With the New Year rushing in on the heels of the holiday season, we always end up resolving to start fresh at a time when we’re also trying to decompress from the hectic pace of the holidays. We’re eager to wind down, but we can’t help but imagine what might be achieved in the coming months. There’s so much unspoiled territory ahead. Imagining the possibilities and resolving to meet them is exciting, but also a little overwhelming. Sometimes those ambitious midnight declarations dawn on us the next morning with unexpected weight—did I really mean I’d go for all that glory …
… this coming Sunday?
So, I propose we skip the pressure this year. Instead of striving for sky-high summits, why not bring our expectations down to earth, closer to home? There are a million small measures each of us can take to scale down a bit more, to clear away clutter, and to connect with family, friends, and our passions—the stuff that really matters. A simpler lifestyle isn’t something we can accomplish all at once. It’s an evolution, an awakening that occurs as we take small strides to work more efficiently at what we love, curbing excesses and cultivating our hearts’ desires. This can be the year we start simplifying, one resolution at a time.
Seven Resolutions for a Simpler New Year
1. I will buy less and spend smarter.
Before I buy anything, I’m going to consider how much it means to me. Will it substantially benefit my life? Does it support simple living? Reducing my consumption of advertising will also help squelch the nagging “need” for something new. Let’s switch off the TV commercials, and remove our names from commercial mailing lists with the help of DirectMail.com. When you do buy, opt for quality products that last (and cost more in the short-term) and bulk quantities of items that we can use on a regular basis.
2. I will schedule daily “down time.”
I’m going to make room for 20 full minutes of stillness and solitude every day. Shut the door on distraction, or better yet, head outside. No phone calls, no family matters. This is going to be my time to get back in touch with myself, to tune into my longings. Daydream, relax, lay back and watch the clouds. Figure out who I am underneath all of the hustle and bustle so I can focus on the simple pleasures that make my life worthwhile.
3. I will seek other simple minds.
Simple minds, simple pleasures. I’ve heard this saying spoken disparagingly, but I’ve never understood the negative connotation. How sweet it is to surround ourselves with others who enjoy life’s simplest pleasures! (Not to mention those who “overuse” exclamation marks and smiley faces:) Whether a simple pleasure is gardening, painting, crocheting, or horseback riding, there is a wonderful sense of support and validation in sharing what makes us happy with other “simple minds.” I’ll go first. Here’s a one-minute video of Sister Sue Potter I’d like to share—a quiet moment. Gather up friends with whom you can share the scenic road to simplification.
4. I will prioritize my passions.
I’m going to make a list of my top 5 passionate pursuits in order of their importance. Sometimes, just writing them down can help me clarify and evaluate my current commitments. How could I restructure my schedule to allow space for activities I truly love? Redesign our days by dropping excess “busywork” and declining unnecessary obligations so that we have more time and energy to devote to our dreams.
5. I will unplug and limit techno time.
Simple living becomes increasingly elusive when our to-do lists include never ending phone calls, e-mail, text messaging, and Web surfing. The boundaries that once made it possible to take a breather have become blurred. At first, I’m going to avoid e-mails and switch off my cell phone regularly, letting its battery go dead once in a while as I increase the duration of my quiet moments. And instead of turning to TV for relaxation, let’s try tuning into one of the five passions we’ve prioritized.
6. I will shed “stuff.”
I’m getting out my proverbial red pen and editing my home, room by room. Over the years, it’s easy to accumulate so much clutter that we feel crowded and unproductive. It is incredibly liberating to shed unnecessary stuff. Suddenly, long-forgotten physical and mental spaces open wide with possibility. Edit closets, corners, shelves, and drawers with vigor. Sell items on eBay, organize a garage sale, or donate to a local charity to lighten your heart even more. This year, I started shedding the week before Christmas. I had two entire closets full of neatly packaged bed sets from the linen line I sell. Some were still new, some gently used in my B&B. But they were my history, the record of beds I’ve sold that included dozens of adorable decorator pillows. Won’t I need a record of all my bed sets? I loaded all of them into my jeep and drove them to the Sojourner’s Alliance, an organization that began in 1991 as the YWCA of the Palouse. Its shelter, the Sojourner Truth House, originally housed homeless women and children.
7. I will s-l-o-w down.
Peace rarely accompanies a speedy pace. Rushing revs up our stress levels and leaves little room for simple pleasures. We’re too busy hurrying to smell the roses. Eat slowly. Drive slowly. (Really. Try this. It works miracles.) Walk slowly. Breathe slowly. Stand in the longest line at the grocery store. Putting on the brakes takes practice, but when I do, I realize I’m paying full attention to each task at hand. In Thoreau’s words, you will begin to live deliberately, enjoying every morsel.