Episode 84: 6 Things I Did in February to Simplify My Life

Here is the next episode in the series about small activities or shifts during a month’s time that add up to more white space and simplicity for Dawn. Hopefully you will be inspired to make some small changes on your path to simplicity!


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 84: 6 Things I Did in February to Simplify My Life. Last week, I gave the first installment in this series of posts that I had written up.

Each month I started tracking the things that I was doing in my life, little things, little things I was doing here and there, to simplify my life and try to add some more white space, give me a little bit of breathing room – and they just accumulate over time, and so it’s like a compound effect. So when I wrote these

up in the blog, it was very popular. People were very interested in this. So I decided to start tracking every month and see what small things I was doing that have added a big benefit as they’ve accumulated or compounded over time. So these are the things – last week I gave you the items that I had done,

or the tasks I had done in January of 2019. So this is the February list. So these are the things I did in February to simplify my life. So the first thing – and these are very different from last week’s batch for just whatever reason, this is just the way it worked out – so the first thing is that I combined our calendars.

So now this is kind of an embarrassing thing for me to talk about, because I like having a paper calendar, and this is really, I feel so stupid about having done this particular thing, but I wrote it up and now it’s out there! So I might as well tell you about it here on the podcast also.

So here’s the thing, a little background; Greg and I, for some years now have used the Cozi app. So it’s C-O-Z-I (and I have no affiliation with Cozi, we’ve just used the app and we just use the free version), and we use that for the family calendar. And so on that calendar goes things like the notations about which days I’m working at my office,

which days, you know, if Rowan has a dental appointment or if I have a dental appointment, whatever impacts the family and that where we need to know where each other have to be, that goes on that family calendar. But that calendar doesn’t include all the stuff I put on my calendar, because I like a paper calendar because I like to be able to see it all on one page,

but I also put other notes and things on my calendar, and I don’t want to clog up the Cozi calendar with that. Plus I just prefer paper to the online calendar. So I have always had my paper calendar, and I just have to transfer things over to Cozi on a regular basis. So in 2018, our life got a little bit more complicated and more crazy because we launched the SimpleMoney business in 2018.

And so now we’ve got this podcast and we’ve got the blog posts, and Greg’s involved because he does all the podcast production and he does the video production for the courses that I have on SimpleMoney. And so, there were a lot of deadlines and things that we had to kind of keep up with. And so, because the tasks,

you know, each month, were kind of overwhelming thinking about, you know, making sure we were on pace for all those things. I thought, “Okay, what we need is a central place to be able to put all these things on a calendar.” And so, I went and got a laminated calendar, one of those big wall calendar things,

and I put it up in our den and I thought, “Okay, this is it. I’m going to be real organized. And this will help Greg, because we’ll put it all up here for everyone to see.” And so fortunately, unfortunately, I mean, the pen that the calendar came with was this theoretically small-tip pen,

but it actually was pretty fat from the standpoint of trying to write something in a small square. So it really looked messy up there after I got a couple of months worth of data up there and I was really kind of unhappy about it. And so I was stewing about it a little bit and thinking, you know, “This just looks like crap and I don’t like doing it,”

and whatever. And then all of a sudden I had this, like, epiphany, “Oh, you know, I could just put these deadlines, since they impact Greg and me, I could just put them in our Cozi calendar, which we already use, and I know Greg looks at it every day. What are the chances that I’m going to train him to walk into the den every day, or every week, to be able to see what deadlines are coming up?”

So this was like, I feel so dumb that I was like, “Well, duh, you know, this makes perfect sense.” So that’s what I did. I took down the laminated calendar and then put all these deadlines and things on the Cozi calendar. And it has worked like a charm. So when I first wrote this post back in March,

because it was, you know, reporting on February, it had only been a few weeks of doing it. Now it’s been a few months of doing it and it’s working fabulously. He doesn’t miss deadlines, I don’t have to get on his case about things, we don’t have to worry about having a big powwow and talking about different things that are coming up,

he knows, he can see it on the Cozi calendar and it works great. So it only took a few minutes for me to put all those deadlines into the Cozi calendar. And then we ended up with a streamlined calendar system and we’re both happy with it, and that was such an easy fix for a problem that we were having. So as I said,

I feel kind of dumb about it, but, it is what it is. So the second item on the list is that I minimized my iPhone. So, during one of the times that I was browsing in Facebook, I saw a post by someone who’s a newer acquaintance of mine. And it was about how he had followed the lead of one of his friends

and had minimized his phone. Well instantly, I was interested in that because I feel like my phone is just full of stuff. I mean, it has all these apps in it that I hardly ever use. So, I took a look at this post and he showed screenshots of how he had narrowed down, you know, eliminated apps, deleted ones he didn’t use and put things into folders and so on and so forth.

And so I thought, “Wow, why didn’t I think of that? I should do this!” And so I got up and I went over to my phone and I pulled up the main screen and I started to work on it. I started dragging things into folders and naming them, you know, put all like sort of apps together, and like all the game apps that my daughter likes to use,

I put those all together in a folder, and so on and so forth. And I ended up with just like one and a third or so screens, that the first one and a third screen were the apps that I routinely access, and then everything else went into folders. So they’re all clustered and those are on subsequent screens. And so that was VERY satisfying! It took me FIVE minutes to do that.

