Reasons To Be Cheerful: How To Transform Your January from Negative to Positive
January is named after the Latin word for 'door', the door to the year and an opening to new beginnings. It's also the coldest month of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere and a massive withdrawal month, both from the hectic excesses of Christmas and a much reduced bank account. It takes time, tbh, to recover from twenty four days of extreme hype followed by six days of New Year apprehension when you rush to eat all the fun food and drink before the clock strikes the final hour and you are catapulted into a state of having to do better. Better at eating, better at drinking, better at being skinny, better at not being skinny, better at being organised, better at being a mother, better at your job, better at everything. The pressure is well and truly ON.
Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of transforming myself into a generally more healthy, professional and in control being (I am the woman who ended up in A&E last year after falling over whilst drinking Prosecco so I'm not judging) but setting goals needs to be realistic. My list for 2018 includes being better at remembering to buy limes for gin and tonic, being better at watching Netflix box sets through to the bitter end and being better at clearing up dog poo from the lawn instead of leaving it to solidify for three months. To be fair, Joe has already taken the third of these on board and has ordered an outdoor pooper scooper from eBay as I write. Winning already.
When Leo was only six months old, we went on a holiday to Mexico that departed on 2 January. It was, without doubt, the best thing that we have EVER DONE. It wasn't super warm - about 24 degrees - but my children still talk about it as their best holiday ever. Leaving the grey slush to get on a plane and get off the other end into blue skies, white sands and a good looking man handing you a margarita still stands out as one of best decisions we've ever made. Unfortunately, as someone who was always a fan of taking the kids out of school for holidays, my cunning annual holiday plans were then thwarted by some shocking Council decision to start charging parents for doing so. This was compounded by the fact that once your children reach two then you have to pay virtually full price so we've never been able to afford it since. But bloody hell, it was amazing. It was the best start ever to a year.
January always feels like it's never going to be much fun. It's a high pressure month and it's hard to get back into the swing of things. Everyone's been sleeping later, a mixture of dark mornings, late nights and excessive food and drink intake, and returning to work is much more of a chore than normal. Even the dog goes into a mild depression. But there are also lots of positives to the first month of the year. Did you know that January was Hot Tea Month in America? A quick look at Wikipedia also revealed that it's Stalkers Awareness Month (am not sure what that entails, tbh). Anyway, whether you're a stalker or a tea drinker, in the words of Ian Dury, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Here goes.
Sort Your House Out
Due to the fact that my life revolves around Instagram (sad but true fact), my decorations were up by the 25 November. As a result, by the time Boxing Day came around I had well and truly had enough of them. The batteries were fading in the fairy lights, the animals had destroyed anything that was within paw reach and even the honeycombs were starting to wilt. My daughter Ella was born on 28 December and we've always used this as a massive excuse to take them all down the day after the 26th and this year was no exception. Returning your house to normality after Christmas has got to be in the running as one of the most therapeutic moments of the year.
Disposing of real trees, however, is always Joe and I's downfall. He has a massive aversion to going to the tip and one of last year's trees is unbelievably still behind the bins in our front garden. He and Ella had set off begrudgingly with the second tree some time in May and returned with the news that the tip was shut and they'd been forced to throw it into the bushes. This year we had faux trees which made the whole deconstruction process so much easier. No pine needles, simply chuck it back in the box. Plus it reduced the chances of Joe being arrested for fly tipping quite considerably.
It's a brilliant opportunity to make some room changes too. Once I'd removed the trees and hoovered up the huge tumbleweed piles that had accumulated around them (including a small hard poo from when the cat had been accidentally shut in the living room overnight), my natural furniture moving around urges kicked straight in. It's really refreshing to move things around, creating new and interesting areas in your spaces and giving new leases of life to pieces you already have. Create some new focal points and maybe have a look around and utilise furniture from elsewhere in the house.
This is also one of the few times of the year that I get the Pledge out and am always astonished at the difference a proper clean can make. It takes time to do this properly but it's always worth it and creates a sense of calm in your surroundings that is missing all over the festive period. It's also a good starter for ideas when it comes to changes that I want to make to the house in the coming year. Control is resumed - back in the game.
Make The Most Of The Season
January is a bloody cold month, there's no getting away from it. Aside from the mass expectation that you are going to dramatically transform your life and rise from the ashes of your previously non worthy existence (how did you survive the year, even?), the rain, wind and artic temperatures give a general air of misery to the first thirty one days of the year. But there are plenty of ways to make January a positive month and banish the proverbial blues.
Okay, so it's cold. But that's an excellent excuse to keep the heating on and light the fires. Pull the curtains, light the candles and utilise these dark evenings by sitting on the sofa and catching up on Netflix. Personally, I'd recommend The Sinner, The Glitch and American Horror Story which are some of my all time faves. We're currently into The Crown which is literally taking over my life in the evenings. But it's cold and windy outside so there's no reason to feel guilty for indulging - make the most of it. I'd be happy to spend my entire January sitting on the sofa. NB: Disclaimer to parents like myself who have boys who play football all year round and still have to stand outside in the dark for training midweek. Godammit.
If the sun is shining, crisp January weather is the perfection opportunity for walks (apparently, although the last time I went on a walk was 2009). Personally, I'm a huge fan of cinema trips (warm and cosy with food and drink to hand and no special footwear required). Long Sunday lunches with friends are also a January bonus, either in lovely country pubs or at home - a perfect opportunity to make the most of left over Christmas alcohol. If there is any, of course.
