Episode 106: 4 Things in August that Simplified My Life

Another month of small things that have supported Dawn’s efforts to achieve more simplicity in life.


Show transcript:

Welcome to the SimpleMoney Podcast, where we make personal finance less intimidating. I’m Dawn Starks, a financial planner and lover of the simple life. I’m here to talk about money and simplicity. Let’s dive in. This is Episode 106: 4 Things in August that Simplified My Life. So this is another episode in the series that I’ve been doing this whole year. Each month I’ve been giving a list of small things that I do to simplify my life.

And sometimes I don’t always set out to do them with the thought that, “Oh, I’m going to do this to simplify my life.” Instead what I do is, in retrospect I realize, you know, I took on this project or I did that thing, or I eliminated that particular task or whatever it is. And I realize, “Hey,

in doing that, that’s one small step towards simplifying my life.” I’ve talked a lot on the podcast, and on the blog, about the fact that simplifying your life is not a “one and done”. It just does not happen overnight. It can happen in one big, you know, fell-swoop where you go and you Marie Kondo your whole house, and you get everything decluttered all at one go.

Probably over the span of maybe a couple of days. Certainly that can happen, but there’s always going to be maintenance because stuff is going to creep back into your house. It just happens. So you would have to be really, really, really diligent to not let anything creep back in. So it’s going to constantly be in your life and part of your life.

But the good news is, is that it gets easier over time, that the more you do it, the better you get at it, and the less you have to really agonize over your decisions about what to do with the different clutter that you’re trying to address in your house, or reducing things in your schedule, or whatever it is that you’re trying to

reduce or make more simple. So in August, here are the four things that I had to report, that I thought that I either did or you know, the things that have happened that sort of went towards my simplifying my life goal. So August was kind of a bittersweet month for me. The first part of the month was the end of my summer sabbatical,

so I had the whole summer off and I spent it writing and spending time with my daughter. It was the end of our homeschooling. And so that first part of the month was kind of fun. You know, we were doing a lot of stuff and able to get some decluttering done in the house and so on. And then the latter part of the month was really a big shift for us,

and I’ll talk about that in a minute. The latter part of August also represented me going back to work. And so that had its own kind of increased rhythm or pace, and so that of course did not actually add to my simplifying of my life. It actually made it complicated again. But here are some things that happened in August.

So the first thing was that I conducted another clothing-purge. So I’ve been doing this on and off for, well, many years, but over this past year I’ve done it a few times. And my closet at this point, as of August, was already pretty lean. I had really whittled down quite a bit of the clothing that I wasn’t wearing and it didn’t need a huge amount of work,

but there were still some lingering items that I just, every time I would go through and try to get rid of them, I would think, “Well maybe I’ll, maybe I’ll start wearing this thing,” and I would just keep it in the closet for just one more round and then see what I thought about it the next time. So some areas of minimizing or simplifying my life have come pretty easily.

And some have been a real struggle. So things like books, that’s always a struggle for me. Things like clothes, generally that’s pretty easy. So I only really have a struggle with my clothes for some items. For the most part, it’s pretty easy for me to assess, “You know, I never wear this particular item,” and then just get rid of it.

So the thing that I focused on earlier in the summer was getting rid of some of my, what I call “aspirational clothing”. So I talked about this a few times previously on the podcast, and also on the blog, about aspirational items. So those things that we hold on to because we aspire to them. So whether it’s clothing that you used to fit into that you aspire to fit into again,

or whether it’s clothing that represents a different version of you that you aspire to get back to, or to become. Whatever it is, aspirational clothing, or other items, tend to be among the things that clutter up or, you know, kind of clog up our lives. Because we hold onto them because they represent hope. They represent something that we hope to become or to improve about ourselves.

