Dawn explains how the year 2019 was a mixed bag for completing her simplicity-related goals.
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 118: My Simplicity Journey in 2019: A Wee Bit of Progress. So last year at this time, I was nervous because I decided that I would share my goals publicly for the first time. I’d never really done that before, and it turned out okay because it wasn’t so scary. And I ended up,
you know, having a reasonable amount of success with those goals. So I thought, well, let’s do it again. I’ll reveal my goals, actually in a future episode here, but today, what I wanted to do is just sort of recap what happened in 2019. And these were specifically just my simplicity goals. So I have, I always set lots of goals. If you’re a regular listener to the podcast, you know, I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to goal-setting. So I always have lots of different goals each year,
but these were specifically the ones that related to simplifying my life. So I will tell you, I will repeat what they were and then tell you a little bit about how they went in the year 2019. So the first one, and it’s unfortunate that this was the first one, because it was to declutter our garage. And so if you’ve listened to other episodes, you know that we had some early success with this. Rowan and I worked on our section of the garage, and we got it tidied up and decluttered and got a lot of stuff out of there,
and, kind of made the arrangement that we really were hoping to make. And we were hoping that, you know, that would encourage Greg to get to work on his part of the garage. And it did. He actually worked on the garage for quite a while and was very regular about it. And then something happened, and I don’t know whether I want to blame it on the holidays, or maybe it was the cold weather that sort of stopped his progress in his regular work in the garage,
but also it kind of encouraged additional things to accumulate in the garage. All I know is that there is a huge accumulation of boxes in there, and other stuff that just wasn’t there 12 months ago or even nine months ago, and it started accumulating again. So it’s going to take another big effort to get it back just to where we had it, and then we can move forward from there. So it feels like I have to do the entire project all over again. But I don’t think that’s really the case.
I think that we’re going to manage to get that done in this year, 2020. So the next goal on my list for 2019 was to reduce or eliminate my aspirational closet bins. So you may remember a conversation we’ve had about aspirational items. So these are the items that you tend to hold on to because they remind you of a time when you were maybe your best self, or the person that you feel that you most admire, the version of yourself that you most admire. Or maybe it’s a person that you have yet to become.
And so it’s items that remind you about that person that you could become if only you did certain things.
So, for example, aspirational clothes often have the role of your fat clothes. The clothes that you wear when you weigh too much.
Or they may be your skinny clothes, those clothes that you’re holding onto because someday you’re going to be a smaller weight, and be able to wear those clothes again.
And so you’re aspiring to lose weight, to be a thinner person, to be less heavy/ smaller size so that you can have those clothes again,
and wear those clothes again. Sometimes we keep around clothes that remind us of different experiences that we had.
They might have been events like weddings or other major events. We might have gotten a beautiful dress for that,
that was really a one-time thing. And then we tend to keep that around, so those aren’t exactly aspirational,
those are more sentimental. So aspirational and sentimental things tend to be the hardest things to purge from our closets and really from our lives.
So I had a couple of bins in the closet that I thought were more aspirational things. Turns out they were a lot of really sentimental things
too, and I had thought that I would get those cleaned out finally, once and for all and make some more space in the closet.
So I did a reasonable job on this project. And so what happened, though, was that our closet tends to be a little bit of a way station.
So when we’re doing a decluttering effort in other areas of the house and we need to just store the items before they go,
oftentimes they’ll just get stashed in the closet. Or if we have to tidy the house quickly because people are coming over, we’ll
just stash things in the closet, and sometimes those things then just hang around in the closet for a while.
So that caused difficulty to be able to even get to the aspirational bins, let alone clean them out.
So I did hit those bins and look at those bins and go through them, and a lot of it was stuff that I just was not willing to get rid of.
So it was less about… They were things like, you know, my child’s school items from her younger grades,
but we had already purged those down. So these were, like, just the very few things that were left.
So I’ve already done a fairly good job of paring down my sentimental items. So this was really just the bare bones,
and I wasn’t going to part with it. What I did do though, is I got those bins,
finally… Actually – so I guess I’m cheating because I did it in 2020, I did it just a couple days ago –
I got those bins moved to the attic. So now they’re out of sight and out of mind. I don’t have to be taunted by them anymore in the closet.
The next thing on my list for my simplicity goals for 2019 was to continue to simplify my financial life.
So this was a less-defined goal. This was really more that I wanted to continue to focus on finding ways to
simplify my financial life. I wrote a whole book about simplifying your financial life, which will be coming out in a couple of months,
I’m happy to say. So I’ve done a lot of this work already, and I work with people to do a lot of this work.
But I’m always focusing on ways I can make my own financial life simpler and just more streamlined, easier to handle.
So you know, when you’re moving on through your life, different complications arise. And you have to sort of always deal with tamping back the complications and causing,
or creating more simplicity and streamlining. So I’m always working on new ways to do things. Or “How could I make this easier?”
So I ask myself that a lot. So I was pretty happy with what I did this year.
I did have a couple of oversights, which I talked about in the newsletter if you’re a subscriber, where I made some mistakes, and that really had to do with being overly-reliant on automation.
Automating is a big part of simplifying, but I always tell people you can’t automate it and completely forget it.
You have to pay some attention to it. And I didn’t listen to my own advice, I guess. So
I made a couple of mistakes. Because it was busy times, and that’s just the way it happens.
So I would encourage people to look at ways you can automate your financial life, if you’re interested in simplifying your life.
You can certainly look at my book when it comes out. I’ll have lots and lots of tips in there for you.
And so on the whole, I think this was an area I did pretty well on in 2019.