It took no time at all, and it was SO helpful. Because I can’t tell you how many minutes of my life I’ve lost when I’m thinking about something I need to do on my phone, and I have to scroll around and look, and my icons were never in any sort of order, they just got randomly on there.

Now they’re all orderly, I grouped things together, I know where everything is. It was great. So, I know you all have probably already done this and you think I’m kind of a dumb-dumb for not having thought about this, but I’m kind of a late bloomer when it comes to this technology, I kind of went kicking and screaming into it.

And so, I am not always on the cutting-edge of technology, I’ll just put it that way. So this was huge. And now, since I wrote this up in March, I will tell you that since then, I’ve realized the second really most excellent benefit to this is that the other thing about my iPhone that’s annoying to me is that I’m kind of a slave to notifications. That little red circle that pops up in the corner of the icon saying that there’s updates for the various apps,

or whatnot, or alerting you to emails or text messages or whatnot. I’m kind of a sucker for those things. So what I did was I took off the notifications for things like texts and emails. I left it for phone. And then all the apps that tended to always get those little red circles saying they wanted to update, all those went into folders.

And so they are not on my main screen. So now I have a much more calm experience when I open my phone, because I see the main screen with all the apps that I use the most frequently, and my texts and phone and email are on that front page with no little red – well, the phone one does – but no little red circles on the other ones.

So that also causes me to have just a little bit more breathing room, and so that I don’t open it up and think, “Oh gosh, now I have all these things I have to update because I’ve got to get rid of those little red circles.” That’s probably just me being overly sensitive about that. And you all probably know that, about the little circles and you don’t care!

But I do! All right. So relatedly, another item that I did, or a task that I did in February is that I tidied up some computer files. So I was SO motivated after the iPhone success – and that really, I mean, literally it took five minutes, I looked purposefully to see, “Okay, I’m going to spend just a few minutes and see what I can do here.”

And then five minutes later it was done and great. So then I thought, you know, it was a few days later and I was listening to a webinar on my computer – and it wasn’t something I had to see, I was just listening – and so I thought, “Well, you know…” – it got to a point where it was a topic I was fairly familiar with and my attention was not superb –

so I thought, “Well, I’m just going to poke around in my Dropbox folder, and just clean up a few things.” And so I’m frequently kind of lazy about saving things to Dropbox, and I’ll just, either I’m not sure where I want it to live permanently, or I’m just too lazy to go find where I want it to live.

And so I just put it into the main Dropbox folder and then I move them around later. Well that makes the Dropbox be kind of messy. So I thought, “Well, I’ll just start dragging them into their right folders and, you know, move things around.” Again, just a few minutes of work, and I made a HUGE difference in my Dropbox. And it’s so much tidier now, and organized,

and I felt really good about myself that now I will save some time because I won’t have to look for things and figure out, “Where did I save that thing?” And then have to look through all the different files on the main Dropbox page to try to find where I saved the thing that I was too lazy to put where it belonged. So I did that.

So then, also related to the computer, is I sorted my files for my taxes. It’s not actually related to the computer exactly, it was more paper files, but I decided that, you know, “Hey, tax season’s around the corner, I’m going to get a little bit of a jump on it. And so I always start tax-prep with an initial file-sort.

So I go to my “To File” file, because if you’ve read anything I’ve written about, or I possibly have talked about it on the podcast, about my very, very simple filing system: everything goes – when I’m done with a piece of paper that I want to keep – everything goes into the file that is brilliantly named “To File”. That’s the file name! Because it started as a “To-File” file,

and then I realized I was never filing anything that was in that file. I would just leave it in that file until I needed it, or ended up not needing and got to shred it. So I would go in my, at the beginning of tax season, I would go into my “To-File” file and pull out anything that’s tax-related from that year

and make a new file for the taxes. And so I decided to do that. It took me max five minutes to sort that whole file and get everything pulled out for taxes. And I labeled the new folder “Taxes 2018” and I was done. So that was a small thing that I did that will make doing my tax-prep a little bit easier, because I’ve already gotten a head start,

but it just took so little time. Then, the fifth thing on my list is that I batched some errands. I hate feeling like I’m running all over the place all week long. I really don’t care that much to be in my car driving around. I don’t enjoy it. You know, if I’m working a few days of the week in town and

I have to go into town, I don’t want to be going into town all the other days of the week if I can help it. So I hate when I have to do a little one-off errand here or there or wherever. So what I did was, I had compiled several errands that I needed to do, and I decided,

“You know what, I’m going to batch these all together. I’m going to get them all done in one afternoon.” So Rowan and I had girl scout cookies to deliver. And so I made a route that we could drive to hit the various errands that I had to do and also deliver these cookies, because, of course, I like to be efficient when

I’m doing it too. I don’t want to drive crisscross all over town. I want to get it done as quickly as possible. So I figured out where we could be the most efficient in our driving. And then we did all the errands and delivered all the cookies, and it only took half the day. Which may sound horrible to you, but it was quite a number of errands that we got done.

