New Year’s resolutions often center around things we’d like to add our lives — we plan to exercise more, cook at home more, make more phone calls to grandparents or out-of-state friends. The only problem is that come February, we typically find ourselves maxed out and overwhelmed; it turns out there’s usually a reason we weren’t doing all of that extra stuff in the first place.

I would like to humbly suggest different New Year’s resolutions, ones where we stop doing things instead of starting. Creating a full life often requires you to first free up time, money and energy to fit in all of that positive change.

Here’s how to begin:

1. Cancel Your Cable


I know. I know. But I promise you this won’t be nearly as painful as you think it will be.

There are many reasons to ditch your digital subscription, but the strongest argument for me has always been the amount of advertising you can avoid. Each hour of American TV contains around 11 to 15 minutes of ad time. That means that while you’re just trying to catch up on Seinfeld reruns or indulge in some trashy reality TV, up to 25 percent of each hour is being used to sell you something you probably don’t need. Removing advertising from your life can really help curb consumption cravings, and cutting out television advertising is one of the most effective ways to start.

What can you do instead? Consider switching to something like Netflix, which provides commercial-free entertainment (and, according to some estimates, will save you from watching more than six days’ worth of commercials each and every year). Of course, you could always say goodbye to the boob tube altogether and pick up a hobby, spend more time outdoors or check out your local library!

2. Stop Shopping


Not entirely, I mean. We all need things occasionally. But for most North Americans, shopping has become far more than a way to meet our needs. Shopping has become a hobby to many people, their favorite way to spend their leisure time. No longer a simple errand to get what you came for and go home again, shopping is now used as entertainment, reward and therapy session all in one.

We are far more than just passive consumers, and in order to remember this, it would behoove us to spend less of our time wandering around these massive monuments to consumption. Resolve to visit the shops only when you truly need something — no more aimless wandering or food court grazing. Make your consumption conscious. Planning your purchases in advance also allows you to research if you can buy it from a local shop, buy it secondhand or make it yourself.

3. Eat Less Meat


This is another area where it doesn’t have to be all or nothing — just reducing your meat intake by one burger a week for a year can have the same effect as taking your car off the road for 320 miles. Not only that, but it allows the environment a little breathing room.

Meat-eaters cause double the carbon emissions of a similar vegetarian, and beef cattle require 160 times more land and create 11 times more greenhouse gas emissions than wheat, rice or potatoes. Choosing to prepare (or order) one or two meatless meals each week will improve your health and reduce your impact on the planet.

4. Just Say No to Disposable Products


When you sit down and think about the bewildering array of products we use for just a few moments before throwing them out, it can be pretty disheartening. Paper towels, dust mop pads, plastic utensils — all of these have reusable alternatives that can lower costs and make for a more waste-free 2017. Cleaning cloths are easily tossed in the washing machine, microfiber cloths make great mopping and dusting pads, and a set of bamboo or stainless steel cutlery takes up barely any room in a purse or bag and allows you to refuse one-time-use cutlery.

5. Jettison Judgment


When you’re making positive change in your life, it’s easy to slide right past patting yourself on the back to becoming smug and judging others for not making similar shifts. As you carry your new habits through 2017, remember that everyone makes changes at their own pace and to fit their own lives. Be gentle with yourself when you fall short of your goals and make sure you’re not judging others who might not have the same ones.

What will you stop doing in 2017?

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By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.