The problem with New Year’s resolutions is they’re too big, too broad, and so ultimately, or at least by Groundhog Day, discarded. Lose 20 pounds, quit smoking, exercise daily, learn a new language; I’m exhausted just writing it.
It’s the little things that make the difference in life. Think small to go big. Lasting New Year’s resolutions are found in the details of life. Like these:
1. Take dishes off coffee table: I seem to remember using the kitchen table for actual meals, but can’t give a good reason as to why. Seats are softer; television is larger in the living room. But dishes can sometimes back up. By mid-week, it’s possible to know the meals of the previous nights by looking at the crowded coffee table – spaghetti on Monday, enchilada casserole on Tuesday, a Coke float that night followed by stew the next.
Immediately after eating, take the dishes back to the kitchen sink. If all goes well, in 2014, I will try to put them in the dishwasher.
2. Take contacts out before falling asleep on couch: I’m watching television and can feel myself fading away, know I’m fading away, and then wake up 30 minutes later. My eyelids feel shellacked to my eyeballs because of my soft contacts. Half the time they tear as I peel them off getting ready for bed.
How much better would it be to have the self-discipline as I’m sinking deeper into the couch, to get up, take out my contacts, and then fall asleep? Problem solved.
3. Buy some socks: Not stocks, socks. Knowing I would be at relatives’ houses for Christmas, and probably inside most of the day, I needed to wear a nice pair of socks in the likely event I took my shoes off to unwind. The first three pair I tried had a hole in the toe. Not good.
I finally found a hole-free pair, but it wasn’t an exact match. Doing some quick inventory, I found I have three pairs of socks that match, but all with holes. The rest are just near matches. I’ve got socks older than my first car, and in worse shape. I don’t ever recall buying an actual pair of dress socks. In 2013, perhaps it’s time.
4. Order water at restaurants: Been doing this for a while, but worth continuing with just as much diligence in the new year. Order water with lemon, put in a packet of Splenda or whatever else is rumored to cause cancer in white mice, and, voila, it’s basically iced tea. But you’ve saved right at $2.
Now let’s say I eat out three times a week. That’s $318 a year, which would buy a lot of socks.
5. Throw out more food: This is just the opposite of what most mothers told their children about starving kids in India and better eat up, but it has a practical side to it.
Every time the kitchen gets cleaned and leftovers go into the refrigerator, it’s just delaying the inevitable. When the potatoes au gratin or the macaroni and cheese casserole enter the refrigerator, there’s about a 25-percent chance I’ll ever eat it again.
That gets stacked with other leftovers to the point I can’t find an empty square inch on any shelf. By then, the fridge looks like a collection of science exhibits gone horribly wrong. I couldn’t identify them at gunpoint. So a few hours is spent cleaning out the fridge every few months in an activity that should be done with a Haz-Mat suit. The problem could have been solved by simply throwing the food in the trash in the first place.
6. Floss: As I tell my dental hygienist, I floss religiously – every Christmas and Easter. Flossing is a tedious pain. Look, I brush daily. Do I need to floss, too? But apparently flossing does work.
What if I flossed just once a week, say, Flossing Fridays? That would be 50 more times than I do it now. Not only would I have better insides of my teeth and stronger gums, but I’m sure I’d feel like a better person.
7. Play with the dog just one minute more a day: There could be an F5 tornado bearing down on us, and our dog would be in the backyard with his plastic “touchdown” in his mouth waiting for me to take it from him and throw it the length of the yard so he could chase it and score a touchdown.
Yeah, yeah, whatever, Ranger. Please give it a rest. It wears me out. But his orange touchdown is his life. If I played with him just one more minute a day, that would be six extra hours a year. And he still wouldn’t be grateful.
8. Poop-scoop the yard more than once a year: That it’s-fertilizing-the-grass excuse only works so long. And it sure rings hollow when stepping into a steaming pile while playing touchdown.
9. Throw away a cereal box when it’s empty: This must be a weird genetic defect, but I have a habit of pouring the last remnants of cereal and then putting the box back in the cabinet. Why not throw it in the trash? A legitimate question and the answer is, “I don’t know.”
Unfortunately, my sons picked up the trait. It’s especially maddening when I open the cabinet door and think, “All right! Lucky Charms!” and the box is empty. And I still put it back in the cabinet.
10. When my wife says, “Do you think (fill-in-the-blank) goes with (fill-in-the-blank)," at least look at her before saying, “Yeah, it does”: No further explanation necessary.
by Jon Mark Beilue
Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (806) 345-3318.