There is nothing like a shiny new year to get motivated, don’t you think? I know it seems silly, if not outright laughable that the short time that has elapsed from the old to the new should signal a monumental shift. But there is something refreshing and encouraging about opening up that brand new calendar nonetheless. It’s like hitting a reset button on your life in a sense. But what I am writing about today is not reserved for January, it is meant as a sort of roadmap you can use any time to get you on the path you actually want to be on.
To be perfectly honest, I gave up on New Year’s resolutions in the traditional sense quite a while ago. They are often too vague and end up shortlived dreams that easily turn into defeats. But just because you have sent the notion of the old fashioned resolution packing, doesn’t mean you have given up. Actually, giving resolutions the heave ho will likely free you up to make some real and lasting changes. Today, I am going to share 5 simple steps to make this YOUR best year. They are both achievable and necessary. Each one of these steps builds on the other to propel you towards your goal of being able to spend your time doing more of what you want to do and less of what you don’t. You deserve a life that is unburdened by clutter and stress, don’t you?
Today marks the beginning of a series of posts dedicated to getting you on the way and getting you unstuck. The information in this post is by no means exhaustive, but meant as a starting point to get you moving in the right direction. It likely took you a while to get to this point and it’s okay to be deliberate about the process. Don’t worry, I will post more in depth regularly on each step to keep you moving towards making this your best year!
Be sure to sign up for the FREE Resource Library filled with tips, tutorials, inspirational printables etc. at the bottom of this post! I will add valuable tools as we move ahead in this journey together.
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5 SIMPLE STEPS TO MAKE THIS YOUR BEST YEAR
Having been down the “creating a better life” road, I know what works and what doesn’t. The steps outlined here for you come out of a great deal of thought, research and deliberation. They are meant to be followed in order for maximum effectiveness.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, but there is just no way around it. While the term “decluttering” seems like an overused, trendy buzz word, its importance simply cannot be overstated. It belongs at the top of this list for a reason. Consider this step the foundation to build everything else on, it’s that important. Why? Chances are that even if you consider yourself fairly organized, you can think of at least a couple of areas in your life that could benefit from lightening the load.
While physical clutter like excess clothing, furniture and all those little items that somehow clog your every day are most obvious, there is emotional clutter that needs to be shown the door as well. Are you stuck in relationships that drag you down and rob you of your strength? Those are cluttering and weighing your life down as well.
Decluttering is so much more than just sorting things and putting them neatly in bins. If approached correctly, it is a very liberating experience that will do more to propel you forward in life than everything else. You deserve to be surrounded by things that serve a purpose, clothes that not only fit well, but will make you look and feel great. You should be comfortable in your home, no matter how large or small, in the presence of belongings that have meaning and bring you joy.
Do you have a room in your house that makes you cringe when you open the door? How about that catch all drawer in the kitchen? Would you like to be able to open your home to friends and family without spending hours or even days clearing clutter and cleaning first?
Our relationship with things can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be! My lightbulb moment came while reading Marie Kondo’s book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up“. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It is the first organizing book I have come across that not only addresses the root causes of clutter, but honors it and our often strong emotional attachments to it. Marie’s book was the first one that made me realize just how many feelings, good and bad, are attached to seemingly unimportant items. Most importantly she shows a clear method that will allow you to let them go. I wrote about the beginning of my own decluttering journey last year.
The end result of decluttering should be to have everything you need, nothing you don’t and to have a proper place for each item.
- Determine what you will do with the items you have chosen to declutter. There will be trash, donations and some that are valuable enough to sell. Check out Facebook and/or Craigslist. If you choose to sell, set a specific sell by date. If the item isn’t sold by then, it is donated. Check out this post on how to deal with items that are not always accepted at thrift shops: OPERATION CLUTTER – WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THE STUFF
- Make sure you have plenty of bags and boxes on hand before you get started.
- Create a plan. It is best to sort through your things by category. Marie Kondo recommends beginning with clothes, shoes and books. Be honest and realistic about the items you choose to keep. Are you sure you will wear them again in the near future? Do they fit you well right now and make you feel good? Could they bring someone else more joy and be put to better use outside of your home?
- Save emotionally difficult items for last. Parting with items gets easier as you move through the process.
- Stay consistent and pace yourself.
Once you have decluttered your spaces, it’s time to move on to the next step – cleaning and keeping it clean. There was a time in my life, when keeping the house clean amounted to keeping a path shoveled to allow for firefighters and paramedics to be able to reach us, should the need arise. Well, not quite, but back then, working full time with little kids, it sure seemed that way. And it’s pretty darn hard to relax in the middle of a mess, isn’t it? But it’s not as difficult as it seems, if you have a plan, the right technique and proper tools on hand. Be sure to check out my super simple and effective homemade cleaning recipes as well as printable cleaning checklists in the FREE resource library.
Following the decluttering step, take some time to give your newly cleared out spaces a fresh clean start. I recommend you do this one room at a time. Once you have cleaned each area it will be much easier to keep it maintained as you move forward.
