This week on the Spawned Podcast, we closed out our year (or, we’re opening the new one if you’re listening now) with a¬†really good talk about New Year’s resolutions: The good, the bad, and the very very broken.

First, don’t call them resolutions

I like Kristen’s perspective about calling them goals, not resolutions. And she has great tips on phrasing things positively, and being specific (“I will research and sign up for a yoga class this week”) which is far more effective than the general goals we tend to make this time each year (“I will stay fit and get healthy.”)

But what really resonated with me most was our¬†talk about¬†Gretchen Rubin’s fantastic one-word New Year’s resolutions idea, in which you¬†think about your upcoming year in terms of a single-word theme, and all the ways it can apply to your life.

I think it’s so smart, because we all know that when you pick one arbitrary date — oh, say January 1? — to start off on a new path and totally change your life, you’re probably setting yourself up for failure. However there’s something about knowing you have a full year to work towards an overall goal that feels more attainable and positive.

One word resolutions: How it works

Of course the kids were like, wha-ah? So I explained that a single word can be like a mantra, or a guiding principle in your life. We discussed all the ways you can think about a single word and what kind of words would best fit the kinds of people they want to be, or represent the things they want to focus on in their lives.

Then we all went around the table New Year’s morning over pancakes and bacon, and we each chose a word: Friends, Courage, Time, Try, Ahead. Great themes, right? (Also, my 10-year-old would like you to know that “I drew¬†a skull on ahead just because I like skulls.” So…don’t read more into it than that.)

Print each word on a single white sheet of paper, let everyone decorate so they feel personal, then put them wherever they’ll be most motivating.

As for me, I went with Clean.

And not just because it looked best straight from the printer.

CLEAN: A simple, one word resolution theme for the year.

I had mentioned this word as an example of a one-word resolution on the show, but the more I thought about it afterward, the more that word called to me. There are just so many ways that I think that clean can help guide me in a positive way this year. Maybe you too?

All the meanings of a single word resolution

A clean break with the past: Parting with¬†friends who aren’t really friends, years-old conflicts, bad feelings or grudges that don’t move me forward. I’m pretty good at this now, but I love the prospect of keeping it¬†in mind all year long and using it to strip away unnecessary baggage.

A cleaner home: I will never go to bed every night with the dishes done, and wake up every morning and make my bed. ¬†I just know that about myself and I feel guilty when I make resolutions like “make my bed every day” then break them, oh…on pretty much January 3. But I know I can make more frequent runs to¬† to Housing Works and Goodwill with donations, and use Catalog Choice or PaperKarma more often to unsubscribe from junk mail and catalogs, which is a nice benefit for the planet, too. The Konmari method of tidying, by the way, is the most successful I’ve ever been with any decluttering method. Ever. Give it a shot.

More help with cleaning: Kristen and I discussed making family resolutions, and how functioning in a more cohesive way as a family benefits everyone in the household. More commitment from everyone to household chores is going to be a big one from us this year. Now I know I am not the only mom in the world who has trouble asking for help; either because I hold onto¬†the ridiculously notion that unloading the dishwasher or wiping down the coffee table¬†¬†is “my job,” or because sometimes it’s just easier to do things¬†myself than to correct my kids 17 times. And I¬†plan on getting better at that.

A clean break between work time and family time: This is something that’s especially hard when you’re a work-at-home parent. A huge help for me: These tips on how to put down the phone and better manage your work-life balance. I already have turned off notifications¬†on my social networks with a few important exceptions. But I’d like to create better¬†No Phone Zone boundaries, especially between about 6PM and when the kids go to bed.

Eating cleaner: I will never stop eating crap entirely. I love my grilled cheese sandwiches on cold days (okay, on any days) and sometimes there is no more perfect comfort food than Cinnamon Pop-Tarts.. But I do find that if we don’t have all that stuff in the house, I’m less likely to eat it.

A clean (-er) conscience: We are all human, and we are all imperfect. But I think there are small things I can do day to day to ensure I’m living as the kind of person I hope to be: Did I need to print that ATM receipt? Did we rinse out the take-out container before putting it in recycling? Did I hold the elevator for the guy behind me, even though he was talking to a friend and taking a realllllly long time to get there? Did I stand up for justice and what’s right, even if it’s hard?

My mom always told me she’d ask herself at the end of the each day, “was I the best person/parent I could have been today, all things considered?” The answer doesn’t always have to be yes. But I think that being mindful about small actions throughout the day¬†can make huge changes in my psyche.

inbox zero trick from Liz at cool mom tech

A clean inbox: This is the bane of my existence, as I’ve described before. So I start with my annual inbox zero trick, then spend a few quiet hours using the Unroll Me app, unsubscribing from or “rolling up” 6000 (!!) subscriptions.

Cleaning up my language: I admit¬†that kids and cursing is low on my list of issues in life. But when¬†you hear your kid say, “that scared the crap out of me!” I think okay, maybe I can be a little better in that department.

I’ve got this!

Right now, the word CLEAN is propped up on my (yet-to-be-cleaned) nightstand, and it surprises me how the mantra feels more inspiring than judgy. Somehow knowing that this theme is bigger than any one big incomplete resolution fills me with promise. Or maybe it’s just confirmation that this is the right word for me right now, and I look forward to seeing other ways it can play out in my life this year.

And yeah, maybe I’ll get to the gym at some point too. Cleaner living?

To hear more about resolutions, check out our final podcast of the year, Spawned Show Episode 27: The good, the bad and the broken. You can listen right here. And thanks so much to Gretchen Rubin for the awesome idea.

Also take a listen to this episode on tackling the most common New Year’s resolutions


One word resolutions: Choose a word that resonates as your theme for the year. Even your kids can do it.My 8-year-old daughter’s one word resolution for the coming year

Happy new year everyone!