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How to Totally Win at New Year's Resolutions

13/01/2016 11:07 GMT | Updated 12/01/2017 10:12 GMT

I've always thought I was a bit rubbish at sticking to New Year's Resolutions, until someone pointed out to me that I managed to keep a HUGE resolution when we spent a year Buying Nothing New. Just because we started randomly in September, and I didn't make it at New Year, I didn't really think of it as a Resolution. But it was. And we did it.

I did a quick spot of Googling, and stumbled across an article that claimed that most people will have given up their New Year's Resolutions by the 10 January! So I figured maybe this was an opportune time to share how I managed to sustain a year long challenge.

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Photo credit: My Make Do and Mend Life

Know your 'why'

I think this is one of the most important things.

I knew very strongly the reasons 'why' we were Buying Nothing New. I became very aware of the impact of our throwaway society, and the fact that we are all consuming as if we live on a planet of infinite resources. Buying Nothing New was my way of tackling these huge issues, and feeling like I was making a difference. A teeny tiny, possibly inconsequential difference, but a difference nonetheless.

Whenever I was tempted to buy something new, I thought about the resources that had gone into that item, where it had come from, who had made it, and then decided whether I wanted it enough to not be concerned about all of those things.

: Set yourself some boundaries!

We set ourselves the challenge of Buy Nothing New, but within that we had some 'rules'. We thought about what things would be deal breakers for us, and adapted the rules to suit us and our circumstances. We said we could buy food (obvs); toiletries and medicines (although I did end up making my own deodorant); and underwear (although both hubby and I went the whole year without buying any, we just 'made do' with what we already had). I think most people will choose to draw the line at secondhand pants.

We also decided that it was important to use that we knew that the kid's shoes fitted properly, so we agreed we could buy them new shoes. And after our practice month, we also wrote in the provision for buying new parts to fix anything that had broken if we couldn't source secondhand parts.

It's one of the things I really love about Buying Nothing New challenges-it can be totally adapted to each individual/family and their circumstances.

Make it achievable and be flexible

Whilst you want something to be a challenge, it also needs to be achievable to avoid falling at the first hurdle.

For My Make Do and Mend Year, we did a practice month first, so that I could get some idea of the types of things we might need to be buying. The car windscreen got a huge chip in it, and it flagged up me the fact that we would need to have some provision for using new parts to fix things that had broken-I am not sure we could have sourced secondhand windscreen very easily!

And that's where the flexibility comes in too-if you start off full of enthusiasm, and then your circumstances change, or you encounter a problem you hadn't forseen, it doesn't mean you have to ditch the whole thing. If making a small change to your 'rules' means that you can carry on, then do it!

And if a whole year seems like a frankly bonkers proposition, try a month instead. Or even just a week. I guarantee you that that time you spend thinking about what you are buying, and where it is coming from, will influence your spending moving forwards.

Don't make it all about deprivation

I was really adamant from the start that our Make Do and Mend Year was not going to be about austerity and deprivation. It was not going to be a 'bleak' year without joy and lovely things.

Think of the positives, keep focussed on the things you ARE achieving, rather than the things you are missing out on.

And think of alternative ways to get the same effect as the thing you are missing out on.

I am not a huge shopper, or buyer of clothes, but I did really enjoy exploring the local charity shops, and mooching around the local car boot on a Sunday morning. And I could buy whatever I wanted, I just had to find it secondhand. I wasn't saying I couldn't have it, I was just saying I had to find it a different way. And who doesn't love vintage fabric...?

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Photo credit: My Make Do and Mend Life

Avoid temptation

When we were 'doing' our year, I found it much easier to just avoid the shops where I knew I would be tempted. We didn't venture into bigger towns very often, and if we did I just marched straight past my favourite stores, eyes fixed firmly to the front! If I had to go in WHSmiths to use the Post Office, I didn't go down the magazine aisle. I didn't window shop, I didn't browse online. And I found it far easier.

Be accountable

Tell people what you are doing. Tell your family and friends, announce it on Facebook, staple a post it to your forehead.

Or create a blog like I did. It's a fabulous way to make yourself accountable, to track your progress, and to build up your own little team of cheerleaders who will support you, and pick you up when you fall (even if it's only your mum and your Nan who read it).

If you have declared your intentions to the world, it is much more difficult to give up on them, without feeling slightly shamefaced.

Take Baby Steps, and take one day at a time

There are some sustainable resolutions that even for me as a dedicated tree hugger, seem unachievable. Zero Waste is an example of this. I love the idea, I just have no idea how I could make that happen in my life right this minute. So whilst it's good to have a goal, and to aim high, for me to say I'm going Zero Waste from 1st Jan would be setting myself up for failure. I might be able to say, I will be zero waste by the end of 2016 (or 2017..!) and then decide how I was going to break that down into small steps that I could achieve one by one on my journey towards that goal. That I might be able to do.

If you slip up, pick yourself up and carry on

We had a 'fail' during our Make Do and Mend Year, and I guess I could have thrown in the towel at that point. I tend to be very 'all or nothing' in my thinking, and in the past, I have given up on things at the first slip. But I was so determined to make this thing happen. To achieve my goal, that I sat and was bummed about it for the rest of the day, and then started over.

It's an accomplishment in itself if you can get over the blip and keep going, not be put off and use it as an excuse to give up.

And being all Barbie Brightside, you get to learn from your mistakes too.

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Photo credit: My Make Do and Mend Life

So there you have it.

There is no magic bullet, no easy answer. Some days will be easy, some days will be bl**dy hard. But I always think if you want something badly enough, you'll find a way.

This post first appeared on My Make Do and Mend Life