Episode 85: 5 Things I Did in March to Simplify My Life

Another month, another handful of small things that have helped Dawn simplify her life. Don’t discount the power of baby steps!


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 85: 5 Things I Did in March to Simplify My Life. Hopefully you aren’t getting too bored with these podcast episodes about the little things that I’ve done to simplify my life over the last few months.

I grouped a few together here to sort of catch up in time, since these episodes are based on blog posts that I did a few months ago. I told you about what I did in January, and what I did in February, and then this month we’re talking about, or this week we’re talking about what I did in March to simplify my life.

And again, the point I’m trying to get across here is that it really is the little things, the little things add up, and that so often, I think, that if you’re interested in having a more simple or minimal life, the tendency is to try to bite off everything at one time, in one big bite, and that’s just not possible in our lives today.

So, instead I encourage people to take little steps. And all it takes is a series of baby steps over a series of years, and then you’ll get to the place that you want to be with your life. Now, for some people, that’s not good enough. They want to get there faster. And so it’s frustrating to feel like this may be a multi-year journey.

But as I’ve said before, this is something I’ve been working on for 23 years now, so this is not something that has happened overnight for me. Simplifying my life and getting myself in a position to where I really want to be, and to have my life the way I want it to be – it’s been a process and that’s all I can really say about that.

So without further ado, I will tell you about the things that I did in March to simplify my life. So the first thing is that I moved our grocery list to the Cozi app. I talked last time about the Cozi app that we’ve always used for our calendar, for our family calendar. That’s the way Greg and I stay

on track in terms of what things the three of us – between the two of us and our daughter – the three of us have going on. So appointments, and classes for Rowan, and which days I’m working, when we’re on vacation, things of that nature. So the thing we hadn’t used – we actually did, I guess,

early on when we first started using Cozi, many, many years ago, we used it and then we just fell off of doing it, and I’m not sure why – but we got back onto it and decided in March to use the list function. So we moved our grocery list to the Cozi app. So now, I should tell you that what we had been doing is just

we had a little scrap piece of paper – we have a little pile of them in our pantry – and that’s where everyone would jot down the things that we needed from the grocery store. And then Greg’s the one that usually does the grocery shopping, so he would have to take the list with him, or if I happened to be out and about and get groceries,

I might not have the list with me. So I’d have to text him and get him to take a picture of the list for me. So it oftentimes became a little bit problematic in terms of who had the list and whether everything got purchased from the list, because maybe we left it at home or something. So I thought, well,

this is perfect, we’ll try this out. So we shifted it over to Cozi, and it’s been a great thing because Rowan knows how to add things to the list, and Greg was, it was easy for him to convert to doing it, and it was easy for me to convert to doing it since we were using it already for our calendar. So now we can use that and we can also make different lists for different stores

that we might have shopping to do. And it allows us to check things off, so that’s satisfying also -, in the grocery store, you can just tap your finger in the box and check off things as you’re finding them in the grocery store, and it’s really pretty easy. Another thing I like about it is that I can drag and drop things around.

So I like to organize my grocery list according to the way I walk around the store. And so if the grocery list is sort of organized randomly, I’ll drag everything and move them and group them together as to where they are in the store, because I like to get in and get out when it comes to the grocery store! I do not like to linger around and I really don’t like to have to cross back over,

so if I’ve gotten from one end to the other, I don’t want to have to go all the way back for something I forgot. So that’s just me, you probably are not so picky about it. So you might give a list app, a family list app, a try if that’s something that would be helpful in your life.

The second thing that I did in March to simplify our life – it didn’t feel like it was simplifying our life at the time, but now looking back, I certainly feel like it was a good thing to do. And what that was is I batched our health appointments. So, you know, in a given year, I have a physical,

Rowan has a physical, I go see the gynecologist, we both have to go see the dentist. Greg takes care of his own appointments. I don’t worry about scheduling those, but I take care of scheduling things for Rowan. And so in a given year, that’s quite a handful of, or maybe even a couple of handfuls, of appointments that have to be handled.

And so what I really don’t like is running around town. And so when I have days that I’m not in the office (or days that I am in the office), I don’t like to have to interrupt my day to go and dash in for an appointment here and there. So, it took some time, it took, probably took about a year and a half or so to start shifting things like dentist appointments and whatnot, to where they would all cluster together in time.

