A new year means a new you. Sounds lame and banal, right? Well, I don't really care. Self-improvement is always a worthy goal, even if it's cliched or you have to start over and over again.
2020 is upon us and so are the customary New Year resolutions. I wanted to do something different, so here are 20 Ways To Improve Your Life in 2020 That Don't Involve Mindless Consumerism.
Make Your Bed
Get up, open your blinds to let the day in, take a shower, and then make your bed.
This tiny habit only takes a couple of minutes and can set the tone for your day. And getting into a fresh, neat bed each night feels wonderful.
As dumb as it may sound — make your bed every day.
Start A Cleaning Schedule
I'm not a naturally organized person and I continue to struggle with this. But that's okay because at least I continue in earnest.
The only way to tackle this issue head-on I have found is with LISTS. Or a set of lists.
Each day of the week I have a set of homemaking tasks. Some take longer than others but I do them diligently (most of the time).
For example: Sundays & Thursdays are laundry days. Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays I vacuum. Thursdays I clean the bathrooms. etc. etc.
If you clean regularly, things won't get as messy or scummy if you wait. As I complete each task, I check it off, which makes me feel absurdly accomplished.
Get A Library Card & Then Use It
The library is AWESOME!
If you've forgotten about this incredible resource, then the new year is the perfect time to get reacquainted with it.
Start A Shopping Diary
Write down everything that you buy for 30 days including the total dollar amount. Every cup of coffee, meal out, tube of toothpaste, item of clothing etc.
Just write it down immediately afterwards — and don't judge yourself. Not yet anyway. But sit down after those 30 days and carefully scrutinize your list and habits. Is there any area in your life you can cut back on?
Rethink Your Skincare & Beauty Routine
I used to have a complicated skincare routine full of tiny bottles of serums and potions.
I thought it was taking me closer to perfect skin, but really it was just a way for me to reassert control over my life and feel proactive, even if in some nominal way.
And through this process, a lot of unnecessary waste was generated by me that didn't need to exist.
Do you really need an individual sheet mask wrapped in plastic each and every day? No, you don't. No one does.
I started moisturizing with olive oil and homemade tallow instead. My skin improved within a week.
Start A Food Diary
This is not about counting calories or judgement or shame but rather self-awareness.
For 30 days commit to writing down somewhere (like your phone or a small notebook that can double as your shopping diary) everything that you eat and drink that isn't water.
And commit further to leaving the list alone until the end of the month. Stop obsessing.
After those 30 days are up, just like with the shopping list, analyze yourself. Proceed as you will with the information you have.
I was not raised drinking much other than water and milk.
Soda was not allowed, so I never developed a taste for it, and to this day I do not understand what flavour cola is trying to be. Someone told me caramel once, but that can't be right, can it?
Stop drinking sodas and juices and energy drinks. Try it for 30 days. Anyone can do 30 days of anything.
Clean Out Your Fridge, Freezer & Pantry
Take everything out of your fridge, spray down the shelves, walls, and doors with white vinegar. Replace the old baking soda boxes with fresh ones and mark the month on the boxes so that you remember when they were put there.
Do the same with your freezer, cupboards, and pantry.
Discard old, expired, unused things (or donate what is still in acceptable condition) and organize your spices with clear labels.
How are your appliances doing? Your pots and pans and other kitchen tools?
Take inventory, then clean, sell or donate what you no longer need. Purchase only what you absolutely must and buy things that will last you forever if you can, even if you can only slowly add these forever-items over time.
Start Meal Prepping (Even If Just A Little Bit)
Do you know how good it feels to know that there is always a bowl of homemade soup or stew waiting for me at home?
You don't need to become a hard-core meal prepper with a fridge of labelled Tupperware containers, but just having one single nourishing, satiating thing always on hand can change your life. That's not hyperbole. You are less likely to eat junk or waste money on takeout if there is something delicious on hand that you can heat up within minutes.
As are stews and ragus. Here are some of my meal-prep suitable recipes.
Clean Out Your Closet
Take everything out of your closet and drawers, make piles of seasonal clothing, and then make a pile of the things you no longer wear.
Do a clothing swap with friends for the things you no longer want. Sell any relevant pieces. Donate the rest to charities and thrift stores.
Put everything back and consider reorganizing your closet by season.
Fast fashion is a scourge I've mostly opted out of the last couple of years.
Go To Bed Earlier & Wake Up Earlier
Time your bedtime so that you get exactly 8 hours of sleep. If you're a "night owl" try going to bed gradually earlier.
How does it make you feel?
Start A Bedtime Ritual
Start a bedtime ritual to soothe your mind and shrug off the day.
Stop laying in bed mindlessly scrolling on your phone, you know it's not good for you or your quality of sleep.
We spend so much time arguing about diet, but sleep is just as important to our health. Are you getting enough of it? Do you wake up in the morning refreshed and rested, ready to take on the day? Or do you toss and turn, anxiety and restlessness ruining your morning?
I've been there. This suggestion isn't a cure for your problems or a panacea for your stress. It is just something simple that may help.
