By Ashley Dickson
Now’s your chance. The blank pages of your 2010 calendar are begging you to forget last year’s unfulfilled resolutions and make a fresh start. And whether you’re looking for a new beginning for your health, relationships, finances or appearance, we’ve got all the tips you need to make this your year for change. So wipe that slate clean and get ready for your best new year yet.
Project Clean Slate: Relationships
You love your co-worker, but your next-door neighbor drives you nuts. You’re crazy about your daughter’s soccer coach, but you just can’t manage to get along with your brother-in-law. Everyone has good and bad relationships. Elsebeth Green, clinical therapist and associate director of the Green House Center for Learning and Growth in Pleasant Grove, says this new year is a perfect time to evaluate the time and energy you’re putting into your relationships.
“There isn’t anything in life that doesn’t involve a relationship,” Elsebeth says. “To set goals in any area and not look at relationships is coming at it backwards.”
Elsebeth suggests viewing relationships from an attachment perspective — the more securely we are attached in our significant relationships, the more secure we are with ourselves.
“Our goals and our lives begin to make more sense. We find direction through our relationships,” she says. “You can measure mental health by how connected you are to yourself and to others and to your community.”
To enrich your relationships and start the new year with a clean slate, follow Elsebeth’s expert advice in the sidebar to the right.
Project Clean Slate: Home
If you had an extra hour every day, what would you do with it? Although there may never be 25 hours in a day (dang it!), there is one surefire way to give yourself extra time — organize your home.
“The average person wastes 55 minutes each day looking for things they know they own but cannot find,” says Vicki Winterton, a professional organizer and productivity coach from Provo. “Organized people accomplish more by wasting less time.”
And that’s not the only benefit to keeping an organized home. Children of organized parents perform better in school than others with the same capabilities. And an uncluttered life leads to balanced priorities and provides peace of mind.
To make a fresh start in your home this year, first make a committed decision to get organized — make it a priority. Then begin with a small project you can complete within an hour or two — this could be a section of your closet or a utilities space. Vicki says one very simple space to start with is a junk drawer.
“It’s confined to a specific, small space, so it’s a great place to start,” she says. “Most people have an idea of what they want in that drawer.”
Look at the space to decide what is working and what’s not. This will clue you in as to what you need to fix. From there, follow Vicki’s foolproof formula, found in the sidebar to the right.
Once simple, effective systems are put into place, the magic really happens.
“Maintenance becomes really simple once you’ve organized a space,” Vicki says. “And your uncluttered life will leave time, space and energy for the people and projects you care most about.”
Project Clean Slate: Memories
It’s the age of digital photos, but for most of us, our photos remain just that — digital. If your computer’s hard drive has become the final resting place for your pictures, make 2010 your year to print and preserve your memories properly.
Orem’s Hallie Redd learned first hand how to use her digital photo database for a greater purpose. She had been looking for a way to keep her father-in-law’s memory alive after he passed away when her three children were young. When her 4-year-old mentioned he had forgotten what his grandpa looked like, Hallie realized the importance of using photographs to keep her children connected to their family.
“He was an amazing person,” Hallie says. “I wanted my kids to know who Grandpa Frank was. I was looking for a way to tell his story, but scrapbooking wasn’t doing it. Then a lightbulb went off — I can write his story!”
Enter Heritage Makers, a Provo-based company that solves the problem of unorganized memories by using a digital process of combining pictures with stories. Hallie made her first Heritage Makers book using photographs, poetry and stories about Grandpa Frank.
“I wasn’t technology savvy,” she says. “I didn’t even have an e-mail address. I didn’t know anything, but I made my first book. If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
And Hallie didn’t stop there. Hallie now keeps up with her digital photo collection by creating storybooks to document family vacations and special events in her children’s lives. Heritage Makers also offers customizable items like calendars, posters, greeting cards and decks of playing cards.
But Hallie’s favorite creation so far has been the series of books she made for her three children.
“I wrote about when we were expecting them, what our dreams were for them, the impact they made on our family from the moment they were first born,” Hallie says. “It’s the story behind each of them. My 6-year-old reads hers over and over. They love to hear about how much we anticipated them coming.”
Hallie says the start of a new year is the best time to organize and preserve your memories — even if you have never done so.
Project Clean Slate: Appearance
Kim Flynn used to think of herself as the nerdy one in mom jeans and a Target T-shirt. And this wasn’t a problem that could be fixed with one shopping trip.
