How to Make the Most of Cold, Dark, Dreaded January
If January were a food it would be Brussels sprouts, but not the yummy kind with bacon. The boiled, unsalted kind your Grandma used to make. Dreaded January. It’s cold, and it’s dark. We’re bloated and we’re broke.
But there are ways to make the most of this month, and I don’t just mean binge-watching Netflix in the name of “self-care.” I mean ways to make the most of the fact that we’re spending so much time at home.
Here are five things we can do to launch ourselves into the new year organized, energized, and ready to take on the world. (If you’re feeling so inclined!)
How to Survive Cold, Dark, Dreaded January
Do whatever you need to do to fall back in love with your physical space. Whether that means a deep clean, ruthless decluttering, or rearranging the furniture, make your surroundings a place you want to spend time in.
Don’t stop at clearing away the Christmas chaos. Keep going and purge old toys, clothes, bedding, and anything you no longer need. Donate as much as you can or tuck it away in boxes for a garage sale in the spring.
If your baseboards, stove, and laundry room are annual projects, get them done and out of the way so you can feel a sense of accomplishment that often eludes us this time of year.
I’ve never been good at making (or keeping) new year’s resolutions but it’s almost impossible not to be nudged into considering some kind of positive change when our news and social feeds are exploding with “new year, new me!” messages.
If you are making resolutions or setting goals, try also making a plan to hold yourself accountable. Then write notes to yourself and open them on the first of each month as a way to track your progress and remind yourself of where you wanted to be.
If goal-setting is too daunting or you don’t know where to start, consider thinking about what 2020 taught you and go from there. Whatever it is you took from the past year will help you figure out what you want to do more or less of in 2021 and help you identify situations that trigger joy.
Establish new routines
My family has lost track of some of the good, productive habits this past year. By Christmas break, my kids were no longer consistently picking out their clothes the night before, packing their own snacks, or putting off TV until homework was done.
The month of dreaded January is a good time to press reset on those habits. Kids are not immune to talk about resolutions and positive change, so get them involved. Help your kids understand why routine is important and get their input on what’s working, what’s not working, and how they can help.
Implement a chore and allowance schedule
I’d been saying for at years that I was going to start giving my oldest daughter a weekly allowance. The first two weeks would go smoothly and then I’d either get tired of trying to keep cash on hand or get annoyed by all the crap she spends her money on and decide it’s not worth it.
So this year I’m opening a bank account for each of my kids and setting up a recurring e-transfer from my account to theirs each week. Christmas and birthday money will go directly into the account and they will be able to check their balances online and learn to plan for purchases they “really, really, really want.”
At the same time, we are setting up a chore chart for each child. Doing chores isn’t tied to allowance because I don’t want my kids to think I’m paying them to help out. But this is a personal choice and many parents don’t give or transfer allowance until the chores are done.
Start meal planning
Meal planning is hands-down the best new habit I implemented last year. It’s helped us eat healthier and more creatively now that we’re mostly eating at home and we’ve cut down on take-out. Ordering in is now a treat, not a necessity.
Once a week I sit down with our family calendar and my favourite cookbooks (yup, I’m old school) to plan our meals and create a grocery list. Not only has planning helped me get the shopping organized but I’m also better at repurposing leftovers into lunches to help avoid the morning lunch box scramble.
You can kick your planning up a notch too by making a conscious effort to get your kids trying one new food a week. Whether it’s something they see on their plate or something you’re sneaking into their pasta, meal planning lets you get a little more creative instead of resorting to the tried and true.
What are your secrets to surviving and thriving the dark, dreaded January?