How to Have Your Own Simplicity Summit

Mark and I sat down for our Simplicity Summit last night. We had an untitled version about 2 years ago and thought it would be a good time to check in.

One of the most frequent questions I get from readers is “How can I get my spouse or partner on board in simplifying our lives?” My reply is usually, “You can’t, but you can inspire them to want to join you.” A Simplicity Summit is the great place to start the conversation.

If the word simplicity is too intimidating, call it the Happiness Summit. This meeting is about starting a conversation about your lives together. Note: if you live alone, you can hold a solo-simplicity summit. Regardless of age or any circumstance, it’s important to intentionally review finances, health and other things that are meaningful to you.

How to Have Your Own Simplicity Summit

  • Set the date. Choose a time where you can have an hour or two with no kids or distractions.
  • Make an agenda. Come prepared with a list of questions and other information to review so you can spend time talking instead of researching.
  • Have a conversation. Talk and then listen. Then listen more.
  • Daydream a bit. Say things like, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if…” or “I think it would be awesome to…” Then support the dreams, redefine them and make them plausible
  • Ask questions like why now or why not now? Play both sides of the coin to work through fears you may have that you didn’t know about.
  • Write it down.
  • Clearly identify action steps for each person.
  • Set the date for another quick accountability meeting in a week or two to review progress on the action steps.
  • Always close the meeting with, “Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to talk about?”

Our Story and Summit

We’ve been talking about having a Simplicity Summit for a few weeks now, and agreed that last night was the perfect time for it.

I emailed Mark during the day to remind him and let him know how excited I was to talk about us and our lives. That set the tone. This wasn’t going to be a doom and gloom chat, this was going to be an awesome conversation about our lives.

Before our meeting started we went for a 30 minute walk to completely unwind and leave the work day behind us. When we got home we sat at the kitchen table with our laptops. I created a Google Doc that we could both edit as we were talking. You can create any document, even with pen and paper. Create something that you can both easily read and work on.

The first thing we reviewed is the why. Why were we taking the time to do this? We are holding this Simplicity Summit to review monthly bills, savings plan, moving ideas, talk about how things are and how we want things to be. Now that we are open to living unconventionally, this conversation will help us move forward.

Our document and meeting were broken up into 5 sections: money, health, where do you want to be, questions/discussion & action steps.

1. Money
Start with the bills. It can be stressful to talk about money and that’s why many families avoid it completely. By identifying some clear talking points, we eliminated the emotion and could talk about the facts. We reviewed a list of monthly expenses and put notes next to any item with questions or ideas to reduce or eliminate it.

We also reviewed other expenses including groceries, dining out, travel, sports, household, etc. Our big question after reviewing the two lists was, “How can we cut more of our expenses and intentionally save and give more?”

2. Health
We’ve met our max out-of-pocket and deductible (Thank you Multiple Sclerosis) with our health insurance so any services completed by the end of the year will be covered at 100%. We made a list of any appointments that could be made and added them to the action steps below. Instead of nagging Mark to make an appointment for a physical everyday for the next 2 weeks, it’s on his list. I’m also more likely to schedule my appointments because I know I’m accountable.

3. Questions/Discussion
I started a list of questions in advance of the meeting and we both added answers and more questions. It’s important to have them in writing because the next time we review, we’ll see our initial reaction. Knowing that life will toss us curve balls, and also being overwhelmingly happy with changes that we’ve made in our life, we are ready to talk about anything. We are happier when we are proactive instead of waiting for something to force our hand. Here are some of the questions that came up:

  • What stuff can we sell now?
  • What will we sell when we move?
  • What else can we give away?
  • What do we need to do to sell our house?
  • Why wait to sell house?
  • Why sell it now?
  • What kind of home do we want to live in?
  • What kind of community do we want to live in?
  • How will we pay for college?
  • Other ways to generate income?
  • Should I take a part-time job?
  • What do we need to do to plan for holidays?
  • What are our travel plans for the next year?
  • Could we sell one car and share the other?
  • Are there volunteer/service projects that we want to do in the community?

4. Where will we be
We know our lives are going to change significantly over the next year. We also know that we can’t control everything, or much of anything but want to have some things to strive for

  • 1 Year: max out emergency fund and figure out a loan-free college plan
  • 5 Years: cut living expenses by 50%
  • 10 Years: we left this blank because we really don’t know what our lives will look like in 10 years. Things are changing all the time and we want to be open to opportunity and serendipity.

5. Action Steps

Mark

  • Make dentist appt
  • Make doctors appt
  • Research car sale
  • Car maintenance
  • Set up automatic monthly savings deposit

Courtney

  • Compare insurance rates
  • Research scholarships/grants
  • Schedule mammogram
  • Start conversation with realtor

We’ll meet again in two weeks to review our progress on the action steps. So much is changing for us over the next year, that we are going to have more frequent Simplicity Summits. We could get by without them, but we want to say the things that go unsaid and ask the questions that typically go unasked. We are living our lives on purpose and it makes for a happy marriage and exciting life.

What do you want to know about holding your own Simplicity Summit?

 

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Comments

  1. says

    This is awesome! I love that you guys can talk freely and openly about what you want out of life.
    I am working towards moving out of the family house (hopefully into a tiny house) and have been having similar ‘summits’ with myself and my parents. I love the idea of checking back in at a set point, I think that would really help me keep myself accountable.
    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Tammy R says

    I love the title. It is funny that CJ and I separate our money talks from the fitness, healthy eating, and fun we talk about every day on our walks and over coffee. I like your idea of coming to the table with something – questions, an agenda – and that you have specific areas you will address. Thank you for sharing the specifics of how it works in your marriage, so all of us can modify and adjust to our needs. Thank you, Courtney!

  3. says

    Courtney, I love this idea! My husband and I are in the process of downsizing our lives to the next level, just starting. We’ve had many snippets of talks but nothing so systematic. He’s open and eager, but I’m afraid the enormity of all this at once might be overwhelming to him. Any suggestions about that?

    • Courtney Carver says

      Sandra, It’s all in the approach and execution. Make sure everyone knows that there are no right or wrong answers and no pressure for major change. It’s simply a conversation.

  4. says

    This is a great idea. Our attempts at conversations about such things sometimes devolves as we lose focus. Setting it up a bit more like I do meetings at work (where I rarely allow focus to be lost) makes sense…in other words, an agenda will be brilliant!

  5. says

    Courtney I think this is a really great idea. Several of these topics can be difficult for couples/families to discuss openly without getting defensive. This is a great method for laying everything on the table and creating real answers to any questions the other person may have. I think this will definitely become a new conversation in our home!

  6. says

    This is a great list of suggestions. I live alone, but found many of your ideas to be one’s that would be helpful to myself in looking forward rather than just living day by day. I had stopped making plans after I downsized and began to just enjoy the days as they unfold, but maybe it’s time to take another look.

  7. says

    Hey Courtney, I know I usually don’t comment (although I read faithfully) but this time I had to tell you how much I appreciate this. Thanks for sharing with us what you actually had on your list – I know it’s personal but you have no idea how much it helps guide my own discussions with my husband. Our “stuff” is different than yours, but reading about how to do it is so much more meaningful with an actual story and real examples. There is nothing vague about this, and it’s exactly what I needed.

Trackbacks

  1. […] 1. Host a simplicity summit. Organize a family meeting with kids or without to talk about how you want simplicity to work in your family. Bring big questions and open ears and hearts to the table as you discuss things like what’s complicated in your life and how simplifying it would improve relationships and family dynamics. If kids join the summit, keep the topics lighter and save the heavy hitters for partners only. You can read about my first simplicity summit here. […]