When I am stressed out, I fall into an inevitable pattern of Lazy About Little Things. I leave the breakfast dishes on the counter until just before school pickup (or sometimes, until after). I leave laundry in the dryer, where the kids have to dig through the (clean, dry, but now wrinkled) things to find a uniform shirt. I leave my empty coffee cup on my desk all day, whisking it away only when I hear Wade pull in the garage (because after 21 years together, I know how much that grosses him out).
I am not a lazy person in general. No matter how overwhelmed I am, there are certain things that always get done: I get everyone to school and to practice on time, I show up for work every day, I keep food in the fridge. I run, consistently, and I try to eat and sleep enough. Beyond that, though, all bets are off.
My house is clean, but not always neat. And at some point, the clutter starts to make me insane, because it makes me feel lazy.
Saturday morning, I woke up early. Charlie had 8 am basketball practice; he and Wade would be gone for a couple of hours. Henry would sleep until at least 9. I could make coffee and read my novel and ease into my day.
Or I could get my disaster of a kitchen under control.
By 8:45 am, every counter in my kitchen was clear and shiny, the floor was mopped, and all the stainless steel shined. The accumulated piles of crap on the bar had all been sorted and carried to wherever they really lived (coat closet, kids rooms, game room, our room). The bathroom smelled like bleach and glass cleaner.
And I felt like a new woman.
My mantra these days is don’t be lazy. Instead of leaving my cup on the counter, I’m taking the time to put it in the dishwasher. Instead of abandoning the laundry in the dryer, I’m folding it. Instead of leaving my shoes under the ottoman, I’m taking them upstairs. It only takes a second and it makes me feel like I have a grip on things, even when I don’t.
When I am being crushed by the big things, the little things take on a kind of insane significance — in both a good and a bad way. Carrying the coffee cup from the office to the dishwasher can feel like a gigantic waste of time when I am editing a particularly difficult piece of copy on a deadline. But leaving the cup on the desk all day becomes a reprimand, a reminder of how much I am struggling to keep up. It’s a lose-lose, honestly. And I still have that disgusting cup on the desk to deal with.
In some ways, this is just an offshoot of my whole get-dressed-every-day philosophy: Staying on top of the little things, like the dishes and the school papers and the top of my desk, is an easy way to feel less bogged down and more like I’m making progress. And in a strange way, reminding myself not to be lazy makes even the smallest effort to pick up feel like an accomplishment. Not because loading the dishes is really an accomplishment but because not being lazy really is.
What’s your strategy for staying on top of things when you’re behind at everything?