- To make cleaning each area easier, assemble a cleaning kit you can easily take with you from room to room.
- Always work from top to bottom to avoid having to clean the same area twice.
- To avoid overwhelm, be sure to set aside a specific amount of time and actually set a timer. This will keep you on track and move you along. You will be surprised how little time it actually takes to clean an entire room from top to bottom!
- Enlist the help of everyone in your family. Make it easy for everyone by printing and posting a detailed cleaning routine in each area. This is especially helpful if you are too busy or sick. It’s a great way of teaching teenagers without having to repeat yourself.
#3. SCHEDULE YOUR LIFE
There are enough hours in a day to do everything you need to do, but only if you learn how to allocate them properly.
That is where schedules are worth their weight in gold. Treat your time as an asset. Schedules are the framework that organizes and defines your life. By not creating a schedule you are likely wasting time that could be spent relaxing! Or at the very least doing something you actually want to do.
- Find a system that works for you. The last thing you need is a pretty planner that goes unused, because it doesn’t have the features you need. Do you prefer an hour by hour schedule or a more generic daily planner? Do you need to see your entire month at a glance? Would color coding help you? Find free printable calendar pages in the resource library!
- Once you have found the right planner style, choose a specific time to review and plan your week – every week. This will cut down on forgotten surprises, like that vet appointment your phone suddenly reminds you of an hour ahead.
- Be sure to sync all of your calendars. I love the convenience of keeping a schedule on my phone, but still prefer being able to look at an old school calendar to plan out my week or month.
- If you are just getting started using a planner, begin each month by writing in items that repeat, like bills due, exercise classes, courses and other commitments. This will give you a clear idea of what time slots you have available when scheduling appointments.
#4. MAKE TIME FOR YOU
Your house is (more) decluttered and clean(er), you have a schedule in place that makes the best use of your time. Have you heard the saying “you cannot pour from an empty cup”? You work hard, you not only deserve to de-stress and relax, it is a must. Making time for yourself is not a luxury, it is vital to keeping you healthy and happy. As women, especially those of us who are also caregivers, we tend to deny ourselves the gift of time spent on ourselves. Let go of the guilt and realize that this time is absolutely necessary to recharge your batteries. Reframe it as taking care of your children’s mother, your husband’s wife, your parents daughter if that helps! But make no mistake about it, if you neglect to take the time to take care of yourself, everyone around you will feel the effects.
Allow time for yourself each and every day. Make it no less than 30 minutes for real benefit. Delegate responsibilities, turn off your phone and relax in a quiet space. Learn to meditate, read a real book (not self help – something for fun!) or just close your eyes for a few moments. Master the art of the cat nap. Whatever it takes to remove you from the stress and demands of daily life, treat yourself to a dose of it every single day.
- Create a quiet space in your home for you to retreat and spend time. This can be a corner in your bedroom, a favorite chair in the living room etc.
- Let family members know that this is your time and set a timer if needed.
- Learn to meditate by using a meditation app or read a passage from a book to meditate on. Melodie Beatty’s book “A Journey to the Heart” is one of my personal favorites. Here is a helpful list of meditation apps to get you started.
- Diffuse a calming essential oil like lavender.
- Learn how to use your breath to focus and calm yourself.
- Treat yourself to a little luxury like a facial mask, hand scrub, a relaxing bath (printable recipes in the Resource Library)
- Go outside. Even a short walk around the block can work wonders and you get some exercise while you’re at it:)
A busy life and demanding schedule, taking care of family members often means putting friendships on the back burner. Sadly that can lead to loneliness and isolation. Making a concious effort to staying in touch with or reconnecting with friends is an important part of not getting lost in the daily rut.
Research proves that maintaining friendships is beneficial to our brains, helps us keep stress at bay and leads to an overall better quality of life! This applies to women in particular. Make it a point to get together with a friend or at the very least call them on a regular basis. Having a like minded friend who may be going through similar issues as you can greatly ease loneliness and feelings of isolation, if you are working from home.
- Set time aside each month, ideally each week to connect with a friend
- Take a class like yoga or ceramics and find like minded people
- No time to go out? Invite a friend for a cup of tea.
- Add connecting with your friends to your calendar
Don’t forget to sign up for the FREE Resource Library here! It’s an ever growing collection of printable art, inspiration, checklists, recipes, tips and tutorials.
I have to confess that I have struggled with all of the above mentioned points. Organization and scheduling have never come easy to me. Life with all its unpredictability can easily throw even the most well intentioned and motivated among us off track. That is what makes having a plan to get back on so incredibly important and valuable. Knowing that should I lose my way for any reason, I can always come back and hit the reset button by starting over with these 5 simple steps has taken the stress of getting off track down significantly.
Hopefully it will do the same for you! What is your greatest struggle when it comes to getting organized and making or finding time for yourself? What would you do more of? How do you plan to accomplish it? We are all in this together. Please feel free to share in the comments below, or in The Witty Gritty Life Facebook group.
I’ll be back soon with more on each of the points touched on today. In the meantime you can check out some of the other posts dedicated to this subject here:
Happy New Year!