As of today, there are four weeks left until the first business day of 2017. While some important tasks are tied to the start or end of a calendar year, I like to think of all of them. Any household repairs or bureaucracy, anything related to my finances or my health, I like to plan so that I can know I will start the New Year with a clean slate. There is an addictively fresh feeling to lounging around on January First, knowing that all of my projects are going to be looking ahead, not looking backward or playing catch-up.
What kind of loose ends might there be?
Written list of goals and resolutions from the last New Year. I now have just over three weeks to knock out any that are left.
Financial goals. Do I need to move any money from one account to another? Do I have any fines or fees to pay? Am I in debt? (Evidently I owe 90 cents to the public library, and I'd feel dumb carrying that debt into the New Year).
Household perimeter check. I walk the boundaries of our yard, looking for stray racquetballs or anything out of order. I do the circuit of the garage. I go through each room of the house, which is easier when it's only 728 square feet, and look in every closet, cupboard, and drawer. I'm looking for anything broken, leaking, stained, or out of order. I'm looking for anything we haven't used since I did this a year ago. I'm strategically reconsidering how our furniture is arranged and how much we have of various things.
Emergency preparedness. It's time to check our go bags and our emergency supplies. I see that we need a fresh case of water jugs. It's time to cycle through the emergency rations in our go bags, eating them and replacing them with fresh packages. It's time to check the expiration dates on our first aid credentials, and I see that I need to do mine again. (I like to be certified in pediatric first aid and CPR, because hey, you never know).
Food supply. I tend to be something of a food hoarder, and our fridge, freezer, and pantry can get a bit excessive. I've taken up the goal of starting out New Year's Day with an empty fridge, so that I know there's never anything more than a year old in my fridge. I mean, a year old is ridiculous, but I've seen too many items in too many kitchen clear-outs among my clients to think that it's that uncommon. What I do in December is to plan meals around consuming the leftovers in our freezer, using up what's in the pantry, and trying to figure out why we still have five bottles of salad dressing.
Fitness. I've managed my physical fitness quite well over the last three years. I've stayed in one clothing size and I've kept my weight within a healthy range, as defined by science. This really helps if you hate shopping for pants as much as I do. The way I do this is to keep myself honest, and to make sure I know my metrics. What do I weigh? What are my measurements? If I resist this information or avoid knowing the truth about my own personal body parts, then I know there is an emotional block and that I need a reality check even more than usual. Love it or change it, but at least know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Reading material. At this time last year, I had over 1200 articles in my news queue. My stack of unread books was taller than me. I've done really well in getting on top of this and not adding to it. At this time of year, I look around for any books with place markers, meaning I started something and didn't finish it. If I don't want to finish it this month, then I probably never will. It's fine to quit on a book. Opening the cover of something does not automatically obligate you to read the entire thing, or if it did, then we need to never touch any phone books. If I did, however, enjoy something and then got distracted by something else, now is my time to finish enjoying it. Anything I'm reading this month should be finished by December 30, so I can spend the 31st working on my resolutions and the 1st opening a new book.
Files. All our household files fit in one cardboard file box. I spent a lot of time this year digitizing records, mostly my writing notebooks. Not everything needs to be digitized, though. A lot of it can simply be shredded or recycled. I also make sure not to make decisions on my husband's records, because they're his. I drag the box out and ask him to go through it. He's very decisive about papers and it never takes him more than twenty minutes. In fact, he's been my teacher and role model about what to keep and what to destroy. This file-purging process usually reminds us of household bureaucracy that we need to initiate at some point in the following year, such as updating the dog's rabies tags.
Special occasions. Is there anything special to do this month? I just found out last night that our town has a temporary ice skating rink for a few weeks. The last time I went ice-skating was in 1987, when I fractured my wrist, but my husband plays hockey and maybe he'll teach me to skate. What do we want to do on the holiday? I'm thinking of cinnamon rolls and cocoa for Christmas morning, and I always make Hoppin' John for New Year's. What kind of menu do I want to do for Christmas and New Year's Eve? Are we setting up the Festivus pole?
Planning the garden. In our climate, we can only grow vegetables and herbs in the fall, winter, and spring. There are several things we plant in February, and January is a legitimate time to put in soil amendments. We talk over what we over-planted and whether certain crops might do better in a different part of the yard. In the cold and rain, it's a fun way to spend time fantasizing about warmer weather.
There are a lot of advantages to anchoring certain tasks and events to a specific date. It helps us to get things done without trying to "remember" them all. We can usually figure out how long it's been since the last time we did or used certain things. "That's been sitting there since we moved in." "I haven't used this platter since Thanksgiving two years ago." "We went to the beach three times this year; is that too much or not enough?" Maybe the day of mark doesn't have to be New Year's Day, but if not, what day would it be?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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