But I did it. And so in March, that’s what happened, is we had dental appointments, we had my annual physicals, and Rowan’s annual physical, and all these various things that happened all at one time. And I scheduled them on just a couple of days in a given week. So I had one week where all these appointments were scheduled.

So the other days in that week were days I was working, and so when that week came, it was like the week from hell for me, because I had no downtime. It was just all go, go, go, either working or doing all these appointments. But we decided to just embrace the challenge. I mean, I decided that, “This is a horrible idea!

Why did I decide to do this?” But we said, “Okay, we’ve done it. Let’s go. Let’s embrace the experience.” So Rowan and I packed snacks, we packed water, we packed books for ourselves to amuse ourselves in the waiting rooms in between appointments. And we just got them done, just bam, bam, bam.

And I had spaced them with enough time in between to where there was not a problem if there were delays, or if we had an extra wait time that I wasn’t anticipating. So by the time that week was done, I was like, “Heck yeah!” Now all those things are done for the year. And now I don’t have to worry about

losing time throughout the year, because I basically stacked them all together and got them done. So, I guess in retrospect, I would recommend it, even though it felt a little bit hellish, the week that I was doing it. But, better one hellish week than having to do it multiple times throughout the year

I suppose. The third thing that I did was, we had a staycation. So this is kind of becoming a theme, if you’ve been listening to the podcast episodes so far this calendar year, because we’ve interrupted several previously-scheduled vacations and turned them into staycations. And there’s a lot of reasons for that,

but the main one is just that I think we kinda got a little burned out on doing a lot of vacationing and a lot of traveling, and we missed being home. And so the second half of March was time off for me, so we were scheduled to go and spend the time in our RV

at the coast. And then it was going to be, you know, time that we would just be there and vacationing. And we started getting closer and closer and I thought, you know, the weather forecast was not so awesome. I mean, if you go to the beach, you expect to be able to go to the beach,

and you want to be able to go in the pool if you’re 10 years old, like my daughter is. So it just was not really motivating to us, when we looked at the weather forecast. Plus Rowan and Greg had started, they got really eager about getting seeds going for the garden. So they really wanted to up their game in the garden this year,

because prior years the garden had been rather small because of our travel. So we couldn’t really have a big garden because, who would take care of it all those times we were gone? And wasn’t really fair to ask somebody, or we definitely didn’t want to have to pay for somebody to come and take care of the garden while we were gone. So, because they had gotten all these starts going, and because we kind of were feeling a little ho-hum about traveling in the first place, and the weather looked so crummy,

we decided that we would just cancel the trip. So you’d think, oh, okay, well, that’s great, and we just hung out at home. But that’s not actually what we did, because Greg and I aren’t really wired that way. When we stayed home, it wasn’t like we were just going to lay around and watch Netflix and do nothing.

We had projects that we decided to do. So we don’t just tend to ‘hang out’ at home, we do a little bit, but not a lot. For the most part, we had projects that we wanted to do. But we did get a nice combination of relaxation and also

working on some projects that needed doing. So we also saved money by not doing the traveling and we, of course, enjoyed being home. The next thing I did in March to simplify my life, or further simplify my life, was that I worked on decluttering three areas of our home. So, a couple of those projects were on my goal list for 2019,

things that I wanted to do to simplify my life in 2019. And so I decided this was a good opportunity for me to get going on those. So Rowan was very excited to help, and we decided to get started in the mud room. And when all was said and done, we got all three projects, that I had planned for the whole two weeks that we had here at the house,

we got all of them done in one day instead of spreading it out. So, hey, but that’s all right. You know, we just followed our whims there. And it was, we were in a good groove, it was fun, we were getting it done, and knocking it out,

and so that’s what we did. So, first we tackled the mud room. We got rid of jackets and coats that didn’t fit anymore, or things we didn’t wear anymore. We got rid of old boots and shoes that were in there. We also went through the bin where we keep our scarves and hats and whatnot, and we

knocked that in half, so we got rid of half of that stuff. And we got everything up off the floor in that little closet in the mud room, so that we could do a good thorough vacuum and mop. And we organized the shelf that was in there. And when we were done, it looked SO GOOD. I mean, I was blown away by how organized and nice it looked, and that, I think, is what caused us to really just get super motivated to move right on

onto the next project. And so we moved on to Rowan’s closet, and Rowan’s closet is pretty easy actually. You’d think that with a 10 year old, decluttering or purging a closet would be a trial, but it’s actually not because she’s very good about wanting to get things out of there that don’t fit anymore.

