My brother was visiting recently from Manhattan. It seems to me he’s been checking up on me often now that my son has left for college, and I have to say the company is welcome.
One particular day, I was obsessing about all the things undone around the house, including how filthy the windows have become after several years of neglect.
I can’t afford the professional window cleaners I employed when circumstances were different. But I certainly don’t have the energy to wash more than 20 windows myself.
So I was feeling frustrated, angry, and stressed about my lack of energy—and lack of money, too.
Just wash one, my brother said. One a day, and you’ll be done in less than a month.
I have to be honest, I’ve yet to feel good enough to tackle those dirty windows, because I’ll have to lift out the heavy storm windows, then life the heavy wood frames out so I can clean both sides – too taxing for me at the moment.
But that idea grabbed me, the notion of completing a big job one step at a time.
A couple of years ago, I was planning to pare down 18 years worth of stuff in my house and move to a smaller home once my son left for college. Then I got sick, and all my energy went into simply surviving.
Things have shifted as I’ve gotten a tad better, and as I’ve thought about my brother’s advice.
I’m in a place now where I can be up and about for maybe an hour each day and then I run out of gas. I’ve realized that if I can sort though one drawer or one closet or one box a day, in six months I can be ready to downsize. I can’t do it all in a week, but I can do it one step at a time.
I started with the linen closet. For years, opening the door launched an avalanche of the sheets and towels crammed in haphazardly. I took everything out, arranged piles on the floor, and eliminated half as too old, too faded, or just not needed any more.
Sure, I had to lie down halfway through for a bit of a rest. But in the end I had a beautifully organized closet, and the sense of accomplishment was great.
Every time I open that door now, I’m facing proof that even though I’m not well right now, I can do something worthwhile, I can work toward my goal; I don’t need to put my plans to downsize on hold. If I can do ten or thirty minutes a day, I’ll be further ahead in six months than if I do zero.
Now, whenever I’m overwhelmed by a task, I break it down into one step at a time.
Too many pills to swallow due to nausea? I take two at a time with ten-minute intervals to quell the gag reflex.
Discouraged by a large pile of bills to be filed? I sort them one day and put them in folders the next.
My brother was trying to help me solve the problem of dirty windows—but he helped me with something much bigger. Love you, big brother.