Confession time: I hate to fold laundry. I find it insufferably boring, and I would rather scrub a bathroom, wash all the dishes by hand, weed a flower bed in August, and/or sort through a three-foot mound of paperwork with a client than get the towels and sheets in order.
It has nothing to do with my talent for folding. I’m a pretty darned good folder. I can fit more things into a suitcase with creative and careful folding than most people get into three. It has nothing to do with how I grew up (military dad and homemaker mom = very organized household). I have no trauma associated with folding laundry, and I have no issues with actually running everything through the washer and dryer (I tend to do a lot of air drying). I have plenty of space to fold, and my clothing storage is more than adequate. I simply hate doing it.
I think we all have a hated task (or five) - some of my clients hate washing dishes, opening mail, paying bills (no big mystery on that one), dusting, or cleaning windows. A recent survey indicated the top 20 most hated household chores in America* - number one was scrubbing a toilet (something from which I get a strange satisfaction), and number twenty was emptying the dishwasher. My hated task didn’t even make the list, so I guess I’m somewhat alone in my ambivalence. [Side note: I was intrigued to read that most homes have three “junk” drawers - y’all give me a call, because I'm all about organizing those junk drawers. :-)]
The problem is, at some point the rubber is going to hit the road, and the hated task will get entirely out of hand. When my kids were really small (and before I was an organizer striving to walk my talk), we had a daybed in our bedroom that used to get totally swamped with the clean clothes. The rest of the house could be spotless and in order, but that daybed carried the dirty secret.
I think one reason I got frustrated with the task back then is the whole orphaned sock thing. It used to drive me crazy to not find a match. I even bought these cute little “sock sacks” for everyone to use so I wouldn’t have to search and search to put two together. That idea never caught on, and I know I wasted a heck of a lot of time rummaging for matching socks for a 6-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy (my husband, blessedly, handles his own socks). Two things helped ease the situation:
1. I quit worrying about matching their socks (they didn’t care - go figure); and
2. As soon as they were old enough I taught them how to do their own laundry.
Thereafter, everyone in the family was responsible for their own clothing, and I would handle things like dishtowels and placemats and other linens. Simplification, delegation, and letting go of perfection can be incredibly freeing.
But I also have to be an adult, right? I still have my own clothes to get put away, and I do hate wasting time. So what helps me to get through the dreaded chore now? My secret weapon is to pair the hated task with something that’s somewhat of a guilty pleasure...and I adore a good podcast. When staring down a pile of jeans, t-shirts and yes, socks, I plug into an absorbing episode of Hidden Brain or Brothers Mysterium or Revisionist History, and I’m good to go. By pairing my hated task with something I really enjoy, I manage to pretty much forget what I’m doing (and it never even takes up the length of an episode - so I get to chill when I’m done, stare at the empty space where the laundry used to be, and finish it).
Pairing hated tasks with fun things works mostly if the job in question is pretty repetitive or mundane. I probably wouldn’t try to listen to a podcast while pulling together tax documents for the accountant (but I probably WOULD tell myself I could listen to one as soon as I got it all done.). You can also gamify a tedious task by doing things like seeing how quickly you can get something completed (like opening and sorting the mail), and then seeing if you can beat your time the next day. As you might imagine, there are even apps you can use - Todoist gives you Karma points and ways to visually track task lists over time, and Habitica is a complete gamification program for every to-do item you could dream up (complete with a social network for support).
What’s your hated task, and what helps you to get through it?
p.s. Also, what’s your favorite podcast?? I need something new to try...
*"America's Most Hated Chores Revealed" - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5688843/Americas-20-disliked-household-chores.html
It’s hard to try to overcome something that has been ingrained for years.
It’s hard to admit you have no clue how to do it.
It’s hard to show someone else you have no clue how to do it.
It’s hard to allow someone else into your weak and challenging world.
It’s hard to tune out your noise, and listen.
It’s hard to take the first steps.
It’s hard to compare yourself with others.
It’s hard to trust yourself.
It’s hard to keep trying.
It’s hard to keep trying.
It’s hard to realize you gave up, or got stuck.
It’s hard to start again (and again, and again).
It’s hard to be in the middle of a Start, and get slammed with a Stop.
It’s hard to accept that you can’t control setbacks.
It’s hard to grieve.
It’s hard to argue with yourself.
It’s hard to be angry with yourself.
It’s hard to trade out judgment for curiosity.
It’s hard to relax.
It’s hard to try it, one more time.
What is it worth, to you, to stay fired up? To calmly put a foot forward? To choose what is hard?
Getting additional sleep seems to be a theme in my work here lately. I’ve had at least three coaching calls in the last month where the client-created action ended up relating somehow to better sleep.
I’m all about good sleep - I have enjoyed snoozing for as long as I can remember. I was the first kid I knew who gave up Saturday morning cartoons in favor of staying in bed. I turn into a pumpkin by about 9:30 every evening, and I have to put people on notice that anything I might say or do after that time is not to be taken too seriously.
By the same token, I have had bouts of chronic insomnia for the past ten years, so I have a decent amount of amateur knowledge on the subject. If you've ever experienced insomnia, you know it can be absolutely crippling. In a word, it sucks. I’ve seen sleep specialists, been through a sleep study, etc., etc. Thankfully most of the time it’s mild enough now to just be irritating as opposed to debilitating. But for a while there...
So there’s a clear difference between not being able to get enough sleep, and consciously choosing to not get enough sleep. Given my experiences, the latter scenario baffles me.
We know that lack of sleep impairs brain function, and experts tell us that drivers with sleep deprivation may be as dysfunctional as someone driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It affects the ability to make clear, rational decisions, and…hey, wait a minute...what do we know about organization and decision-making? Hmmmm.
When you have clutter and disorganization, it’s most often the result of poor or delayed decisions. So when you make a choice to burn the midnight oil due to some misguided attempt to be productive, you’re probably contributing to that disorganization - not getting ahead on it. I’ve noticed more than once that when I work with someone who’s yawning their way through a session, the progress is sluggish and hit-or-miss. Thinking through whether or not you want to keep those early 2000s-era business suits, or how to store the collection of hotel keys you’ve been curating for the cool art project, becomes a much tougher proposition when the brain is not running at full speed.
And what if you’re not choosing to stay up late, but instead experiencing sleeplessness without an apparent cause? It’s more than worth it to examine and take steps to address the issue. The National Sleep Foundation has these tips for improving the quality of your sleep. Some other ideas my doctor gave me include:
Of course, if you’re really struggling, a trip to see your physician may be in your best interest. If you’re stalled on an organizing project or something else that requires your best regarding time management or productivity, take a look at what’s happening with your ZZZs. A tired mind does not play well with others, particularly when you’re trying to create new habits.
*My favorite insomnia book is my Third Edition of A History of Western Music by Donald Jay Grout. Nothing like a few paragraphs on Renaissance polyphonic motets to get me back to snoozing.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, coach, wife and mom, and serial list-maker. Excited to be in the long but worthwhile process of becoming a Certified ADHD Organizer Coach. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?