Man, 2016 has been one hell of a year – good, bad, and everything in between. I’d be lying if I said I never uttered the phrase: “This has been the worst year of my life.”
Let me be real: it’s been a tough year. I was in and out of doctors’ offices, underwent various procedures, was diagnosed with three mental illnesses, dropped out of a semester of school to be admitted into a treatment center, got into a terrifying car accident, experienced the sudden death of a loved one and attended my first funeral….
Okay okay OKAY – hold it right there. This is starting to sound like a pity party and I’m the only attendee. Let’s back it up.
Yes, 2016 was a total female dog, but I can’t even begin to describe the positive effects my struggles provided me. Bad things happen; heck, bad things will always happen! But what matters most is how you react to them.
To balance the see-saw, here are some good things: I got my first tattoo, I went into recovery, I learned the importance of taking care of myself, I fell in love, I went on my first road trip with my best friend, my family survived war-torn Syria and now live in the U.S., I bought an ice cream maker, I interned at Ohio Magazine and got published for the first time, and I went to New York City!
Now I feel much better. 🙂 Now, let’s move on to the actual topic of this post…. bum, bum, bum.
Fresh start. That’s something we love to talk about, but rarely ever act upon. There are only five days left in 2016. How are you planning to spend those days? I have a few ideas for you.
This is the best time to get rid of all the clutter, anything that you no longer need, use, or want. Throw away any makeup or skincare products that have expired or you haven’t used in a long time, any clothes that you haven’t worn in a year, old notebooks and papers, etc.
“Sentimental value” is a phrase that keeps us trapped in our hoarding habits, but excessive clutter is a cause of stress and invites chaos into our lives.
Ask yourself the following questions as you get rid of your clutter:
- Do I love this item?
- Have I used it in the past year?
- Is it really garbage?
- Do I have another one that is better?
- Should I really keep two?
- Does it have sentimental value that causes me to love it?
- Or does it give me guilt and make me sad when I see the item?
In most cases, any item you’ve been hanging on to “just in case” can be replaced in less than 20 minutes for less than $10. For example, the Spanish books you keep “just in case I learn Spanish.” If you haven’t used those books in the last year, I think we can honestly say they won’t be important in the months ahead.
Declutter. Trust me. You’re going to make a lot more room for the good things you’re planning for yourself in the new year.
When was the last time you backed up your laptop? Do it before it’s too late. Delete those thousands of emails. UNSUBSCRIBE from those pesky promotional emails you immediately delete! Discard files, folders, photos, videos, emails – anything that isn’t necessary and is just cluttering up your computer. While you’re at it, don’t forget to empty the recycle bin. Uninstall programs you no longer use (Rollercoaster Tycoon, anyone?). I recently cleaned up and backed up my laptop and was surprised to find that I still had things like my high school class syllabi and a bunch of research papers saved on my laptop, even though I graduated in 2012. I moved what I wanted to save to my external drive and deleted the rest.
Most of us are very lucky. Even if you think you don’t have a lot, there are people who would trade places with you in a heartbeat. Embrace the magical quality of this time of year and do something nice for someone else. Participate in holiday food drives, donate books or clothes (hint hint….the ones you decluttered from your life!), support small local business that are so often family-owned. If you have a lot of free time, try volunteering. Buying a coffee through a drive-thru? Pay for the order of the person who’s right behind you. This magic that we feel this time of year isn’t something that just happens; we’re the ones who make it happen.
Don’t call them resolutions; call them goals. Write them down and make a plan. The majority of us fail miserably at our New Year resolutions and that’s because we expect too much from ourselves. We want to lose weight, get a six-pack, get a promotion, find the love of our lives, learn a new language, and get a new car all in a year. Set small, but effective goals for yourself like getting up an hour early every day, going for a 15-minute walk before work, or reading before bed instead of watching TV at least twice a week. Changing life-long habits is hard, so you have to start small when working on developing new ones.
I prefer just picking one thing at a time. Don’t try to change your whole life at once. It won’t work. Instead pick one area of your life to begin with.
You know that thing that has been “following” you all year long? That thing you kept finding excuses for not doing it? Well, can you guess what you’re doing first thing tomorrow?
Whether it’s an overdue bill, an application you have to fill, or an apology – you need to take care of it now. We often put those things off, the things that we dread, the things that we don’t feel like doing. But guess what? Every night as you go to sleep, that little problem sits there somewhere in the back of your head, and it bothers you. Just do the thing!
DANCE! (& CELEBRATE YOUR WINS)
Ah, I saved the best, and cheesiest, one for last. We often have the tendency to focus on the things that went wrong or the goals we didn’t achieve from the previous year rather than focusing on all our wins. Take out a piece of paper and actually write out a list of all your accomplishments or all the cool things that happened. Each time you think of one, take a moment to pause and allow yourself to feel good about it.
Make sure you include the amazing things that happened for you that you didn’t even plan on achieving this year — you can bet I’m taking some extra time to celebrate being published 18 times, launching my new website, and kicking anorexia’s ass!
What are you planning to get done before the end of year?
What freakin’ awesome things happened in 2016?
What new skills did you learn?
And lastly, keep your heart open for the wonderful, and even painful, things in store for 2017. Remember, your hardships don’t define you; you define them!