And shopping. Internet based is best as you don't need to leave the house or even put shoes on, special or otherwise. I've already placed two Zara orders, invested in lounge wear and bought a tripod and it's only the 3rd.
Create A Future Plan Of Action
Okay, this is one of my New Year faves. I don't do a lot at New Year when it comes to making promises but this one is a fun one, mostly because it's interior based. Grab a notebook - a big one. Walk around your house, room by room, and write down exactly what you want to achieve in each one from an updating point of view. For example, look at your bedroom. Do you want to update with paint? Buy some new bed linen? Create a new gallery wall? Write a list for each room and then look at it feasibly to work out what you can achieve on that list and when you will achieve it by. Write a proposed achievable date next to every item.
Some - like building work - are less quickly achievable than others. In fact, in our previous house I had 'kitchen and conservatory knock through' on my list every year for five years in the full knowledge that it would never be achieved unless we came into money from a distant unknown relative, won the postcode lottery or sold Joe's kidneys (tempting). But things like paint a wall, put up a shelf, buy a plant - these can be tentatively scheduled. Writing it down makes it a job that can be completed and for me, it makes me feel in control of the huge amount of tasks that I have going forward.
Another thing I do is buy in preparation. For example, if I'm planning on doing the bedroom and I can afford it, I will pick up bits and pieces for the room as and when I see them (pictures, a cushion), even if I'm not planning to decorate for another six months. That means that when I DO come to do the room, I won't have a big outlay all in one go. It's like spreading financially. I'm also constantly scouring the charity shops and furniture warehouses for pieces that can be used in more than one room and that could work for a few projects on my never ending list.
If you are as desperate to be in control as I am, then I'd suggest an Excel spreadsheet. It pulls what could be a mundane task that keeps getting put off into something that is official and therefore is on a 'list' to be dealt with. It works, I promise. You'll be feeling like a project manager in no time at all.
Do The Same For Your Life Goals
I haven't done this before but this year I am definitely going to be writing a Future Plan Of Action life list. There's a few things on it. Some are work related. Set a blog readership goal. Try not to file my invoices and paperwork in incoming cardboard boxes. Have a day off once a week. Make enough money to pay off my credit card so that I can go and visit my sister in Singapore. Cards, sorry. Others are personal. Get my hair and nails done more often (Joe loves this sort of resolution. He honestly thinks that going to the hairdressers costs the same as it did in 1945). Wear make up and foundation that is the same quality as my 16 year old daughter uses. Reduce swearing in front of the children (a hard one. Notice I didn't say stop). Lie in bed more at the weekend. Don't drink so much that I can't remember if I've Instagram Live broadcast the next day. Sigh.
I'm not a fan of resolutions but I do like the idea of writing a list of what I want to achieve and ticking it off when I do. Like the Future House Works list, my opinion is if it's written down, then it's more likely to happen. It's logical. If I don't write it down, I'll forget it and fall into the same traps that I fell into last year. My complete lack of organisation in 2017 resulted in situations such as failing to buy a train ticket to London in advance and only realising when I got to the station and having to pay three times as much as I should have done. Or forgetting to place a supermarket delivery order which results in me having to stop and pay £5 for a packet of crisps and a cereal bar for Leo's packed lunch box from the local garage as I never have any cash and have to use my debit card. It's the basics.
So this year, I will write it all down and tick it off. Like an endless To Do list, I am certain it will change my life for the better. Fingers crossed.
Book Your Holiday (Dates)
As a family, holidays are the absolute goal of our year. Being away as the five of us is absolutely our most favourite thing and any extra money that ever enters the Dawson home is immediately channeled into this purpose. Okay, so when I say book a holiday, I know that January is the WORST time of the year financially for literally everyone. What I am suggesting is that you book in your holiday dates. As early as you possibly can. Why? Because you don't have to actually have the holiday itself booked, just the knowledge that you have those dates to look forward to is enough to up the ante.
Joe and I planned his entire four weeks entitlement last week and it immediately gave us a massive boost. We haven't booked any flights or Hotel's - it's January, ffs, we've just spend more than the financial deficit of a small country on Christmas - but we have already spent many happy hours looking at possibilities for when we've recovered from the huge December outlay. Checking out flight costs, looking at destinations. We've already been on about seven holidays and argued about Hotel choice without even leaving our sofa.
If you've got teenage kids, btw, make sure you check with them before you start scheduling. Last year, I gave Joe the responsibility for booking flights for a three night break in Ibiza (mid life crisis, not mine btw) with our friends for this Summer. At this point, I have to say that I book ALL of our holidays, from the Hotel to the car hire to the travel insurance. There's a reason for this. Anyway, he triumphantly paid for four flights before he realised he had booked June instead of July and that we'd be going slap bang in the middle of Ella's GCSE's. A fatal error. It cost him a barrage of abuse from Ella and £370 admin charges to correct it.
Everyone needs something to look forward to. Whether you're intending to have a staycation or planning a huge trip, it's great to have that in your diary so that you can count down to the break. Getting back to work after the Christmas holidays is always hard and just knowing that you've got a day off mid February can help even a little bit. Try it.
So there's a few ideas to stop your January being quite so miserable. Setting unrealistic and stressful goals is a no go for me (if I was such a person, I'd be standing on the scales every day, pining for Sauvignon Blanc and ordering fitness DVD's) but I do like the idea of trying to gain some control of my life and what I want to do this year. If I'm in control, I am a happier and more balanced person and if I'm a happier and more balanced person, I'm more likely to be enjoying my life to the full. And that's what matters. Keep it real. Right, am off to finish off the Christmas cake. It won't eat itself.