It may be May, and this was written back in January, but, in isolation, every day is New Year (or at least a new beginning), so it still seems as good a time as any to talk about it. Every year I make a one-word motto for my new year’s resolution. It’s not so much about setting an impossible goal I fail at by February, rather a word that can spring to mind across the whole year, a word to live by. It’s evolved over the years, initially being more like an obtainable goal like switching to cloth options instead of disposable things like tissues and paper towels. Then as I wrapped up ten years of study it became about change and new beginnings. One year I focused on improving my physical and mental health. The idea is to do better, live better. This year my word is clear and easy, like a breath of fresh air: RESOLVE.
Last year marked huge changes in my life. I’d quit my full-time international nanny career and embarked on long-term travel, a self-imposed sabbatical and test of early retirement. I learned what free time looked like, tried to learn through podcasts and some reading, and reflected upon a lot of habits and rituals and values. In all, I’m still a bit of a mess and need work on ‘settling down’ and making a ‘normal’ life for myself, doing things like building a home of my own and balancing leisure activities with meaningful work on a series of passive income ideas and part-time jobs that hold meaning to me. Perhaps over time I’ll expand on this here in the blog, as I write more on intentional living.
One of the takeaways of last year was heard on a podcast as I walked along the white-sand beach in sunny Dunkirk, the north-west town in France lying on the border of Belgium. It was a moment that was so perfect, so free and happy that when I heard this idea, the moment, the location became as memorable as the quote. Brooke McAlary was speaking on an early Slow Your Home podcast to Donnie Maclurcan (episode 12) and he mentioned he had achieved everything on his to-do list in one year. Everything? Everything! It felt so freeing of an idea that it opened my mind to an opportunity I hadn’t considered before. Of course, he followed with the comment that it lasted about 11 seconds before something new appeared, and to do lists and that pressure to fulfil them needed to be fluid, but still, that very notion, of achieving lifelong projects once and for all, had me hooked. Looking back on my life, I had sounded like a broken record player, playing the same old excuses and distractions over and over to my friends. But what I was really saying was, while this is not a priority now, I’m not ready to take it off the list. So I’ll keep harping on about it for a little bit longer to you. That unfortunately summed up pretty much most of my adulthood, living in busy but delusional, unbalanced bubbles of work, study and decluttering, until my revelations started to emerge. A lot lived outside the bubbles too, getting ignored: social life, personal travel, leisure activities, little admin and life projects. Until now. Here I stand at 40 with some serious imbalances that need to be RESOLVED. So, in sum, my resolution encompasses a lot.
First, I set out to put all of the to-do lists I could find – digitally on my laptop and my phone, handwritten scrawled on paper or written in my diaries – into one master list. I already started this last December. I was reading Eat That Frog, following the actions chapter for chapter and feeling ambitious and motivated by the idea of the master list author Brian Tracy describes. I divided my tasks into topics, so that they became little to-do lists for each project. Flying endlessly around the world from London to LA to Australia in January, I was further motivated by my sense of limited time in Australia – just three weeks until I flew to Africa for a two-month holiday – because the scarcity pushed me to plan my actions carefully to get tasks completed and ticked off and therefore out of mind as I traipsed across the vast African plains.
I then moved through the lists of my income-making projects and my preparations for Africa into more personal projects including emptying my storage and setting up a home later this year. My vague plan was not to unpack anything that didn’t fit into my plans of an uncluttered home, and instead go through the boxes one by one until they were gone (later edit: still the plan).
At the start of last year, as I lived in Melbourne a few months before I embarked on the travel, I did complete a lot of projects I will write about in upcoming posts and it was hugely rewarding to finally see some noticeable differences. So, I definitely am keen to continue down this track and there were some things I established I could do anywhere, given some time, not just Melbourne where things are. Such an example is to make a memory book of my life until the age of 40, (maybe several volumes will be required) including all my travels and experiences living abroad. Step one, last year, I finally sorted through my negatives and had them digitalized. Step two was to set up a Blurb account from which I can make the book, now done. Step three will be to start uploading photos category by category after which I can add written memories and maybe photos of souvenirs or the like. Actually since starting that step, I’ve switched over to Shutterfly as I like their layout options better. Starting this project, I noticed that about a third of my (decreased) storage is now revolving around it, between photo albums, souvenirs, old diaries, journals. So it would be a huge boost if got a lot of it done this year and even got it finished and printed by year’s end. Resolve, it’s a perfect fit in this sense, to get as many outstanding wish list tasks done as possible. Even all of them. Imagine.
Second is the aforementioned settling down, creating a home and more importantly, a life in one place. That also invites resolve. Learning to start again, figuring out who I am, what I like, what I don’t like. Shaping things into what I value and living a life that brings joy and value to me, and aligns my beliefs in Intentionalism. When you start living the decluttered life, after a while you become minimalist, and then finally you start to be intentional about everything. It kind of emerges from the beginning of your declutter journey, but it definitely gets stronger the longer you remove the unnecessary from your life. I’ve spent the past few years listening to people travelling down similar roads in their life, and have taken a lot of inspiration and learned their lessons. I’m interested to bring some experts into the fold in various fields, to get help in my journey. Again, resolve just fits.
Thirdly, I can’t tell you how valuable the timing is for all of this. It’s 2020! A new decade. Granted, we now see it’s not a great start to the decade but there’s a lot of opportunity for it to turn around. It’s also the start of my 40s. So many changes over the past two years have culminated in this new beginning, this entirely different chapter from the rest of my years past. It is such a huge opportunity I can’t even describe. Turning 40 was always going to be a shift for me and now it’s here I feel it stronger than ever. All the people reflecting on social media at the start of the year about their past decade’s achievements was a mirror for me of what I was already feeling. In the past ten years, I started off surviving a pulmonary embolism – something that kills 30 year olds before the blood clots are found – and I learned to fly again after I thought it clipped my wings and changed my travelled life forever; I hit rock bottom in my university years, no local friends, no money, no sense of purpose, before making a strong group of friends in Melbourne I love, achieving a Bachelor degree, a post-graduate certificate and a minor certification for my nanny career. I bounced back into a high-level position in the Middle East, with a family I love, paid off my debts and established good savings, travelled the world with them and overcame many challenges and things I previously thought scared me. Then came out the other side of that with solid ideas for my future and embarked on a round the world trip only just cut short recently. Last but not least, I have been writing this blog for seven years, using it as the place to reflect and move through my decluttering journey and consider a better life. I can’t help but feel proud, and want to only rise up higher than ever, before moving forward into this new decade.
So that is my intention. I always love posting it here as it cements the goal for me and becomes something to look back on across the year to remind myself of the whys and intentions. I look forward to this year more than any other I can remember in a long while. I’m so glad to be back here, dedicating time and love to sharing my journey with you, and hopefully inspiring you dear readers a little bit. Please drop me a comment below if you have a similar motto or plan for the year and would like to share it with me.