A year of resolutions — one for each month

Guest post by Alissa
Bubble Wrap Calendar!
Bubble Wrap Calendar!

I love the excuse that a new calendar provides for encouraging me to try new things, push myself, and break out of bad habits. But even though I’ve heard that it takes just three weeks to develop a new habit, my new year’s resolutions always break down around week five or six. There must be some resolution-busting ingredient in those candy message hearts… How to effect change in my life without the crushing “Aw, bummer, I screwed up my resolution! Guess I have to wait ten months until my next opportunity” feeling of failure that comes around in February?

So this year, instead of attempting a 365-day resolution, I am considering trying something different: twelve one-month challenges. Every few weeks a different “dare” to myself in areas of health and lifestyle, or our culture’s omnipresent consumerism and need for entertainment. Here are some ideas I’ve been considering:

Screen-free-home month. It’s not TV that’s a time suck for me as much as the internet. Can I go for one month at home without constantly distracting myself with Netflix and lolcats? If I lock my laptop in my desk at work, maybe I’ll finally have time to do all those things I say I’m too busy for… like cleaning the storage closet or reading that book.

Sugar-free month. Self-explanatory, and also potentially one of the biggest challenges for this sweet tooth!

Car-free month. I have the luxury of living close enough to be able to walk to work, but could I also bike to the grocery store and bus to friends for a whole month?

Mile-a-day month. My friend made a 2012 resolution to run at least one mile per day for the whole year, and she’s kept it! I’m not sure I could do it for a whole year (she’s stubborn enough to keep going through injuries), but can I discipline myself for one month? After all, running one mile only takes a maximum of fifteen minutes.

Zero-waste month. Can I produce no garbage — only compostables, recyclables, and reusables — for a whole month?

Cook-from-scratch month. As much as possible, prepare everything that goes into my mouth from scratch. Several benefits here: knowing what’s in my food, the healthiness of whole ingredients, and learning how to cook more things!

One-dress month. Inspired by onedressprotest.com, can I “fast from fashion” for one month by wearing the same outfit every day for everything I do?

Try-something-new-each-day month. A new food or recipe, a different route to work, a book I’ve never read, a different radio station, a new hairstyle — can I break free of the comfortable ruts I’ve worn in my routine to try something new? Who knows what I might discover!

Make-art-every-day month. Open up my closet full of random supplies and draw something, paint something, sew something, sculpt something every day for one month.

Zero-dollar month. Not sure how do-able this is, but with the exception of paying necessary costs like rent and bills can I plan and budget so that I don’t spend one dime for a whole month? Just use the gas already in my tank, just eat the food already in my cupboards, and resist buying those “oh-it’s-so-cheap-who-cares” temptations in the dollar aisle.

All of these are things that I’ve pondered at some time, but seem too daunting to try to commit to for an entire year. But commit for thirty days? Quite do-able! And if I discover I can do it for a month, I may be more likely to work these habits and changes into my regular routines. Is this a crazy idea? Can I pull off this “resolution”? I haven’t come up with twelve different challenges; any other ideas I should add to my challenge list?

Comments on A year of resolutions — one for each month

  1. I like this idea! Seems so much more attainable if you say “it’s just one month!”

    How about one random act of kindness every day for a month?

    • Ooo, I love that idea! ๐Ÿ™‚

      And sorry I wasn’t on here responding to comments earlier; January is my “home unplugged” month, so just finding internet now at work!

    • I love this! I was reading it only takes 21 days to form or break a habit so maybe at the end of next year we’ll all have 12 new habits. Would love to carry the random act of kindness a day on past the initial month. I might need to recycle ideas but I think that could be a habit that makes not only the individual but those around them happier.

  2. I’m thinking the “zero-dollar” month might be made easier by things like pre-paid CSA produce deliveries.
    Also, using community-sourced items like “Craigslist Joe” would be a sure way to find items you need from people who don’t need them anymore – or are willing to barter for them.

