Two Friends. Two Approaches to the New Year.

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Dear Frances,

Happy New Year! It’s that time when everyone starts talking about all the changes that they are going to make in the new year. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to try to reinvent myself this year. I want to make some changes and get some things done, but I’ve learned that the all-or-nothing approach usually ends up with nothing.

We chatted about our plans for the new year on our podcast, but now that we’ve both had more time to ponder, let’s talk about where we actually landed. I know that our brains work differently for this type of work. I get specific and make lists and check them off, which is not your way. So, I’d love to hear about your approach.

I have a notebook that I use for this type of planning, and it’s fun to look back on what I wanted to work on a few years ago, both to see what I’ve accomplished and to see what things get carried over year after year (I’m looking at you weight loss!)

Before I even get started thinking about the new year, I make a list of What Went Well last year. This is a great way to help you remember that you really do get things done! It’s also fun to look back on. Some things on that list included our trip to Italy, the bathroom renovation, getting Ollie (our second dog), and (re)discovering cross stitch.

And then, to keep me honest, I make a list of What Didn’t Go Well. My list for 2022 included losing weight, finding a strength training routine, and my plans for a cutting garden (thanks California drought!).

Last year I stumbled upon a way of working on goals that really worked for me–making a list of just 3-4 goals for the year and making sure that I consistently work on those each and every week.

To find my Big Goals list, I start with a brain dump of everything I might want to change or accomplish in the new year. I try not to overthink it–just a 10-15 minute brainstorming session. Then I go back through and see if there are themes, like health, home improvement, relationships, finances, etc. From there it’s usually pretty easy to pick a few big items I will be so happy to have accomplished by next year. If it’s hard to limit to just 3-4 things, just remind yourself that once you complete one, you can add another.

The point of having such a concise list is that every day/week I am consistently doing something (no matter how small) to move that goal forward. When I plan my to do list, I’m always thinking about what can I do to take one small step. It could be a few minutes of internet research, making an appointment for a painting estimate, or creating a Pinterest board so that I can figure out what I actually want a room to look like. It’s the consistency that matters! I started planning our bathroom renovation in January, and it took until the beginning of December to hang the last picture in that room! There was so much frustration with that project, but it kept moving forward a little bit every week.

My Big 4 Goals for 2022 were:

  • Health: Lose weight and find a strength routine
  • Family: Plan a big family vacation
  • Home: Renovate the master bathroom
  • Home: Plant a cutting garden

The drought nixed the cutting garden idea, and while I started strong on weight loss, that petered out. We did a family trip to Italy and it was the vacation of a lifetime. The bathroom project squeaked in under the wire and it makes me happy every time I walk in.

My Big 3 Goals for 2023 are:

  • Health: Lose weight and find a strength routine (Hello again! I’m never giving up on this one.)
  • Home: Redo two kids’ bedrooms to reflect our new season of life
  • Home: Preparedness–be able to live (relatively) comfortably for two weeks with no power and grocery store access

Some steps that I’m taking on health are trying out the Apple Fitness app to help me find a strength program that I will actually stick to and getting back to some healthier eating habits (I know what they are, I just need to do them). I’m making an appointment with two companies to get estimates on repairing and painting the kids’ rooms, as well as stalking Facebook Marketplace for furniture. And over the Christmas holidays, we did a lot of garage organization for our extended pantry. We have agreed to work on the garage project a bit every weekend until it suits our needs. A year is a long time, so I know that small steps add up.

I’m feeling energized by narrowing down and defining what I want 2023 to look like and am actually excited about knocking some of these projects off my list!

Now it’s your turn–what do you want to do in 2023?


Dear Kristin,

One of the things that keeps our friendship evergreen is that we are so much alike and at the same time so different. You are a planner and a listmaker. You set goals. You construct maps for achieving those goals. And last year, you knocked two of your goals–renovating the master bath and taking a family trip to Italy–out of the ballpark. I feel like we should have a big parade in your honor!

I do have goals for 2023, but I know myself well enough to know that if I’m going to achieve those goals, I have to somehow incorporate them into my daily and weekly routines. As much as I love lists, I typically make them and then never refer to them again (with the exception of the lists I leave myself on my kitchen counter, which tend to be short, specific and sometimes downright emphatic: YOU MUST MOP THE FLOOR TUESDAY MORNING OR ELSE). Your way of doing things appeals to me so much, and yet I know it will never be my way. 

One of my big goals this year is to once and for all deal with the walk-in attic. Anyone who has spent more than fifteen minutes in my company knows about my walk-in attic, how for nearly sixteen years it’s been a repository of everything we no longer use (games, toys, clothes, equipment, a huge terrarium from that year Will got into lizards) that’s not easily disposed of. It is Marie Kondo’s biggest nightmare. I’ve made inroads over the years, but it has been a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of project. But now that we’re empty nesters, I’m hoping I can tackle the project once and for all.

Here’s a Before photo (I’ll post periodic updates if anyone is interested). You can see that at some point this was an orderly corner. Then things got pushed aside, searches were made for a book or an old file, and entropy did its thing as entropy tends to do.

Inspired by your big accomplishments of 2022, I have decided to make decluttering this attic junkyard my big goal of 2023. Now, if I wrote out a plan for accomplishing this, Week One: Remove all trash; Week Two: Box up books; Week Three: Do something about those bags filled with fabric, I’d probably give up by February. Other tasks would begin to take precedence. Whatever zest for the project that I felt when making my schedule would fade.

No, the trick for me is to make decluttering the attic a small part of my weekly routine. I’m good at routines. In fact, I love routines. I love not having to think about whether I’m going to walk Travis in the morning; it’s just what I do. I don’t think about whether I’m going to write. When I get home from walking Travis, I pick up my laptop and get writing. No energy goes into making that decision.

So what I have to do is make decluttering part of my routine. Here’s my plan: Every Friday or Saturday (I haven’t decided which yet), I’m going to take one or two medium size boxes up to the attic and fill them with stuff to take to the Scrap Exchange, our local reuse/recreate center. The Scrap Exchange takes nearly everything (other than bed linens, because last year someone donated bedbug-infested sheets), from books to games to bits and pieces (puzzle pieces, three Christmas cards (used or new, doesn’t matter), buttons, nametag holders, etc. etc.). 

If I feel like having an agenda (It’s stuffed animal day! It’s old CDs day!), that’s great, but otherwise, I’ll just fill up the dang boxes and drive over to the Lakewood Shopping Center. Going to the Scrap Exchange and the Lakewood Shopping Center is my idea of a good time. After I drop off my attic junk, I can take a peek at the Scrap Exchange’s used book section (the Scrap Exchange is less than a mile from Duke University and its selection of used books is excellent). Or I can wander a few stores down to Freeman’s Creative and check out the latest Ruby Star fabric line. I can head over to the Food Lion and get some of those low carb Breyers ice cream bars I like so much. 

If decluttering the attic becomes part of a fun routine end-of-the-week outing, I might just get ‘er done. I just need to get to that place where I don’t think twice before heading upstairs to fill up a box with old table cloths and hermit crab shells.

My other goal for 2023 is to walk and exercise more. While my weight isn’t exactly where I want it to be, especially after an impressive four pound weight gain over the holidays, it’s getting close (I’m five pounds away). So how am I going to accomplish this? Walking more is easy (especially because I love to walk). It’s also easy because, as I mentioned earlier, I walk Travis every morning. What I’ve done for the last two weeks is come home from my walk with Travis, give Travis his treat, and then head back out for another mile or two. It’s that old trick of making a new habit by hitching it to an old habit.

As for the working out, I’ve recommitted myself to doing Paula B. workouts every day except Sunday (my day of rest). Paula B. calls herself “your best middle-aged fitness friend, and her YouTube videos are a delight. Twenty-two minutes of stretching, light weights, moderate cardio and balance work. So far, I’ve done a great job of tuning into Paula B. every day at 4:00, but as we know, life gets in the way of our best laid plans (and routines). So how do I keep it up? I don’t have a mid-afternoon habit to hitch Paula B. to.

For now, I’ve put Paula B. workouts on my refrigerator memo board checklist. Even though I’m not great at referring to to-do lists, I love checking off a task when it’s done The memo board is to keep track of Travis’ and my daily meds (heart for him; cholesterol for me), but there’s room for other stuff too. It’s very satisfying at the end of the week to see all the little squares checked off. Maybe that sense of satisfaction is what will keep me on the Paula B. bandwagon. (I’m a simple girl.)

My other goals are less concrete. I’d like to have more time to read and write letters, but so far in 2023, I’ve been as busy as ever (although I’m hoping once we get the Quilt Fiction Story Guild moving like a well-oiled machine, I’ll have more time for lazing about). I’m still reading instead of scrolling first thing in the morning, so that’s going well.

Here’s to meeting our goals in 2023!


  • Robin Leftwich

    Love the suggestions you both have of setting only a few big goals. Much more manageable!
    I lean more to the Francis side in terms of list making. If I make a list I never find the list again, so I kind of keep it in my head. Although I also like Kristin’s idea of note booking, and to that end have separate journals this year for books read, daily thoughts, and a fitness journal. Getting back to healthy diet and exercise is something I am determined to do this year, and if I know I have to write down each day what I did, I’m finding myself doing it,
    Great suggestions, ladies, thanks!

  • Tracey

    I can’t wait to see / hear more about the emergency supplies Kristin is laying in. Also, that before picture from Frances made me LOL… Something about the seal with tail fin up, right in the middle of the photo just tickled my funny bone!

    Absolutely loving the new blog and excited about more podcast episodes, too. Thanks for the time you are putting in!

  • Marsha H

    One of my goals last year was to declutter my storeroom and I have to admit I failed in 2022. However, while putting my holiday decor away during this week’s snow day, I did bag up holiday decor I had not displayed and gathered some larger pictures/mirrors that I’ve been tripping over for years and brought them to the second hand store 3 doors down from my office. I almost did a jig as I left the store without these things!! I am inspired to clean out another corner of that storeroom. And if I do by chance get that room decluttered to my satisfaction. . . . the attic is next!!
    I did well on diet and exercise during the holidays. I did not lose any weight but also did not gain my usual 3-5 pounds so I am satisfied. I have found that 5:30 am is the best time to fit in my workout. I’m not exactly a morning person but after working all day I do not want to get on the treadmill. Its different in the spring/summer/fall when you can walk outside after supper. If I exercise in the AM before work I feel better because it is done. If I decide to take a brisk walk over my lunchbreak that is a bonus for my health and happiness.
    Another good food for thought blog post! And your Dec 16 podcast was so delightful!

    • Frances

      Keep us posted on your storeroom progress!

      I am SO impressed that you didn’t gain weight over the holidays. I swore I wouldn’t, but here I am, four pounds heavier than I was mid-December. I did make myself weigh every day, just so I couldn’t fool myself that I wasn’t gaining weight. No fun to watch the numbers go up … sigh. But they’ll come back down soon enough, right? Right?

  • Judy Cooke

    Both interesting and thought provoking writings.

    Frances, I laughed at your photograph, sorry about that but it kind of goes with my mental picture of you. My next reaction was to entreat you to be really disciplined about how much you return home with after your have been to the recycle depot 😆. A member of our family tends to come home with more than she left at times. My goal setting… I go with the flow, I try to avoid clutter and move things on if we no longer need them. That does not include fabric!! Over the next 4 Wednesdays when our sit and sew group is on a break, I would like to clean out all my kitchen cupboards and my wardrobe/closet. Now I have said that does it mean I am now accountable?🤔

    Kristin, I like the idea of notebooks and journals but do not have discipline to stay with it. That said, I do keep an ongoing book of notes, it encompasses anything and everything apart from my regular shopping list. I also will write a to do list when I simply must need to be organised.

    I do enjoy your regular musings.

    • Frances

      “My next reaction was to entreat you to be really disciplined about how much you return home with after your have been to the recycle depot 😆.”

      That’s definitely a danger! I’m very careful when I look at used books at the Scrap Exchange–I have shelves of TBR books already and don’t need any more! But it is SO tempting because the prices are so low ($3/hardback!). If something is long out of print and no longer available at the library, I allow myself to consider it. Otherwise, no deal.

      With anything other than books and shoes, I’m an easily overwhelmed shopper–even with fabric! So there’s not too much danger there, though I will buy a quarter yard now and again.

      And yes, now that you’ve laid out your goals, you are now accountable! We’ll expect quarterly reports!

  • Mary Jo

    Exercise physiologist (specialization in aging) here. Kristen I’ve followed you for several years and listened as you bemoaned the strength training goal. It’s an excellent goal, especially when you are trying to lose weight. The strength training helps you maintain your lean body weight and not lose that.

    At this point I would suggest you buy a package of 10- 12 personal training sessions from a reputable personal trainer. You need to strength train at least twice a week for it to be effective. As I tell people who come to my exercise class, after 6 weeks it’s a habit and I’ve got you! You will also have 10 different workouts you can rotate to when you are finished with the trainer. You could even do once a week with the trainer and if you’re motivated enough, a second time on your own. I’m an exercise expert and I did this myself once, when I lost motivation. A good trainer will make this fun. This will be money well spent.

    When I’m scheduled for exercise (tennis, teaching exercise classes, kayaking with husband) and other people are counting on me I know I’ll do it. That’s why I teach two classes every Friday. Sad to say but I rarely go to classes on my own.

    I went through a 100 day decluttering in Fall of 2021. It worked well but I wasn’t able to complete the whole house,. We have been able to maintain it. I’m hoping to finish it this year.. I still have the list of what’s left and transferred that to my 2023 planner. I did do a decluttering blitz for 7 days in my sewing room in December. One thing that helps me, is putting everything on our local Facebook Buy Nothing group. I feel better when I’m giving my stuff to someone who wants it and they come pick it up. Everything that doesn’t go on buy nothing, I reevaluate and decide what needs to be tossed and what the thrift store can sell. I put the leftovers right in the trunk of the car. It really helped to have people who were excited about getting my stuff.

    I did a goal setting last year and I got a lot more done in 2022 than I ever have before. One thing that really helped was putting specific parts of my goal in my daily planner habit tracker and also planning out the months I do the goals. For example We travel in our van two months, May and September, and that was a great time to do my 60 hours of online Continuing Education, start up my yoga again, continue my strength training, and a bit of hand quilting work. Being retired helps A LOT. I really didn’t prioritize losing weight so I put that as my top goal for this year. My husband makes me a beautiful plated salad every day and his support really helps. I’m using the Lose It App.

    Good luck on all those goals. I admire all of you who are working, have kids and still get so much done.

  • Margaret A Boardman

    I highly recommend GHUTV to both of you. They have any kind of exercise under the sun from 10 minutes to 45 minutes. Cardio, strength, barre, step, yoga. You name it they have it! The instructors are supportive and so is the Facebook ommunity of other exercisers.

  • Tracie

    I enjoyed reading the blog and everyone’s comments! Today (January 11) feels like my first quiet day to think about my specific goals for the year. I’m doing well with my guiding word, FUN. Kristin, I’m going to take your advice and think about what well last year. Thanks for that tip! I started a 5-year diary in 2020 (not realizing that it was a perfect year to track all the oddities of life), so I did take time to flip through the highlights of 2022. The best part was reflecting on all the days we visited friends and family! Since we finally could freely see our dear ones, we made the effort and did it — driving and flying long distances. I know it’ll be a priority again this year.

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