Episode 95: Five Things I Did in May that Simplified My Life

Dawn describes 5 more things she did in the month of May in her quest for a simpler life. Small things add up!


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 95: 5 Things I Did in May that Simplified My Life. May was a bit of a crazy month at our house. I’ve been going along every month and taking notes about all the things that I do during that month that I think simplify my life, or at least help me along the pathway of simplifying my life. May was no different.

I did the same exercise of writing down things that I thought were, at least in part, helpful to simplifying my life. But, boy, I tell you, May was crazy. The first few weeks of May, I was in a real flurry to try to get things done at my office because I was going to take a 12-week sabbatical for the summer and I needed to get some things done. So there wasn’t a lot of simple living at the first part of May, for sure. I was here, there and everywhere

trying to get things done. And then the last part of the month was when Rowan and I went to Wyoming and we had a great vacation there, while Greg stayed home to tend the pets, including the chickens. So nevertheless, despite all that chaos at the beginning and then, of course, the vacation in the second half, I did get some things done where I engaged in things that I feel like helped simplify my life. So I’m going to give you the rundown from May. The first thing that I did in May was I got a haircut.

So, all my life my hair has been a sore spot for me. So I have mostly fine hair, it’s very straight, and I have a high forehead, and so there’s a limited number of ways that I can wear my hair that makes me happy. And so for a few years I’ve been – and it grows very, very slowly – but for the last few years I’ve been growing it out and wearing it longer, and I was enjoying that. But honestly, you know, if I wasn’t working,

I was putting it up in a ponytail and just calling it good. So that seemed like kind of a waste and having to, you know, style it to go to work was kind of a hassle. So I just decided that because the hot weather was coming on that I would go ahead and get a couple of inches hacked off. So my daughter was not happy, at all, about this. So she did not want me to cut my hair, but I did anyway. And so now I can just wash it and I barely blow it dry and it’s presentable enough to get out of the house.

And so that has been a big time-saver for me, and effort, and it’s just kind of saves my sanity a little bit. So that was a good one for me for May. Now the question becomes whether or not I’ll keep it this length going forward or will I grow it back out. Well, time will tell, I guess. So the second thing I did in May was that I closed some business credit cards. So what happened is that I was working on paying bills and I realized that this one business credit card – so Greg and I between us,

we run three different businesses, and so we have credit cards for all three businesses, and accounts for all three businesses.

But two of those businesses don’t generate a lot in expenses on-going, they’re just occasional expenses.

And what was happening is that the bill for one of them, if Greg made a charge for something for our real estate business,

then the time between when the bill would cycle through my office and get to me and then I would go and pay it, was cutting it really close.

And I didn’t like that because I always felt like, “Oh, my gosh, now I have to get online RIGHT NOW,

I have to drop what I’m doing and pay this or else it will be late!” So I didn’t care for that.

So then I started thinking, “You know, we hardly ever use these cards. So the rare time we do causes this little panic flurry,

and so do we really need them?” So I talked it over with Greg, and we decided that we didn’t really need them,

and if we had to make an expense for something for one of those businesses, we could just do it on our personal card and then arrange for reimbursement. Every month

when I get our personal credit card statements, I always go through all the expenses, so I would see, “Oh yeah,

there’s that thing that was for this business or that business,” and then I would work to arrange for reimbursement from the business account to our personal account.

That seems like it would be more complicated, but honestly, over the long haul, I think it will be less complicated because we won’t have more cards to keep up with in our wallet, or in my case,

my purse. And I won’t have to worry about that deadline coming up so quickly. So we decided to lighten our wallets and hopefully that will simplify our lives,

our financial lives. The third thing that I did in May, that I was really happy about, is I did not pack the weekends full.

So even though I was super busy at the first part of May, trying to get things done, I was very careful and mindful about what I was scheduling on the weekends. Because I knew those week days were going to be jam-packed with work-related activities and other things that needed to get done prior to our leaving on our trip and prior to being on sabbatical.

So I purposely left lots and lots of white space in the weekends so that I would have some breathing space,

some downtime, so that I wouldn’t feel like I was going 100 miles an hour constantly for a few weeks in a row.

So that was very helpful for me, and I’m starting to think that, I’m calling that my Secret Sauce. When it comes

to me being less stressed and feeling less overwhelmed by life, because, you know, my life is very busy, it’s very full, I’ve got a lot of things going on, lots of irons in the fire. That’s the way I like it honestly,

but it’s difficult. And then as I’m aging, I’m getting less tolerant and less able to deal with the overwhelm of that.

So I think that my secret is to make sure I’m managing the weekends. By managing the weekends and leaving at least one day completely free,

that I can just, you know, breathe, relax and not have to – not that I relax all day,

that just doesn’t happen – but just a day that’s not scheduled with something. So that seems to be the thing that keeps me from going crazy with all the busyness.

So hopefully I will carry that over this fall, after the sabbatical weeks when my life ramps back up again to full-speed, that I will be able to keep that up and not fill my weekends, every single weekend.

The next thing we did is that we packed very carefully for our Wyoming trip. So last summer, Rowan and I went to the same ranch in Wyoming and we did a pretty good job of our packing last year.

We were careful about it. We talked about what we needed to bring. She brought a lot of extra stuff.

She thought, she was concerned with, you know, the lack of Internet, and there would be no TV or anything like that

to keep her busy, she brought a lot of things that she thought would keep her busy and occupied,

in addition to her books. Well, she ended up, of course, being outside and playing outside the entire time and not touching any of those

little games and gadgets and things that she brought along, she thought that she would need. She didn’t touch them at all.

