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Make 2014 your best year yet

Editor’s note: The following is a blog entry for “Ms. Simplicity” that appears on the Echo Press website under Areavoices. It is written by Melissa Schmalenberger, a professional organizer based in Fargo, North Dakota.

Here we go, the week where we start thinking of our New Year’s Resolutions. The top three resolutions continue to be to lose weight, be financially smart and get more organized.

With all three areas I have found a few tricks to get you off on the right foot and make it past January and into the rest of the year.

1. Get a handle on the paper clutter. I will find papers stuck in drawers, in a box, and shoved in shopping bags. Paper, paper everywhere. Designate a basket just for bills or papers that must be looked at within the week. As the paper comes in, do a quick sort of putting all the important papers in one spot and the other papers in another area. Most of these other papers can simply go in the recycling bin. After a few weeks, see what papers you have. Can you set up automatic bill payment? Can you read your bank statements online? Stop the flow of paper and focus on what needs to be addressed within a week and weekly sit down and attack that now smaller pile.

2. Focus on the kitchen. If there is one area of your home that should be organized, it is the kitchen. The kitchen is the hub of the home. Kids gather to do homework. Families congregate to eat. But if you don’t have an empty counter there is little space for homework let alone space for preparing dinner. I have left clients’ homes with them telling me that they can now cook dinner and eat as a family. What a gift! Cooking at home and being able to chop fresh vegetables will make you healthier. Home cooked meals are not only healthier, but they are cheaper. Knowing what food you have in your pantry to avoid overbuying at the grocery store saves you money. And the value of having your kids doing homework with you standing nearby is darn near priceless!

3. Find an accountability partner. The reason certain weight loss programs work is that you are being held accountable. Not all of us have money to pay an outside source to hold us accountable, but I think you would be surprised to find some inexpensive ways to find support. Ask your circle of friends and family to help. Once you give someone permission to hold you accountable, you begin to step up your game. When I have a big goal, I announce it on Facebook. Knowing that so many of my “closest” friends know what I am working on really helps. One friend that I meet with for coffee once a week said we should meet at the gym and walk and talk instead! Great idea!

4. Speak the goals. Just saying them out loud gives the goals more weight. My husband and I sat down and worked through our goals together last night. Hearing what is important to him is important for me to hear and help him work on. We have home improvement and travel goals on our list and we needed to figure out where the money will be coming from. Discussing our goals together makes for a stronger marriage and makes them seem more attainable.

5. Write the goals. Seeing the goals written in black and white give you a reminder of what you are working toward. Take a picture of your written goals and save it as the wallpaper on your phone or your desktop background. So each time you turn on your phone or computer the goal pops into view. Writing your goals allows you to break it down even further. What steps do you need to do in order to make your goals happen? Yes, we all want to be healthy, but what steps can we do to make ourselves healthy? Make these steps realistic and attainable. One year I taped them to my mirror in my bathroom as my daily reminder.

Looking for a bonus step, set a daily reminder on your phone with a mantra, prayer or words of encouragement. Take a few minutes in the morning to focus your day on your goals. The reminder on your phone will be the little nudge to get you going.

When setting goals, remember that the hardest part is the first step. One friend I was having coffee with said to me that she is too fat to go to the gym. I challenged her and reminded her that when we go to the gym we are only worried about what we look like and aren’t focusing on what anyone else looks like. So realize that nobody cares that you are “too fat,” just starting and putting one foot in front of the other is what matters. You don’t need the perfect outfit. You don’t need the perfect body. Take that hard first step….and keep going!