How to perfectly answer this 'horrible' 1st date question: Dating expert

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- You said yes to a first date with someone you met online! Now what?

Online dating can be a cold experience at first, but expert Matthew Hussey has all the right moves to break the ice once you meet for the first time IRL.

After going through a dating app boot camp and "swiping up a storm," Marisol Casariego said she narrowed down her options to just three men and she's ready to move the flirty conversations to a first date.

But before she does dating expert Matthew Hussey shared some tips and what not to do for "First Date Friday" on GMA.

Hussey says there are a few key rules to abide by, and it starts with nonverbal communication.

Tips for non-verbal communication

Start with a friendly hug

Hussey suggests just the right amount of warmth upon the initial interaction, "I want you to Goldilocks it."

"When you show up be warm. Give him a big hug. Don't worry about being hot in the first five minutes," he said. "There's time but don't play it too cool for school, either."

Be aware of your seating arrangement

Hussey said many times people make the mistake of sitting across from one another, which he said "is intense because your energy is all pointed towards each other" and can make silence awkward. Instead, he suggests that both people sit on the corner at a right angle or bench style at the bar.

"You're closer, so it should feel more awkward but it doesn't because you're not facing directly at each other," he said. "If there's a silence, you're just people watching together."

Tips for verbal communication

Don't be too literal with your answers

There are some common questions people ask on a first date, but how you respond is key. Hussey said that asking, "How are you?" is just another way to find something to talk about so it's good to give an answer with some detail to keep the date engaged.

Otherwise, he said it becomes like a game of tennis.

"You serve me the ball, I'm hitting it back," Hussey explained. "Conversation is a game of catch. Let me catch it for a moment and take pressure off you and throw it back."

Give your date a hook

When talking to your date, Hussey said it's an opportunity to be honest and explain how you're feeling so they have a hook.

Try to give high-value responses

Another common and "horrible question," in Hussey's mind, is, "Why are you still single?" He suggests keeping it simple and framing the answer to make your date think about themselves.

"When a guy says that to you he's trying to make you think about you -- But you're not going to accept that. Instead, you'll make him think about him. So when you say, I'm looking for a great connection and if I didn't find that I wouldn't settle. He's now thinking, 'Am I going to give her that great connection? Am I going to be good enough?'"

Casariego ultimately chose Brian Goldman, a third-year resident physician who loves hiking and being active outside. The two met face to face on GMA ahead of their first date to try out some of these tips together!

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Study: Americans are not having enough babies to replace themselves

Rawpixel/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The country's fertility rate has hit a 30-year low and Americans are not having enough babies to replace themselves, a new National Vital Statistics report published on Thursday has found.

The nation's total fertility rate was 16 percent below the level for a population to replace itself in 2017, the report found, although fertility rates varied widely by state and demographic. Total fertility rates represent the expected number of lifetime births per 1,000 women, given current birth rates by age.

Only two states -- South Dakota and Utah -- had total fertility rates above replacement levels. The gap between South Dakota, which had the highest rate, and Washington, D.C., which had the lowest rate, was 57 percent. The study looked at the total fertility rates for 2017 based on 100 percent of registered births across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Total fertility rates also varied by race. Utah had the highest total fertility rate for non-Hispanic white women, the study found. Meanwhile, the highest total fertility rate among non-Hispanic black women was in Maine. For Hispanic women, the highest total fertility rate was in Alabama and the lowest were in Vermont and Maine, the study found.

In general, U.S. fertility rates have been declining and women are generally giving birth for the first time later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts say a number of factors contribute to the decline: economic uncertainty, student loan debt, lack of paid family leave policies and the high cost of childcare in many areas, according to Dr. Karen Guzzo, the associate director of the Center for Family & Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University.

Guzzo said she isn't surprised by this report's numbers, which reflect an overall trend over the past several years.

"This is basically a continuation of what we saw last year, and really, the last couple of years," Guzzo said. "What's more surprising is that over the longer term, we kind of expected that after the Great Recession has supposedly disappeared and we are doing much better, fertility rates would start to pick up, and they have't."

She said that the fact that fertility rates haven't recovered offers some insight into how people feel about their current economic situations.

