Followers of Sharon Astyk’s blog will know that she is restarting her Independence Days challenge. It’s a call to plant something, harvest something and preserve something every day during the productive months in order to be prepared for the hard months of winter or times of hardship. She also calls us to strengthen and support local food sources, prepare with non-food items and create community. What this means to me is wrestling control when it is all to easy to feel control slip away.

Following Sharon’s well-worn path, I have a few other ideas for taking control of our life and increasing our independence in a world that seems bent on making us all as utterly dependent as possible. My goals for the coming year include putting these practices into play as often as I can.

Every day:

Exercise. Keeping fit is the single most important thing you can do to be prepared to face whatever life throws at you. This does not mean shelling out money to your local fitness center. It means finding the time to walk several times a seek. It is not easy to force myself out the door when the wind is howling or the rain pouring down. It is even less easy if you have small children under foot. If you can’t walk, dance to the music. Put on some old-time rock and roll and move!

Put some money into savings. I don’t care if it’s $1.00 in small change. It will add up. When it reaches the $10.00 mark, convert it to a bill and put it away. Freeze it, bury it, do whatever is necessary to keep from spending it.

Face an addiction. I have a couple. I like sweets way too much and I was getting to a place where I considered coffee a necessity. I had headaches when I missed my morning cup and felt sluggish without it. Bruce and I have switched to drinking herb tea, honey and hot water or honey, hot water and vinegar for the most part.  I still enjoy the occasional cup fo coffee with cream and sugar but I no longer need it. I am saving money and calories and, if I find myself without coffee, I will not have to deal with a migraine for 3 days. I am still working on the sweets problem.

Deny yourself. I know. This one sounds crazy. I’m not talking about denying yourself important things or things that bring you real and lasting joy. I am talking about those things that are energy sappers, money sappers and ultimately, joy sappers. Do you really need that glossy magazine. I know that there a few that I enjoy initially but then I wonder. Why would I read something that makes me feel chronically inferior like Martha Stewart or old and stodgy like Cosmo? Don’t I have something better to do with my time and money? Why buy the DVD that I am likely to watch once, then spend the next 5 years storing? That’s why we support the public library.

Clean something. Cleaning embraces a range of activities like sorting out the unmatched socks, organizing your bookshelves and scrubbing the shower stall. Nothing makes me feel more out-of-control than a messy house.

Purge something. Purging stuff feels fabulous but so so does purging relationships that aren’t working and responsibilities that don’t align with your values. You can say no. You can let the phone ring. You can refuse to engage with people who criticize you or your choices.

Enjoy beauty. Music, poetry, nature, we are surrounded by beauty. Life is meant to bring you joy. Take time for it.