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Minimalist New Year's Resolutions: 5 Steps to a Purposeful 2024

Updated: 10 hours ago

minimalist table scape with 2024 planner, tea pot, and mug

As the holiday celebrations wind down, we inevitably begin to reflect on our professional progress, personal milestones, relationships, health, and wellness. Sometimes, looking back reignites a flame of ambition, and sometimes, it dredges up feelings of guilt for all we did NOT accomplish. As we ease into the New Year, resolutions often take center stage, promising personal growth and positive change. Unfortunately, the complete life overhaul we usually embark on tends to leave us feeling more overwhelmed and resentful of our perceived lack of discipline...or is that just me?


In this guide, I'll share my journey of adopting a minimalist approach to setting resolutions, focusing on simple, gradual changes and intentionality. Discover how setting a key intention, breaking down goals, and incorporating minimalist principles transformed my resolutions into achievable and purposeful steps.


5 Simple Steps to Crafting Minimalist New Year's Resolutions


I think many of us decide we're going to change everything, and we feel incredible building new habits and routines for a few weeks or even months, but when life changes, the season shifts, or new milestones approach, we are disappointed with how quickly those new habits fade away. I've tried implementing principles from books like "Atomic Habits," "Deep Work," etc., but I honestly feel those guides are written A. for men and B. for people with very predictable careers, home environments, hormones, and health. To my knowledge, there are no "How to Find Discipline in Your Routine When Your Toddler Gets a Cold, and You Have No Childcare," "How to Outsource Your Annoying Tasks When You Are a Team of One," or "How to Deal with Dysregulated Hormones and Cycle Shifts While Maintaining Consistent Performance" books. We cycle, shift, and adjust, and this year, instead of applying a self-help lens to resolutions, join me in taking a different approach.

My intent is not to present you with a list of minimalist habits, but rather to shift your mindset about setting intentions, stripping away what isn't serving you, and simplifying personal growth.
 

Step 1: Set a Key Intention

I've naturally gravitated toward one keyword or intention for the last few years. It's just a word that popped into my mind and kept floating to the surface. In 2022, just before the birth of my daughter, my word was "surrender." As someone who likes to feel a sense of control over my routine, surroundings, career, health, etc., it took constant effort and reminders to surrender to the season of life I was in. Over the course of the year, I learned not to let a poor night's sleep define the success of my day. I accepted that I would need to let my big plans go if my baby just needed to be nursed all day, and I learned to embrace adjustments in the routine rather than fight them. In 2023, my word was to be "present." I learned to get off my phone, follow the direction of my then 1-year-old while playing, eat dinner with my husband without the TV on, and towards the end of the year, worked up to a full Sabbath ritual with my whole family, pausing everything from Friday night to Saturday afternoon, and learning just to be together. This year, my word is "prepared," which means thinking a step ahead, anticipating my and my family's needs, and setting myself up for short and long-term success. In the rest of this post, I will share what that looks like tactically, but this is the moment to let that one word or one intention bubble up to the surface.


If you're having trouble selecting one intention, consider this:

  1. Is there one personality trait or major emotion you wish to change? Maybe you have a short fuze and get angry too often for your liking. Perhaps you constantly forget something important and miss deadlines or birthdays or leave the house without your coffee. Your intention could be "patience" or "pause."

  2. What patterns do you find yourself repeating? Do you overcommit to projects or put too many to-do's on your list and end up overwhelmed or guilty for not achieving enough? Your intention could be "simplicity" or "slowness."

  3. Do you often hesitate to start new things, perhaps due to a fear of failure or perfectionism? Your intention could be "action" or "courage."

  4. Is your health or wellness an area that often takes a backseat in your life? Your intention might be "nourish" or "nurture," reminding you to prioritize feeding your body and soul.

As you select your intention for the year, I also think it's important to voice the "why" behind it. For me, being prepared means I'm anticipating my needs, and that of my family, am therefore less stressed, feel more in control of the day, and am working towards something in the future. Being prepared helps me show up for my family as the stable, kind, and fun mother and wife I want to be, rather than the running-on-empty, short fuzed one I can regress to easily. Your why should be genuine. You should have an image in your head of what living up to your intention looks like for you, rather than emulating someone elses life.


Step 2: Apply Your Intention to All Areas of Your Life

Your intention should permeate the changes you make in all areas of your life. At the end of the year, this theme should create meaning in your professional, home, family, and personal life. You don't need to tackle it all at once, but it's important to admit that how you show up in one area affects the other aspects of your life. I'll use my intention of being "prepared" as an example. I want to apply my intention to 4 key areas: Home, Work, Family, and Body.*


*You can break these categories down further if you have multiple jobs or want to break down your family life into your relationships with your children, partner, and extended family, for example.


