Making a Fresh Start in Familiar Surroundings

There's nothing like spending a few weeks in a tropical paradise, especially when you're there ringing in the new year, to give you the time and space necessary to reflect on your life. The fresh air, the solitude, the change in scenery, change in routine, or even meeting new people — it all triggers the urge for me to reshape my current lifestyle and habits once I return home.

I was camped out in Hawaii, far away indeed from my usual regimen on the East Coast. Of course, it's quite easy to be this pragmatic when you're spending your evenings dining under a canopy of palm trees, a pineapple wedged on every drink at the table, listening to the waves lap just a few feet away. You aren't burdened by work-related matters or money, family squabbles or arguing about whose turn it is to clean whatever it is that needs to be cleaned. Yes, the good life makes it all seem so simple. But perhaps it can be? What would happen if I adopted this idealistic mindset regardless of where my feet were planted...

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I set forth making a list of things I wanted to work on implementing once I returned home. Some things were going to be far easier to see through than others — as Mark Twain said, "Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time." I knew for optimal success, it would be important to get started right away. I already had a few weeks adjusting to life without some of my quirks, but I was also aware my familiar surroundings and old routine would soon pile on extra hurdles.

1) Giving up salt - Sure, it seems simple enough, but I have always said you're either a sugar person or a salt person. Well, I'm a salt person through and through. But going weeks without it, or at least drastically decreasing my daily intake, I began to relearn how to taste my food. And I liked it.

2) Tackling household projects and repairs - I spent a good year working on house renovations. During this time, all I did was eat, sleep and breath all things house-related. Once the big undertakings were finished, I desperately needed a mental and physical break from any sort of house project at all, be it painting or just hiring the work out. Then I began to realize my short "to-do" list was growing longer and longer. If I didn't start taking on some of my tasks soon, I was going to be quickly overwhelmed. I listed and organized all my around-the-house projects by order of importance or time of year to be completed, and set forth on crossing them off one by one. Lucky for me, the biggest project on my list, my ailing front porch, was wrapped up just a few days before I left home!

3) Purging - I pride myself on being tidy and clean, but purging is one department of mine with room for improvement. Stacks of old magazines, clothing and organizing the basement need to be my area of focus.

4) Mindlessly watching TV - Working mostly from home, I realize I often will have the television on, mostly turned to news, just to distract me from the noise of the city streets. After weeks without seeing any news, or even turning the tube on for that matter, I realized what a blessing the stillness really is.

5) Balance - With most things in life, it's all or nothing for me. This year I'm going to work on scaling back my work hours during the summer and vacationing more in my off-months. Training for a marathon while still remaining the diligent dog owner. And striving to balance my work with my social life.

My list originally had a couple more items, but I chose to scale it back since a shorter list is more likely to produce favorable results. So, curious, what does a fresh start at home mean for you this year? Are there any changes you're interested in implementing in your life or household? Do you have any tips for success?

(Images: Kimberly Watson)

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