The ball is dropping in a few hours. Before we can blink, it will be 2019! Like it was yesterday, I remember the panic of Y2K and wrapping my mind around moving into a new millennium. And, now here we are… 19 years later. It leaves my head spinning!
When Eric came to me in the Fall of 2017 and said, “Next year’s theme for our family is going to be simplify,” I was completely thrilled. If anything gets me annoyed, it is making something more complicated than it needs to be. Maybe you are the same way. So, I was overjoyed at the prospect of making our lives simpler.
Now that the official year of simplification is ending, I find myself more determined than ever to keep my life simple. Clearing out the confusion brings so much peace; and, when we are at peace, we can bring peace to other parts of our lives – such as our relationships!!!
Tomorrow is a new year, but we can continue keeping it simple throughout 2019. In fact, here are ten areas of your life you can start or continue simplifying in the coming year. I am especially looking forward to continued simplification of my home and physical health! What are you excited to simplify?
- Your home. Most of us have items in our home we do not use, need, or want. Partially due to receiving gifts over the years. Partially due to retail therapy. And, partially due to other people simplifying their lives by giving us their clutter. ~smile~ There are dozens of ways our homes end up stacked to the ceiling with junk. Whether we have large appliance boxes clogging our basements, piles of junk mail covering our kitchen tables, or haphazardly placed decorations “adorning” our living rooms, we can all get rid of items to simplify our living spaces. Let’s go for a fresh start in 2019! Begin with one room, celebrate when you finish, and then move to the next!
- Your finances. Like Dave Ramsey says, in most marriages, there is a nerd and a free spirit. The nerd enjoys the details of budgeting, keeping up spreadsheets, and takes pleasure in knowing how much the family spends on broccoli each year. The free spirit is the one who is more go with the flow, is not nearly as into the details, and starts to drool after seventeen minutes of detailed, financial conversation. In our marriage, I am most definitely the free spirit and talking about finances is something, unfortunately, I dread. On the first day of each year, we discuss how much we spent on gifts in the previous year and decide if we need to tweak the budget for the new year. Some years the discussion has been long and tiring, so I was elated last January when Eric said, “Let’s keep it simple.” We completed our 2018 gift’s budget conversation in under five minutes. How can you simplify your finances? Using the envelope system? Loosening up the reins a little?
- Your relationships. Are you an out-of-sight, out-of-mind person? Are you someone who wears yourself out trying to keep up with 100 friends? Do you find yourself in the middle of frequent misunderstandings and hurt feelings? How can you simplify your relationships moving forward? Sometimes to simplify, you must put a bit of effort in on the front end. Eric is a huge proponent of scheduling relational tasks in Outlook. He tells couples to put reminders in their calendars to buy a thoughtful gift for or offer affirming words to their partners (especially if one is not in the habit or prone to forgetting). If you struggle to keep up with people, make a list of those with whom you want to maintain contact, and write their names throughout your calendar. When they pop up, contact them! If you exhaust yourself trying to keep up with everyone, do the same. Write their names in your calendar. Then, you don’t have to think about it! When their name comes up, send a greeting and move on with your life. Lastly, if you are spending a lot of time with people who keep you frequently bogged down in emotional turmoil, it may be time for some relationship cleaning. Is this person a blessing to my life? Is this person helping or hindering my relationship with God? Is this person draining energy from me I should be pouring into other areas of my life? If you are not happy with the answer to any of these questions, it is time to start backing away from those people. In same cases, friends will leave you when you “fail” to pour enough energy and attention into them. Others will continue pushing to maintain a friendship. When that happens, it will be important to discuss your needs with them and set up boundaries.
- Your physical health. In the past, I have driven myself to failure by having one huge goal without small, attainable goals along the way. Have a goal for this week and then a new goal for next week. Keep your routines simple – not easy, but simple. Find an eating plan which works for you but break it down into simple steps. Make it easy enough for a five-year-old to understand and then put it on your fridge.
