December 28th, 2014

How to Stick to Your Resolutions: December 28th, 2014

I’m thinking about resolutions for the obvious reason that it is almost the beginning of a new year, but also for the less obvious reason that we’re about to start on our 3rd month of 5 Down.

Resolutions get a bad rap and for good reason.  Wikipedia (the source of sources) says that 88% of people fail to achieve their resolutions. I’ve heard it said that the secret to success is setting realistic goals such as: eat more, spend too much money, sleep too little, don’t exercise.  Indeed, if these are your goals, I’m happy to bet on you belonging to that special club of the 12%ers who beat the odds.  I’m not sure who’d bet against me, though.

What I am talking about is the real kind of resolution.  The kind where you set a goal and you stick to it.  A goal such as, say, getting rid of the clutter in your house and in your life. Because this blog is all about counting by fives (sometimes more successfully than others) I thought I’d do a list of 5 ways to stick to your resolutions (particularly if your resolution is to clear the clutter from your life).

There were a few reasons I did not start our year of de-cluttering on January 1st.  The most compelling reason, however, was just that it was too far away when I first came up with the idea for embarking upon our journey.  It makes sense to pick an easy-to-remember date in order to look back in awe at all you’ve accomplished, but it’s also easy to have that goal be “next” week or “next” month.  I was worried that if we waited until January 1st, we’d move on to other things and forget that we were going to try.  This brings me to my first point:

1. Grab the nearest memorable date:

This is an easy point when we’re 3 days out from the start of a new year.  But it doesn’t need to be a new year.  It just needs to be memorable.  For instance, we moved into our home 8 years ago on Christmas Day “to make it memorable,” said Mike.  I’m still not clear whether he meant he wanted to make Christmas memorable, or our move.  In retrospect, it worked on both fonts. I started running the day my criminal law class finished at law school.  It made sense because I knew I had the time then, and I knew I would run out of excuses. And speaking of excuses…

2. Go, tell someone you trust!

Or, better yet, tell the whole world.  Put it on Facebook, tell your friends and family.  You can think of them as cheering for you, or keeping you accountable, whichever works for you. Nobody likes to disappoint their adoring public, so make it known that you’ll be available for shaming if you don’t follow through.  With any luck, they will buy into your resolutions and root for you from the sidelines.  Or, even better, they will join you…

3. Recruit:

Seriously – what could work better than having partners in crime?  Within my household, I am absolutely certain I would not be able to stick to 5 Down without the active, participatory* involvement of my entire family.  No matter what your resolution is, it’s amazingly helpful to have someone else doing it with you, or in tandem with you.  This past summer, when I ran my first half-marathon, I helped put together a reasonably large group of us to train together.  While only 3 of us made it to the end, it was amazingly helpful to have other people who knew what I was going through.  On the days I felt worn out, I had a friend to drag me out to run.  When I was raring to go, I cheered on my less-than-enthusiastic running partner.  It’s been amazing to have Mike, particularly, help me work through the process of minimizing and what it means to us as a family.

4. Have more than one goal:

I realize this sounds weird, but to me it is extremely helpful.  Looking around my house right now, I feel overwhelmed with how much work lies ahead of me.  I’m thinking, instead, about each of the milestones I reach.  I cheer (quietly, alone with my computer) when we hit round numbers (100 objects gone, 50 days in, falling into a new “range” on our countdown: we’re almost at the 1400s).  If I focus entirely on the ONE YEAR part, it’s really easy to just get overwhelmed and decide to throw in the towel (as opposed to throwing out the towel. You didn’t need that towel, anyway, even if you did buy it on sale).

5. Be bloody-minded:

I was once called bloody-minded (stubborn) by a professor who disapproved of a particular choice I was making.  It was meant as discouragement, but it might as well have been phrased as a dare. It was not easy – nothing worth accomplishing is easy – but I made up my mind and nothing was going to change it.  I’m not saying you need to persevere in spite of obviously bad results (I don’t want your spouse to leave you because you threw out her/his favourite childhood tchotche) but there is a lot to be said for making up your mind. I want to slap someone every time I hear the hackneyed phrase “failure is not an option” but really, the idea is right. There is a good side to stubbornness.

So why not join us?  I don’t care if you go 1 down per day for 1 month, or if you decide to purge 10 things per day for the next 10 years. It’ll be fun to have company, and it will be good for you.  Many of you have already told me that you’re “downing” things from your home.  I am more convinced with each passing day that this project is helping us become a happier, calmer, cleaner, clearer, and more responsible family.  Make it your New Year’s Resolution, or start tomorrow: it’s Monday tomorrow, after all.

Day 58 Scorecard: 290 down, 1535 to go.

* that one’s for you, Mike, because I love you.  Don’t use this against me.

 

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