4 New Year's resolutions you'll keep

Calendar pages

Lose weight. Find love. Put down that credit card. Pay down debt.

A new year inspires us to make big, life-altering decisions about ways to improve ourselves.

But come Jan. 2, those decisions can feel too big, too different, too much like work.

Year after year we resolve to change ourselves. Year after year we fail at our resolutions. So, is the idea of making resolutions flawed, or is it the process?

Instead of going cold turkey on bad habits and overboard on good ones, perhaps it’s a better idea to create change in moderation.

In 2012, consider replacing negative behavior with wiser habits that might actually stick.

Smart Resolution 1. Sell off or donate clutter.

If one thing is guaranteed during the holidays, it's that you'll add clutter to your life.

But promising yourself you'll tackle those stacks of forgotten documents on your desk or the pile of clothes at the back of the closet is a fleeting resolution. Odds are your desk and closet will return to their previous states of disarray in a matter of weeks.

How about taking a smaller bite out of the problem?

We all end the holiday season with unwanted holiday gifts. Instead of throwing Aunt Edna's thoughtful but unnecessary tchotchke into the back of a drawer, rid yourself of it.

If you can't fathom returning an unwanted gift to the giver, bring purchased gifts back to the store for a credit or cash before they fray, break or gather dust. Or consider donating that duplicate iPod you received to Goodwill or selling it on eBay.

Smart Resolution 2. Get help getting organized.

If you absolutely must tackle the larger clutter in your life, realize there’s no shame in seeking help.

Consider hiring a professional organizer to help you to prioritize and eliminate what’s not needed. Doing so doesn't mean you've failed, even if you're normally an organized person.

"Some people are naturally organized and then something happened that made them feel less organized and they need help," says Janine Adams, the founder of St. Louis-based Peace of Mind Organizing.

A professional organizer is trained to be nonjudgmental and will help you to decide what is crucial and what can easily be eliminated.

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization, also in St. Louis, offers free fact sheets, publications and help for the disorganized.

But if you feel fine with your level of clutter, don’t feel compelled to rid yourself of it.

"Clutter is in the eye of the beholder," Adams says.

Smart Resolution 3. Recycle past resolutions.

It can be tempting to start new projects this time of year. People tend to want to start a fresh calendar year with fresh goals and projects. The problem is that sometimes new can feel too intimidating.

Instead of arming yourself with a list of new and improved things to start, why not reexamine projects that you’ve left languishing?

If that feels too much like revisiting failure, consider this: Many homeowners find it easier -- and more financially sound -- to remodel their home rather than build something new from the foundation up.

Here are some quick-win ideas:

Smart Resolution 3.

Smart Resolution 4. Start small on fitness goals.

If fitness is your goal, don’t force yourself to become perfect at Pilates if it’s just not your thing.

Treat yourself to a new bike or a retro-inspired one like the recent trend to brightly hued cruiser styles that just might make you feel like a kid again ($180, Kmart).

The cliché goes that some things in life are as easy as riding a bike.

"You just don't want to get burned out on a tough ride the first time that you hop back on your bike," advise the experts at Schwinn.

In other words, ease yourself into the habit.

And no matter what your resolution, remember to have fun as you evolve.

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