Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Magic of Little Things

Reading Gretchin Rubin's The Happiness Project this morning, I'm struck again by what I call "the magic of little things". By this I mean how doing something small can make a big difference. I'm in the first chapter where she describes the mental and physical energy boost she got out of gradually cleaning out closets and surfaces. Dedicating herself to the "one minute rule" (always and without delay doing any task that took a minute or less to complete) and the "ten minute rule" (straightening the house for ten minutes before bedtime) helped her keep the clutter tamed with minimal effort.

As a long-time sufferer of depression and bipolar disorder I have lived through many bad bouts of low energy and mood. What got me through many of them (while waiting for meds to kick in) was a little maxim I invented: "When you can't do a lot, do a little". For me that meant I must make my bed and get a shower everyday no matter what, even when I was so severely depressed it might take me all day to do those two minimal things. Somehow, these two simple actions made me feel less like a failure. A made bed detered my climbing in and staying there. If I had no energy at least I could sit in a chair. Getting--and staying--out of bed, showering and dressing meant I was awake and alive and part of the human race which was a start! (Though I haven't finished the book, I read in Woman's Day magazine that one of the pieces of Rubin's happiness advice that her readers claim is most effective is making the bed every day.)

If overwhelmed by the clutter I can at least clean out ONE file (whichever I'm using at the moment). On the same principle, Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, recommended cleaning out one drawer every day. If I'm cleaning up after supper and I see mysterious yellow spots on the refrigerator door, it takes less than 30 seconds to wipe them up with the dish rag in my hand. If I am washing hands after a bathroom break, I can wipe out the sink with a disposable potty wipe. It's amazing how these simple, perpetual straightening and cleaning tasks help me feel more in control of my house. AND it cuts down on hated housework.

As a post Feminine Mystique, second wave feminist, I resent housework with particular ferocity. It doesn't help that I put myself through college as an apartment cleaner and spent two summers as a live-in maid on Long Island. After you've cleaned twenty ovens in one day, or spent an hour six days a week dusting and scrubbing things that haven't even had time to get truly dirty, you come to feel you've done enough housework for one solid lifetime. So anything that cuts grundge work makes me, well, happy.

After complaining that I never have time to write, agonizing over starting this blog because my "to do" list was already too long, I finally decided that the 15 minutes it takes to get my thoughts out of my head and on-line is worth it. And having now opined on the virtues of "little things", I can focus on my next task, a very long overdue book review....

So I wave my magic wand (my favorite pen) and bestow upon my current and future readers (only one follower so far) the magic of little things.....