So I learned some things, in day 2. The first thing I learned is that I have to stop looking at my 12-hour day as a “night off.” I got home at 8 p.m., walked the dog, sat down with my takeout, and thought “I’m too exhausted to make myself do hours and hours of housework. What am I going to do? I’ve made this big deal about how I’m making a change, and two days in, I’m punting left and right.” I looked at my task list, almost none of which seemed like the right things to be focusing on, and felt rising panic and shame, and then I stopped.
I decided that, no offense, I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing it for me. I didn’t feel like my living room especially needed dusting last night. What I needed to do was put away my laundry and sweep my upstairs bathroom, and start building a care package for my great-niece’s upcoming birthday. So I did. And once I started, I made terrific headway. Not only did I wrap up what needed doing for my great-niece’s birthday, but her little brother’s birthday a couple of months later, which means if I can get his mommy squared away, I could send one package for the three of them, and not have to worry about another package until July (I might even be able to wrap the July great-nephew in, but won’t let that delay the package). And I squared away her cousin, whose birthday’s not for two more months, so that, provided I can square away her daddy, that package will be ready to send early (a blessing, since that will be a travel-intensive time for me and I’m bad about sending her gift late.) And started on mom’s St. Patrick’s Day gift.
Sweeping the bathroom was an enormous relief— it’s needed doing for an embarrassing amount of time— months. And I was able to start clearing off my dresser (I had left several things I’d bought for the great-nieces and nephews there, so I finally took the time to put them away, which led to my putting away my collection of scarves that had been accumulating there and on doorknobs throughout my room) and some things I’ve acquired that might make for fun, slightly more imaginative costumes at Halloween than I’ve been mustering lately, and my earrings (a stack of which had been multiplying on my bathroom counter.) I put away the last tiny bits of things I’d sorted days before, that I honestly thought would just sit in my “things that belong in another room” bin indefinitely, and then used the bin to take downstairs linen downstairs and put it away, rather than stacking it indefinitely on the ledge at the top of my stairs. And I brought the last holiday tablecloth upstairs, so when I reorganize the badly-put-away holiday decorations this weekend (approaching Snowmaggedon), I can throw it in and keep everything together.
All told, I spent easily 90 minutes doing things that legitimately needed doing and brought me enormous satisfaction, rather than arguing with myself about adhering to my published list, which is what I did for the first hour I was home.
So I’m scrapping the published list, right? No list’s gonna hold me down, right? Not exactly. I overslept this morning, and the clarity of a morning routine helped keep me on track and got me to work on time with a diet- and religious-restrictions friendly meal (though I had not packed it last night), and everything I needed. The truth is that the routine saves you when things get overwhelming, by boiling things down to their essentials. And things frequently get overwhelming for me. So I’m keeping the list, and will work from the list when I can make myself. But when I feel myself rebelling against the list, I’ll do an equivalent amount of the housework that feels more relevant to me at the time and count it a success. The relationship should be more like this “you can do whatever hour of legitimate housework you want, but here are some reasonable suggestions for where to start” than a slavish adherence to the list. Because isn’t “where do I start?!” the most challenging part of a task you’re putting off?