01/04/2012 01:36 pm ET Updated Mar 05, 2012

Simplify: A Guilt-Free Goal for the New Year

I learned long ago that making big New Year's resolutions isn't a good idea. It never took long before I realized I wasn't going to achieve those lofty goals and felt guilty. So, over the years I began to think instead of smaller goals I could work toward. This lessened the pressure and made it possible to have a success to celebrate come December.

Once, when my life was far more complicated than it is now, I was in a store and saw a basket of those stones that have words or phrases engraved on them. Looking through them, one drew my attention and I knew it was what I wanted. It said, "Simplify." I took it home and placed it on my desk so that every day I would see that word and be reminded.

For me that word still rings true, and every year I continue to work on simplifying my life. Our lives are cluttered with so many must-dos, should-dos, and want-tos. It drives us crazy. Admittedly, there are some things you can't change, at least right now. But if you think about it, there are always things you could work on that would help simplify your life.

Think about what makes you content and what drives you crazy. Find a few manageable things you can work towards to make your life happier. It might be as big as looking for a job closer to home. Less commute, more time. It could be as small as getting rid of a bunch of earrings and buying one good pair to wear every day. Fewer decisions, less stress. It might just be unsubscribing from those unnecessary emails you get every day.

For me it was too much "stuff." People died and left us with their stuff. We had kids who went off to college and we stored their stuff. Eventually I felt like I was drowning in stuff. It was overwhelming, but I began with one box, one drawer until I made a noticeable dent, then a bigger one. I'm still working on slimming down our stuff, but every year I make progress and I feel good about it.

It's not always easy or fun to change things, but when you do it frees you. To look in a closet and easily find the scarf you want, to join a carpool so you have less driving, to skip that meeting you don't really need to be at. It's all good.

These days what I want is smaller and less. I want more time to do what I enjoy and to be with those I care about. That's what makes me happy. What can you put on your list to work toward that will simplify your life?

Check out what others are doing to simplify their lives.

For more by Pamela Dodson, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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