So we just zoomed right through that. And we got rid of a bunch of clothes that we knew didn’t fit her anymore. She goes through shoes like crazy, and so that was quick and easy. And you know, my closet was already in pretty good shape. What was on my goal list for 2019 was to work on my,

what I call my ‘aspirational bins’. So my bins that still have sentimental stuff in it, but also craft supplies and other things that kind of represent hobbies or activities I used to do, and maybe think I’m going to do again someday. So I kind of aspire to getting back into those hobbies, when the likelihood is,

is that that’s probably not really going to happen. So, we did, I did a fair job on that project. So I would say we did an A+ job on the mudroom, we did an A+ job on Rowan’s closet, we did probably a B- job on my closet. But that’s okay, because I got through some of the bins and got some things organized and then it was definitely an improvement.

So what I have left in there is really just my bins of, like mementos and sentimental things and homeschool related things. So I’ll have to get back to that project, but that’ll happen some other day. Then the last thing on my list for March is that I emptied my car of all the donations that we had drummed up from getting rid of the stuff in the mudroom and out of the closets.

So that kind of seems like I’m cheating a little bit, because those were things we did and then I’m counting it again. But the reason I did is because while we were doing those projects, it started raining and we had a few days of really, really heavy rain. And so that stuff just stayed in my car, we were good about getting it right out of the house and into the car,

but then it stayed in my car because it was raining and gross, and I didn’t want to have to go and spend time standing out there, unloading stuff at the donation centers. So that stuff hung out with me for a few days, and I think it was probably about a week that they lived in my car before I finally

got busy and did my rounds and did all the donations where they needed to go. So when I finally did it, it was like a big weight was lifted because now suddenly my car was decluttered, from having been filled with the donations and stuff. So, you know, again, I’ll repeat that this all adds up,

you know, I’m trying to drive home the point that these are mundane things. I mean, this isn’t like special wisdom that’s coming down to me, or anything like that. It’s not a big effort. These are just small little efforts, things that you can think about doing that will add up over time and keep your life simple.

Because I think one mistake people might make when they think about living a more minimalistic or simple life, is that they think that if they do one big purge of their house and declutter everything, or they, you know, really, like, revamp their entire life, they feel like it’s a ‘one and done’. Like, “Oh, okay, I did that. And now I’m here in this new way of living.” Well,

that might work, but I’m going to guess that it’s probably not sustainable. It’s not something that’s just going to naturally stay in that new state. It’s going to be something you’re going to have to work on over time. You’re going to have to maintain over time, because stuff has a way of creeping back into our lives. Obligations have their way of creeping back into our lives.

So it’s kind of an ongoing maintenance thing. And that might depress some people to think that it’s kind of a never ending journey, but honestly, I think it’s the journey that’s the fun part! You know, getting this mindset together to have a simpler life and, you know, minimizing what you have in your home,

so that you have room to breathe and you have white space, those are all wonderful things, but, you know, it’s the process, I think, that’s really rewarding. So there you have it. Those are the things that I did in March to simplify my life. The two episodes that came before this were the prior couple of months, and I’ll have

the next month, I’ll do that episode in a few weeks. If you’re interested in having more conversation about this, you can join the SimpleMoney Community on Facebook. If you just go to Facebook, you can go to the SimpleMoney page, find the community, or you can just search for it.

And if you’re not a subscriber to the newsletter, please go to the website, simplemoneypro.com and sign up for the weekly newsletter. So they’re every week, I do an extra bit of content that’s not available anywhere else, it’s a free newsletter and that’s where I will always post news about new things that are coming out.

There hasn’t been anything newsworthy in the last few months because I’m just in a settled period right now, and I’m ramping up some things in the summer. So you’ll want to be a subscriber in order to get all the news about that. So that’s it for today. I hope you’ll join us next week for

more of the SimpleMoney Podcast. 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 in 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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