Make the New Year “New” Again: 3 Practices to get you started

We talk about the new year as if it’s some magical new beginning: a clean slate for us to rebuild all the things in our lives that we want to improve. We all hope to make it our best year yet…and then what happens.

New Year’s Day we wake up with a headache. We start off the very first day of our best year yet nursing a hangover–hardly the best expression of ourselves. Then January comes and goes and this magical New Year ends up looking exactly like the Old Year.

Repurposing a tagline from our new Pres, we must “Make the New Year ‘New’ Again”. Here are 3 super simple practices to declutter your life and make this year different from the last.

1. Take only one photo. Yes, only 1.

Have you looked at your camera roll recently?

I have, and there’s a ton of images that are nearly identical. I’m not talking about that annoying burst mode that I somehow turn on. I’m talking about how I always snap two, or four, or ten photos of pretty much the same thing.

I mean, why not. This is the gift of going digital. Take as many pics as you like and delete them later, so the mantra goes. It sounds good in theory but doesn’t seem to happen that way in practice. How often do you actually sit and delete the multiples, saving that one really good shot? (Rarely, or at least until your phone runs out of space and you’re scrambling to free up more memory.)

This year I am practicing a new approach—taking one really damn good photo and then calling it quits. I will resist the “take as many as you want” mindset. Taking photo after photo with no adjustments in perspective or composition is not only senseless, it exudes an “I’m not good enough” attitude.

On the surface it says, this first pic may not be good enough, so let me take another, and another, and another. This seems to convey a lack of trust in ourselves. It secretly says, I’m not a good enough photographer; I not capable of creating a shot worth keeping. Conversely, it keeps us in the fruitless pursuit of perfection, born out of anxiety about whether we are, in fact, making the best shot.

I may be reading into this too much, but if you have ever felt this way (or are simply running out of space on your phone) try a single shot approach. Set your focus, compose your scene, and snap only once. See what develops.

2. Unsubscribe often.

Is your Inbox overloaded with non-essential stuff? Yeah, tell me about it.

We live in an age where email addresses are form of currency. We exchange them for access to some content, some download, or some registration to a site. It’s a sneaky process. “Just give us your name and email to continue,” seems so benign when you’re trying to get stuff done. But is it an exchange of equal value? I’m often not sure.

I have signed up for dozens if not hundreds of newsletters and online retailers. Yes, at some point I was interested in your content, service or product. And yes, there are still plenty of newsletters that I read regularly.

However, for every site that I both like and make time to read, there’s twice as many that I have no need for. I don’t need to hear about your upcoming sale. I don’t care about your latest product. I may have enjoyed your hints and tips before, but I’m over them now. Sorry, it’s time to let go.

Decide what’s essential, what you actually read that brings you value. Discard all the rest. If you see an email that you delete without opening, over and over again, unsubscribe. In fact, make it weekly or monthly practice to take yourself off all those mailing lists that only clutter your life. Save your mind from an onslaught unimportant ideas and simplify.

3. If you buy a new piece of clothing, get rid of an old one.

I don’t shop often, and when I do, I’m pretty laser focused about the whole process. I know what I need and I get it. Nevertheless, I still have amassed a pile of t-shifts that stack floor to ceiling and tilt slightly like the leaning tower of Pisa. Where did they all come from I wonder. They accumulated slowly overtime, and having no natural predator and a super long lifespan, they simply hung around. What’s the solution? Donate.

Donating clothes is an incredibly useful and freeing process. Like unsubscribing from emails, freeing up shelf and closet space by getting rid of items that you don’t wear is act of growth. It strengthens our capacity to let go of what’s no longer serving us, even if it were an item we once adored. After all, we must let go of who we are in order to become who we want to be. Clothes included.

Ascribe to a BOGO model. Buy One: Give One.

For every new item of clothes you buy or receive, give away or donate one that’s been collecting dust in your closet. Consider it an act of kindness for the article of clothing.  We sandwich them in closets, deny them room to breath, and hide them from the eyes of others. Like all of us, clothes simply want to be seen, not ignored. By giving clothes away to someone who will use them, you are helping them fulfill their destiny. Let your clothes free.

I hope that sharing observations and insights from my own life adds a little bit of light to yours. Together let’s make 2017 different from 2016 in the ways we want rather than the ways things just happen. 

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