So I felt so happy to have done all those things, got all those things off my to-do list, only took half a day and we were efficient while we were doing it. That was a win in my book. Okay, last thing on my list for February, the things that I did to simplify my life in February, is that I switched to a minimal wallet.

So back in the fall of 2018, I did a project with the SimpleMoney Studio Group where we were taking kind of a critical look at what was in our wallet. And why do we carry around all this junk? You know, what credit cards could be closed? That sort of thing. And so my goal at that time was to find a small wallet, kind of

purse-like wallet that would hold not only my wallet stuff, but also my phone. Because if I am going to go somewhere and I don’t need to bring my big purse that carries my computer to work, I just really need my wallet and my phone, because I can put my car keys in my pocket. And so that’s what I really wanted.

And I did, I found the perfect little purse on clearance. And so I shifted my newly-pruned wallet – that I had done with the SimpleMoney Studio Group. I had really pruned out a bunch of junk – and so I put everything in this new little wallet. But at that same sale, Rowan was with me,

and she had bought this little tiny wallet. It’s a little tri-fold thing, and it’s really very small, just a few inches long and maybe about two or three inches wide. And so she, and it has a little window slot for an ID card, a little zipper for the change for your coin-money, and then only four slots for credit cards.

And then of course it had a section, you know, when you unfolded it for the paper money. So I admired it when she bought it, but I thought there’s no way that I could simplify my wallet that much and get it into that wallet. But I commented on that wallet a few times to her. And so in February, she

decided to empty out that little wallet and give it to her mom, probably because she kind of was hinting about wanting that wallet, and mostly I was just commenting on it. And so I thought, “Okay, well, what the heck? I’ll just experiment. I’ll see if I can live with a minimal wallet like that.” And so I had to be careful and thoughtful about what four cards was I going to put in those. I could put,

of course, my ID in the window-slot, and then I had four slots for cards. So not just credit cards, but you know, loyalty cards, our health savings account card, things of that nature. So, I started sorting the things that are in my wallet and figuring out what could go in there. And all the rest of the cards that I didn’t really need to have at the very,

you know, totally handy in this little wallet, I just put them in a stack with a rubber band on it. And that goes into my regular, my big purse. And then I have another little stack of cards that has, like, things like gift cards, or loyalty cards, or gift certificates, things of that nature –

also, rubber band around it, and that goes in my big purse. And so whenever I’m out and about, and I have my whole purse with me, I have all of those things that I need. And then when I only need to have my little wallet, I just have my little wallet. It does not hold my phone, so I did not accomplish that,

but, it’s nice. And so, now again, several more months have passed. I just thought, “Oh, I’m going to give this a month and see if I can live with it.” And now here it is, it’s a couple months later and I love this little wallet. And it forces me to be,

to clean it out regularly because if I put too many, if I stuffed too many receipts in there, it won’t snap closed, if there’s too many coins in there, it won’t snap closed. So I have to kind of keep it streamlined in order to keep it, you know, keep it a thin profile. So,

so yay, you know, I managed to get this minimal wallet, which would have been kind of like my long-range goal, and it’s worked out just fine. Because some of my loyalty cards I have in an app on my phone, and then other ones I carry around or the gift cards or whatnot and the gift certificates.

And then I just pull those out when I need them. So just like I told you last week, you know, here these are little things, nothing is major, nothing’s earth-shattering. It’s just these little things that I did. You know, not major lifestyle changes, just small projects or little shifts in the way I thought about things.

And it’s added that white space. It’s given me a little bit of breathing room or it, you know, the decluttering helped sort of free up some stress or strain, you know, of carrying around that clutter in my mind and knowing it’s there. So you should think about that, that if you’re trying to simplify your life or,

you know, live more minimally, then think about how you could do small things in order to move yourself down the path, rather than getting overwhelmed by kind of the grand plan scheme, recognize that it’s going to take time. It’s going to be a process. It’s not going to be something that you can get done in a weekend. And then you are a minimalist from that point forward.

It’s a process you’re always going to have to maintain your decluttered state in your house or in your purse or in your life. And so doing these small projects helps you get those little quick wins, Those little dopamine hits, you know that, “Oh, wow! That was successful and so now I feel a little happy.” And then that keeps you moving forward and not getting disappointed that you might feel like your progress is so slow towards the decluttered life or simplified life you’re looking for.

So I hope this is helpful. So we’ll have another one in a couple of weeks, I’ll do the March batch, and we’ll just see what other interesting things that I can get involved in to simplify my life, and maybe that’ll help you be inspired to find small projects to simplify your life. 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 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.


2 responses to “Episode 84: 6 Things I Did in February to Simplify My Life

  1. OHMYGOD can I just say – those little red circles! I too cannot just leave those little red circles be, I have to get rid of them. I personally think this is leftover from some 80’s or 90’s video game (remember when they were called video games?), that I can’t now remember but I feel like I have this training drilled into me. CANNOT leave the little red circles. They hurt my head.

    1. LOL I totally know what you mean. They drive me nuts too. I have a few friends who can leave thousands (!) of unread emails in their inbox. That notification blaring at me every morning would do me in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *