New Year’s Life Cleanout

A long with resolutions for bringing in the new, New Year’s is a perfect time to get rid of the old: to purge your closets of those clothes you’ve never worn, to sweep the old spices from the cupboards and box up the books you wanted to love except could never quite make it through chapter three.

And while you’re getting rid of all that old stuff, why not clean out people, feelings and behaviors that are cluttering up your psyche and weighing you down?

This New Year’s, resolve to clean the following out of your life:

Friends who make you feel anything less than great about yourself:

You’ve been friends forever. You love each other. Except…how come, every time you have lunch with her, you come home feeling like you talked too much about stuff that wasn’t interesting and that your butt really does look fat in that? Why, instead of feeling as if you gained insight into your problems and support for your successes, do you feel only doubt about your career choices, your parenting skills, your entire life?

It’s time to offload the friend who undercuts you so artfully that you don’t even know what’s happening until you realize your every encounter leaves a bitter aftertaste. No confrontation necessary: schedule a Zumba class during your usual lunch hour and feel your self-image soar.

Power struggles with your kids:

Whether you’re trying to get your 2-year-old to sleep in his own bed or your teenager to come home by midnight, here’s the only thing you need to know about parental power struggles: You can’t win.

The solution isn’t to give in or to fight harder, but to reframe the struggle in a way that fosters your child’s autonomy while giving you ultimate authority. Red socks or blue? A later curfew but with location-tracking on their cell phone? Whatever, as long as you kick the yes-you-will-no-I-won’t power struggle.

The same old fight:
Wife to husband, who’s checking his Blackberry for the 18th time since the appetizers arrived: “What’s so important?”
Husband: “I just have to make sure this problem at work got solved.”
Wife: “Is work always more important than me?”
Husband: “Who’s going to pay the bills if I lose my job?”

Sound familiar? If you’re stuck having the same old fight that never gets resolved, maybe you need to have a different fight. If he’s really freaking out about being the breadwinner and you’re worried he’s having an affair, then you need to have another, scarier, but perhaps more productive conversation.

The endless list of shoulds:

You should eat more vegetables.  Have the neighbors over to dinner.  Read Jane Austen instead of watching American Idol.
How about…the only thing you really should do is quit holding all those shoulds over your own head? Do you want to do it? Love doing it? Great. But if you’re only doing something because you should do it, then you shouldn’t do it at all.

Dreams deserving of reinvention:

When you were in high school, you dreamed of traveling the world.  In college, you wanted to make a million bucks running your own business.  So how does that square with being a stay-at-home mom in New Jersey?

Very well, if you can reinvent your dreams along with your life. You may not be able (or want) to take off around the world, but how about planning an exotic getaway with your oldest child, somewhere neither of you have ever been before? And while you may not devote yourself 24/7 to a tech startup, maybe you can cash in on your own schedule and newfound craftiness with a virtual store on

The point: Rather than regretting the old dreams you haven’t fulfilled, dream up new ones that can guide the life you have now.

Valentine Love

For my yoga instructor (and cleaning lady, and ex-boyfriend…)

After you’ve been married for—what is it, a million?—years, you kind of lose inventiveness, if not enthusiasm, for celebrating Valentine’s Day with your spouse. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other people in your life deserving of some Valentine’s Day love.  Here are some real-life grownup
Valentine’s Day wishes.

To my child’s math teacher: Even though we only met one time across a crowded room (Remember? Back-to-school night?), I love you for not only having the patience to teach math to a roomful of hormone-crazed seventh graders, but for giving my kid a B.

To my yoga instructor:
I love how relaxed I feel in your class. I love how flexible I’m getting. And I especially love that part at the end, where we get to close our eyes and drool.

To the hot housepainter:
I don’t want to date you. I don’t even want to know your name. But please, can you let me look at your amazing arms as you roll Autumn Mist on my bedroom wall, just one more time?

To my cleaning lady: You have my eternal affection for letting me forget that my toilets ever need to be scrubbed.

To my ex-boyfriend: Even though I wouldn’t friend you on Facebook, I like you a little bit again for letting me know you still think I’m hot.

To my hairdresser: I’d be devastated if I ever lost you, so maybe you ought to give me the formula for my hair color now?

To my best friend: Kids grow up. Husbands leave you for a younger version. Only you love me enough to watch Sex & the City II with me, for the third time.

To my babysitter: $10 an hour can’t express the depth of my affection for you. Will $12 do it?

To my barista:
I couldn’t live past 8 am without you.

To my mother-in-law:
I know I don’t call as much as you’d like. But I love you for raising a son I can stand to stay married to for yet another Valentine’s Day.

To my george clooney:
Lover of my dreams, man of my fantasies, I bet you’re sweeter to me than you are to your real girlfriend.

To my next-door neighbor:
I never see you, I never hear you, and that’s exactly why I love you so much.

To my dog:
Even though my husband is too distracted by his Blackberry and my kids would rather be with Madden 2011, you’re never too busy to give me a big sloppy kiss.

To my colleague: Roses are red, violets are blue, I’d hate my job, if it wasn’t for you!

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About this article

Author: Issue: Jan/Feb 2011
Credits: Illustration:; Illustration: Amy Saidens/
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