Another goal in 2019 for me with regard to simplifying my life, was to tweak my processes. And what I meant by that was that I already have some pretty good ingrained morning routines,
evening routines, just other things, you know, types of routines for things that I do. And I have regular routines for things that sort of keep me in line with my productivity.
And this year I wanted to just experiment with trying to improve them. I’m always, I’m also, in addition to being a geek about goals,
I’m a geek about productivity and time management things. So I’m always looking for ways to squeak more things into the day,
get ’em done, and not wear myself out. So I did some experimenting in 2019 with different routines and processes, and with different tools.
So I tried out a couple of planners and productivity systems and I ended up settling on bullet journaling. So perhaps in the future I can do a whole episode about bullet journaling.
I think it’s really cool, and the thing that I really like about it is that it’s essentially you’re creating your own system.
So it’s a system that is really just a framework and a way of doing things. And then you create your journal the way you want it to be,
in terms of tracking the things you want to track. And you know, monitoring and keeping your to-do lists the way you want to do them.
So I found that to be really great, because my problem over the years is that I’ll try a new planner, and it might be 80% useful to me.
And then there’s that 20% that’s sort of annoying because it’s things I don’t need or it’s not exactly the way I would want it to be,
and I’m having to modify it, and that irritates me to have to modify it. So I’ve never found the perfect system for me,
and so the bullet journaling allows me to create my own system, so that’s better. Now it is maybe perhaps a little bit more labor intensive, depends on your point of view,
but that has worked out well for me. And then one aspect that I couldn’t get rid of was my monthly calendar.
So I told you earlier, it was early in the year 2019 that I talked about that I had created a new system of printing out my own monthly calendars. That ended up just being too heavy and big.
And so now what I’ve done is I’ve worked my way down to just keeping all of my tasks and everything in my bullet journal.
And then I have a very small monthly-view calendar that is easy to carry in my purse because I really do like to see the whole month at a time.
And I really didn’t want to draw every month in my bullet journal. So I am using a small calendar.
So it’s just those two things now. So far, so good. So that’s been about, I guess
that’s been since July that I’ve been on this system, so that’s pretty good for me, to have six or seven months on a system without changing much about it. Now
the last thing that was on my list for my simplicity goals for 2019 was to increase white space. So I love to talk about white space because I think that it’s a great visual for what we are trying to accomplish if we’re looking for a simpler life, or if we’re interested in minimalism.
What we’re trying to do is create buffer around the things in our life, so that we’re not running ragged.
So it encompasses time because you want to build buffer time around activities and obligations that you have so you’re not running literally around ragged.
And you also want to build buffer in your financial life. And that could be like, building your emergency fund,
making sure that you’ve got some breathing room, just in case something happens. And so I think having white space is a very important concept,
and I love to talk about it, and I love to think about it, and I love to come up with new ways to try to incorporate that in my life.
So I was pretty good with this heading into 2019 but I wanted to kind of get a little bit more improvement on that score.
And so I wanted to kind of ratchet up my game because I wanted to have more time to just wander around, and putter, and read, and rest.
And I would say that the result was mixed, because I’m a tough case when it comes to shifting down the speed of life.
I love to be busy. I love to be productive and doing things, and it’s hard for me to really just kind of putter around and do nothing and just,
you know, hang out. Because if I’m reading, that feels productive to me, because most times I’m reading something that’s nonfiction, I’m learning something so that feels productive.
So I found that even though I created time, that white space time, I often filled it with mindless
scrolling, internet research, you know, just, you know, you go off on rabbit trails. And that bothered me, that I was filling some of that space that I had worked hard to make for myself,
I was filling it with mindless things. So in the last part of December, I revamped how I was dealing with the internet.
So I used to get up in the morning and I just had a, you know, kind of an automated routine of checking various news sources and checking the social media for SimpleMoney, and just various things and I would just do that.
Bam, bam, bam, bam! Check all those things. But what would end up happening is what should have taken me 15 minutes
max was taking an hour because I would get on social media and be like, “Ooh, look at that. Ooh,
look at that. Oh, I want to respond to that. Oh, I want to read that.”
And then before you know it, an hour goes by. And so that was really bothering me that I could not break myself of that habit.
So now what I’m doing is I’m not even opening my computer or looking at my phone first thing in the morning.
I’m drinking a big glass of water and then I make my tea and I’m reading. And so I’m focusing on reading in the morning, because most times I read in the evening and I fall asleep reading in the evening.
So I read some in the morning and then that helps me get in the in the right headspace to then check my calendar and check my various
organizational tools that I use to keep my business going. And know what my priorities are for the day.
So I call that my ‘get my head on straight time’ in the morning. So I’m trying not to get right on the computer in the morning.
And that has been a good experiment for sure. So overall, though with all these goals,
it was kind of a mixed bag, and I’m not really unhappy with it. I think that the year went well because just by having the goals,
I focused on them. I looked at them every month and I knew “Op, here’s what I need to work on this month.
I need to declutter the doggone garage. I need to, you know, work on getting some white space.
Where can I clear, you know, where can I clear the decks on my calendar? And you know,
how can I simplify my financial life?” and so on. So I think that, you know, it was really
pretty successful. And if I had to ask myself, “You know, do I feel like my life is simpler now than a year ago?”
I would say yes, it is. Systems, white space, and just sort of being focused on making those processes tighter has really helped a lot.
So that wraps it up. And so here’s to another year of simplifying my life. I’ll share in a future episode my goals for, my simplicity
goals for 2020, and I hope that you’ll come along for the journey and make some of your own simplification, or simplifying your life, or minimalism,
whatever you like to call it. I hope that you’ll make some goals for 2020 and work on those things so that you can say at the end of the year that your life is simpler because of those things that you did.
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Bye for now.