And you know, there’s something to be said for that. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having hope, but I think that holding on to things that you hope that you’re going to fit into or hope that you’re going to use again someday, I think it really kind of clogs up the energy in your, kind of in your day to day life,

but also in your decluttering and simplifying process. So one of the things that I had left in my closet after the summer purge that I did, because remember back in that summer purge, I got rid of my biking shorts from back in the day that I used to do triathlon races. I haven’t had my race bike in years,

but for some reason I kept the biking clothes, the shorts, special shorts and a shirt. I just kept them, I think maybe thinking that someday I might use them again. And I had some jackets and tops that I had used for running in races, and I guess maybe I held onto those thinking,

“Well, maybe someday I’ll get back to running races.” But if you’ve been following my blog or my podcast for a while now you know that I’m back to running, but I have no intentions of running races at this point because that’s the area where I get myself into trouble when it comes to exercise. I take on too much and then I push too hard,

and then I injure myself and then it starts a big cycle of going back to not exercising. So, not going to do that this time. But the one thing that I had left that I thought was aspirational in nature in my closet, that I hadn’t really tackled, was this pile of jeans, blue jeans, that I had in my closet. So I had

just my regular clothes that probably needed to be gone over again, and then this pile of aspirational jeans. So what I envisioned was in this pile, there were three or four, just a few pairs of jeans. And what I thought was in that pile were jeans that were smaller size, that I used to fit in that now I don’t fit in anymore,

but I aspired to fit into them again one day. And so that’s what I thought it had. Actually, I guess it was two, I thought there were two pair of jeans in there that were a smaller size. So when I looked at them and decided, “You know what, I’m just going to get rid of those damn jeans and I’m going to stop torturing myself,

seeing them on the shelf, taunting me, that I can’t fit in them.” So I pulled them off the shelf, and just idle curiosity I guess, I looked at the tag and found out that one of those pairs of jeans was actually my current size! And I thought, “Holy smokes!” And that was a real win for me because I was in need of a pair that is in my current size, because one of the pairs that I had been wearing,

I had just worn bare in spots, and so I really needed to get another pair of jeans. The past couple of times I’ve made an outing to do so, it was, jeans are just so expensive and I should just suck it up and get them because I wear jeans until they are really literally falling apart. So I would get my money’s worth out,

but I just can’t bear to part with that much money for a pair of jeans. So I’ve been holding off and I have not done it. But here I go and I find miraculously a pair that fits me right now in this pile. So that was a win because I was able to get rid of the other pair and then keep this pair that now fits,

and so that actually solved two problems. I got rid of my aspirational pile and no longer have to go and find a pair of jeans that fits currently. So yay for me. And then the other project that I was conducting in my clothes-purge was to eliminate a drawer in the closet that had t-shirts. So I wanted to eliminate some of my hanging clothes in order to make space for hanging some of the t-shirts that I had.

I fold my t-shirts more or less the way Marie Kondo teaches you how to do it, but no matter how careful I am with them, t-shirts just get wrinkly. And so I thought it would be much better if they could be hung, but I didn’t really have a lot of hanging space, so I needed to clear out some other hanging space to

free up space for hanging the t-shirts. So I got that accomplished in August. The second thing I was going to tell you about that happened in August is really kind of an embarrassing story. So I titled this in the blog that I “Discovered that I was a Doofus” in August. And so one of the things that I have to do regularly that just annoys me is I have to refill some prescriptions that I have.

So each month I have to go and fill these prescriptions, and I would call the special phone line that they would have for that and have to go through this miserable series of prompts in order to get my prescriptions refilled. And so this has been a thorn in my side for months and months, and years and years because the prompts, as the computer is talking to you and giving you your options –

you know how sometimes when you know the option, you can just press it and it will fast forward to that option? Not this one. This one would keep talking so you couldn’t shortcut it. You had to listen to the entire spiel before you could press the option. So that just annoyed me because I felt like it took twice as long to do

this task, than it really needed to. And so it just, I always find it really, really annoying. So all of a sudden, one morning in August, I thought, “You know, I wonder if our grocery store,” which is where I get my prescriptions filled, “I wonder if they have an app?” Well, they do. They do have an app.

