What to do Instead of Writing a New Year’s Resolution List

Sleep – the holiday season is exhausting, catch up on your beauty rest, under-eye circles compliment no outfit.

Write thank you notes – No, venerable auntie is not jesting. Hand write thank you notes for all the presents you received. Do it. Go to your favorite café. Do it at work. Put on your favorite movie from high school and toil away. Address envelopes, write a few lines, sign, seal, lick the stamp and glow with a virtuousness heretofore never felt.

And no, do not even think of whining to me that ‘no one else does that!’ The purpose of life is not to aspire to be as slovenly and ill-mannered as other people. The purpose of life is not to acquire as much as possible with as little effort as possible. The purpose of life is to make life pleasanter for all the good-hearted people you meet (the fun part is you get to be rude to trolls, but that is a lesson for another day).

Someone gave you a gift, hence they are good-hearted, hence you owe them a thank you note. ESPECIALLY if someone gave you a gift that is used, ugly, you are allergic to it or they gave it to you last year. Gush, my dear, gush gush gush gush – nothing takes the wind out of the sails of evil-gift giving more than receiving a gracious thank you note. You will stop their malevolent machinations faster with an over-the-top “I LOVE IT!” than grumbling. Exception, of course, granted for stalker creeps – if it arrives in the mail do as you please. If it is left on door-step, leave it on door-step or walk it to near-by trashcan.

Yes, I am quite aware of all the reasons not to but if you are squawking then you are unaware of the main reason to write: lotteries. Lots of lotteries abound these days and someone has to win them, even possibly your dear uncle Xavier – thankfully not MY relativem he’s from your father’s side – who sends fruit cake to all nephews and nieces and you, you darling creature, are the only one who has ever thanked him. Who is going to share of his newfound largesse, the one who is grateful? Yes, the one who shows gratitude. So, start showing it.

Think about how you could be happier – Of course you might want to try Gretchen Rubin [https://gretchenrubin.com/] – she has thought a lot about this – or just sit down and think, what do you like doing and how might you do more of it without breaking any domestic laws, international treaties, commandants or rules of decency? (Ha! see how cleverly auntie has prevented you from claiming the right to cocaine, inter-continental missiles, adultery or wearing fuzzy slippers in public)

Self-care – New lip balm in your purse, by your bed and in the kitchen; new lotion in your bathroom and at your desk; new water bottle and a room fragrance that you love

Read something – Anything.

Think about your health – I said THINK, not do anything drastic. We hate drastic. If you want to improve your health, whatever that means for you, start small. Try a naturopath: Naturopaths do not bounce into examination rooms, glance at your chart, turn towards the computer screen and begin to fire questions. They walk in quietly, meet your eye and ask, “How are you?” They listen. They have more than five minutes and are interested in you as a person, not a symptom with legs. Major medical issues need medical doctors – but nieces who feel that something is not quite right need naturopaths.

Clean – Everything has a place – everything in its place. And everyone has advice about how to do it. Marie Kondo [https://konmari.com/] is a good place to start but she, like most clearing/ tidying/ organizing gurus has a system and you have to follow the system which works for many people but darling, you are a precious, unique flower – perhaps her plan will work for you. Think about some options and see what feels right:

clean and sort by location

  • kitchen
  • bathroom
  • bedroom
  • living room

clean and sort by objects

  • food cupboards
  • make-up
  • bathroom stuff
  • clothes on hangers
  • clothes in drawers
  • coats and bags
  • shoes
  • desk stuff
  • living room stuff

clean and sort from easy to difficult

  • junk drawer in kitchen
  • food in fridge
  • food in freezer
  • stuff in the shower/ edge of the tub
  • bathroom counter
  • shoes

etc. until

  • basement/ garage/ storage room

Some say have garbage bags on hand – some say 15 minutes a day, some say take a whole weekend – some say do it alone, some say get friends in for encouragement – you do it your way but in any case: Donate! Donate! Donate!

note to Hoarders – I am so sorry. You have a terrible affliction that is almost impossible to solve. The piles of boxes on your furniture will not help you. They are not useful. They will not fix the parts of you that are broken – they are not wanted by your relatives or any other person on earth. Some part of you knows this, but mostly you look at your treasures as safety and protection. If you want to get help, help is available but first you have to realize that you need help.

note to friends, relatives and neighbors of Hoarders – I am so sorry. The hoarder has a disorder that is on par with heroin or crystal meth addiction. There is help available but hoarding is so difficult to stop because things like alcohol, cigarettes, valium and pain-killers clearly make the person feel ‘better’ or ‘more ‘relaxed’ but hoarders are certain that those piles of junk are valuable – that they are helping themselves and others by hoarding. They believe stacks of ancient newspapers have a purpose: those dusty heaps will ensure the hoarder and his/ her family will to be safe. That feeling is more potent, more harmful, more difficult to dislodge than ‘it makes me feel good.’ There is nothing you can do. Devoting weekends and vacations to cleaning for the hoarder will simply ensure that the hoarder has more space to put new things. Try to handle the money angle if you can (power of attorney if possible, cancel credit cards, do rent and utility payments by automatic withdraw, etc.). A few enterprising souls have called social services, warned fire departments of hazard risk etc., but there is really nothing you can do: try not to enable, accept, pray.

Plan – Plan for joy! Where do you want to go this year – in your town or around the world? When do you want to go and who with? Do you think you will have a sweetie on Valentine’s Day? On your birthday? If so – what do you want to organize?; if not, what is your strategy so that you will not be alone and miserable. Ponder – scope out the alternatives – make decisions (but for heaven’s sake don’t make plans with people who have flaked out on you in the past or that require you or others to spend more than you have. Darling, I am your cherished auntie, not a bank. I am not paying for your amusements.)

If you insist on making a New Year’s List – Watch Casablanca until the feeling passes.

If you really insist on making a New Year’s List – Dolcezza, considering the things your revered auntie has gotten up to in her life, if you really want to do something (aside from becoming an assassin or mugger) I shall support you, but you must understand the dangers of New Year’s Lists. The purpose of lists is to forget something. Yes, of course you think the purpose of a written list is to remember but that is because you are young and callow. When you write a list, what’s written on it flies from your mind, you don’t have to keep thinking that you need false eyelashes because you know that whatever it was you needed is written down. The result of New Year’s Lists is usually 1) everything is accomplished 2) a few things are accomplished and the list hangs forlorn for weeks 3) the list is immediately forgotten.

Gretchen Rubin (3 air kisses: mwah mwuah mwuah!) writes lists like “18 things to do in 2018” and then she does all of them. But she’s a practiced list maker and cross-offer, if you try that, it might succeed. Or it might be April and you realize you’ve accomplished none of them and that sends your mood into a tail spin that can only be relieved by pouring Taittinger over your head while standing on a pool table. It happens.

Consider, as my last effort on this subject, doing a list without investing it with too much significance. A post-it note or index card, ‘stickie’ on your laptop screen – write 7 small tasks you want to accomplish in the next month or so. When you finish one, cross it off – add another. If one stays on for a while, cross it off anyway. Take down old lists when there are a few things crossed off or put up a new list once a month; burn the old ones or tuck them into a calendar and keep as reminders.

Keep the list at only 7 items at a time so that you feel there is both always something for you to do, but not a whole bunch of major life changes which are soul-crushing in their magnitude.

Forward, darling, ever forward, but make haste slowly.