Principle Two: Some is Good. Some laundry? Good. Some tidying? Some praying? Some dishes? Some playing on the floor with your kids? Some dusting? Some cooking at home? GOOD! All of it is Good.
Practice Four: Five Minute Mini Upgrade. Every day, take a look at the clock, or set a timer, focus on one area, and give five minutes to a mini upgrade. Pause at the end of your five minutes and decide if you want to be done or if you want to do a little more. BOTH are good.
About the Practice: When you try this, you’re going to see that I’m kinda a genius. Oh, not in a Nobel prize way, but in a trick-your-overwhelmed-resistance-into-homemaker-magic kind of way. As you may have noticed, our practices thus far are aimed at habit formation. Habits are really hard to form because neither the human brain nor body likes change. The hardest step of a new habit is overcoming your initial resistance to action, but once you’re in action, it’s much easier to continue. For this reason, we’ve started with very small habits, like making your bed and clearing your table.
It’s easier to overcome resistance to “make your bed and pray” than it is to “clean your whole room into a palatial retreat”.
It’s easier to overcome resistance to “clear your table and remember how beautiful it is” than to “keep your kitchen clean like good wives and mothers do”.
Or if you’re like me, I used to give myself this daily task; “Clean all the things, organize all the things, stop being a slob, cook all the healthy food, make magical memories, be fun, put makeup on, never eat again, become an exercise person, learn all the things, and um, be a virtuous Christian woman today”. This is dumb. Don’t be dumb like me. All it does is confirm you have high ideals and ensure you feel the weight of constant failure.
“What’s this you say? No matter how much I do today, I’m bound to fail and feel unsatisfied??! Whelll, what are we waiting for?!!” Said. No. One. Ever.
When we give ourselves the whole job, it can feel overwhelming or unenjoyable in the time we have, which ironically often makes it paralyzing to even start. If, on the other hand, we give ourselves one meaningful portion of the task we’d like to complete, then we often can overcome our resistance to starting, and the immediate feeling of success can often propel us to take further positive action. Whether we take any further action or not, our relationship with starting begins to change.
How many of you have practiced making your bed, clearing your table, budgeting your time over budgeting your tasks, and NEVER done a single extra thing in your bedroom, kitchen or your “some” project? I’m betting none. See? Magic.
The key is to only require the absolute minimum with unlimited bonus points available. I call it a Five Minute Mini Upgrade. This is vague on purpose, so that you can use it on any space no matter if it’s a disaster or it’s nearly spotless.
Look around the room you’re in now. How could it be visually upgraded in five minutes? If it’s a mess, five minutes of tidying will be good. If it’s a shelf or cluttered area, how about clearing away obvious garbage? If it’s mostly clean, could it be straightened, or could you add a touch of beauty?
This is what I did yesterday. I did not have time. Both of my kids are sick and I had stuff to do (internal resistance to starting) but I knew I could take five minutes (invitation to a tiny opportunity for success) and so I took a look at my laundry area in my garage:
This area certainly looks…uninspiring. There are things haphazardly hucked up on the shelves, and who knows what is in there. It’s a long way from beautiful. Overwhelm avoidance is my usual game plan in here. With five minutes to mini-success though, I set the timer on my phone and started (overcoming resistance to starting). I moved fast. When the timer went off, this is where I was at:
Disappointed? Don’t be. All the garbage is gone at this point, I know exactly what is on the shelves, and I’ve met my goal. This is important: I said to myself, “Ok, you did it. You succeeded. You don’t have to do more. What do you want to do now?” Don’t skip this part. Psychologists call it “agency“. It’s the sense that I am in charge and I get to decide what I want internally, rather than based on external pressure. Well, I was almost to where I could wash off the tops of the washer and dryer and straighten a little more so I decided to set my stop watch and do “just a little more”. After six minutes and thirty seconds more, this is what it looked like:
Is this something to pin on pinterest? No. Are you drooling with envy over my laundry room/space/plywood shelves? No. That’s not the point. This is real life girls so you can do it too. The magic was in the extra 6.5 minutes I did because I genuinely wanted to. This is the key to changing my relationship to homemaking. I did some, and some was GOOD so I decided I actually wanted to do more.
About the Attitude: Bring your curiosity. Think like a scientist and observe the effect this practice has on you internally, and on your area of attention. Think of it as a fun experiment. It can be. Let your stubbornness and preconceived ideas of success go.
Objection: “But five minutes is stupid and pointless, you can hardly tell a difference.”
Response: Some is good. Just try it. Five minutes times thirty days is one hundred fifty minutes. You can give a lot of order to your space in that time even if you never do a single bonus minute. Part of the magic of this practice is that it helps you be mindful and continually be thinking, “How can I upgrade this space?”. It’s a positive thought which helps clear away our tendency to stop seeing messes that have been around for a while. It will help. Look, you can be a great homemaker and never try this. You don’t have to. It’s a tool, like the rest, and it’s a good one. I invite you to use it every day for a week and see what happens.
May your bibles and aprons both be well-worn,
The Remedial Homemaker
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