Once you have your categories, list how you can apply your intention to the different areas of your life. This should not be a to-do list or a typical list of resolutions. Each bullet point should directly relate to your key intention.


My Intention: to be "Prepared"

Home

  • Close the kitchen in the evenings

  • Plan the weekly menu ahead

  • Keep calendar updated

  • Portion the dog food or create a routine for preparation

  • Stock the pantry with essentials

Work

  • Create a work plan for the next day at the end of the day

  • Maintain a regular posting schedule and plan the month ahead

  • Optimize the check-list so that I know exactly what to do

  • Develop a passive form of income

Family

  • Keep emergency items in the diaper bag

  • Research and plan emergency bags

  • Learn to shoot at the range

  • Schedule rest and 1:1 time with my husband before we are desperate

  • Establish an emergency fund

  • Finish building the teardrop trailer

Body

  • Schedule regular acupuncture and chiropractor appointments

  • Focus exercise plan on strength and primal movement

  • Get to the bottom of cravings, stock less processed alternatives

Resist the urge to add to-do's just because they pop into your mind. This is all about minimizing and focusing on bold changes. Spreading yourself thin can distract from the main goal.

I won't go into each of my items per category, but the gist is that I want to be prepared for the next day, for the future, and for physical and emotional changes. I want to anticipate feeling burnt out or disconnected from my husband and plan for rest and connection. I want to foresee things going off-kilter with my toddler and have what I need to get through the day smoothly. I want to minimize the decision-making in our most stressful times, which are breakfast and dinner time, and have a plan for major global events that feel very close to home for me recently. I want to prepare my body to keep up with a growing toddler and, hopefully, for another pregnancy this year. Everything else moves down the priority list.


Step 3: Breaking Down Goals

As we all know pretty well by this point, writing down a goal doesn't mean we will accomplish it. I couldn't tell you if I got these tips in a self-help book or during my project management courses. Still, the consensus is that goals need to be broken down into small, actionable steps, they need to be plotted on a calendar, and any behavior change needs to be built upon existing habits.


I am starting with goals that only require minor changes to existing habits - what the self-help gurus call habit-stacking. I am not starting a workout regimen or planning to finish the teardrop trailer we built two years ago because I don't yet have a schedule where those activities would naturally fit, but I am planning for them now, accounting for obstacles and timing issues rather than putting them off.


Tackle Low-Hanging Fruit

First, focus on the foundational goals and low-hanging fruit. Select the changes you can implement now with no contingencies and work on breaking those down into actionable steps before tackling major projects or behavior changes.


An example of a foundational habit or low-hanging fruit is closing the kitchen in the evening.
Admittedly, I'm not starting from scratch. We always wash dishes and run the dishwasher before bed. We usually wipe down the counters after cooking, but stacking a few habits onto the existing ones means I can feel less stressed and more prepared in the morning and meet my goal of nourishing my body and anticipating my and my toddler's needs.

Method: Habit Stacking
  • run the dishwasher as soon as dinner is done or before if there will only be a few items

  • wipe down and put away hand-wash-only items rather than putting them on the drying rack

  • put away any food we might usually leave out, like slow-cooker bone broth

  • prep morning coffee or matcha, and, on "school nights," pack daycare lunch and gear


Plot Complex Goals on the Calendar

Using a calendar is essential for a few reasons. It allows you to realistically view the changes you're making in the context of your life and anticipate the timing of these changes against busy seasons, events, and simultaneous projects.


An example of a complex goal that I need to plot is finishing the teardrop trailer. A huge reason why I haven't worked on the teardrop trailer is that I can't bring Noah to the garage with me because of chemicals, sawdust, dangerous tools, and cars driving by in the alleyway. Also, I wouldn't say I like to work on it on weekends because that's some of the only time I can spend with my husband when we're not exhausted. Here's the logic I used to plot my goal.

Method: List Perceived limitations and conflicts
  • unheated garage

  • childcare

  • showering after sanding work

  • gas, electric, solar, plumbing, and upholstery are delegated and not in my complete control


Work Backwards

Start by envisioning the completed goal or resolution; what are the limitations or roadblocks to tackling your goal? Plot how you will remove those obstacles first and how you will ease into your New Year's Resolution.


