letter to 2016

letter to the new year

Melissa Cowan rings in the New Year by asking one simple question.

Dear 2016,

The first day of you was bright, shiny and filled with infinite possibilities. It started with a much-needed coffee and a dip in Manly harbour. The sidewalk was littered with spritely joggers and hungover punters.

On the ferry trip back to the city, I finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I felt moved and inspired to tidy, and what better time to begin than 1 January?

When I got home, I began de-cluttering my apartment with a wind of enthusiasm. I discarded things by categories: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous items and things with sentimental value. I asked each item Marie Kondo’s key question, “Does this spark joy?” and was surprised by how many of my possessions didn’t. Having this simple question to ask made the process easy. Either something made me feel good, or it didn’t.

Five hours later, I had six bags of clothes and five bags of books to donate to charity, and four bags of rubbish to throw out. I also kept one bag of clothes to take to a clothing exchange event later in the year.

After hours of hauling things around, I was spent. I admired my artfully tidy room and noticed it seemed much ‘lighter’. Despite my physical exhaustion, I felt more content than I had in a long time. The only things surrounding me were things I loved or really needed.

I vowed to carry this sentiment into the rest of the year: less, not more. In 2015, I tried to cram more in: more events, more obligations, more work. This year, I’m taking things out: fewer belongings and commitments. I want a life that’s as curated as my newly de-cluttered apartment.

To be fair, a few of the things I ‘added’ in last year are going to stay, like dancing in a dark hall and live storytelling. But hopping on a bus for an hour to go to a friend of a friend’s Friday night drinks just because I feel like I should? Nope.

From now on, before I click ‘attending’ to any event, say yes to an invitation or add something to my ‘to do’ list, I’m asking, “Will this bring me joy?” Or, when I’m not feeling particularly joyous, “Will this make my, or someone else’s, life better?” If the answer’s no, I’m not doing it.

Joy, for me, is found in reading a good book, writing my novel or cooking a healthy meal. It’s also found in helping my family and friends. It’s in appreciating what’s already around me, rather than constantly searching for something else.

It’s not found in endless hours on social media or in the exhaustion caused by our I’m-busier-and-more-successful-than-you society. And as much as I try to find it at the bottom of an ice-cream container, it never seems to be there.

I’m pretty sure asking this question will make me more productive, not less. There’s joy to be found in completing tasks at work (accomplishing things feels good), or from scrubbing the dishes (a clean kitchen makes me happy).

Thanks, 2016, for giving me the chance to start again. A clean slate, a new year to do the things I want to do. I promise to fill you with only good things and to keep asking, “Does this spark joy?”

Love,

Mel