- Your mental health. Think of your mind as a refrigerator. What happens to a fridge if it is not cleaned out and maintained? Old food goes bad, you cannot find what you need because it is so full, and (if you are like me) you stand in front of it and stare when you come back from the grocery store because there is no room for anything new. If you have been toying with the idea of seeing a counselor to help you work through some issues, let 2019 be your year. There is no shame in working with an objective third party who can help you become a better version of yourself. It is time to clean the toxicity out of your mind, cleanse it with God’s Word, and maintain it through speaking the truth to yourself daily and keeping the door shut to junk. A small, simple routine each day (prayer, Bible reading, and speaking true statements to yourself) can do wonders for maintaining your mental health.
- Your goals. Goals which remain in the mind are only ideas. Goals become goals when you write them down and create a workable plan to achieve them. First, write down all your goals. Then, prioritize them from most important to least important. Then, write out each goal using the SMART acronym – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based. (e.g., I am going to walk thirty minutes a day, five days a week, for the next month, etc.) Put your list down for a few days, then come back to it and reevaluate. Is this plan truly realistic and attainable? Is it too complicated to be realistic and attainable? Ask friends for their input. Once your goals are written, prioritized, and peer reviewed, you will have a simple but effective plan in place.
- Your communication. Ships sink for lack of communication. Companies fail for lack of communication. Relationships die for lack of communication. Do you find it difficult to get through to the one you love? Are you dissatisfied with your communication methods? If so, it is time for a communication makeover. Eric and I have discovered that unless we look at each other and affirm that we have heard each other, we cannot assume the other person has heard us. We have also discovered that communication is easier when we are well rested, so we do not discuss anything important after 10:30 pm, unless it is an emergency. Friday nights are a trigger point for us because one or both of us is usually wiped out by the end of the work week, so we avoid important discussions on Friday nights when possible. When does communication typically break down between you and your partner? How can you simplify your communication and avoid those pitfalls?
- Your conflicts. Are you going in circles when you argue with your significant other? If so, you are normal. But, in this case, you don’t want to be normal. Conflicts are good for us if we use them to grow. Take some time to research effective conflict resolution methods and start implementing them. Agree on ground rules (e.g., not talking over each other, taking time to process before working through a problem, etc.). And, feel free to contact us if you would like us to work with you!
- Your expectations. Expectations can be dangerous. How often have you been hurt, discouraged, angered, or frustrated due to your expectations? It has happened to me more times than I can count. Expectations are sneaky as they are not always obvious until they are violated. What expectations do you have of others or yourself which are frequently unmet? Consider them one by one. Are they realistic? Could they use some softening? Just as with your goals, consider having friends or family look over your expectations and see what thoughts they have for simplifying them. A perspective shift often makes a huge difference.
- Your love. We all want it whether we admit it or not. We all need it whether we admit it or not. And, we all need to give it. Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, said he was reviewing his notes from years of counseling, and he noticed patterns emerge. Most of the complaints he received from unhappy marriage partners fit into one of five categories – physical touch (e.g., My spouse does not hug me anymore, etc.), quality time (e.g., My partner works all the time, etc.), acts of service (e.g., She won’t even fold my t-shirts, etc.), words of affirmation (e.g., It would be nice to hear him say “you’re beautiful” once in a while like he used to, etc.), and gifts (e.g., Is buying me flowers once in a while too much to ask?, etc.). Discovering your partner’s love language is a helpful tool for simplifying your expressions of love. We all like each of the five, but we typically feel more loved by one over the others. Once you know your significant other’s love language, speak it often. ~smile~
Sometimes I struggle with January because it is often gray and cold, but it is also a time for new beginnings. If we focus our attention on all the tremendous possibilities, the new year can be an especially thrilling time. It is fresh without mistakes and heartaches. It gives us a starting point.
A new year is upon us and right now it is a blank canvas. What will you do with it? What fears will you lay aside? What will you conquer? What will 2019 mean to your relationship with your special someone? And, how can you simplify the journey? It is worth the time it takes to make a simple plan.
“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” ? Brad Paisley
Happy New Year to you all from PreEngaged! If we can be of service to you in 2019, please feel free to reach out to us!
What will you simplify in the weeks, months, and years ahead?