The Christmas decorations are being slowly packed away and we are all getting into the routine again after the holidays. Although the bustle and activities of the holidays are fun and I enjoy seeing friends and family and celebrating Christ’s birth, I really prefer the quiet gift of this winter month. The daylight is short but the opportunities are limitless. There are few if any social expectations for this month, unless you reserve this month to schedule the overflow for who you were not able to see during the holidays. Even though the month is dark and dreary and cold, it is the optimum time to stay huddled away and be productive. January lends itself to rest and reflection on the past year and the year that lies ahead. True confession time, I am usually distracted by the longer, sunnier days of spring, summer and fall and I always make excuses to be outside and neglect the work I know I need to do inside. The blessings of January are numerous, including the fact that there are 31 of these precious days! Here are some suggestions of how to use them:
1) Getting a jump on Spring Cleaning. After cleaning up the dust and dirt of decorations, what better time to do some deep cleaning? As you store the decorations and the wrapping paper, then pull out what you moved for Christmas, what needs to be thrown away? So, clean up and out! I mention this thought first because sometimes, doing this at the beginning helps align the other four.
2) Planning for the year. One of the bonuses are after Christmas sales where items are deeply discounted, as stores want to get rid of excess inventory. I usually try to buy holiday items. I also do this after each holiday for the following year. January is also the best month to purchase bedding and linens, fitness equipment and televisions and other electronics.
Plan your garden with incoming seed catalogs. Plan times to get together with other people you received Christmas cards from. Collect ideas for parties and other events that you may be thinking of hosting. Reorganize drawers and storage for simplicity and saving time.
3) Reevaluating priorities and goals. Live more simply. Learn to bake or play an instrument. Consider what went well last year and what did not. What did I not accomplish? What do I need to spend less time on? More time on? Personally, I want to spend less time on social media. I honestly think it is draining my soul. More time on exercise and doing things to feel better. Self-care is important to me this year, particularly because I am getting older and maintenance (read: moving around and using skin care products) requires more effort and participation on my part. Some months, my calendar has too many appointments and commitments, so January could also be the month to rest and regroup. Evaluate memberships and organizations you are involved in. Are they worth your time and money, which are both important?
January is an excellent time to check the ledgers and touch base with your financial planner. If you don’t have one, it is time to find one. Did you spend too much this year, particularly for Christmas? Some people dedicate January as their “No Spend Challenge Month”. Spend less and pay off more. Then, rework the budget prior to figuring taxes. Actually, think about what, besides necessities, you want to spend your money on. Is there a big ticket item coming your way that you need to save for? Consider your financial goals.
4) Learning new skills. Do something new (and maybe even challenging!) It is amazing how many courses are available online for so many certifications and degrees. Some can be finished in as little as a month and can be just the thing to give your resume some sparkle. It can also provide a great feeling of accomplishment. Everyone should always be learning.
Try new recipes and make extra to put in the freezer for the days you really don’t want to cook.
Also, go somewhere new. Every place has a story, interesting sights and features. If you can’t afford to go to Europe, even a new town nearby or a restaurant will give unique sensory experiences. My husband and I recently went to a new Audubon center to hike and found an eatery on the way that dated back to the 1800s and was a stagecoach stop. Going to a new place or doing something new can give you a fresh perspective.
5) Researching new topics and projects. Doing your homework before you invest time or especially money in is a good idea. For instance, if you are considering redoing your bathroom this year, watching YouTube videos and going to the home improvement stores can really give you guidance and maybe pause before you start.
See when items, trips, services are less costly and also less in demand. It IS true that time is money. I also try to find out new, interesting information to discuss with other people. The library is an excellent place to start for scouting out fresh information, new books and other medium and “try before you buy”. We enjoy playing games and we recently checked out some new games to play before we bought them.
Here’s to a new year and its possibilities! Enjoy January with all its potential. Before you know it, it will be over and it will be time for Fabulous February!!
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