A 2017 New Year Manifesto: Declutter And Discover

I am genuinely excited for 2017. My new year manifesto could be categorized in the thematic sisterhood of declutter and discover. I don’t want to wait till the end of the year to start. Things that need fixing need to begin now. Sometimes I do feel superstitious about announcing things in advance but I recognize the power of intentionality in words. This is for you, 2017: be kind.

How I developed the New Year Manifesto

This past year was full of difficulties and situations that I experienced for the first time. Things were hard and I feel as if I have lived twice within the same year. On November 9, I woke up at 2 a.m. to check my phone. The news wasn’t pleasant. I felt like I was personally attacked*. I’m learning to take a stand against blatant sexism, objectification and bullying. These things bother me now more than ever before. It’s mainly because I am better informed as an adult. In this feeling of disillusionment, Joanna Goddard (thank you) recommended a list of things to do. In a way drowning myself into a manifesto feels right.

Like permissions you give yourself, manifestos do work. In 2016, I worked on a creativity manifesto that helped me stay creative all year round.

A 2017 New Year Manifesto: Declutter And Discover


1. Declutter Life and Relationships

Decluttering Technology From Life

When I moved to Germany, I decluttered my Facebook account and got myself an anonymous blog for a while. This was basically to help me recover from the extreme technology invasion of my life. Most recently, I redesigned Someplace Else. My focus was on reduction and subtraction. I like clean designs, fewer elements and focus on a single idea. I’m still learning to let go.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Technology and phones are tools and I intend to use them in that manner. I walk to people more often than I did before. I have strict rules on whether or not to use the next app, tool and platform. It’s important to really think about why I need it. I edit what I post online and try my best to think before I say anything. Words have intentionality associated with them, no matter what platform you choose. It’s my biggest learning as an adult. I could still write a blog post in an hour, but I take two days now to edit, re-check and fully struggle with it. It feels therapeutic this way and not a flip response.

Yes to relationships that are supportive

Since a lot of people who matter live far away, I can’t be totally disassociated with technology. I have set up a reminder when I call up mom, each day. It helps me focus on that conversation, at that time, without feeling distraught with infinite messages. I delete all messages I receive on the phone after I have responded. My cousins and family have a group that I find easy to communicate on. These groups are small and I am inherently harsh if someone posts forwarded messages. We use these groups to engage in gossip and our own conversations. We don’t need to rely on fake media jokes.

I readily unfollow or unfriend people who infest my social feeds with junk (including rants, unfortunately worded advice  and extreme negativity). It’s important to focus on the positives of life and inspiring people who pass on empathy and positive energy.

In real life for 2017, I’d like to focus more on getting out and meeting people. I’d like to make new friends, have coffee conversations and make plans to meet my family and friends. My husband and I need to find more time together and travel everywhere. We’ve both had a difficult year and I’m ready to wash it off and start afresh. I still believe in levels of intimacy. As a friend, I’m a ‘sampler.’ I’m less gregarious and have far more one-to-one friendships that are special. It is lonesome like that at times. But that’s how I function. I need space.

Weniger aber besser shopping

When we moved from Germany, we had my husband’s firm help us with the move. This gave us little incentive to declutter beyond a certain point. Now that we may be moving again (within the state), I am on a donating and decluttering spree. We have sold off a closet, a desk, a rug and have donated many clothes that we were no longer wearing. I am also fully interested in donating or selling off some fashion jewelry that I haven’t worn in years.

Adopting Dieter Ram’s, weniger aber besser (less but better) rule to everything we buy is my aim. I don’t shop a lot. My tendency to get cheap online deals (especially for cosmetics, clothes, books etc.) needs to be curbed. I am going to only buy things that I need. It’s my deep desire to make friends with brands that care openly about sustainability. I am exhausted with the thought of buying junk and then adding to our landfills because junk doesn’t last more than a season. Buying less, higher quality and replace only when its lifetime is over. On an average good brands last me several years over cheap clothes. My mom’s always invested in quality, which means I still have clothes (in extremely good shape) from my cousin’s 2006 wedding.

Du bist genug (you are enough) is going to be my 2017 motto. I’ve decided to work on replacement shopping. This necessitates getting rid of something before a replacement is bought. I’ve not gone the extreme Miranda Kahl or Todd Waterbury route, but their styles are inspiring. I want to think of shopping like eating food. It’s important to stay nuanced about taste and consumption.

2. Discover New Inspirations

Each week I limit my media consumption. I think you are what you read, see or listen to. I remember feeling a deep sense of anguish and anger with the kind of content flooding the Internet. Everyone was creating content because they could. Popular blogs were dishing out trash. Naturally, it’s because my focus was so heavily on work that I found no connect with. A ton of people are creating intelligent, relatable and deeply immersive stories. I am strictly forcing myself to spend each week exposing myself to the kind of content I aspire to create.

My average weekly media consumption

5 bookmarked blogs, 2 Podcasts, 1 newspaper, Instagram for drawings (once a day), 3 Television programs, 1 movie, Twitter (twice daily), 1 day worth of reading from a physical book, Music (random selections, twice daily)

Side note: I’m learning how NOT to look at “trending” news on any platform, especially Facebook.

My average weekly media creation

2 sketches, Daily dinner dairy, 2 blog posts, 1 hour of social media postings. I want to increase this mind space in 2017. Creativity grows by doing things.

List of people/platforms that I find inspiring

Debbie Millman | Joanna Goddard | Maira Kalman | Alex Blumberg | Meera Lee Patel | Mari Andrew | Johanna Fritz | Elsie Larson | New Yorker Culture Desk | Jhumpa Lahiri | Julie Paschkis | Maria Popova | Jason Kottke | Terry Gross | Michigan Radio | Grace Bonney | Medium | Vogue | Chimamanda Adichie | Lucy Knisley | Mary Orton

3. Live Meaningfully

There are two distinct things to think about. One to live, and second to find meaning in the process. After Shonda Rhimes’s book, I’ve often thought about saying ‘Yes.’ I do believe it is powerful and an intention. It may sound counter-intuitive to doing less but it isn’t. I see it as a matter of exercising choice. I want to create hurry-less zones and denounce the myth of busy seen as code for important.

Deep hair conditioning, long, warm baths, evening tea without distractions, watercolor, sketching, reading a physical book, writing on paper, shinrin-yoku are all ways in which I practice this. I need more discipline to let go of multi-tasking. I need to consciously build, what Maria Popova calls, “pockets of stillness.”

Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.

– Maria Popova

It’s important for me to release myself from the torture of holding on to things. In the gym recently, I was walking and reading. It was unusually busy. Jhumpa Lahiri had me connected to her Italian writing. A lady passed me by and said, ‘you may want to read the rules and walk on the other side.’ The walking ring has a central line splitting it into two parts. I was walking on the left (fast) side by mistake. As I changed lanes and the lady was back (we were moving in circles) soon. I simply asked, ‘why wouldn’t you just ask me to change lanes, instead of being sarcastic?’

I want to build expectations in my life about having love for direct communication rather than throwing a shade. There is no time in my life for all that negative processing.

What are you doing differently in the new year?


Trivia: What happened to my previous new year lists?

2015 New Year Goals Update

Goal 1: Stop reading emails in bed- I have accomplished this in 2016, since I get out of home at 6:35 a.m. and don’t really have a choice. I need a good 8 hour sleep.

Goal 2: Learn a new skill- In 2015, I learned how to ski. In 2016, I have been learning how to drive without dying or killing anyone. Both have been hard.

Goal 3: Do a good deed- I sent postcards out to a ton of people in my gratitude project. I am volunteering in Detroit for this holiday season. I also hosted free workshops for my writers’ club in 2016.

Goal 4: Travel- I moved to a new country in 2015 and have traveled a bit in this year (less than I did when I was in Europe). I intend to continue feeding my soul.

Goal 5: Read a difficult book- I have read more than 50 books in this year. They may not have been difficult but they have all been interesting and diverse. I like that.

Goal 6: Write something important- I have written a LOT in the past year. I guess I can’t judge if it’s important in general. But my branding blog was named the top 20 global branding blogs in 2016, so that’s been nice.

Goal 7: Try new food- This comes with travel. And I have realized I like Ramen far more than I could in 2010. My food palette has definitely become more open.

 Goal 8: Be like Michael Brenner- I did a Podcast episode and interviewed Michael. I continue to be inspired by him. And I do believe I am on the right path.

Goal 9: Take a risk- Start a business | Get married| Move homes | It never stops

Goal 10: Exercise- I am getting better than I was in 2015 but I still have a long way to go.

*My childhood political scenario (in Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh) was so bad that I had given up on it long ago. I expected differently in the new land.