"They really haven't recovered as much as we had expected, and I think that suggests a lot about how people feel in terms of their own personal lives and how secure they feel. It's not just the global or national economic or GDP numbers, it's, 'Can I pay my bills, can I pay my student loans, can I buy a house, is my job secure? Do I have a strong relationship and can I maintain that?' So people go through a lot of uncertainty," she said. "I really think that those characteristics haven't improved as much over the last 10 years, and that's probably what's going on here."

Still, Guzzo said it's possible to turn these numbers around and get fertility rates back to replacement levels. Policies that make college, housing and childcare more affordable could go a long way toward making that possible, she said.

"The U.S. can recover from this. A lot people are delaying having kids, but they're not saying never. In the long-term, this might not be this sort of huge crisis," Guzzo said. "There are all these things we can do to reduce some of that financial insecurity and uncertainty young adults feel that would go a long way to helping our fertility rates."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Bust resolution excuses with this nine-move, at-home workout

GrapeImages/iStock(NEW YORK) -- If your 2019 resolution to make it to the gym has fallen by the wayside, here is the excuse-busting workout you need.

Lacey Stone, a trainer on E!'s Revenge Body, has an at-home workout that can be done as you watch TV, requires no equipment other than your body and is just nine moves.

The circuit workout created by Stone includes everything from tricep dips to high-intensity intervals designed to get your heart rate up.

After any high intensity workout -- even one done at home -- Stone, an ambassador for CorePower high protein recovery shakes, suggests doing two things to take care of yourself.

"I recommend that you get sleep and that you have protein post-workout so that your muscles can repair and you can be a better you in the new year," she said.

Get all the details on Stone's at-home workout below:


Squat: Sit on the couch, push your heels into the ground as you raise your body, squeezing your glutes at the top. Make it more intense by adding a jump or holding weights as you squat.

Single leg lift: Lay on your back with your arms extended, palms down. Engage your core and lift your glutes up to a bridge. Lift one leg straight to the sky and pop your hips and glutes towards the ceiling. Lower and repeat on both sides.

Do both moves for three rounds. Rounds should last 30, 45 or 60 seconds, depending on you.


Push-up: Place your palms down on the edge of a couch cushion and extend your legs so you are in a high plank. Lower your chest down to the couch and push up. Make sure to engage your core.

Tricep dip: With your back to the couch, place your palms on the cushion, with your fingers hanging over. Extend your legs to around 90 degrees in front of you and dip your body, activating your triceps. Push back up, and repeat.

Do both moves for three rounds. Rounds should last 30, 45 or 60 seconds, depending on you.


T-rotation: Lay on your back with your arms extended to the side, palms down, and your legs extended to the sky. Move your legs side to side.

Plank: Get in a high plank position and then lower down to your elbows and hold. Remember your body needs to be engaged to do a plank effectively.

Do both moves for three rounds. Rounds should last 30, 45 or 60 seconds, depending on you.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

Side jump: Step side-to-side and then add a little jump, landing on one foot on each side. Jump higher and faster to add intensity.

Kicks: Start in a standing position and kick your legs in front of you. Intensify it by adding a jump as you kick.

Star jump: Stand with feet together. Then jump your legs out with your hands extended in the air, like a star. Step back to a feet-together position and repeat. Add intensity by extending your legs in the air as you extend your arms.

Do all three moves for three rounds. Rounds should last 30, 45 or 60 seconds, depending on you.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Terrible at New Year's resolutions? Try monthly micro-resolutions

Cn0ra/iStock(NEW YORK) -- If you've already quit your New Year's resolutions, you're not alone. But what if there was another way to help you accomplish your goals?

ABC News' Blair Shiff explains below, in her own words:

Already quit your New Year's resolutions? You aren't alone, as you're well aware. I was the same way you were -- constantly making myself over just to derail and feel like a failure.

People say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So why do we keep resolving to accomplish goals and then when we fail, we never ask ourselves: How do I set myself up to succeed?

That's when I resolved to resolve better. I noticed my resolutions would last about three weeks. Then, when I inevitably drank a soda accidentally or didn't read before bedtime, I would give up altogether.

So I tried a new method of New Year's resolutions. Some people call it micro-resolutions.

"I call them mini-wellness challenges," said ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who has tried this method herself.