An hour before bedtime, we put away all electronics and social media.
We turn off the lights, light some candles instead, maybe turn on the warmly-lit end table lamps. A good book and/or conversation is a nicer way to end your day instead of getting pissed off because of something you saw on Twitter or Reddit.
This has been a life-changer for me. I'm almost embarrassed to admit how tight I was — and still am if I'm being honest.
In the past, I tried doing 30-day yoga challenges only to feel bored, frustrated, and useless as I couldn't even comfortably get into a pose to properly follow along with the class.
So I started stretching on my own at the gym and at home.
And then after months of work on my own, I joined a yoga studio and did 30 solid days of yoga. And this time, I LOVED it!
Anyways, at least start stretching. You don't need to join a class or studio.
YouTube has tons of free classes you can follow along with.
Do A Social Media Purge
Are the accounts that you're following bringing you joy and happiness? Useful information?
Are they proactive and solution or goal-oriented?
Or are they nihilistic, hopeless, degenerate, and making you angry? Depressed? Self-Righteous?
Do you follow certain accounts because you think you "have to"?
You don't. PURGE. Purge it all.
Get rid of the celebrity accounts too. Honestly, eff celebrity culture, it's a cancer on our society.
Walk Away From Clickbait Media & Rage/Cancel Culture
Oh no! Someone made a stupid joke when they were 15! Or wait — some celebrity did/said/ate something the wrong way.
Time to get out our pitchforks and ruin their lives! Or get the popcorn and watch it all go down with glee!
Wrong. Stop being a massive, pathetic, loser who delights in old school religious-like witch hunts.
And yeesh, even the most fundamentalist of toxic religious movements allow for more forgiveness versus what we see go down online.
Just turn it off.
The world is a beautiful place full of mostly good people who are just trying their best.
The world is getting better every day.
It is okay to be a flawed, imperfect human being trying your best with what you have been given.
I have a theory: The current age of rage and cancel culture, of alienation, of jumping to conclusions is really about self-projection.
We hate ourselves. We are painfully aware-of while also simultaneously suppressing our own shortcomings, our failures. So we turn on others instead of facing our own equally insidious demons. Critical self-awareness and hard-choice improvement have been swapped out with a toxic consumer definition of self-care that favours indulgence, mediocrity, and laziness.
Stop. Opt-out. You can do better. Or maybe you can't, but I can, and I'm choosing to ignore your nonsense.
Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.
Get Back To Nature
When is the last time you went for a walk in the woods? Or just sat on a park bench?
Even the city will have hidden ravines and trails, parks and conservatories and gardens. Find them. Take pictures for yourself of pretty flowers or snow-covered branches. Enjoy the silence and beauty of nature.
A warm, tropical conservatory in January is a balm to our senses.
Just find your nature.
Bring Nature Indoors
Get a small plant to take care of.
Or start a small indoor culinary herb garden.
Honestly, just visiting a plant nursery is so MUCH FUN! And chances are you will find something — or several somethings — to take home and love that will "love" you back by purifying the air you breathe!
Tackle That One Elephant In the Room
We all have things we avoid that are dragging us down.
Pick one. Tackle it. Breathe a sigh of relief.
What is the elephant in your room? The monkey on your back?
It's not going away until you confront it once and for all.
Pay Attention To the Voices In Your Head
What narrative do you have in your head? What are the voices telling you?
Are you stuck in a downward spiral of insecurity, regret, and toxic self-talk?
Can you become more aware of these negative voices and maybe try and stop them in their tracks when they occur?
You Are An Individual
You are an individual. You are capable of so many beautiful, important, mundane, terrifying things.
Your individuality is the most sacred thing about you.
A committee, a collective, didn't write Shakespeare's body of work, William Shakespeare did, and 400 years later the words he put to papers still matter.
You the individual and the things you do matter.
When is the last time you thought about yourself as a unique force in the world? When did you last clearly considered your values? Morals? Boundaries? Expectations for yourself and for your life and future?
Do that now before those things are defined for you by others and then fight for what is important to you as an individual.
So, who are you and what is important to you? and I don't mean that you like dogs, sushi, and travel — those are not personality traits or virtues — what I mean is, who are you really, and what is important to you?
You Are Part of A Community
You are part of a community. Your actions matter and make a difference within that community.
Shakespeare didn't write his works in a bubble either. He had a theatre troupe, his community around him, that left an indelible stamp on his works. Because nothing exists in a vacuum.
You will likely meet someone, fall in love, get married, and raise a family where you live right now.
Your community is a collection of individuals and the strong families they raise to make up the bedrock of that community, of society as a whole.
It can feel isolating if you live in a big city where hundreds of faces can pass you by that you never see again. It's hard to feel a part of something bigger in your overpriced condo that is daily feeling more and more like a jail cell.
I understand this. Bt this is your situation. And there are many kindred spirits that make up where you live. So go find them. Find a hobby or step out of your comfort zone.
I joined a community garden and have a large plot of land. One of the best things I ever did.
What about you? How can you do something positive, or even just show up, within your community?