How I’m starting off the year

Hello, and Happy New Year, friends! (Are you tired of hearing that yet?)

I thought about jumping into 2018 with my December spending report, but instead I’m going super-topical and talking about resolutions. Or, more specifically, a lack of them.

I’m doing something new and not setting resolutions this year. Sure, I’m setting money goals, and like I said in that post, I have personal goals I’d like to work on this year. But typically every year I’ve set resolutions, so this is a weird departure from the norm for me.

Why am I giving up on resolutions this year? Because picking a few seems overwhelming this year for some reason. Because I realized that in the process of trying to meditate every day for the last two months I’ve been focusing on building small, daily habits. Those add up to much bigger changes over time and are much more likely to stick than the huge sudden changes that your run-of-the-mill New Year’s resolutions tend to be. Something similar seemed like a good idea for January when I was thinking these things over a few days ago.

Plus I’m sick of the guilt I always feel when I’m predictably a human who fails to suddenly make big, radical changes. Guilt and self-sabotage feel like good things to give up this year!

So, I guess this year is going to consist of 12 (maybe fewer, we’ll see) monthly challenges or focuses instead of overarching personal resolutions. Besides, I kind of think I peaked when I made one of my 2016 resolutions “don’t end the year as a receptionist.” I crushed that mid-year when I got my current job and it’s all been downhill from there, resolutions-wise!

I have put close to zero thought into what other monthly challenges might be. But for now, here’s what January looks like:

Decluttering

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I will never be a minimalist. That’s just not hardwired into my DNA (and my trip home over Christmas reinforced that fact). I like having lots of pictures on the wall and tons of color in my wardrobe, so why try to force myself to live a lifestyle I wouldn’t be happy with for the sake of following what’s in these days? (Don’t lie, you know minimalism is trendy right now.)

In the personal finance community we talk about not keeping up with the Joneses (and I try not to keep up with the PF/FIRE Joneses either, although it’s so difficult sometimes). In the same vein, I refuse to participate in a minimalist arms race towards a life that’ll fit in a backpack.

Minimalist failures aside, I’ve become very generally aware over the past two years of just how much shit I own. I started haphazardly decluttering last fall, but I need some discipline and motivation behind it because one item here and two there is not cutting it. That’s like putting a band-aid over my newly-leaky shower faucet and hoping that’ll stop the flow of water instead of putting in the effort to make sure the handles are turned all the way off.

Good thing January seems to be a good month for decluttering!

The online course I paid for last year was A Simple Year. I’ll be talking about it periodically over this next year as I go through it, but January’s module is about dealing with clutter (it also happens to be led by Brooke McAlary, who is the host of the Slow Home Podcast, which happens to be one of my favorites). I haven’t started the coursework yet (on my to-do list for today!), but I most definitely have decluttering on the mind.

As a bonus, I’m also doing the January Cure, which I heard about literally five days ago on Twitter. Daily tasks designed to make your home cleaner and more organized sounded like an awesome bonus, plus why not if I’m already decluttering for A Simple Year? There are a couple of us on PF Twitter doing it so come join us there if you want!

Other challenges

Because a month-long decluttering focus apparently isn’t enough, there are some other things I’ve got going on this month. One is the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month challenge. I’ve signed up before but only passively participated, in that I read the emails and that was it. Well, I’m actually doing it this time. I said in my goals post that I wanted to do a no-spend month in 2018 and here we are!

(Although I got an Amazon gift card for Christmas and am itching to use it for books because I was so good last year! Does gift card spending count as spending? Never mind, I know the answer to that question, sigh…)

In the same vein as my November experiment, which I extended out for the #ARStreak challenge, I’m still trying to meditate every day. It’s a work in progress—ask me where I am with that in a few months because the answer right now isn’t overly flattering to myself.

As yet another bonus, January is a challenge month for barre; they have a program you can sign up for that involves a menu for the month and going to class five times a week. My joints can’t handle five times a week and I have yet to follow a full month of their recipes (realtalk, I’ve barely even heard of some of the weirder/more expensive ingredients they like throwing into things sometimes. I am not waltzing over to Whole Foods to find out if I can buy maca powder there to use it in one smoothie, thanks), but I’m trying to go more like four times a week (my bare minimum/usual is three times a week. Going at least that often was another 2016 resolution and one that I’ve largely kept for the last two years.)

Gratitude

Setting a word for the year seems to be a new kind of resolution, and I haven’t set a word yet/don’t know if I will. But there’s clearly a word that’s guiding the things I’m doing in January: gratitude.

Decluttering is an activity that is absolutely rooted in privilege. Needing to declutter means I come from a position of plenty—even excess. It means I can afford to let go of things I paid money for at some point. If I didn’t have enough to begin with, I wouldn’t be actively getting rid of things in my apartment. I’m grateful my problem is too much stuff, not the alternative.

