Friday, 4 January 2013

The new year is still in boxes

One of our winter visitors...
Every year on New Year's Eve we pull out our family journal and review our list of goals that we made the previous year. We check things off if we have achieved them, and talk about the how and why and when some things got accomplished and some things fell off the radar. Then we all joyously contribute our new goals for the coming year.

I have always found this to be a great way of marking the end of one year and the beginning of another. Now that our daughters are older, they like to kick in their ideas, and they think it is a hoot to look back at past years' goals and achievements. Things like "Ava: Learn to talk." and "Katherine: Potty train." For the grownups, it was often financial or personal goals, along with things that we wanted to do as a family, like "Do something active as a family twice a week: bike, swim, walk, etc." Once our goal was to "Have another baby." Check.

The funny thing is, writing those things down in the book sometimes seemed to have magical properties. Putting it on paper, in the family journal, with a nice pen and a glass of wine (or milk) at hand, made it real, tangible, and somehow more possible. It made us feel so good to mark things off the list, to make a goal and actually achieve it. It makes all my efforts to be more intentional, um, more intentional.

So, this year the journal is lost in a maze of unpacked boxes in the basement of our rented condo. We have unpacked the necessities of life, yes, but dozens and dozens of boxes remain, neatly stacked for the time when we move into a more permanent home. So, there I was, just before New Year's, wading through boxes with an exacto knife, desperately looking for that journal. I still have not found it and it left me feeling positively bereft on New Year's Eve, one more family tradition that fell through the cracks in the chaos of moving thousands of kilometres across the country right before Christmas.

Looking forward with joy
Just put it in another journal, you may say. Somehow that didn't feel right. We could not review last year! But, maybe the best solution is to just start with a totally clean slate. The longer we are here the more I realize that most of the stuff in those boxes is not being missed, not even needed or  thought of.

As I unpack things, it makes me wonder "Why did I keep this and haul it across the country at great cost?" In some cases it goes from a packing box into another box to give to charity. I want less stuff that I love more. How is that for a New Year's goal? The fact of the matter is we had a big house that we expanded to fill. Much of the stuff we didn't even need. And if it's gone we don't miss it.

I am starting to think that less things will actually mean more happiness. We don't have to worry about how we are going to pay for it if we just don't buy it. Of course I have always claimed to be non-consumerist but the piles of boxes say otherwise, clearly. I can no longer pay lip service only to the idea of "less stuff." I am starting to think a small house may be one answer. Trying to teach our children what they have is all they need is a challenge, but one that is so worthwhile.

So, I turn the page on a new family journal, one of a stack of beautiful blank books I could not resist buying over the years and still haven't used. The time has come to look forward with joy, and to never look back with regret. Wishing you all a year of doing the same,


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