Monday, January 7, 2013

My Happiness Project

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

I know that song is speaking of Christmas, but I have to disagree.  I think the beginning of the new year is really the most wonderful time.  I love the chance to envision the life I want to lead, set goals, make resolutions, and outline concrete steps I can take to make that vision a reality.

I have been on a bit of a "self improvement" kick lately, and the turning of the calendar has added fuel to the fire.  I recently read both Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project and The Power of Less by Leo Babauta.   Rubin had a theme for each month and then created specific resolutions that related to the chosen theme.  For example, in January her theme was "energy" and some of her resolutions were to go to sleep earlier, to declutter her environment, and act more energetic.  Babauta's book emphasizes the need to focus on one habit at a time instead of trying to tackle too much.

I am taking the wisdom from both books and planning my own "Happiness Project" for 2013.  I've spent time brainstorming what my various themes and resolutions will be and how I will prioritize them.  My problem with change is that I want to do it all right away and have trouble heeding Babauta's advice.  I do not want to only focus on one theme or one habit; I want to do it all, right now.  Of course that approach inevitably leads to failure.  Instead of making a lot of change quickly, I end up not changing at all.  This phenomenon is why Babauta encourages readers to focus on only one habit for thirty days.

So I am taking a deep breath, and letting go of the fact that I want to learn how to better use my DSLR right now.  I have been wanting that since I bought the camera at the beginning of August and have made no appreciable progress towards that goal.  It is okay for me to say that I won't tackle that project until May and instead will focus on more pressing issues like how I can better use my time or how I can improve my marriage.

This month's theme?  Order.  I want to purge and reorganize all the rooms in our house so that we only have items we want and that everything has a place.  As part of this reorganization we also need to create a home that is ready for a crawler, since by month's end I have a feeling HP will be fully on the move.  I chose to focus on order first, because a disorganized and cluttered space negatively affects my mood.  As a stay-at-home mom, a peaceful environment is vital to my well-being, and by extension, the well-being of my family.

Realistically it will take at least two months to do a whole-house purge.  Things just move slower with a baby, and I am unwilling to give up my evenings for the project.  I like to think that I will spend time after dinner cleaning the house, but it's a lie.  I have always had an unwritten rule that after dinner is my time, whether that be for reading, talking to friends, hanging out with my husband, watching television, or staring at a wall.  I have always been this way.  In college I only did homework after dinner on the rarest of occasions because I would rather wake up at 4am to finish a paper than write it at 9pm.  It's just how I'm wired.  Instead of trying to change that part of me, I am resolving to be more focused during HP's nap time and while he plays independently during the day.

In addition to the large organizational projects, I have decided to focus on one of the many resolutions I brainstormed for "order".  I decided the single change that will bring the most order (and happiness!) to my life will be to spend ten minutes every evening straightening the house.  (This may seem counter to the previous paragraph, but it's pointless to do the clean before HP goes to bed, and it's just ten minutes, so I think I can handle it.)  The few nights I've done the clean-up have been less painful than I imagined and have made it such a pleasure to wake up to a tidy home.  Hopefully by the month's end this will be come a routine part of my day that I will continue throughout the remainder of the year.

I used to be a self-help naysayer and thought the books were silly.  In some ways I still think they are.  But if it helps me (or anyone for that matter) make a positive change, then what's to knock?

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