New year, new you—right?
On January first, hot off a night of staying up late and consuming extraneous amounts of delicious food and alcohol, we stare at ourselves in the mirror in the milky light of winter morning and decide what we want to change about ourselves. And how to do it.
Do more? More exercise, more gratitude, more phone calls instead of Instagram hearts, more vegetables, more organization.
Or do less? Less sugar, less anger, less time in front of a screen, less worry.
A few months back, I read Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It's quite popular—a mainstay on Amazon Charts' Most Read list with 4.5 stars from customers—and I wanted to see what I was missing.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck has an awkward launch—the opening story about Charles Bukowski's "success" felt less than inspiring—but quickly moves into an updated, passionate, and profanity-laden exhortation not to sweat the small stuff. And some big stuff as well.
It helped. I disconnected myself from getting outraged over minor issues and concentrated on what was more meaningful to me. I also pared back my Facebook time enormously. My feed had stopped showing me cute cat videos and instead bubbled with anger and ads. No thank you.
I also felt a warm glow of smugness. See?! My decision several years ago to stop folding my clothes and to just dump them into my dresser drawers was an example of how I was spending my precious time and emotional energy on important things, rather than domestic servitude.
One day, though, I was putting away a newly purchased black shirt and realized that I already owned four similar black shirts. One was on view at the top of the riot of shirts in my drawer, but the other three were hidden deep under the continental shelf of clothes that I rotated through every week.
Suddenly, my drawers were no longer Exhibit A of cleverly not giving a f*ck. There were an example of excess and inefficiency.
A few years ago, I'd breezed through Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (It helpfully puts the significant parts in bold type, so we impatient types can flip through it in 20 minutes and absorb the highlights.) I'd cleaned out several rooms after reading it, and I still regularly drop off items at Goodwill that no longer bring our family joy but could bring joy to someone else.
I never did try to learn how to fold my clothes using the KonMari Method. But that was about to change.
I watched a YouTube tutorial and then attacked my shirt drawer.
Sigh. It looked amazing.
I then tackled my daughter's shirt drawer. Thirty minutes later, her cute llama and Harry Potter and sailor-stripe shirts were folded tightly and lined up like the spines of books, one next to the other.
And, shocking the heck out of me, it brought me joy.
So, as with just about everything, there's no easy answer to self-improvement. To draw closer to health and happiness, some commitments focus on doing less. Less snacking, less obsessing, less time reading the comments on inflammatory posts. Some commitments focus on doing more. More walking, more meditation, more time with friends.
What will you do in 2018?
Shop this article on Amazon.com
Sign up for the Amazon Book Review: Best books of the month * author interviews * the reading life * and more