Dusting off a Fresh New Year

Although I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions (see last January’s article, “Resolving to Abolish New Year’s Resolutions”,) a fresh new year does provide an ideal occasion for reflection.

The start of a year offers an opportunity to examine where you’ve been, where you are now, and where You’re going. The new year is also a convenient time to measure your growth and take a hard look at the things you do and the way you do them. Are you still doing the same things in the same way as a year ago? If You’re feeling stagnant, perhaps It’s time for a refresh.

It’s often the small incremental adjustments that have staying power and lasting effect. Here are some dusty corners of life worth examining this new year:

Review the routine. Having routines makes things easier. Because you’ve worked out the steps you need to, say, get ready for work in the morning, you don’t waste energy thinking and planning each action. But routines can turn into ruts that cause us to mindlessly repeat actions that no longer make sense. Take some time to examine your routine actions to see if it still makes sense to do a sequence of tasks in a specific way and order. Each January 1, I spend a quiet afternoon writing important dates?birthdays and such?on the new year’s calendar. Although this task is pleasant, not to mention compatible with a hangover, it finally occurred to me that if I transfer the dates to an electronic calendar, I need not do this task ever again.

De-clutter. If the only time you look at your knick-knacks is when you dust, it may be time to re-think the curio shelf. Museums often rotate their collection to keep the displays fresh and interesting. You can do this at home too, by rearranging your objets d?art or packing some away for a time. I have a pair of well-used Dutch wooden shoes, which a relative brought to Canada as a souvenir after WWII. In the decades they’ve been displayed in my living room, not one visitor has commented on them, and I only notice them myself when I clean around them. It’s time to move them, pack them up, or give them away.

Rearrange. Is your furniture in the same configuration in which you quickly arranged it when you moved 15 years ago? Perhaps you’ve gotten used to the arrangement, even though it isn’t ideal. It’s time to look at the layout and see if you can come up with a more pleasing and efficient array. I put a much-needed table in an available space near my desk a year ago, and I manage to bruise my leg against it regularly. Finally, today, I spent two minutes contemplating the room’s overall arrangement, then five minutes swapping the table’s location with a low-profile bookshelf. A simple solution that was only waiting for me to notice it.

Re-imagine the menu. Can your family tell the day of the week by what you serve for supper? Maybe It’s time to expand your recipe repertoire. In her bestselling book, Julie & Julia, Julie Powell set out to make every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the space of one year. You need not go that far, but consider trying a new recipe once a week (or once in a while.) I’ve clipped a number of recipes out of magazines over the past year and have made exactly none. It only took a few minutes of sifting through them to find one I can make this week with ingredients already on hand.

Detour. Do you take the same route to/from work or school? Maybe It’s the optimal route or maybe there’s a better one waiting to be discovered. Try varying your route and you’ll see your community through fresh eyes and maybe make a discovery or two. Taking a new route occasionally also prevents driver zone-out, which happens when you know a much-traveled route so well you don’t have to think about it.

Making small adjustments may not feel life-changing, but can spark your creative spirit. By using the new year to get a fresh perspective on the things you do and see every day you may generate the drive you need to concentrate on the big picture.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario