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Senior Correspondent

29 Things That Will Make Your Life Happier

Financial Freedom

29 Things That Will Make Your Life Happier

Sometimes life just gets in the way.

And today I had a real wake-up call. I was reading Amy Gutman’s article, “5 Things I Learned When the Organizer Paid a Visit,” in her blog PlanBNation, about bringing in an organizer to create some order in her surroundings.

It’s part of a “Life Experiment” she’s programming for herself each month in 2012. In her case, as she says, “Each month, I’ll embark on a new experiment — a concrete set of activities tied to a particular time frame. At the end of the month, I’ll reflect on how my life has shifted as a result of taking these actions.”

For Amy, this month it’s about getting organized.

For me, it’s about taking back control over my environment.

What does that mean?

It means looking at that huge virtual “To Do” list in my head and selecting 29 daily activities, one per day (yes, February has 29 days), that are visible and that are bugging me.

Unless you’ve just moved into a brand new house or apartment, I’m sure you can relate to the things that bug me.

I rebuilt my home from dirt to roof in 2002. It took me about a year. So I’ve been living in what started as perfection for nine glorious (and totally distracted) years.

I travel a lot. And for years every time I came home, I’d exclaim, “Oh, it feels SO good to be home.” But more recently I’ve been saying, “Hm, the key’s getting harder to turn in the lock; I have to remember to spray some WD-40 into it to clean it out. Or some day, it won’t unlock.”

What else?

Well, I noticed the toilet in the guest bathroom seemed to be filling all the time. I found a crack in the uptake tube inside the tank, so I bought the full “toilet innards” at Home Depot, set them beside the toilet and shut off the water. How long ago was that?

When I wasn’t watching, the small trees in my garden became big trees, and started blocking the much needed sunlight from the smaller plants. Today the garden is very different from the one I designed and planted almost a decade ago. My computer’s screen saver throws up photos of that long-ago happy little garden and reminds me of how much sadder it looks today. It needs a facelift.

What else has snuck up on me? My accumulation of paper is bordering on overflow. My constant book purchases mean my bookcases are no longer orderly. (I still like the feel of paper too much…and that of my pen making enthusiastic or critical comments in the margins.)

Recently I remarked that the paint color I so painstakingly selected for the room where I work – the precise color of linen to contrast with white trim — is looking a little shabby.

And then the garbage disposal gave up the ghost a few months ago. Did I replace it? No, I just shifted over to the second sink and convinced myself that was better for the environment anyway.

In short — and in truth — as I let my work and passions and distractions take over more and more of my consciousness, I allowed my surroundings to degrade. And each time I noticed something, I excused it or invented a justification I thought I could live with. What I now realize is how much energy is consumed each time I see whatever it is…and say, “Someday I need to take care of that.”

Today is that “someday.” Today Amy Gutman’s own challenge has led me to mine. About a year ago, someone recommended making a list of everything we were “putting up with.” I had very few things on that list. Today I have far too many. I need to squirt WD-40, call a plumber, sort books, replace light bulbs, repaint the front door and so on.

So what have you allowed to slip…as you juggle life? As you build your business? As you meet the needs and wants of others?

Be honest. What are you putting up with? (It can be large or small.) What are the things you’re overlooking that bother you, maybe quietly, maybe loudly. Isn’t it time to get them out of your life?

What if we challenge one another? If you’re game, make a list of 29 things you’ve been meaning to get done that will make life more pleasant if you do. Even if it’s just to get them out of your sight. Most shouldn’t take more that 10-15 minutes to achieve. (Don’t list huge projects or you won’t fit them into your day.) Some may cost very little or nothing. Just be sure to pick those that don’t put new stress on your finances. Throw in some real easy ones so you can catch up on the first few days of the month that we’ve already missed.

For example, here are the first six I’ve done this weekend to play catch-up:
•    WD-40 the front door lock.
•    Change how and where I store all my passwords.
•    Clear off the kitchen island.
•    Sort through two bookcases and box up books to donate to local library.
•    Scrub the front door.
•    Clean out the water feature in my garden and get it working again.

So let’s each set about picking whatever one we feel like doing each day, and then cross it off…until we all move into the next month as much happier versions of ourselves.

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