Photo: Katie Hickenbottom via https://www.katiehphoto.com

For many the New Year symbolizes a clean slate. At midnight we resolve to be our best selves in the year to come. We promise to eat better, have more patience or be present just to name a few. I typically make some sort of resolution to be more organized, which is always difficult considering on Jan. 1, I am ready for the holidays to be over. I mean boxed up, put away and done!

It’s like a switch is flipped. When the ball drops in New York City I am ready for the New Year to officially begin, sans decorations. This all poses another major dilemma because I am also ready to lie around all day and half-watch football. So, for me, the New Year typically begins with a bit of conflict—the struggle is real.

But this year along with conflict also came clarity. An AHA moment! As we were taking the ornaments off the tree a few thoughts went through my mind: my 2019 resolution of being more self-aware and of course, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Who isn’t thinking about that show?

An incredible thought popped into my head, “I don’t need to keep all this. It does not bring me joy. Why are we keeping it?” The answer was: guilt. Friends and family gave us decorations over the years and we were hanging on to them out of respect. But this strange obligation to honor their gifts was actually getting in the way of our happiness.

So, we did it! We decided to keep the decorations and ornaments that make us happy and get rid of the ones that don’t. Some were old and falling apart, others didn’t fit our st‌yle. Whatever the reason, we filled a box with the holiday décor that we didn’t want and donated it. You know what happened next?

We felt better. Lighter somehow? Not only were we not wasting time carefully wrapping and packing up things for next year that we didn’t care about, but we were also taking a stance. This is who we are and we don’t need to explain it to anyone. I guess some might say we are growing up? No time, like the present!

It sounds so simple. Keep the things in your life that give you joy; get rid of the stuff that doesn’t. Why hadn’t we thought of it sooner? There were so many reasons. First, self-reflection is really hard. I mean people actually seek out professional help to aide with the process.

Second, we are all busy. Now more than ever, people describe themselves as overwhelmed, slammed—just plain busy. Sure, this may be self-induced and have a lot to do with social media, but most of us still feel busy. And, busy people don’t have a ton of extra time for self-reflection.

Lastly, we are creatures of habit. Whether it’s daily rituals or annual ones, there is a comfort found when activities take a familiar form. But this year we didn’t do things as usual and took a moment to reflect on this specific annual tradition.

Don’t get me wrong. We still kept a ton of decorations including our Murano Italian glass ornament and our Hawaiian Santa that plays Mele Kalikimaka when we press the button. But, these things make us happy; they actually bring smiles to our faces.

It may seem silly, but I hope this strange process helped teach our kids a little bit about living a thoughtful and purposeful life. A life that includes time to ask the simple yet powerful question, “Why,” instead of always relying on the familiar, “Because we’ve always done it this way.”

At the end of the day, even if we continue doing things the way we always have, it is also good to know why.