Moms Columns & Blogs

Make your life better in 12 simple ways

The origin of the word “resolution” comes from the early 15th century and means “a breaking into parts” or the “process of reducing things into simpler forms.” When you look at it this way, the word – and the yearly deed – takes on a whole new meaning.

Anything can be broken into parts or reduced to a simpler form. It’s like cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It seems overwhelming, but in reality it all starts with a little of this and a little of that and before you know it, you’re sitting at a decorated table enjoying a five-course meal complete with music, mood lighting and a dozen other people. Here’s how to break down your year into 12 simplified steps. All of which will lead to a happier, healthier and more prosperous 2012. Really.

January: At the risk of sounding like everyone else, January is about money. Step one: Put out vases or empty jars everywhere that makes sense. One in the bathroom for when you’re undressing and change falls out of your pocket. One in the laundry room, and another by the front door or wherever you keep your keys and purse. Resolve to drop in your money and by December you’ll be a happy camper. When it gets to the top, hide it somewhere and put out a new one to replace it. Step two: Resolve to spend one hour a week calling your various insurance companies and asking for a reduction and/or shopping around for cheaper policies. You can save thousands in a year with a simple phone call or two. Step three: Find three things you can cut as a family to reduce your expenses. Cut your cable and switch to Hulu for free. Eliminate your lawn service and mow it yourself. Reduce drive-through lattes and make them at home.

February: Go to the store and pick up half a dozen different types of toothpastes. Yes, you read that right – toothpaste. We’re aiming for adventure here, so try your local health food store and buy some new flavors. Every day, wake up and try a new one. Feeling outgoing? Try peppermint. Need to relax at the end of the day? Go for lavender. You’ll be doing something good for yourself, your outlook and your oral health to boot.

March: Give each person in your house (over the age of 5) the privilege (and responsibility) of being chef one night a week – every week – forever. They get to pick what they will make and add to the shopping list. If you’re a typical family of four that means you’ll get three nights off from cooking and cleaning! (Be sure to include cleaning duty!)

April: Start eating only real food. That may sound ridiculous, but consider for a moment just about anything you’re eating now. Look at the ingredients. If there are more than a dozen (or even more than six), its suspect. And if any of those ingredients don’t sound like food, stop eating it. Start shopping for things that you grow: vegetables, legumes, beans, fruits, rice, etc. Start reading labels, not for fat content or calories but for ingredients. You’ll be giving your body and mind a gift that lasts a healthy lifetime.

May: Empty all the hidden places in your house: your closets and drawers, attic and basement. Take the entire month to clean them all out, donate stuff, sell it, toss it and then scrub from ceiling to floor before putting one thing back. Then consider the things you intend to keep and ask yourself: Does this thing bring me happiness? If the answer is yes, keep it. If you hesitate (or answer no), out it goes. Simplified hidden spaces create happiness everywhere.

June: Help someone else. Gather the troops around the kitchen table and figure out whom you can help and how you’ll do it. Do you have a family hobby or interest that dovetails with a local charity? Maybe you love to bake and can donate baked goods once a week to a homeless shelter. Helping others is like a magical elixir that not only makes other peoples’ lives better but also makes your own life sparkle with contentment and pride.

July: Replace things in your home and office with plants. Plants are wonderful for natural beauty and help cleanse the air and fill it with oxygen. Have at least one live plant in every room; as you move it in, move out things that aren’t bringing you true happiness and aren’t appreciated. If you haven’t touched it in a year, it doesn’t need to be taking up space in your life. Out with the old and in with life-affirming greenery instead!

August: Resolve to take one or two (or more) days a week for the entire month of August and unplug. That means turning off the TV, the Wii, the iPod and iPad and, last but not least, the smartphone. When you’re not working and not needing it, turn off the phone and computer and pull out a bunch of board games and books and reconnect as a family. Or just relax as an individual alone in a bubble bath or outside in the sun with some lemonade and a nap. Relax, rejuvenate and reconnect.

September: Many folks consider September the official New Year since school starts up again and everything feels new. Resolve to start your school year with clean cleaning, meaning toss out the chemical cleaners that you use and replace them with natural cleaners that clean just as well but without the scary-sounding ingredients. This includes your dishwashing liquids and clothing detergents as well as your hair products, makeup and everything in between. If you use it in your house or on your body, you should know what’s in it.

October: The busy season begins here for many people. Resolve to have a stress-free fourth quarter and holiday season by planning, planning, planning. Start this month with a list for the holidays and plan to have your shopping done before Halloween. Just imagine the wonderful feeling of knowing it’s all done before November 1.

November: Gather the family and talk about the idea of forgiveness and apologies. Write down everyone that you may have wronged, either this past year or many moons ago and resolve to contact them in some manner: letter, email or phone to apologize and/or forgive them. There’s nothing else that needs to be done. This will do more for you than you can imagine.

December: Since your holiday shopping was done in October, you’re free to enjoy the holidays this year calmly, sanely and simply. You’ll have money stashed away to pay for the gifts and a clean house filled with plants and order. You’ll have shiny, healthy teeth and a team of new friends from your volunteering. You’ll have found memories (and ideally a new habit) of family game night and you’ll serve up healthy, simple food that satisfies both body and soul.

Paula Sirois is a Florida-based writer who specializes in family life and frugal living for coupon site Distributed by MCT Information Services.