- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
Anyone who lives near me and knows me well enough to drop in unexpectedly (or just drop in at all really) already knows this unsurprising fact: I am not much good at keeping the house clean. Insert the usual reasons here: small children, other priorities, and so on. This isn’t about making me feel better for having a messy house.
This is about making changes—to cleaning up, to writing, to whatever.
A friend of mine recommended this book called How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind (which, incidentally, is on sale at Amazon today only!), and I recently started reading it. Previous decluttering/cleaning-related books had fallen flat for me over and over. The ideas sounded awesome, but I was never very good with follow-through. (Plus, as has become a standing joke, I don’t like to talk to my socks, and my tax documents don’t really spark joy.)
This book is for the non-organized among us. In fact, the author, Dana White, starts off by saying that most of those other books are written by organized people, people who just logically work that way. White is not.
Well, honestly, I think this book is pretty great. It’s all kind of completely obvious—except that I’d never really thought these things through, and I’d never really bought into them before. So it’s obvious but also ... not obvious. And for the first time in a long time, my dishes are being finished every night (even if I have to handwash a couple!), my kitchen floor is clean(ish), and tidying doesn’t feel like it takes forever. I consider all of these things epic wins (even at the same time that I’m super embarrassed to admit that as a 37yo I still hadn’t figured out how to do these things regularly). So if you too have cleaning problems, go buy it! Read it! It’s an idea.
But this post isn’t actually about whether or not you’re a clean person. It’s about starting small. And how small makes a huge difference.
In How to Manage Your Home, the first task you’re assigned is just to do the dishes every day. For some of us, this seems like a daunting task. But White essentially says, “Pull up your big-kid panties and just do it.”
Do it the first day, when it’s really hard because you’re way behind.
And then do it the second day, when it’s not as bad.
And the third day, when it’s getting a little easier.
Novel concept, yes? Just do it.
And now we come around to writing! (See? I do get there eventually.)
How does a story get written? A few words at a time. A couple of sentences, then paragraphs, then pages. But how does it not get done? By staring at the blank screen (or even just thinking about the blank screen) and freaking out because there’s so much to do and you haven’t started and you’re on a deadline and your ideas are crap and everyone out there is a bestseller and your friend has a more popular social media account than you and maybe if you just post something brilliant (like a blog post about starting small?) suddenly everyone will love you and you’ll get contracts and agents and publishers and million-dollar advances, but wait, none of that is going to work because your screen is still blank and it’s freaking you out and...
Get the picture? So what should you do about that story that you haven’t figured out yet? That you really want to write but it’s scaring you because it’s so hard or you’re not sure where to go or you’re not sure you’re good enough to write it yet? (Welcome to my entire life right now, by the way.)
You should go sit and type a few sentences.
Do it today, when it’s awful and hard.
Do it tomorrow, when it’s still insanely daunting.
Do it the next day, even when you’re still lost.
And the next and the next and the next.
You can do it. (And now I have to go start working on that story I’ve been avoiding like the dickens. Sigh. Taking my own advice is overrated.)