I’m not a New Year’s Resolution person. I realized some years ago that I couldn’t recall ever—not once—keeping any of the New Year’s Resolutions I dutifully set every year, and lost all enthusiasm for them.
As long as I’m copying Anne’s post theme, I’ll go ahead and steal one of her points, too—audiobooks were a major revelation for me this year. This year I struck gold by listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks, and they were a huge help in adding a little joy (not to mention entertainment) to lots of joyless tasks (like folding laundry and cleaning bathrooms). Now I’m finding myself categorizing books I’m interested in reading into sit-down-with-a-hard-copy books, and perfect-for-listening-to books.
I’ve tried to run in the past, and have always given up in frustration before ever hitting a point where it became do-able or enjoyable. I’m not sure what changed this time around, but it may have just been pure desperation—I needed a workout that was quick and beginner-friendly and could fit around Jeff’s schedule so I wouldn’t have to cart the kids anywhere, and running was one of the few options that fit all those requirements. I’ve been running regularly since July, and have really come to enjoy it. It’s working for me in terms of the time commitment it requires (relatively low), scheduling (especially flexible since our recent purchase of a treadmill), and brainpower required (I love that I don’t have to think about it, and can listen to—you guessed it—audiobooks while I run).
3. Library day
Our library visits used to be sporadic since most of my reading is done on my Kindle now, but Forrest started to really show an interest in reading this year, an interest I am very eager to encourage. We set a once-weekly library day to go to storytime, check out about a dozen books for Forrest, and spend some time exploring the shelves. Forrest loves and looks forward to our library day each week, I love encouraging his excitement about books, and it gives us an easy, free, and fun outing for one of our weekly slower days when he doesn’t have preschool.
4. Menu planning
I love cooking, but only if I have a plan. If you ask me, there’s not much that makes dinnertime a more daunting prospect than realizing at about 4:45 that you have no idea what to make, and find yourself scrounging through the pantry to pull something together at the last minute. This item isn’t unique to 2014, but I continued my habit this year of sitting down on Sunday night to pull together a menu for the week. Knowing that I have a recipe chosen and ingredients ready to go makes dinner prep something I actually look forward to. I like trying new recipes, too, so I generally pin any recipes I happen to stumble across throughout the week, then choose a few of them to try for the upcoming week, as well as a few older favorites, and leave 1 or 2 nights open for leftovers or eating out.
5. The 10-minute cleaning rule
Earlier this year, when Darcy was still teeny and my house was in a particularly horrifying state of sleep-deprived postpartum neglect, I asked my mom if she would come over and help me get the mess figured out—I can’t function in a house that’s dirty and cluttered, and it was making me crazy, but it was also so daunting of a task that I had to bring in reinforcements. And it turns out, if you give the house one good, serious, deep clean, it doesn’t actually require a huge amount of work to stay relatively neat.
I adopted the idea (and rule) that if a tidying/cleaning task will take fewer than 10 minutes, it should be done right away instead of procrastinated. For example: folding a basket of clean laundry will take about 10 minutes, but picking clean items out of the laundry basket one at a time for the next week and a half will take far longer, so I might as well fold it all right away. Picking up an entire room’s worth of toys, although it looks like a huge task, only really takes about 5 minute, so just do it and have it finished instead of tiptoe-ing around Lego pieces and discarded stuffed animals all evening. If it takes less than 10 minutes to complete, it’s not worth putting off.
6. Division of labor
While we’re on the topic of tidying up, sharing household tasks simply does not work for me and Jeff. For us, what works best is to simply sit down and divvy up regular chores that need to be done. If one of us needs help, sure, the other will step in, but our house (and relationship) runs more smoothly if we both have a clear understanding of what job belongs to which person. He takes out the trash, does the yard work, handles house repairs, pays bills; I cook meals, do all the shopping, do laundry, make the bed. What has worked for us is dividing things up so we know exactly what each of us is expecting the other to do.
It leads to a lot less frustration—I don’t sit around on Saturday, wondering if he’ll ever bother to make the bed and feeling resentful when he doesn’t; it is now simply my job. And he doesn’t hang around, wondering if I’m ever going to carry those stinky bags of diapers to the outdoor garbage cans—I won’t do it, so this is now his job, plain and simple.
7. Less Pinterest, more books
At some point this year (probably after wasting an entire afternoon on Pinterest) I realized something: the time I’d just spent completely pointlessly, that left me feeling guilty and insufficient and jealous, could have been spent doing something I enjoy: reading a book. (Always with the genius revelations over here.) It’s so easy for me to get sucked into the dark abyss of the internet, and I almost always regret it. But I never regret spending an hour or two with a book, so why not pick up a book instead of checking facebook for the 14th time in a day? This probably shouldn’t have been such a life-changing realization, but I think it contributed to my being able to read as much as I did this year. I’d much rather have another book under my belt than log a few more hours getting jealous of organized pantries and other people’s wardrobes on Pinterest.
I know what a stupid thing this is to include in my list. I know. But hear me out: I love jeggings, okay? They’re comfortable, they’re stylish (heaven help me if the world ever moves on from skinnies), and they’re realistic for a mom of little kids. I want to look nice without spending a lot of money or time or effort, and jeggings fit the bill on all counts—inexpensive, easy to style, easy to wash and care for, easy to wear. This is my favorite brand (ebay is the only place I’ve consistently found them online; size up—I wear a large), and I love all those color options. I also have a few pairs of denim jeggings that I got for $13 a pair at Ross and adore. Jeggings make my life a little easier.
9. Hospital water bottle
Another stupid addition to the list, but I’m serious. You know those mega-sized water bottles they give you at the hospital when you have a baby? They’re thick and insulated and have a big handle and a fatty straw? I love them. I LOVE THEM. I tossed out the one I was given after Forrest’s birth, and regretted it for—I’m not exaggerating—years. I think my excitement over Darcy’s birth was split about 60% baby, 30% water bottle, and 10% luxurious hospital stay (don’t ever send me back home, please!). Having that giant hospital water bottle sitting out on the counter means I drink loads of water during the day, and I always feel better when I drink more water.
I mentioned in the above point that I do all our shopping—groceries, household items, kids’ clothes, etc. But since I don’t exactly make a boatload of money, I often feel a little guilty buying things for myself that aren’t strictly necessary. I know I shouldn’t—the money Jeff makes is more ours as a family than it is his, we both agree on this point, and he has never said anything to make me feel bad about spending money on myself. But still, I often feel weird about it—I know he’ll check the credit card statement online (he checks it every day), and he’ll see that I spent money, and he won’t care—I know he won’t care!—but I guess I like the idea of occasionally splurging on something for myself, and having it guilt-free.
Most of the money I earn from etsy and blogging goes straight into my Paypal account, and I like being able to buy things for myself using my Paypal, knowing that I’m spending money I earned. It isn’t that I don’t want Jeff to know about things I buy—I excitedly tell him about my Paypal purchases and he never fails to ask why I didn’t just put it on our credit card instead—it’s more that I find a certain satisfaction in knowing that I earned this money on my own, and I’m spending it on me. It’s a rather silly habit, but it’s working for me.
What worked for you in 2014?