Do you ever feel like finishing out a year is like being dumped off at the end one of those insane old-school wooden roller coasters? We’re already over a week into the new year and I still feel like I’m scrambling to wrap up the old one in my brain.
One thing I love about finishing out a year is reflecting on what went well. What changed me for the better? What brought me more joy? What am I glad I let go of?
In the spirit of sharing the good stuff (both the fluffy/superficial and deep/meaningful), here’s my list of 10 things that really worked for me in 2017:
Keeping a notebook.
I tried bullet journaling for about a year, and while I loved the concept of having a daily planner that I could adjust to my changing needs, it took me a while to realize that I didn’t have the time to make it pretty the way I wanted to.
Calendaring with a bullet journal didn’t work for me, but I loved having a pretty, sturdy notebook with me to jot down ideas, take notes on books or e-courses, or just doodle a picture.
I like the Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted style–beautiful quality, small enough to carry in your purse, and the dotted pages make it easy to write in straight lines or draw and sketch without feeling constrained by lines.
7 white towels.
After 9 years of mothering, it’s still very unsettling to me to find Dorito fingerprints or chocolate face-prints on the towels in the guest bathroom downstairs. (I don’t know if you know this, but little kids don’t have great towel etiquette.( So to stem the tide of germs that is kid-hands-on-towels, I bought seven inexpensive white (read: bleachable!!!) towels, and started swapping out the towel in there every day. Simple, but so far pretty effective.
Getting off Instagram.
This was a shocker for me, because I love Instagram. The inspiration, the beautifully curated images, the ability to connect with people I love and know, or people I admire from afar and aspire to be like? Fav.
But the truth is, I never quite felt like I hit my stride after the school year started up in September. My brain felt full all the time, and while some of it was due to three filled-up backpacks, a lot of it was my fault. I was putting too much stuff in there, and it was clogging up my thinking gears.
So, on a whim, I uninstalled Instagram and looked for other noise-generators to cut out. I’m not 100% peaceful or anything, but I do feel like my brain is running much closer to full speed again.
Connecting on Marco Polo.
Disconnecting from ALL THE NOISE was good, but I was a little worried that cutting out Instagram would also cut me off from the non-locals I love. (My family is scattered all across the Western side of the country.)
Luckily, right around the time I bailed on Insta, my sister-in-law introduced me to Marco Polo. It’s a handy little app that lets you leave video messages for each other. It’s more personal than text messaging, but less intrusive than calling, because you can watch and respond whenever you have time.
It’s been a great way to deepen my connection with people I care deeply about but can’t see everyday.
Clothes shopping online.
Sometime after the birth of kid #3, I stopped trying to go clothes shopping in person. This year, with four kids, I’m really glad I gave myself permission to quit that. I’d much rather order a bunch of things, try them on at home, and return what doesn’t work.
There may be a season when clothes shopping in person is fun or rewarding, but this simply isn’t it.
Asking for what I need.
It’s easy to feel overlooked and invisible as a mom. So often your world revolves around taking care of everyone else, that you start craving your own mom! You long for someone to look after you, take care of you.
Last year I made a concerted effort to take stock of my own needs, and then–and this is the hard part–ask to have them met. Sometimes this was as simple as asking for an extra-long hug on a hard day. Other times it meant requesting the afternoon off of mom-duty, an hour to work on something alone, or a little pep-talk about something I was struggling with.
It’s totally okay to ask for what you need–and such a relief when you find ways to get it!
Paying for services that make things easier.
For a long time we had little to no wiggle room in our budget, and I got very used to looking for every possible way to use what we had efficiently and effectively.
While that skill has served me well, that part of my brain also tends to send out the guilt monster when I even contemplate paying someone else to do something I could do myself.
In 2017 I decided to give myself credit for the challenges I am facing in this season of life, and then cut myself some slack! I now set aside money in our monthly budget for:
- Instacart delivery or grocery curbside pickup for almost all my grocery shopping,
- YNAB (You Need a Budget) online software for budgeting (I’ve used it for years and it’s the only way I’ve been able to make budgeting work for me),
- Housekeeping help twice a month (I still feel guilty about this… but I also love it!), and
- Plan to Eat, an online meal planning calendar that sucks up your recipes and makes you customized grocery lists
These small changes have made a big impact on my day-to-day peace of mind and well-being.
Having hard conversations.
Over the summer I had several hard conversations with people I care deeply about–but had been a little afraid to talk to. While it was by no means easy to broach tough subjects, share my own vulnerability and fear, or to apologize for hurts between us, in both cases our relationships deepened because of it.
And the act of simply trying also gave me courage to try again. That’s a pretty big change working in me, and I am grateful for it.
I bought a set of them to tag my kids with my phone number at Disneyland last year, and since then I’ve found a ton of uses for them. They stick on to clothes without ironing, and stay put during wash after wash. (Ours are still going strong–no peeling.) Plus, you just write on them with a Sharpie–no fancy materials needed. It literally takes all of 10 seconds to label your kids stuff. Love them.
Getting a babysitter to take time for myself.
Whenever possible, I ask Steve to take charge of the kids when I need time off. But last year work (Air Force) took him away from home for weeks at a time–and more than once.
The first time I had to be in charge for that long of a stretch at once, I really wasn’t very fun for my kids to be around. On the second stretch, I got a babysitter for the simple purpose of getting out of the house–and it was wonderful. I came home so refreshed, and was a way better mother for having had time away.
Now when Steve’s work schedule gets crazy, I sometimes hire a sitter and take myself to the library (ALONE!) or out to run errands, browse Home Goods, or sit in the Wendy’s parking lot eating a Frosty and calling a friend or my mama uninterrupted.
I’m dying to know–what great new things worked for you last year?
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