It's done just as simply as it is named. Every month, I attempt a different resolution. It's a manageable goal for me, and if I mess up, then I have a whole new month ahead of me.

The goal, of course, is to let them snowball. Hopefully, once I complete the first month, I try to continue that month's resolution as I adopt a new resolution. Sometimes that works, but sometimes it doesn't, and that's OK. Since I have so many different goals set for myself, I don't feel like as much of a failure if I make a misstep.

"As a doctor, I come into it with an experimental mindset," Dr. Ashton said. "They are an experiment in 'self.' You're kind of dabbing your big toe into something in a reasonable amount of time. Almost every day, I'm at least incorporating one of the new challenges. And on some days, more than six."

I've set many different types of resolutions in my years trying this method. In 2018, I wanted to try a sport that I had never tried. Aerial yoga it was, and it was so much fun.

The year before that, I tried to go to four museums or cultural centers in my city that I hadn't been to yet. I actually accomplished that one and learned some amazing things in the process.

One year, I wrote my grandmother a long, heartfelt, handwritten note to express how much she means to me. She is getting older and starting to get forgetful, and I didn't want to ever say "I wish I had told Nana ... " -- so I put pen to paper and did it.

Now, don't think I did all of my resolutions. I definitely failed plenty of times, like when I wanted to save more aggressively for retirement or not get food delivered for a month. I also did not "invest in the stock market like a real adult outside of your 401k" either, but there's always another year for that. Don't worry, Dad, I have since done so.

"I firmly believe there is no such thing as a successful month or a failure month," Dr. Ashton said. "You're going to learn something either way. There were some months that objectively did not go as well [for me] as others. But it was a judgment-free zone. I do feel that my life is different today than it was before."

Dr. Ashton said while there's no peer-reviewed data to say whether micro-resolutions are more or less effective, she likes the concept because the experience is low-risk and falls under the category of common sense.

"As a physician, health is truly holistic," Dr. Ashton said. "Your overall state of health is determined by your behavior, your diet and fitness, your genetics, your stress, your social life; it's lots of things. It's not just one thing."

For this year, I'll try to stick with them. For those curious, here's my list:

January - Starting Jan. 8 (my birthday is Jan. 7, so I’m just being honest with myself so I succeed), I’m going to try out Whole 30.

February - Finish up Whole 30 and start journaling daily

March - Read four books

April - Eat a salad daily

May - Do yoga daily

June - Drink the proper amount of water daily

July - Meditate daily

August - Bring lunch daily

September - Do something active for at least 30 minutes daily

October - Volunteer

November - Quit soda

December - Only take the stairs at work

So wish me luck -- hopefully I can do better this year or at least learn more about myself.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Meningitis warning follows man's death days after Facebook video at police station

WABC-TV(PATERSON, N.J.) -- The death of a man who broadcast his final conscious moments on Facebook Live from a Paterson, New Jersey, police station has triggered a warning from health officials for anyone who came in contact with him to get examined immediately for bacterial meningitis.

Jameek Lowery, 27, died on Monday at a hospital, two days after he walked into the lobby of the Paterson Police Department headquarters and said in his Facebook Live broadcast that police officers were going to kill him. He had earlier called 911 to say he was high on the drug ecstasy, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor, whose office is investigating his death.

Lowery's death has sparked protests in Paterson, and Lowery's family attended a city council meeting Tuesday to demand answers.

Dr. Paul Persaud, director of the Paterson Health Department, told ABC News on Thursday that tests are underway to determine if Lowery had contracted Neisseria meningitis, a potentially deadly illness that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The illness is also called meningococcal meningitis.

"It's under investigation, but it has not been confirmed," Persaud said. "But we are providing chemoprophylaxis to those who were in close contact with the gentleman, Mr. Lowery."

Chemoprophylaxis refers to medicine, including antibiotics, used to prevent disease. Officials have not specified how the suspicion of meningitis came about.

Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh told ABC News Thursday that he had come in contact with Lowery recently and that he was examined for meningitis late Wednesday night. He said he was treated with antibiotics.

"I met him a week before his death," Sayegh said. "I was in a restaurant and [Lowery] spotted me from outside. He came in, we hugged, he took a picture, I told him to come and see me at City Hall anytime he liked and that was it."