“I needed a serious overhaul,” the Cedar Hills mom says. “Once you’re a mom and out of college you let things go. We spend a lot of our time and energy and money making the house and kids look good, and we forget about ourselves.”
If Kim’s scenario sounds a little too familiar, it’s time to devote your slate-cleaning energy to your exterior. Just follow Kim’s lead, which is easy now that she’s created Fabulous Living, a company offering inspiring, in-home classes to the women of Utah Valley.
“For me it was a huge step to say, ‘It’s time to spend money on me.’ I felt like it was frivolous,” she says.
Kim recruited the help of a few experts — a personal trainer and a personal stylist — and got right to work. Following the Fabulous Living program, Kim’s trainer evaluated her cardio (“I had no endurance”), her flexibility (“nonexistent”), posture and strength. In less than a year, Kim dropped 20 pounds and was able to run a 5K easily.
“I hate working out,” she says. “I just hate it. But having a personal trainer come to my house to kick my butt twice a week is something I can do.”
On the fashion front, Kim’s personal stylist analyzed her hair, makeup and wardrobe. Because her closet was crying for an update, Kim’s stylist took her straight to Nordstrom Rack.
“The thought of spending money on my clothes kind of freaked me out,” Kim says. “We spent two hours and $200, and I thought, ‘What have I just done?’”
But now Kim loves going to her closet — she’s happy with all its contents and each piece of her wardrobe flatters her figure. And it’s not something that breaks the bank to maintain.
“I’m on a tight budget,” Kim says. “I put $35 aside every month. But I don’t spend it on three shirts at Target anymore. I save the money in an envelope, then do one shopping trip in the spring and one in the fall. I can spend $200 twice a year to buy actual outfits.”
And though Kim once thought her attempt to change was frivolous, her new self is something she wouldn’t trade for anything.
“For the first time in 10 years I feel beautiful,” Kim says. “When I started this my husband was against it — he thought it was all surface. But now that I’m dressing nicer, he’s really responded. Our dates used to be shopping trips to Walmart, but now he takes me to nicer places. When you treat yourself better, others notice and follow suit.”
Here is Kim’s advice to boost your appearance for the new year.
Project Clean Slate: Money
Starting the new year with a clean slate may not seem realistic if you’re experiencing misfortune with your money. And if you’re like 75 percent of Americans, finances are the biggest cause of stress in your life right now.
But that only makes it all the more important to make a New Year’s change, says Brian Ford, founder and president of 8 Pillars, a Highland-based financial education company.
“Finances are intertwined with the rest of our lives,” he says. “How we manage our money affects our most important values — health, sense of security, relationships, spirituality.”
You may be wondering how to start with a clean slate if your money troubles are following you into the new year. Step one is to remain optimistic.
“Start with positive thoughts about life and money,” Brian says. “We need to believe the future is bright. We can make small changes that will result in large positive differences.”
Second, take responsibility for financial challenges.
“Understanding that our personal financial situation — bad or good — is a result of our choices is very liberating,” Brian says. “Once we take responsibility for the past we realize we have the power to change the future.”
Project Clean Slate: Eating
It’s a basic life activity — and one we spend a lot of time thinking about, planning, and doing. And when our eating habits are in place, other areas of our life change as well.
“Improving eating improves other habits — we sleep better, we get more exercise,” says Diana McGuire, teaching professor in BYU’s Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science department. “We spend so much time involved in eating, so it’s a great starting point for the new year.”
It’s also one of the best areas of life to truly start with a blank slate. Take a baseline of your eating habits by tracking your food intake for a few days. Write down everything you eat and then identify the areas that need improvement.
“Everyone is capable of doing this,” Diana says. “Writing it down brings it to the forefront.”
If you’re not sure what changes to make, use a trusted resource like mypyramid.gov. The site will analyze your habits and give you personalized guidelines. From there, begin to focus on what you should include in your diet, not what you have to take out.
“It’s a much more positive approach when you take the emphasis off the ‘do nots,’” Diana says. “You might need a couple more servings of vegetables or some whole grains. If you start thinking about what to include, those will start replacing the foods that aren’t so healthy.”
Next, it’s goal time. But the key is to make small, achievable changes.
“The biggest mistake people make is creating goals that are too big,” Diana says. “Then they throw it all overboard. With small changes you tend to stick with it.”