Of course they do. That was just stupid of me. And so it turns out that they not only have an app, they have an app for the pharmacy and it was very simple to use. And as soon as I plugged in my information, poof, there were all my prescriptions right there. And now with a couple of taps on my phone,

I can pull up my list and just refill the prescription, or request the refill just by tapping a couple of prompts on my phone. And so that freed up what I envisioned to be hours of life, time that I’ve been spending with the stupid phone system. I’m sure it’s really only,

you know, 30 to 40 seconds here or there, but nevertheless, it seems like it’s very, very much a speed-up and just a faster way of doing it. So I’m thrilled about that. So now it takes me, I mean less than five seconds to fill a prescription. And so that seems like a really silly thing,

doesn’t it? That I would be so happy – I was beside myself when I figured this out – that this app existed and how easy it was to use. And that has been a huge improvement in my life. And so to me I chalked it up under definitely it was an item that has simplified my life. So the third thing in August

that I wrote about, was just giving an update on the garage. I had told you about, earlier in the summer that Rowan and I, my daughter and I had worked on our section, our little sliver of the garage, that we worked on that and purged a lot of stuff to make space there. And I had kind of secretly hoped that our work would inspire Greg to tackle the rest of the garage,

which is his domain. And it has, he’s been spending time in there most days now. In fact, he actually refers to his “45 minutes in the garage.” So he spends time out there and he’s really working on getting rid of things and organizing things. And it’s really shaping up. So that’s, that’s really, that’s really good news for all of us.

And so then the fourth thing, fourth and last thing, for the August list is that we sent Rowan to school for the first time. So I alluded to this earlier when I started the episode, this was the bittersweet part of our month. We’ve been homeschooling all these years. So we really started, I think in earnest, homeschooling when she was about three and she wanted to learn how to read.

And from that point until just this past August, we have been homeschooling. And it’s been so wonderful and we’ve had an entire lifestyle built around the fact that we homeschool. It allows us freedom and flexibility. And we were able to travel when we wanted to. And it just was a great lifestyle. But we had talked about, you know, things she was missing and maybe it was time to explore her going to school.

And long story short, we obviously decided that that was the best thing to do. And so this has radically changed our lives. So she started the sixth grade in August. She loves her school, it took about a week and then she stopped loving getting up early in the morning, but that’s the only part she really complains about. Everything else she really loves.

She loves her friends, she loves school, she never is complaining about any of the work. So that’s all been going really great. And in a lot of ways, her being in school has simplified my life. I no longer have to do the research for curriculum. I no longer have to pull together our lesson plans for the week.

I just don’t, and I don’t have to spend the time doing the homeschooling. But it was bittersweet because that was such a wonderful and rewarding part of our lives that it was very difficult for me. So I had some, I had some rough weeks there dealing with the loss, I think the grief, of losing that part of our life.

Meanwhile also embracing this new part of our life, but it was difficult. I won’t lie about that. So let’s see. And that, I think that’s it. Those were the four things. And so, you know, my message again with these reports that I’m doing each month is just to remind you that it’s these little small things,

these small things – sometimes it’s big things like sending your kid to school for the first time ever, sometimes it’s big things – but really it’s just these series of things you do in your life that can keep you moving on the path towards a simpler life. And I think it’s also worth noting that as you’re on this journey,

you have opportunities to do new things, experience new things, buy new things, acquire new things, whatever. You have these opportunities that come up. And so you learn how to maybe consider them differently and weigh the options differently than maybe you would have before. Maybe before you would have said, “Oh yeah, definitely, I’ll take that.”

Or “Oh yeah, definitely, I’ll do that,” that thing or that obligation or you know, attend that event. And you would say it without really thinking about it. And so I think as you get further along your journey of simplifying your life and you know, trying to make things more minimal, more slow, you start to be more thoughtful about things and you start to be a little more discerning about what things you bring into your house and into your life,

both in the sense of material items and also obligations and things that you do with your time. So it’s important to remember those things and to not beat yourself up when you kind of screw it up, you know, and you realize, “Oh shoot, I shouldn’t have brought home that stupid free thing that I got that’s now just sitting on the counter and has no place to live and we don’t really need it.”

Instead of beating yourself up about those sorts of things, just recognizing that, “Oh well, you know, I wasn’t paying attention and next time I’ll pay better attention.” So those small changes add up over time. And so it’s important that you stick with the process and just keep moving forward. So I’ll continue on my journey. I hope you’re going to continue on your journey and I have a few more months of giving you reports,

and then that project will be done for this year. So that’s it for this week. I hope you’ll tune in again next week. Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the SimpleMoney Podcast, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player. We’d love it if you would leave us feedback and a review. And don’t forget to check out my blog at simplemoneypro.com. There you’ll find dozens of posts about financial issues that matter to you, as well as thought-provoking pieces about simplifying your life. Bye for now.


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