"It's unfortunate," the mayor said. "I felt badly. I mean, here was a young man I just met, had a favorable impression of, took a liking to him, and now he's no longer here."

The New Jersey Department of Health is working with the Paterson Department of Health and Human Services to "identify and notify individuals who had close contact with the suspect case of meningococcal disease since Dec. 29, 2018, the date the person might have first become infectious to others," New Jersey health officials said in a statement.

Persaud said a number of police officers and emergency medical service workers who had contact with Lowery at the Paterson Police Headquarters have already been examined and treated with antibiotics.

He said it was unclear how many people had been in close contact with Lowery.

"We are in the process of determining that. So, this can take some time to determine," Persaud said.

He said some people who had contact with Lowery have shown up at St. Joseph's, a hospital in Paterson, to be examined.

Health officials said symptoms of meningococcal include fever, headaches, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and altered mental status.

The cause of Lowery's death is under investigation and pending the results of an autopsy, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said in a statement earlier this week.

A preliminary investigation showed that while "police used physical force and compliance holds to secure Mr. Lowery in an ambulance," hospital records "indicate no acute trauma" was evident on Lowery's body, according to a statement from Valdes.

Lowery called 911 about 2:45 a.m. on Saturday, saying he had taken ecstasy and was paranoid, Valdes said.

An emergency medical services crew from the Paterson Fire Department responded, according to Valdes, and took Lowery to St. Joseph's hospital.

"Mr. Lowery left the hospital sometime after becoming erratic at the hospital," Valdes's statement reads.

Lowery called 911 again about 3:42 a.m. Saturday, claiming people were trying to kill him in the area of Broadway and Memorial Drive, near Passaic County Community College, according to Valdes.

Three minutes after placing the second 911 call, Lowery walked into the lobby of the Paterson Police Department headquarters and began broadcasting on Facebook Live.

"I need water. I thought I was gonna throw up," Lowery told three officers standing in the lobby, according to his Facebook Live broadcast.

"Y'all gonna kill me. They're gonna kill me. Please help me," he said. "Mom, I'm sorry. They're gonna do this to me. They're gonna kill your baby boy. Alright, go ahead and kill me. Please don't shoot me."

A police officer told him, "Just relax," but officers declined his request for water, according to the five-minute Facebook Live broadcast.

When an EMS crew arrived at police headquarters, Lowery's broadcast ended.

"Paterson Police and Paterson Fire Department records indicate the transportation from headquarters to the hospital took approximately five to 12 minutes," Valdes said in her statement. "Upon arrival at the hospital, Mr. Lowery was unresponsive."

The officers filmed in Lowery's Facebook Live broadcast have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

"We want facts. I've been working on this since Saturday. I've canceled appointments on Monday and Tuesday so I can focus on getting not just answers, but accurate answers," Mayor Sayegh told the crowd at Tuesday night's city council meeting.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Drug overdose deaths among women ages 30–64 in the US increased by 260 percent: CDC

Moussa81/iStock(ATLANTA) -- As the number of drug overdose deaths continues to rise, the social awareness of the epidemic has as well. Even celebrities are opening about their addiction issues.

The drug epidemic, however, has affected far more people than previously thought. Death by drug overdose is classically more common in men but a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday shows that women, specifically middle-aged women, are also increasingly affected.

Prescription pill overdose rates are now rising more sharply in women.

Prescription painkillers are opioid narcotic drugs such as Vicodin (hydromorphone), Dilaudid (hydromorphone) and Oxycontin or Percocet (oxycodone). Per the CDC, for every death of a woman taking these drugs, there are 30 more women who end up at an emergency department due to abuse of these drugs.

There was also a drastic increase in death from the use of illegal opioids such as fentanyl and heroin. The overall death rate in women within this age group has increased by 260 percent from 1999 to 2017. But the rate of death has notably increased the most with synthetic opioids. In fact, the death rate from fentanyl increased by 1,643 percent and 915 percent from heroin during this time period.

The exact cause of why women are now disproportionately becoming more affected is unknown. We do know that women who are victims of domestic violence or who have undergone a traumatic life experience such as divorce or loss of a partner or child are more likely to abuse substances. Anxiety, depression and panic attacks are also commonly present with drug abuse.

Women can become addicted faster than men despite using less drugs.

