the year of less

by Susan

2014 is going to be the Year of Less: less clutter, less commitment, less stress. I already feel better, just saying that out loud. Ahhh.

I got up (at 4:30) this morning thinking about starting a new year, because today was really my New Year’s Day (first day of school WOOOO!) and saw this tweet from J. Crew and thought YES. THAT. EXACTLY!

JCrew

I want this year to be fun, even the mundane parts. And so I’m going to focus on less, but that less is going to be all things I love. Because the thing about the Year of Less is that while having less means giving something up, I’m not willing to kick it off with a sweeping list of Things I Am Abandoning in 2014. Instead, I’m going to spend the year figuring out what isn’t working for me, what makes me feel bad, physically or mentally. And then I’m going to give those specific things up because then, I will feel good.

See? Simple!

Last fall, I gave up wheat. I had started having all sorts of unpleasant stomach issues (seriously, you don’t want to know) and after some pretty intensive Googling, I came to the conclusion that a) I did NOT have ovarian cancer (whew) and b) my troubles might very well be gluten-related. Since I don’t really meet the standards for even a significant “gluten intolerance” I’ve been pretty loose about my g-free commitment — I’ve cut scones and muffins out of my diet (that still makes me weep a little because scones! and muffins! WAH!) and I’ve replaced bread and pasta with quinoa and baked potatoes for most meals. But even this lackadaisical approach is really working — my stomach is back to normal, and as an extra bonus, my hip joints don’t hurt any more (apparently there’s some suspicion that gluten consumption can lead to or exacerbate inflammation — I’m not promoting the theory, I’m just saying my hips don’t hurt any more, so there you go).

Avoiding wheat has been easier than I thought; there’s wheat in just about everything (dammit) but because I feel so much better, I don’t have any sense that I’m really missing out when I choose not to eat something. In fact, I’ve had pizza with regular old gluten crust a couple of times since I started eating “g-lite” and it hasn’t been pleasant. Ok, the pizza was delightful (most recently: mozzarella and bacon pizza from Upper Crust — YUM) but the, um, after effects, shall we say, were less so.

(Side note: If you live in OKC and have a recommendation for really good g-free pizza option, let me know. I’ve heard Hideaway has an edible g-free crust, and Upper Crust offers one, too, although I haven’t talked to anyone who’s eaten it. So dish, friends. Because I really really love pizza.)

The no-gluten thing really brought home to me something that I’ve always known but have never really believed: There are things in everyone’s life that are, at some level, just bad for us — and they’re not always the obvious bad-for-us things. In general, I feel like I’m doing everything right in terms of managing my physical and mental health: I exercise consistently and I try to get enough sleep and I take care of my blood pressure and I eat a relatively healthy diet and I’m seeing a great therapist. But the wheat incident was a reminder that there are probably toxic things in my life that I don’t even recognize as being bad for me.

In 2014, I’m going to focus on identifying the things that aren’t working for me and replacing them with things that do. I don’t know exactly what this means just yet; I’m starting by thinking about what I want the end result to be and working my way in from there. I know that sounds backward, but it’s essentially what I did with the no-wheat decision: I wanted to feel better so I thought about the changes I could make to get there. And voila! It worked.

I also really believe that letting go of something, especially something that has become destructive, opens a space for something new to replace it. I’m not eating wheat any more, but I’ve discovered quinoa and roasted vegetables and Annie’s Bunny Crackers (which are SO DELISH). And yes, that’s an over-simplified example, but I think the same is true in general: Out with the bad, in with the good, whether we’re talking about food or habits or beliefs.

When I buy new clothes, I try to stick with a strict one in, one out policy; I’ll leave the tags on the new item until I have taken at least one old thing out of the closet and added it to the giveaway pile. Often, the one new thing winds up turning into two or three or five old things which it turns out I don’t wear or need any more. And that’s always a good feeling.

And then I take the new piece and mix and match with what I already own, and I wind up with what feels like a whole new closet. Just from one small change. I love that feeling, and I want more of it in my life, in places that matter far more than what I wear.

So 2014 is going to be the Year of Less, which I suppose is really a year of more. Either way, my goal is to make all those super quotidian things, like eating and getting dressed and managing my kids and my job, less stressful and more rewarding — one small tweak at a time.

Do you have a goal for the new year? Are you eating a salad every day or learning to water ski or cleaning out all those closets? Let’s hear it!

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