like an electrical hazard.”

Officer Parker was really making some solid points.

She threw the wok in the cardboard box. 

“We’re all done,” she said.

Within minutes, boxes were sealed, taped and put into the back of her vehicle to be transported.

To where?
Who knew?

All I knew was that congestion and clutter had been replaced with wide open space. 

In less than an hour, I had gone from a maximalist to a minimalist.

And even better news, I had been paroled.

“Meet me in the garage in an hour,” Parker said, exiting the kitchen.

I guess I was still on probation.

 — January Gordon Ornellas

January Gordon Ornellas is a comedy writer whose stories include everything from colonoscopies to triathlons (equally torturous). Her article, “Rookie’s Triathlon Lessons,” appeared in the LA Times (June 2019). Two of her other stories, “Gobble, Gobble” and “Almost Taken,” were recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Laughter is the Best Medicine (April 2020). She is currently working on a book, My Nest Runneth Over. January also enjoys writing for her blog (, traveling and spending time with her husband and two adult daughters.

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