Research has shown that sex hormones can make women more sensitive to the effects of certain drugs. Women tend to use a smaller amount of drugs for a shorter period of time before developing drug cravings and becoming addicted. They are also more likely to relapse after treatment.

Educating doctors and the public about the specific risks in women is the first step in combating this growing problem.

The CDC report has highlighted the need for efforts aimed at decreasing these death rates in vulnerable populations such as middle-aged women. Women with depression, anxiety or pain should be approached with a discussion that includes the consideration of unique biopsychosocial circumstances to attempt to prevent the development of addiction in the first place.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


New study shows how social media use reflects major depressive disorder

bigtunaonline/iStock(NEW YORK) -- It’s no secret that many millennials live on social media throughout the day. Although more attention is being paid to the impact of its use on mental health, there’s still a lot that’s unknown.

A new study published this week in the Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research looked at whether there are specific activities on social media that are related to major depressive disorder (MDD) in millennials.

MDD is a clinical diagnosis of a mood disorder that includes prolonged symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, anger or irritability and is usually diagnosed by a health care provider.

3 social media behaviors that may be related to depression

Social media users who met the criteria for major depressive disorder were more likely to compare themselves to others that they believed were better off than themselves.

They were also more likely to report being bothered if they were tagged in an unflattering picture.

In addition, their pictures were less likely to include friends or family.

More engaged, less likely to suffer from depression

Individuals who put up pictures with other people were less likely to meet the criteria for major depressive disorder. So were those who followed more than 300 people on Twitter.

The study also found that individuals with major depressive disorder had significantly fewer followers on Instagram.

Your reasons for being on social media matter

More individuals with major depressive disorder said they use social media to share memes or GIFs. They also were more likely to use it because someone reached out to them on social media instead of proactively checking in.

And so does your attitude toward posting

Those with major depressive disorder were more likely to avoid posting out of fear of judgment. They were also more likely to report “feeling noticed” on Snapchat when their story was viewed.
Marijuana use may affect if you click the share button

While there were no differences between the two groups when it came to whether they post when under the influence of alcohol, the individuals with major depressive disorder were more likely to post when using marijuana.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Shaquille O'Neal talks about fixing his snoring and getting back in playing shape

Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ESPN Images(NEW YORK) -- It took one cryptic Instagram message for Shaquille O'Neal to start taking his snoring seriously.

Dentist Jonathan Greenburg reached out to Shaq on social media after he saw viral videos of the NBA legend snoring after a long day’s work.

He wrote to O'Neal, cryptically, "Do you want to die?"

The message surprised Shaq, but Dr. Greenburg further explained that his snoring could be a matter of life or death if he did not take it seriously. It caused O'Neal to start thinking more critically about something he had been doing his entire life.

"I thought me snoring was just me releasing all that stress in the work week, but it becomes very, very dangerous," Shaq explained alongside Dr. Greenburg in an exclusive conversation with ABC News.

Dr. Greenburg told Shaq that snoring causes fatigue and can actually increase his risk of heart attack and stroke. Snoring and sleep apnea, because of that fatigue it causes, can also have a negative effect on an athlete's performance. Shaq, wanting to get a better night's sleep and take back his "college body," took Dr. Greenburg's advice and got his snoring checked.

Dr. Greenburg was able to fix Shaq's lifelong snoring issue with a snoring eliminator mouthpiece from Zyppah. The mouthpiece keeps the tongue from blocking a person's airway, which, according to Dr. Greenburg, leads to snoring and sleep apnea:

"It's all about the tongue... it's the tongue falling back, partially blocking the airway is snoring, completely is sleep apnea... you have to keep that tongue from falling backwards."

Shaq says he sleeps better at night and his snoring is finally cured. He even says it is a little easier to nap too:

"I know there's a bunch of hard-working dads and guys like me--we work all day and we just want to get that nap I've been sleeping better... I've been feeling better. I'm starting to get my college body back."

If you are a snorer or have suffered from sleep apnea in the past, Dr. Greenburg recommends visiting a sleep expert. It can result in less fatigue during the day and decrease your risk for heart attack and stroke.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


How the government shutdown is impacting food inspections

LiudmylaSupynska/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- In a move to minimize the impact of the shutdown, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted the agency is "taking steps" to expand domestic food safety inspections during the shutdown, especially for high-risk facilities that make up a third of regular inspections.

