New Years Eve fireworks are often to resolutions what shooting stars are to wishes. We place our hopes upon them with full intentions of following through with our ambitious plans in the year ahead. But come Valentine’s Day, research has shown that most of us have already given up on our resolutions and moved on. Now, you could wait again til next year, and likely experience the same results, or you can try try again. As a professional home organizer and productivity expert, I offer my clients many tips on how to keep their goals long after the novelty wears off. As my gift to you, here are a few of my favorite tips, I call them My Lucky 7:
#1: Understand What a Resolution Is (and Is Not)
Before we give up on our resolutions, let’s appreciate what we were originally trying to accomplish in the first place:
By understanding why you wanted to make a change, you can stay on track to actually make the change. Changes aren’t an all or nothing deal, they take time, and setbacks may happen.
#2: Keep Your Eye on the Goal, Not the Calendar
Calendars are a man made creation. In fact, the calendar we use, The Gregorian Calendar, has only been around since 1582. China celebrated its New Year at the beginning of February, and countless other calendars are in use around the world. The universe does not draw a hard line on when a resolution can and cannot start. If you break your resolution today, there’s no need to wait until next January to try again. Keep your focus on moving closer to the goal.
I encourage my clients to balance their optimism with realism. As the novelty of change wears off, at some point you’re going to have to do things that you don’t like to do. If you’re trying to de-clutter your house, this may include having to pack up some clothes for Goodwill, dumping out that junk drawer to deal with what’s in it, or scale back purchases of items you love to collect. If you have a fitness goal, you will need to hit the gym on inconvenient days or not reach for sweet or salty snacks when you want them most. But once you take these steps, even it you cave on occasion, you will make progress to reach your goal by year’s end. There is no simple fix to make your urges go away; changes take work, and you alone will need to do the work.
#3: Appreciate that Cold Turkey Isn’t For Everyone
Experts estimate it can take between 18 and 254 days to change a habit, so instead of rewarding yourself for going “all or nothing”, note the progress you make between falling off the wagon. If your goal is to give up potato chips, and you made it 23 days before giving in, see if you can make it at least 25 next time. By the end of the year, you may have just indulged 12 times versus a weekly habit of 52 — which is HUGE progress! Same goes with hitting the gym. Going daily might be unrealistic — but if your ultimate goal is having better sleep, more energy, and feeling more upbeat, hitting the gym 2-3 times per week can still get you there. And if you can’t make it one day for any reason, try taking an impromptu power walk around the block in its place. If it’s raining too hard, find a staircase and turn it into your personal stair machine.
I’m often asked about hoarding, but that is a serious mental health condition that requires professional counseling and resources for both the person with hoarding behaviors, and their families. Something that I learned from Terina Bainter of Clutter Cutters is that forced cleanups often result in a high rate of recidivism, because the underlying emotional condition has not been addressed. Terina says, “Seeking help when clutter is at a lower level is key to sustainable change.” But even if your habits are not that intense, it’s best to think about WHY you’re engaging in a behavior you want to change, before you actually take steps to change it.
For some people, quickly ripping off the Band-Aid can work, if the sudden and dramatic change can keep inspiring the desired behavior shift throughout the year. When I quit eating dairy and gluten, the first three days were very hard, but after that, I didn’t have any cravings. But as soon as I would cheat and have some, I kept wanting more.
#4: Tidying Up? Don’t Give Up!
If you’ve binged Tidying Up With Marie Kondo on Netflix and want to give the KonMari method a go, just remember, what you’ve seen accomplished in a 42 minute episode on TV took weeks and weeks of hard work in real life. And just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean every part of Marie’s method will apply to you. Not every item of clothing will “spark joy”; sometimes we need to keep some clothes around because they are practical — for work, workouts, or to wear while we work around the house or repaint the bedroom. Same goes with books — if you are a professor or book collector, trimming your collection to 30 titles isn’t practical. When I work with clients, we first talk about the life they want to lead before coming up with solutions that are best suited to them.
#5: Visualize Success
Every home makeover show ends with the “Big Reveal”, where we can oooh and aaah over the transformation that just took place. But in most cases, once the TV crew leaves and the family gets back to a normal routine, the house settles back into the way things used to be. This is why I encourage my clients to take pictures of their rooms at their best, so they can be motivated to return to this standard as often as possible. Once you have that image seared into your brain, you can catch the clutter as it happens. Same goes with fitness goals; when you have that “after” picture handy, that double stuffed burrito may seem a bit less appetizing.
#6: Blast Back From The Past
Often, home organization projects become less and less about decluttering, and more and more about letting go of the past. Those clothes might not fit you anymore, but each item might be tied to a cherished memory; even their smell can take you back. Dusty photo albums might be filled with images of people you no longer know, and might not even remember. Knick Knacks might remind you of vacations you loved, or experiences you had, but you can often keep those memories without holding onto the beer coaster, key chain, or ceramic mug that came with it.
#7: Let in the Light
Sunlight is a good source of positive energy and inspiration no matter what your resolution is. Sunlight triggers the brain to produce serotonin, which is responsible for happiness and calmness the same way melatonin is responsible for sleepiness. But there are other benefits of letting a little sun into your home and life. For home cleanups, adding plants to your house and keeping them healthy in the sunshine can be a great source of fresh air, invigorating aromas, and inspiring new colors. If you have fitness goals, stepping into the sun can be a great motivator to wake up and get moving.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Go It Alone
If you have a health or fitness goal, consider sharing the experience with a friend, or hire a personal trainer to hold you accountable. If you’re hoping to de-clutter your home or increase your productivity, consider hiring a professional home organizer and productivity coach like me. I don’t come with a camera crew, but I can help you find solutions that best fit your timing, needs, and budget. With still over three quarters of the year ahead of us, there is still plenty of time to meet your New Year’s Resolutions, or to make some new ones.