    • Great ideas! Maybe I’ll try this month during the summer when I can (hopefully!) eek some fresh produce out of my garden. Would encourage me to become a more dedicated gardener if I was relying on it for subsistence rather than just counting it as bonus food. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’ve done one-month challenges for myself before and I love it! for some of the challenges, I allow myself 2 cheat days (or whatever seems reasonable for the challenge, some don’t get cheats at all). I use stickers to track them on my calendar so that I don’t slip into a cheating pattern, though! I also usually make myself write down a quick reason for the cheat, like, “attended wedding” if I’m on a no-car month but couldn’t find a carpool and didn’t have a reasonable bus route to the wedding. Then, it’s an extra challenge to not use the cheat stickers — and I’ll give myself a reward if I’m able to complete the month with 0 cheats. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Cheating days is a great idea. I may have to implement that if I get in a bind. I started January as my “unplugged home” month and already found a problem: I couldn’t submit a work order to the landlord for a broken stove until I came in to work today!

    • my mum uses cheating days with her allergy diet (Doctor supported) she believes it is what keeps her from having major ‘fails’.

  4. we did a vegan-month and that did amazing things to my hair & skin.
    a friend does no-hair-wash-month every summer and swears that it leaves her with perfect hair – but i couldnยดt bring myself to do that yet…

    • Ha ha, after the OBH post a few months ago about natural facial-cleansing, I did jump on the no-shampoo wagon – cleaning with baking soda and vinegar instead. It works! But I don’t think I could do no washing at all for a month.

    • Oh man, thanks for the link! I had no idea there was someone else out there doing the same thing (thought I should have figured – what with the internet being so big).

  5. Love this idea! Definitely something to consider, and who knows maybe some of things will stick to a way of living! : )

    • Even though thus far I’m only one day into “unplugged home” month, I’m already conscientious of my other challenge ideas. Like I’m already trying to make more from scratch and generate less trash. So my living’s being impacted even before the challenge, and thus I hope will be impacted afterwards, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. How about spending ten minutes every day decluttering a shelf/drawer/pile of magazines? Shredding old bills until the backlog is gone? Tossing out broken things?

    I always find I can breathe easier in a room if I’ve gotten rid of stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

    Flylady (www.flylady.net) has lots more ideas for good monthly habits to get into.

    • I can’t get past her initial suggestions seeming a bit irrelevant and odd. What is so important about lace up shoes and an shining clean sink? Some people don’t wear shoes in the house by tradition and she does not allow for that in her system.

      • Late to the party: But shining the sink means it’s empty of dishes and clean enough to use for anything you need it for. No pasta water splashing back old soap and food into my pasta. Ready to dump a load of produce in to soak with vinegar. It’s like running the dishwasher when it’s full instead of when you need the dishes in it, hanging up your towel when it’s wet so it can dry instead of wadding it up and washing it three times later to get the mildew stains out.

        And that, ironically, is the only flylady thing I can get behind.

    • I’m quite fond of unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com myself. I couldn’t get behind flylady – don’t know why, exactly – but UFYH works for me!

      • Thanks for the tumblr site! I also had a hard time getting behind flylady, I bought the book but was turned off when she basically said I needed to stop being a martyr and clean my house because I shouldn’t expect my roomate/manfriend/kids to help. Gross.

  7. My family did a “buy-nothing month” once, although my parents did allow for buying groceries and gas, in addition to paying the usual monthly bills. It was in the middle of what they call their “Sabbath year”, which they try to do every 7 years, where they don’t buy anything newer/better/faster for a whole year. It was kind of neat.

    • Whoa, a whole year? That’s inspiring! I’m already a bit nervous about doing just one month. Kudos! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Brilliant Idea. I think my other half and I can handle the one month challenge. Now to work out what they shall be. I want a Sugar Free Month, Buy Nothing New month, exercise every day month, Home Cooking Month, Zero Waste month, Clean Every Day month (to see how much easier it is if we do one little thing every day!), Relationship month(spending more time with each other), Catch up Month (spending time with those friends we don’t see often enough), I might even do a Me Month where I focus on the things I need for once instead of always putting everything off to help others. Oh and Home Decor month, where I work on all the little projects I’ve been planning to do.

    • I like “Clean Every Day” month. For “Catch Up” month, I’ve been thinking of writing letters – actual hand-written letters – to friends and family. One each day. It’s always fun to get a hand-written note! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I love this idea! Sounds very exciting.