Gottlieb tweeted they hope to resume some inspections after this week marked the first inspections the agency had to skip due to the shutdown.

The FDA conducts about 8,400 routine inspections of facilities that produce food every year. Gottlieb tweeted that a few dozen may have been missed because of the shutdown.

A third of FDA's routine inspections are of high-risk facilities that work with products like fresh fruits and veggies, seafood, dairy products, prepared foods, infant formula, and medical foods. They expect to restart some of those inspections next week.

Routine inspections of lower-risk facilities that work with products like baked goods will still be suspended, though that will not impact inspections that are for cause or as part of a larger outbreak investigation.

FDA investigations and recalls related to outbreaks continue under the shutdown because of the immediate health concerns. The agency announced this week that romaine is safe to eat after concerns about E. Coli, though they are still investigating the cause of the outbreak.

The agency is still conducting inspections of foreign food coming into the country but under its shutdown contingency plan regular inspections of domestic facilities are suspended, raising concerns that Americans could be at higher risk for outbreaks of foodborne pathogens. FDA actually changed its travel policies last week so inspectors can charge travel expenses to a government account instead of personal credit cards.

The FDA is responsible for monitoring all food in the U.S. except meat, poultry, and eggs which are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many USDA offices are closed during the shutdown but those inspections continue as usual, according to the agency's shutdown contingency plan.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


How two friends are using texts to purge their homes of clutter

Courtesy Lynne Hilton/Jenni DeWitt(NEW YORK) -- Lynne Hilton and Jenni DeWitt are best friends of nearly 20 years who have committed to texting each other every day in the month of January.

Their texts are focused on one thing: The items they are getting rid of from their homes.

Hilton and DeWitt are decluttering in the month of January and using their texts to hold each other accountable. The friends are following a modified version of The Minimalists challenge of getting rid of the same number of items as the day of the month, so one item on Jan. 1, two items on Jan. 2 and so on, all the way through Jan. 31.

Along with photos of the items, the friends' texts also include the reasons why they kept the items and why they're getting rid of them.

"I have tried to declutter off and on before but it never really stuck," said Hilton, 36, who lives with her fiance, daughter and stepdaughter in Freemont, Nebraska. "Now I look forward to receiving her texts and seeing the things she’s throwing away and the funny stories, and I have to text her every day so it’s held me accountable."

Nearly 90 minutes away, in Albion, Nebraska, DeWitt, 37, a mother of two and a writer, said texting the items she is getting rid of has not only held her accountable but also made her look more deeply at why she has held on to items like a name tag and paperwork from a bank she hasn't been to in over 10 years (real items, according to DeWitt).

"Texting has made me look at, 'Why am I holding onto this? Why am I afraid of not having this? Do I really need this to be okay?,'" she said. "I've learned to tell myself, 'Release it. What I need will be there.'"

Hilton, who works in the mortgage industry and writes her own blog, said of the challenge, "I’ve learned how easy it is for stuff to fade into the background and for you to think, ‘Oh this is useful.' Now I look at something and think, 'I don’t use this and it could find a new home.'"

The two friends, who met in college, both said that getting rid of items has given them "mental energy" and a feeling of clarity in their homes. DeWitt, who wrote about starting the challenge, has cleared so much space in the first week alone that she was able to create a writing nook for herself in her bedroom.

Hilton said the challenge has allowed her, for the first time in years, to look at her home with "fresh eyes" and helped her to let go of the past.

"In my early 20s I envisioned myself entertaining so I have big serving platters and big crystal bowls and serving utensils," she said. "But we don’t really entertain, and if we do, it's not that formal."

DeWitt and Hilton are each keeping a pile of their discarded items throughout the month and then plan to donate them at the end of January.

Ready to try a decluttering challenge with your friends? Here are the keys to success, according to DeWitt and Hilton:

1. Establish rules ahead of time, like deciding how often to text and when you will donate the items.

2. Make the challenge your own by deciding what counts as an item (is it a piece of paper or a filing drawer or both) and how long you want the challenge to last.

3. Figure out what's realistic so that you will see it all the way through.

4. Make it fun by remembering this is something fun you are doing with your friend.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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