Monday, November 14, 2016

You Don't Have To Do It All Today

Tried to define what freedom is for me, as a person.

Finding freedom from that little voice that says you're not doing enough...

I hate to clean. I really do. But when I don't (which is most of the time), I always have a voice that tells me I should be doing dishes or laundry or vacuuming or...something. It never stops. Every time I sit down to relax, I feel guilty.

It's been a frustration that I've struggled with for a long time - hating to have to take hours every week to do something I hate to do, just so my brain can give me a real, actual break. There have been times I've found ways to keep up on it, and times I've really struggled. Lately, it's been a struggle. So, here is what finally happened to change it all! (Until next blog!)

Three weeks ago we had family come to visit, and we did what I think (hope!) a lot of people do to prepare - we ran through our house and cleaned like mad people, making up for months of just barely keeping up.

But I loved having a clean house, and my partner and I decided to make this the springboard of the new clean. And, three weeks later, it is still clean. Not perfect. I think we've established that perfect isn't even on my measuring stick of success. But clean enough that I'd let someone in if they were on my doorstep unexpectedly, and I wouldn't be ashamed. Now, to clarify, when I say 'the house' I mean the main rooms that people see. Please don't come over and start opening doors...

But, I'll be honest. It was a struggle. Getting started in a routine was tough. The first week, I started daily maintenance. This meant getting up a little bit earlier, and spending a few minutes doing dishes and vacuuming if it was needed. In this first week, I wanted zero distractions. I didn't want to load up on more things to worry about, so, even though I wanted to start eating better and exercising, and changing the world, and quilting, and painting, etc! I did none of those things. I set one goal, and everything else got pushed aside for that one week. We ordered food almost every night. I didn't cook because I didn't want to create more dishes to keep up with. Counter-intuitive if you know me, right? Because I love the environment, and I want to eat healthy foods and take out is none of that.

Week two, I started to cook again. Twice a week, I cooked big meals, and then I did the dishes right away, wiped down the kitchen, and voila. Clean again. And fed.

Week three, I started shopping carefully. Bulk shopping. Natural foods. Farmer's markets. I've reduced the waste I create with food packaging, and I make better food for us.

Here is the take away for today. It may not be relevant to everyone, but I think this was key for me. I made sacrifices in order to focus on one important thing, and to allow myself time to create a habit. I knew that if I tried to do it all, I would likely fail, and no long term solution would be possible. But, if I sacrificed now, in the short term, I had a better chance of building up to doing it all. I improved my chances by limiting my focus and not adding more difficulty to a new habit.

Granted, it's only been three weeks, but it's been a good three weeks. The house remains clutter free and I had an entire day last week where I had no anxiety. No feeling that I should be cleaning instead of watching videos. No feeling that I should be calling someone or being social when I was painting. No feeling of needing to do the laundry when instead I was being 'lazy.' Nope. I had an entire day of just doing what I wanted without guilt. And it was stunningly beautiful. I did a few dishes in that day, and it was nothing. It took a few minutes each time, and then I went and had a cup of tea. I don't notice it anymore. It feels like a choice I've made, not an obligation I hate.

I discovered that I don't like doing anything for a very long time. I don't like doing 3 loads of dishes at a time, so I do them twice a day - in the morning and evening, and then as I cook. I don't like folding an entire load of laundry, so I schedule loads so that I finish the load in the evening, fold and put away half of it in the morning, and take the rest out of dryer, fold and put away in the evening. I don't do loads back to back because then it feels like work. I have literally never known that about myself.

And I feel like I have more time. When I want to paint, I just do it. Things are caught up enough that I don't feel like I'm 'cheating' on housework. When I want to take a day off and just watch some videos and play on the internet, I do that. And I'll usually do some dishes if they're there, because having the kitchen clean makes me happier. But it's not because I have to. It's because I like the end result. And because it's not too much. I'm not overwhelmed with a mess. My partner helps out as well, and I like to think that he feels the same - that it's not too much, that it's easy when it's just putting dishes in the sink, taking out the compost every few days, hanging up a coat. When it's not overwhelming, and he does it on his schedule.

Anyway, this is the short term transformation of always playing catch up to always being caught up. There hasn't been time for curve balls, so it'll be interesting to see how the routine changes over time, but I'm excited again, and I feel...capable.

I'm slowing building up to a better me. Next week, exercise. The following week, save the world. Baby steps, right? :)