Simplifying my life, both in general and in my finances, has been and continues to be a “work-in-progress.” When each year winds down, I try to reflect over the prior 12 months. For me, looking back is satisfying since otherwise it’s easy to focus on the bad things and forget about (or understate) the good things.
Initially, when I looked back at my simplification journey this year, I immediately came up with a few less-than-awesome outcomes. I scolded myself a bit but recovered and remembered all the things that went well. I thought I would share both my wins and my losses, with the hope that you might also be inspired to reflect on your minimalism journey in 2018.
Awesome things I did in 2018!
Simplifying our finances
I continued to take small steps to streamline and simplify my financial life. This has always been my passion (and it is what I teach in the courses at SimpleMoney), but life is always changing, so adaptation is inevitable. I came up with three financial simplification wins I accomplished this year.
Closed lines of credit: For many, many months, my To Do list included a note to close two store charge cards. We seldom used the credit cards, so they were simply open lines of credit. Honestly, I opened them because, at the time, they offered a significant promotional savings on larger purchases.
Thinking I could save $15-30 on a clothing purchase merely by opening a store credit card, for example, would thrill my thrifty self. But honestly, the psychic toll of carrying another line of credit, waiting for the bills to come in, and keeping up with the paperwork involved is simply not worth it. When I finally closed them, I vowed not to reopen any more lines of credit with store charge cards. It took less than five minutes to accomplish this task, which made me feel silly when I realized how long I had been procrastinating.
Cleaned out my wallet: My wallet was out of control. One of our SimpleMoney Studio course projects was to clean out our wallet. I videotaped the purging of my wallet, and it was a total spectacle. All sorts of things were lurking in there. I have maintained my new streamlined wallet for months since, and I could not be happier. Next up is to move to an even smaller wallet!
Paid off two longer-term debts: We’ve been aggressively paying off debts for years. This year we accomplished getting two of those debts paid in full, which leaves us with only house-related debt. Yippee!
Simplifying our house
My family and I also made progress with a few home simplification goals. While my husband has definitely been a late-adopter when it comes to minimalism, he realized the joy of purging and has eliminated quite a number of things from our house and garage.
Purged my clothes and closet bins: I tackled purging my clothes closets in two sessions. While I have been pretty good about keeping a reasonable-sized wardrobe, I was holding onto some clothing items that were — um — aspirational. Whether the clothing items were in smaller sizes or reflected my past participation in triathlons, I had numerous items that I was very unlikely to wear again. So out they went.
I also had several storage bins in the closet. Honestly, I could have purged the entire bins and more than likely would never have missed a thing that was in them. But once I started sorting the contents, sentimentality kicked in. I eliminated one and a half of the four bins in the closet, so I consider that a win.
Purged our books: My daughter Rowan gets the blue ribbon here. She purged nearly 100 books. She reads voraciously, and she keeps book series she thinks she will read again. As time passed, however, she had moved on to other books, and she recognized she was unlikely to read these books again.
I managed to get a boxful of my books together for a trip to the used bookstore. But I still have too many books. I’ve had many of them for quite some time now, but because I’m convinced I will read them, I can’t bear to purge them. More work to do here, but at least I got started.
Simplifying my life
Here are three other areas where I experienced great success with simplifying:
Combined my calendar and planner: Just recently, at the beginning of this month, I got frustrated with my system of keeping myself organized. I had a separate monthly calendar, along with my daily planner for time blocking and task lists. But because it was way too colorful for my taste, I decided I wasn’t really fond of the monthly calendar I had purchased for 2019. I had bought it in a bit of a panic, because I wanted one just like the one I have for this year. It was close, but not quite as perfect, and it was also too brightly colored and busy.
I was poking around Microsoft Excel (my love of spreadsheets is legendary, people!), and I found a template for a simple month-by-month calendar. I printed out all the months of 2019 on white card stock, hole-punched them, and added them to my planner binder. Now my calendar lives with my daily planner, and I could not be more thrilled.
Minimized travel packing: This year I challenged myself to see how little I could get by with packing for various trips. This project has been documented in previous blog posts, so I’ll simply note that this project brought me a great deal of joy, along with a good challenge. More to do here in the coming years, but I’ve made a great start!
Kept my car un-junked: While I didn’t score a perfect “ten” with this effort, I was very happy with my new routine of completely emptying my car after a day’s outing. It had always been an easy temptation to just leave my things in the car and tell myself I’d get them later. But it gives me a lot of pleasure to get into a tidy car every day.
Some less-than-awesome things I did in 2018!
Of course, you don’t always win, right? Here are three things that were disappointing or frustrating this year:
Froze our credit: After the Equifax breach, we followed the steps involved to freeze our credit. After all, we had no plan to apply for any credit anytime soon. The trouble was, I have an empty line of credit for my financial planning firm that is renewed every year. And that renewal involves pulling our credit. Oops. Turns out that Equifax’s process for unfreezing one’s credit isn’t as simple as they make it out to be. Suffice it to say, it was a big hassle, and not at all simple or fun.
Ignored the kitchen drawers: While I would like to blame this one entirely on Greg, he’s really only half to blame. He found some very high-quality utensils on a deep discount and purchased them for our kitchen. The trouble was, neither of us was interested in removing some old utensils to make room for the new.
What needed to happen was to pull ALL the utensils out to sort, organize, and purge the older or unused items. Instead we spent the next several months jamming clean utensils in the drawer and cursing when the overfilled drawer got stuck and wouldn’t open properly.
Allowed my schedule to go unchecked: For my grand finale, here’s a less-than-awesome outcome a lot of you will understand. I have been working VERY hard for a few years now to eliminate obligations to maintain some white space in my schedule. For a few months this year, I was distracted, and my guard was down. In came some new obligations that while fulfilling in some ways, have added to my already full plate.
I’m trying hard to not beat myself up about it, but rather to take a step back and determine where I went awry. I’m determined to be more mindful about protecting white space in my schedule in 2019.
So, there you have it, my simplifying highlights and low points for the year. I would love to hear yours! Feel free to share them below, or if you prefer, you can email me at Dawn@SimpleMoneyPro.com. Or if you want to start a discussion with some like-minded friends, join the free SimpleMoney Community on Facebook to share your ideas!
You might also enjoy:
If you like what you read, subscribe to our free weekly newsletter! This will keep you up to date on the week’s blog posts and podcast episodes, but also includes content only available to subscribers!
*Photo credit: Dawn Starks – Picture of daughter, Rowan at Phelps Lake in Jackson, WY.