Using the same example of finishing the teardrop trailer, I can take it a step further and work backward from my final goal.
  • June: First test trip on June 1

  • May: Panels upholstered & installed, mosquito nets, organization

  • April: Kitchen installed, solar and electric complete

  • March: Cargo carrier complete, mount to trailer, galley built

  • February: Main body sanded, interior organizer constructed and installed

  • January: Order space heaters, finish sanding galley, finalize galley plans, put feelers out for carpenter


Take some time to bring more achievable goals to the forefront and get started on them. Gradually build them on top of existing habits. Divide the remaining goals up over the course of the year and work to eliminate barriers to achieving them well in advance. Break down complex goals into as small steps as possible.


Step 4: Minimize for Maximum Impact

Not only is it important to narrow down resolutions so that they fit your one key intention for the year, but it is also important to prioritize where best to place your energy. I have difficulty letting go of any task I can do myself, and I know many of you are similar. Once you've adopted a habit or learned a skill, it's hard to let it go when priorities shift. Consider delegating or outsourcing tasks that don't fit your yearly resolutions or intentions.


Simplifying

  • I can make cheese now, but I'm putting that on the back burner because I know my time is better spent elsewhere.

  • I make all our bread, granola, and baked goods, but I am putting aside kefir and yogurt for now because we can get local grass-fed dairy products at the co-op.

  • It has also become easier for my husband and me to divide up household and family tasks rather than share them because it clears more mental space.

  • Some tasks can be hired out. I can meal prep lunch and clean the house, but my time right now is limited and more valuable elsewhere, so those tasks are being hired out in this busy season. Here are the changes we made or are planning to make:


Outsourcing

  • We ordered a food service: we found a food service (Fresh N' Lean) with pre-cooked, pre-packaged, high-protein, mostly organic, no seed oil, gluten and dairy-free meals for roughly $12 per meal. Our home-made meals, especially with the bulk meat we buy, come out to around $9, but for us, at this moment, the time saved on meal preparation, the money saved on my husband eating out when we run out of food or have weekend commitments, and the night-and-day difference in my mood and energy levels when I eat lunch on time, is worth the extra expense.

  • We're hiring a cleaning service: I have no issue with regular home maintenance, but mopping the floors, washing baseboards, cleaning windows, and scrubbing hard water stains from the shower are chores I have to plan out and usually weigh over me when I postpone them and distract me from being present with my family.

  • Grocery Delivery/ Pick-up: We belong to a local co-op and get our groceries there, but apart from saving some time, I think ordering groceries would help cut down our budget because it will help me stick to a regular list. I ordered once so far, and the shopper had trouble finding things I know are always in stock, but I will try again and hopefully will be able to hit repeat orders once a week.


There are principles of minimalism that are so valuable to apply to your space, your wardrobe, and your work environment, but clearing clutter and valuing what's important is an approach that should go far beyond the aesthetics and functioning of your home. It can be so valuable to clear out unnecessary tasks, chores, and habits from your everyday routine.


Step 5: Create Rituals Instead of Routines

We often think of rituals as stand-alone events. I light candles on Friday nights, I make a fancy breakfast on Sunday mornings. These rituals punctuate my week and give me something to look forward to at any given moment. At the same time, ritual doesn't have to be so literal. One of the best pieces of homemaking advice I've ever heard was to romanticize your life. Bringing softness and beauty to mundane and repetitive tasks converts chores into rituals, too. Making an evening cup of tea and cleaning the kitchen can be a time to reflect on the day, washing the dishes can be a time for gratitude, making your own latte or breakfast beautiful can be a form of self-care. These little moments have the power to change our perception of our own lives, change our moods, and make everyday tasks feel more valuable. Rituals are powerful, but they don't have to be obvious to allow us to show up better for ourselves, our homes, and our families


As we embark on this new year, let's embrace a minimalist approach to resolutions, focusing on intentional living and purposeful change. Resolutions need not be overwhelming overhauls but rather deliberate, achievable steps aligned with our values. Throughout this journey, we've explored setting a key intention, integrating it into every facet of our lives, breaking down goals, minimizing for maximum impact, and favoring rituals over routines. In these simple yet profound steps, we discover a path to navigate life's challenges with purpose and simplicity. Here's to a 2024 filled with intentional living, meaningful progress, and the beauty of a minimalist lifestyle.

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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

Welcome to Starting Sunday, my corner of the internet where I channel that Sunday morning feeling of intentionality, optimism, and possibility—without waiting for a Monday start. Join me as I share my personal journey and insights on nutrition, motherhood, and minimalism, all while navigating the beautiful chaos of life with my spirited two-year-old. From the intricacies of hormone healing to the joys and challenges of home birth and the essentials of life with a little one, I'm excited to pour my heart into this space. Your support means so much, and I can't wait to connect with you. 

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