All's Well That Ends Well: 3 Important Tasks for Wrapping Up Your Year
Recently, we’ve written quite a bit about gifts. After all, it’s that season. But soon all of the gifts will be given, and next week, the world turns its attention to the New Year. In that spirit, we’re thinking now about properly ending this year and setting ourselves up for 2016. It’s gonna be a big one, so we may as well get ourselves ready.
The funny thing about New Years is that, well, nothing really changes during the transition. The New Year is just a new number; it’s just as cold on January 1 as it was on December 31. Many people start the year by nursing a hangover, and especially if autopilot re-engages on January 2, it can seem like you nurse that hangover all year long.
But what’s funnier is that, even though the difference between year numbers is meaningless, people still take New Year’s as an occasion to make some changes. Hence, New Years resolutions—and while probably most of them fail, they prove that people want to try, and that maybe there’s something useful about the transition, however arbitrary.
Next week, we’ll talk more about the resolutions themselves and how you can actually make them successful. For this week, we’re looking back at the year ending and taking inventory. Here are three tasks that should be on your mental checklist for wrapping up the year and getting ready for 2016.
Throw Everything Away
Okay, not everything. But let’s get serious. Over time, crap has a tendency to accumulate, and unless you’ve given yourself some Spartan-style mental training, you’re probably not in the habit of throwing things out. After a while, some of this crap becomes part of your landscape; it becomes so normal that you don’t even notice it there. You ever have papers sit on your desk for months at a time? How about clothes in your closet that you never wear? How about books you’ve been meaning to read for years? How about people in your Contacts list that you don’t even know? The list goes on, and for every odd and end you can imagine.
Reality-check yourself. For anything you’re assessing, there’s only one question: would I miss this item if I never saw it again? Answer as honestly as you can. And notice that the question is not “do I want this?” That second question is a trap; anyone can trick themselves into thinking they want something, especially if they already have it. But if you decide that, no, you really wouldn’t miss this thing, get rid of it.
Think, too, about the last time you moved. That’s usually the perfect occasion to shed weight; no one wants to pack, carry, and then unpack useless crap, so you’ve got a clear incentive to get rid of it. Think about what you got rid of. How much of it do you miss? How much of it do you even remember? Probably not much. So if you pretend you’re moving—but then, don’t—you get the benefit of cleaning house without any of the actual moving stress.
Give Everything a Home
Once you’ve thrown out all of your old stuff—feels better, doesn’t it?—you have another important task to perform, something that will help prevent crap from accumulating in the first place. One of the first rules of organization is that “everything gets a home,” meaning that everything you choose to keep needs to have a place designated for it. So whatever you keep, it needs to have a “home.”
There are a few reasons for this. To state the obvious, it prevents piles and dumping, which are naturally disorderly. But also, if everything has a home, everything can be found easily; it’s easier to lose things when you can’t predict where they’ll be. For another thing, it will highlight for you which items might need to go; if you finish your organizing and still have “homeless” possessions, they’re likely not as important to you. After all, you’re the reason they’re homeless.
By the time you finish this step, you have no more junk, everything is put away, and everything can easily be found and used. Just remember, as you give things homes, that you should do it in the way that makes the most intuitive sense to you. If you like color-coding, labels, and filing systems, knock yourself out—but as long as you “get” what you’re doing, that’s all that matters.
Take Mental Inventory (of good things)
This one is a little less concrete, but to fully set yourself up for the New Year and your New Year's resolutions, you have to do some mental cleanup as well.
In survival training, one of the first lessons is to focus on what you do have, not what you don't have. Likewise, when you take mental inventory, it's important to focus on the good things—what you do have—and not what you don't have. You can be critical of the "bad things" when they can literally be thrown away, as in the above steps—but you can't throw away bad thoughts and feelings. They'll just come right back to haunt you.
When we talk about New Year's Resolutions for Winners next week, we'll pay more attention to the negatives, but because we'll be discussing plans to make them positive. For now, just give yourself a boost. Ask yourself: what went right this year? What relationships did you develop? What did you learn, even if it hurt? What parts of this past year do you want to repeat?
As always, it's best to set aside some time and write these things down. As long as you've got constructive things to say, write them all down. Not only will you have more clarity as you note them, but you'll have something you can fold up, put neatly away somewhere, and read again on a rainy day. More likely, it'll be worth your time as you do it, and then you'll forget you did it—and when you rediscover it sometime later, you'll see why this mental inventory can be so helpful.
Next week on Ampersand, the Code&Quill blog, we'll talk about New Year's Resolutions for winners and how you can make the year's goals into smart, actionable plans. (Last week, we gave some of our tech-laden gift ideas for non-tech people. Click here to take a look if you missed it.) If you’d like highlights from the blog, plus brand-new info about upcoming products and promotions, feel free to join our email newsletter at the foot of the page.