Same with a no-spend challenge. I can play a mind game to see how little money I spend for an entire month because I don’t have to worry about money day-to-day. If you have to constantly see how little you can spend because you are truly broke, for you that’s just called living life. I’m glad seeing how little I can spend is a fun, month-long experiment instead of a necessity.


So. Instead of year-long resolutions, turns out I’m doing…four different things this month between decluttering, uber frugal month, barre, and meditation challenges. Oy. Ridiculously overly ambitious? We shall see!

23 Replies to “How I’m starting off the year”

  1. For the record, minimalism has nothing to do with having artless walls or wearing only neutral colours. That’s just what mainstream stylists and designers want you to think 😂. It really bugs me when minimalism is portrayed as a design aesthetic. Minimalism as a lifestyle and minimalism as a design choice as two separate things (in my opinion).

    Mini rant aside, I love your approach to the new year! I also don’t make resolutions, mainly because of the immense lack of failure I feel when I don’t magically have a perfect gym body after never working out my whole life. I prefer a slower pace, focusing on daily chsnges that add up to something bigger.

    I hope you enjoy the Simple Year course! It looks like a lot of great creators are involved in it!

    1. Hah you’re totally right. That was an overly simplistic explanation of minimalism (although I still think 6 pairs of work flats when 2 would suffice is not a very minimalist-approved decision!).

      I’d never given the power of small changes much consideration until recently, but I like it so much better than huge changes! I don’t need to change radically, just a little bit 🙂

      I’m still kind of starstruck about who all is involved in A Simple Year, and I’ve been thinking about doing it for most of a year haha.

  2. Yes to giving up guilt & self sabotage! I always say, we are in pursuit of progress, not perfection.

    You have quiet a packed Jan, I’m rooting for you! You know I got your back if you need motivation/support/someone to say YES go to that class or NO put that shirt in the donate pile.

    I’m staring Jan off sick thanks to someone on the boat or a plane so… maybe next month I’ll do anything productive? 🙂

    1. Hah such a packed January, oops! Thanks for the support, friend.

      Oh no, not the travel plague! Here’s to a nice, relaxing month for you instead 🙂

  3. That is a crazy intense January! But it will be an awesome one for building new habits.

    I like that, too: small habits that change the way you live your day-to-day.

  4. I love it! I always start January with a ton of different ambitions. Even if I can’t fulfill every single one (throughout the month or the year), I am happy to try. That said, I do prioritize so I don’t fail them all 😉 Cheers to all you are going to accomplish this year!

  5. Why would using a gift card count as spending? I get it in terms of the ethos–you’re still getting new stuff–but if you’re not spending your actual $$, I would go on ahead. I don’t factor those purchases into my monthly spreadsheets, so I wouldn’t count it as a goal failure either.

    1. It’s definitely more of the mindset approach of “I don’t need this” during a no-spend month, even if technically the spending wouldn’t register anywhere thanks to the magic of gift cards.

      But I don’t know if I can hold out (books!), so I very well might go ahead and buy them anyway. Oh well!

    1. Hahaha you’re right—I suspect it’ll be fairly easy to be uber frugal this month because I won’t have time for spending money! Thanks for reading!

  6. That’s a great stance to take Erin, if minimalism isn’t for you then don’t force it for the sake of pursuing a trend. It’s not really for me either, but I appreciate the ethos of decluttering and the lower levels of stress that it brings. I think everyone has to find their optimal level of “stuff”, and that’s a continual journey.

    Good luck with your 4 goals!

    1. I wonder too if sometimes people get turned off of decluttering in general because they think it has to be all or nothing minimalism! Nope, just get rid of the amount of stuff that makes you comfortable!

  7. I have always been a fan of changing your habits instead of wishing to change your outcomes! Your outcomes will never change if you don’t take the first step and address your small daily habits!

    Good luck with all of your goals and I wish you a successful 2018!

  8. I much prefer the approach of trying to build new, sustainable habits rather than setting ambitious resolutions. I have a post scheduled about why it makes more sense to aim for small changes rather than large, and part of it has to do with the guilt that you mention. It’s real! And problematic.

    Happy New Year and good luck with the challenges!

    1. I’m constantly amazed at the power of small changes (and that I just learned how effective they are only recently!). Thanks for dropping by!

  9. Great post, especially ending with reflecting over the privilege of being able to do a decluttering/no spend month. Couldn’t agree more!

    I think your attitude on new years resolutions is spot on. Why add on guilt and stress? Small changes over time have a bigger chance of sticking, in my experience, anyway. ^^

    1. The privilege of being able to do it is an important thing to acknowledge and something I don’t see happen all that often. And yes to the power of small changes!

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Kristine!

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