So after we came back, I talked to her about that, you know, “Hey, look, so you see these things that you packed that you didn’t use a single time?

We need to remember that so that next year when we go, we’ll pack even more carefully.” And she was game,

so we did a very good job this time of packing super carefully. So the only mistake we made with our packing this year was kind of a funny one,

because – so we do a lot of horseback riding when we’re at this ranch. And this year we were going and we were acting as volunteers,

so we did even more riding than usual. So Rowan and I both have riding boots, mine are short, ankle-height boots and hers are knee-high boots,

they’re big boots. So we packed those in addition to our other shoes. So we were really careful about what kind of footwear we packed, because we didn’t want to bring three or four different types of shoes,

it fills up your suitcase So we, in essence, had the shoes on our feet, which I was wearing my hiking boots on the plane because they take up so much space.

And then I brought my Birkenstock sandals to wear when I wasn’t wearing my hiking boots. And then, of course,

the riding boots. And so she packed a similar collection of shoes. But the riding boots got packed,

they took up a ton of space and we got all the way to Wyoming. So when it came time to go riding,

she stuck her feet in those boots and said, “These boots are too small. I can’t wear them.

They’re super tight.” And so I thought, “Oh my gosh!” Her feet have been growing so fast over the last year,

it’s crazy. She outgrows shoes super rapidly, and I should know better. And so I should have known that it had been several months since she wore those boots, she should have tried them on before we got them in the suitcase.

Well, nevertheless, we didn’t. But fortunately she had her, kind of her, I call them Fashion Boots,

they’re not really fashion boots, they’re her cowboy boots that she wears, not for riding, but those were totally adequate for riding.

So she was able to use those at the ranch. And of course, that fit in a little bit better also with being in the West.

And we donated those riding boots to the riding program there because they have kids that come through in the summer programs that might be able to use them.

So at least they went to a good cause. And then that freed up some space in our suitcase for the ride home,

which was good because we ended up bringing back extra books that we bought while we were there. So the last thing that we did, or that I did, in May

that I think really helped my quest for a simpler life is that we were very thoughtful and careful about moderating the amount of activity we did while we were in Wyoming.

You know, I’ve traveled a lot for a lot of years, and I totally understand and get the sense of “while we’re here,

we need to, you know, fill every moment of every day with these activities so that we’ll have all these memories because,

you know, we may never be back to this place.” And I tried really hard to take a step back from that approach and say,

“But I don’t want to wear myself out so much that I can’t really remember things because I didn’t have enough time to have a meaningful experience in this new place that I am because I was so busy doing things.”

And, of course, again, it’s, you know, it’s totally my nature to be busy, so it’s very easy for me to fall back into the pattern of just filling every moment with activity.

So while we were there – we’ve been there, well, Rowan’s been there twice now, this was my third time to

Wyoming – so we were very careful. And when we were spending our few days in Jackson before we went to the ranch,

you know, Jackson is very expensive, and so doing a lot of activities in Jackson can really rack up the dough.

So we were really careful and we knew we were going to do the paragliding. She had done it the last time, I was chicken the last time, I didn’t do it.

And so this time I said “I will do it.” I faced my fears, I did it, it was awesome!

So, not sure I would do it again, but I feel like I accomplished something for myself.

But over and above that we were very careful about what we did. So instead of filling every day with outings, and filling every day with expensive activities,

we were very careful. Now, partly we were helped out in this way because the weather was horrible,

while we were there. It was rain, or sleet, or snow and cold. And so it was not the weather we had had the last couple of times we had been there,

so that helped, certainly. So in essence, what we did is we sought out those little windows of opportunity in the weather and we would go and do something,

and then we would come back and we would relax and rest and read, and just kind of be a little bit lazy.

And that turned out to be the very best thing, because we enjoyed ourselves so much on this trip, because we had plenty of downtime.

Plenty of time to just sort of be there, enjoy the scenery and not feel like we were running around from activity to activity.

And, of course, at the ranch we were busy because we were working a lot, but still we had downtime. So moderating our activities,

and so this is sort of related to my freeing up the weekends thing, not trying to fill every single waking moment with something to do.

Because that is what drives, certainly me, and I suspect probably you’ve experienced it also, it drives you down into fatigue and into illness because you’re just so busy you’re not giving your body time to rest and be downtime.

So, as I’ve said before with these monthly installments, you know, my objective is to try to find things to make examples of ways that just, little by little,

I’m simplifying my life over time. Because it’s an ongoing process. You’re not going to get it done in a year or less,

or even a few years. I’ve been at this for 20 some odd years now, working

to get my life in a place where it’s more laid back and just simpler, and that I have time and energy,

and the financial resources to enjoy the things that I want to be able to enjoy. But I just want to emphasize the fact that those little things that you do do add up.

And so you might take on the activity of tracking the little things you do each month.

You know, “What did I do this week or this month that helped me down the path of simplifying my life?”

You might find very, very, very small things, because I have very, very, very small things,

and then some larger things that I do each month, that kind of help me move down that path.

And of course, the path’s not straight either. You know it’s zigzaggy, but also, you kind of, sometimes, will take a few steps back and make your life a little more complicated for a while, before you can move forward again.

It’s all just a journey. But those little steps add up, and I encourage you to think through,

you know, how you might be actually simplifying your life, when you actually think you’re not. When you think that you are

getting nowhere with the process, because you just don’t have big swaths of time to declutter or do things, think about how these little things you’re doing are adding up over time.

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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