Fewer decisions, less stuff, and more books
Taking the whole month to ease into the new year
I heardsay recently that “January is the new week between Christmas and New Year’s Day,” and it immediately became my motto. I love that silent week to reflect on the past year, plan for the new one, and take a black trash bag to all the accumulated excesses—figuratively and literally. The last two years have been different though, and one week just hasn’t been enough time.
My life doesn’t center around the school year anymore, and my work responsibilities have changed. So the expansion of The Best Week into a whole month to reflect and plan seems like a wonderful new rhythm I can get behind.
One thing that will make reflection easier is the fact that I’m settled on the same planner for the second year in a row. I know right where to go to see what was happening in January 2023. I am prone to wander when it comes to planners and systems, so looking back at the year 2022 could mean digging through two or three different calendar/journal/planner systems. Not anymore. I am reformed.
I am “deciding once”, as The Lazy Genius says.
Deciding once is right in line with my More/Less list for 2024. Decision fatigue is real, and in 2024 I will spend less time looking for something new. Since these things are working for me, I won’t be looking for another:
None of these are particularly big deals, but it’s the little things, the tiny decisions, that wear us down. I want to make a game of it—how many things can I set in stone?
This is maybe how one gets to be an old-lady-set-in-her-ways, but I’m here for it. Don’t you associate certain things with your grandmother, so that the smell of Pond’s cold cream or Wrigley’s Spearmint gum always reminds you of her? I’m okay with that.
Another item on my Less list is: less stuff in my house. This is always on my list, but 2024 is the year. Tim and I both feel this itching to simplify our closets and cupboards, and his shop. I’m looking at everything in terms of “stuff I don’t want to burden my kids with when I’m gone”.
On my More list: more focused reading. It’s been two years since I last tutored for Classical Conversations, and I can feel the mush inside my head. Seriously. I didn’t read a ton in 2023 but I ended the year trying my hand (brain) at a slightly academic book, and it's been a slog. I have lost something, so I’m making a reading + studying plan that will recover some of my study skills and attention.
But. I was heartened by this post from Oliver Burkeman, “How to forget what you read”. My tendency is to want to bust out the notebooks and pens and devise a more disciplined system...I always default to systems to save my world.
“It’s easy to operate on the assumption that the main point of picking up a book – a non-fiction or work-related book, at any rate – is to add to your storehouse of data, hoarding information and insights like a squirrel hoarding nuts, ready for some future moment when you’ll finally take advantage of it all.
But that’s a recipe for living permanently in the future, never quite reaping the value of life in the present moment. Better, I’d say, to think of reading not as preparation for living later on, but as one way of engaging with the world, one way of living, right here in the present.”
I’m also “attempting” to read “mostly” books I already own…this is scary to say, but a caveat is that I preordered‘s newest book, so when it comes to my door this spring, it will be a book I’ve technically owned since 2023. I can find the loopholes, friends.
A few books I already own and plan to read or reread this year:
More hikes with friends. In 2021, two friends and I made a goal to do one hike a month together. We made it seven months, which is how goals go. But seven months is better than zero! By July, Tim and I were deep in the remodeling of the deli, so it’s probably my fault we didn’t make the goal. That was also the year we had three kids get married in a span of six months.
Yesterday I texted them: OK friends. It’s time to get the band back together. When/where are we hiking in 2024?
More date nights. Last year I planned a cross-country trip to Tennessee to surprise my husband for his birthday. We stayed with close friends who’d moved from Oregon a few years ago, and it was the best trip we’ve ever taken together.
I planned the trip without Tim having the slightest idea where we were going, and he had no clue until his best friend appeared in the airport at our final destination. It was the smartest thing I did all year, and what it taught me is that I can make big decisions alone, and Tim trusts me completely. I just planned the trip and told him what dates to mark off on his calendar.
Date nights seem like something for parents of young children, which we are not, but our mornings and evenings are easily taken up with other things and our time together is limited. A date night feels intentional, so I simply told him today that we are going to aim for weekly date nights, and he said sounds good. Easy.
And most importantly: more grandkids. I’ve dubbed 2024 “The Year of the Grandson”. Grandson #1 turns two in April, and #2 and #3 are due in March and April. It still feels surreal. I thought there would be a bigger gap between Homeschool Mom and Grandma, but I’m here for it.
What are your set-in-stone, decide-once decisions? And what are you looking forward to More/Less of in 2024? I’m still planning the year, taking the whole month of January like Emily suggested, so I’d love to hear your ideas.
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