2016 has been wonderful and awful all at once. For us as a family, the beginning of 2016 was really just spent thanking our lucky stars that Mr E finally got a job after quite a few months of being unemployed, and was also the year we finally started to get things finished around the house. We’ve had the usual teenage ups and downs: a (minor) car accident, drunken evenings, arguments and girl troubles… but nothing too terrible, thank goodness. In the big wide world, however, and outside of my lovely family, 2016 has been a year of tragedy, sadness and some shocking moments, culminating in the death of the voice of my teenage years, George Michael, and the fabulous Carrie Fisher, making us all pretty keen to wave it goodbye. It has, though, as this fabulous article in The Pool recently pointed out, had the strange side effect of making us all care a little more; it made us a bit more aware of the suffering of others and increased our capacity for empathy. And for that, I guess, we have to be grateful.
I think generally, the year has made me want to pull my family closer to me, and embrace a simpler, more grateful life. When the hardships of others are brought sharply into focus, it certainly makes you count your own blessings. Erica recently wrote a really gorgeous piece on having ‘enough’. You know, when you get to that stage in life that you have a roof over your head, food on the table and enough money to live on? I think we’re generally pretty bad at practising gratitude for our wonderful, plentiful lives, but this year is going to be the year that I really think about it.
I’m hoping 2017 is going to be my year of living thoughtfully. Every year I renew my vow to create memories, to spend my precious money on things I really love doing: spending quality time with my family and friends (Erica has this phrase, ‘purposeful spending’, which is exactly what I mean), rather than stuff – the accumulation of things you think you really want at the time, but actually looking back, didn’t really need. Here are my thoughts on how I’d like to approach 2016:
Health and happiness
I read recently that it’s not the big, life-changing things that make you sad or happy, it’s appreciation of life’s small joys: a frothy coffee, a beautiful sunrise… I’ll be getting out with the dog twice a day for a good old march around the fields near our house, but in the New Year I’ll be really concentrating on my surroundings, on breathing in fresh air and getting that blood pumping, not sauntering along looking at my phone!
I’ll be shopping smarter, meal planning and doing a proper shopping list every week. There’ll be plenty of fresh, wholesome food. And Mr E and I will be sticking to our pre-Christmas plan of only sharing a bottle of wine on Friday and Saturday nights.
I’m going to be far more thoughtful with my finances. This means concentrating on three areas:
Money already spent: the first to go will be my credit card. Dealing with anything that hangs over me will be a priority. As I pay it off, I’ll be bringing my credit limit down too.
Money right now: this year, if I really want something for myself or for our home, I’m going to really think about it – to plan it, to know that it’s really needed and useful. And that means no impulse buys, but really thoughtful purchases.
Thinking of the future: I’ll be paying monthly towards my tax bill – there will be no nasty surprises at the end of 2017, and I’m going to put a little away every month in a savings account specifically designed for purposeful spending.
The Ebay challenge: we’ve also been talking about selling some of our unwanted things and having a little competition to see who can make the most money over the year for next Christmas!
My year of living thoughtfully is going to extend to our home too. Personally, I’ll be switching to bamboo toothbrushes (saving the planet one bristle at a time), trying to remember to buy reusable bags, using a proper face cloth instead of disposable wipes, using up every beauty product I have so far, and thinking twice before buying anything new. That means that hand creams that were deemed too greasy will become foot creams, half used shampoos will be used up and the next time I screenshot an advert for Valentino Donna in the pretty bottle I will remind myself of the SIX hardly used bottles of perfume on my bathroom shelf.
I’m never going to be a minimalist, but the way our clothes are currently stored – stacked in the top of the wardrobe – means I don’t really even know what I have. I’m going to impose a ban on everything but replacing worn out things like underwear, and rework and rediscover what I already have.
My work and online life
I’m hoping that my year of living thoughtfully will really benefit my work too: with opportunities and decisions I’ll be thinking is this really right for me? Could I do it differently? Better?
When you’re constantly online it’s so easy to look at other people and feel bad because you didn’t get this opportunity or that invitation. I love my work and I need to focus on being myself, and doing this my way in my own style, not being so influenced by other people: what they’ll think about me, and just – again – being more thoughtful.
As I work from home, with no real structure, I can be online for hours flicking between something I’m writing, then Facebook, Twitter, email, back to the article… it’s such a waste of my time. My laptop has ten tabs open and I’m constantly clicking between them. I’m going to work more thoughtfully – really concentrating on the job I’m doing.
I’ll also be clearing my online clutter: unsubscribing from the tens of unnecessary (and tempting) sales emails that I currently receive.
And finally, my little happiness manifesto:
I will be the one who smiles first (who cares if they don’t smile back?)
I will be myself, yep, the one who talks too much and worries about everything and likes quirky earrings (my favourites are small pieces of cheese), and key lime pie lip balm
I will be blonde (I know, it ruins my hair, but it makes me happy)
I will eat the chocolate (white, for preference, sorry all you white chocolate haters)
I will tell those I love that I love them. Without embarrassment, and far too often.
I’ll chat to people I don’t know while I’m walking the dog or shopping, or travelling.
I will take the photo, eat the cake, embrace the moment, laugh, sing, smile, and dance.
What about you?