    Since 2006, instead of making resolutions I never keep, I decide upon a theme for the new year on or around Halloween. Some themes turn out better than others but I never feel guilty for not keeping a resolution. This year’s theme is “Reinvention” and my favorite theme was “Doing Things that Scare Me.”

      • I quit my awful corporate job, spent a summer unemployed, and went to Burning Man for the first time! I also went on random road trips and did things like skinny dipping in the ocean in March (it was stupid!).

  10. Woah. I like this idea. This is far more reasonable for me than trying to make one huge sweeping change – I always fail. I was just telling my girlfriend this morning that I hate making new year’s resolutions because I feel like I’m just setting myself up for failure .. but I sort of got into the habit of .. developing habits, I guess, late last year (ok, last month) thanks to Unfuck Your Habitat, so that has made achieving 12 mini goals in a year a lot more realistic sounding! I can do that! … Now to pick what I want to do.

    • I was telling a friend this morning that to me “resolutions” imply striving to do more/less of something. But when I label these with the term “challenge” or “dare” it’s more of me going, “Ha, self, I betcha can’t do this,” and I’m much more likely to rise to the occaion.

      • definitely agree about the wording. I did a challenge this year and when I fell behind I pushed myself to catch up because it was a challenge and I was losing it.

    • Amen. Even in college days I’ve was able to pull in a small amount each month from my work-study job. I don’t make a whole lot now, but one reason I want to do a no-spend month is to remind myself how blessed I am. There are a lot of people out there that live with a LOT less. Your comment reminds me that I should also donate a chunk of that money saved by not spending to a local food bank or shelter.

  11. I’ve decided this year that, in lieu of resolutions, I’m going to embark on 2-3 month “missions”. My first mission is to get myself on a schedule (i.e. spend x hours a day working on getting a job/building my portfolio, y hours a day playing with my son, z hours actually getting some exercise, et cetera). I’m probably also going to do a mission of either learning (at least the basics of) a new language, or brushing up on the ones I already know.

  12. Can I just say that I really want one of those bubble wrap calendars? That looks like so much fun! I’ll try to remember that when 2014 comes around if they make another edition for that year.

  13. I am jittery with excitement for this idea! I want to do a lot of the ones you suggested, plus a few extras. For me there will be a fitness month, which may not be the same as eating right month, but will probably be the same as focus on roller derby month. I think I’ll start off with something good and sliding scale-ish for this month, so art month should work. I also think EVERYONE could probably do with a Focus On Mental Health Month. For me that would be improving my habits so that I take medicine everyday, probably meditating every day, and therapy every week, but then I constantly resolve to be more responsible about my anxiety, so I know what I need to work on. SO EXCITED.

  14. I was thinking about something similar to this after seeing blogger e tells tales (blog down so can’t link) do something like this earlier this year. I’m looking for something new after doing the Deadly Blogger Challenge (http://deadlybloggers.com/) for Indigenous Australian bloggers this year. I’m ready to step it up in my life as well and this might just be the thing to kick start things. I have a heavy work schedule some months so to be able to switch it up to suit each month would help me.

    Definitely need to save money, get healthy, write, love myself, develop my career, love others… all of which I’m sure I can work out a way to fit in with this.

    Love it! thank you for sharing.

  15. Well, closing out the year and here’s how things went: some months were awesome, some weren’t, and some I plumb forgot to pick a challenge. But overall throughout the year I indeed ended up doing more of the things I wanted to do and less of the things I didn’t want to do that were in this list — even if not bounded by specific dates on the calendar. So a great year! Excited for what 2014 will bring. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. This is a fantastic idea!! They all sound very difficult but like very lovely ideas. I hope you can do it! I want to try the one dress month, I own too many clothes. My new years resolution is to learn the guitar (I’ve been lugging around my acoustic for going on 5 years now)

  17. I KNEW I’d gotten this idea from somewhere! My January resolution: wash my face every morning AND evening. Because adulting is hard.

  18. This is an awesome idea — and heads up to anyone who’s reading it, “Zero-Waste Month” and “Make from Scratch Month” definitely go hand in hand. I started trying to go ZW about a year ago and by now we’re making everything from our own ketchup and chocolate sauce to cleaning supplies and toiletries — and it’s EASY. “Paleo ___” is usually the best search term to find whatever food you’re craving.

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