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Some people make New Year’s resolutions every year as they cross over from one calendar year to the next. I go on a cleaning binge.

The packing up of Christmas decorations, New Year’s Eve leftovers and all the other holiday trimmings forces me to organize so everything can go back where it belongs. I believe the less clutter I have in my house the more my family and friends will be able relax and feel at home there. Overcrowded spaces feel too stressful.

As I go through the closets and bookcases each year and select items to go to charity, I make a point to only hold onto things that are really important to me – things that have significance. I have seen too many people through the years become possessed by their possessions. I only want to be surrounded by books and other items that hold a special meaning for me.

While this clearing out process makes me feel better, the more significant and life changing New Year’s ritual for me has been examining the clutter in my life. Every year I think about what I want to start doing, what I want to keep doing, and what I want to eliminate to make room for everything else.

We are always making To-Do lists for ourselves, but we rarely think about the things we should stop doing. We don’t take the time to clear the clutter out of our lives and keep only the important people, events and habits.

One year I decided to stop watching evening television. As a result, I can no longer tell you what’s happening on any of the reality TV shows, but I’ve read many great books. Another year I decided to stop putting so much effort into a friendship that always left me emotionally drained. Now I have more time for other friends and family.

Through this process of elimination I have improved my surroundings and given myself the physical and emotional space to build a life that is focused on the things that matter. It’s a personal process of “clearing out the clutter.” Try it – there’s no telling what you might find room for as you start the New Year.

Jeannette A. Jones, CPA, CFP ®