On budget constraints, endogeity, and interconnectedness: A deliberately controversial post

I was reading another mommy blog off a blog roll and came across an article talking about another article.  The original article made the argument, Fly-lady like, that if your life is a mess, then your bathroom floor is a mess, and to make your life less of a mess, you need to clean your bathroom floor because this is all interconnected.  Sort of a broken windows hypothesis for your life.

How do you know your life is a mess, asks the article?  The proof is whether or not the area behind your child’s car seat is sparkly clean.  Ignoring for the moment that that test says that all but the most OCD or wealthy enough to afford servants have lives that are messes, there are several logical and mechanical reasons that making a causal link from cleaning your house to cleaning your life doesn’t make sense.

Let’s start with the mechanical arguments.  As Laura Vanderkam is fond of noting, there are 168 hours in a week.  Every hour you spend cleaning behind the car seat is an hour you don’t spend organizing your paid work, your meals, your finances, your exercise routine, or anything else that people find worth organizing that makes them happier.  I’m guessing that area behind the car seat that is just going to get messy again ranks pretty low on most people’s priority list.  (Unless, of course an apple core got wedged there, then clean away!  But the example in the article didn’t include potential for rot or bad smells.)

Adding to the time-based mechanical arguments is research on willpower.  If cleaning is unpleasant, it takes willpower to do.  We have limited reserves of willpower that are replenished with sleep, rest, and food.  Willpower used on cleaning behind the car seat is willpower not used at work.  Or it is willpower to be replenished with sugar leading to unhealthiness.

Finally, even if there is a correlation between having a clean bathroom and feeling together with the rest of your life, that doesn’t mean that the clean bathroom *causes* you to have (or to feel like you have) the rest of your life together. There could be endogeneity.

Endogeneity comes in two flavors.

The first is reverse causality.  Here, feeling together would be the cause of the clean bathroom, not vice versa.  Maybe you have free time from being organized and good at delegating so you can clean the bathroom.  Maybe you’re so awesome at work and confident in yourself that you can easily hire a housecleaner.

The second source of endogeneity is omitted variables bias.  That means there is something else that causes both your bathroom to be clean and you feeling like you have your life together.  An omitted variable could be something like, being Martha Stewart.  Or having a really low sleep need and high reserves of will-power.  If you only need a few hours of sleep per night you have more time to do everything and to have a clean bathroom.  Or maybe having a partner who is supportive and enjoys cleaning– that could lead to both clean bathroom and the rest of life working.  (Just like having a partner who acts like an additional toddler rather than a caring and sharing adult can lead to messy bathrooms and unhappiness in other areas.)

 

Do you think that if you want to be perfect at one thing, you have to be perfect at everything?

78 Responses to “On budget constraints, endogeity, and interconnectedness: A deliberately controversial post”

  1. Fiona McQuarrie (@all_about_work) Says:

    Short answer: no.
    I’m not a parent, so the “dirty car seat” test isn’t that relevant to my situation, but IMHO it’s a recipe for disaster to expect yourself to be perfect at everything. No matter how good you might be at a few things, or at some things.

  2. independentclause Says:

    Heh. I love a good takedown. And I do not have children and my kitchen floor is a disgrace. I’ve always thought clean houses are for people without hobbies or with servants. My willpower went toward revising an essay yesterday, a task I value over clean floors.

  3. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    I think it all boils down to priorities and how you want to spend those 168 hours. I don’t necessarily agree with the premise that you have to be on top of everything or nothing at all though. My house is spotless but my car (and the space behind the car seats) is embarrassing. I only have so many times during the day. My car just isn’t important to me,

  4. delagar Says:

    Here is what I tell my students: Few successful novelists have tidy houses. (Unless they’re male novelists with good little servant wives doing the work for them, of course!)

    Feel free to replace “novelists” with whatever your ambition is!

  5. The frugal ecologist Says:

    I definitely don’t think that to be perfect at one thing you have to be perfect at everything, but I do think the reverse broken windows hypothesis is true for a certain type of person.

    I am someone who does not function at all well with mess and clutter. For me, messy house = messy life. It sounds like the blog post you are referencing, makes a mistake generalizing their experience to everyone’s experience. But, from your response & the comments, I imagine that the messy house = messy life folks like me are in the minority.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oh, I dunno, the patriarchy is pretty strong so you’re probably in the majority of people with double X chromosomes in the US. Our regular readers and commenters are a bit selected.

      Does that mean the space behind your carseat is clean?

    • chacha1 Says:

      I’m right there with you, TFE. There is a lot in my life that I can’t control, so making sure my home is a source of peace and comfort (and not disarray and avoidance) is *really* important to me.

    • Ana Says:

      I am in this minority with you. I have a low(ish) threshold for dirt and mess and if my house is a mess its a symptom that things are out of control (sick, depressed/anxious, too many commitments). And then seeing the mess makes me feel more discouraged and overwhelmed and it builds up.
      Doing one small thing to organize the house is very motivating (but I don’t make the bed in the morning because I don’t mind a messy bed…I do like a clean sink however). I also feel more compelled to organize or clean when I am dealing with things outside of my control. I don’t always act on those impulses mostly because if I’m stressed I’m also too physically exhausted to do a major clean. (I’m more of a stress reader/wine drinker/netflix binger than a stress cleaner).
      I think there really are personality differences at play so its impossible to generalize and those kinds of articles bug me for that reason (even though I may agree that those tactics work FOR ME). I don’t have a car but I doubt I’d pay much mind to the state of it if I did.

  6. gwinne Says:

    Well, no.

    But I do know that (a) I tend to feel out of control in all areas when my physical environment is a mess and (b) my physical environment tends to be a mess when I am under stress in other areas. So sometimes the answer to feeling more in control, and therefore better able to do real WORK, is to do stupid domestic tasks. This does not extend to the car, however, as evidenced by the pile of cheerios by the carseat.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s a really good point about locus of control. I wonder if that’s why many of us tend to clean when we’re procrastinating.

      • Katherine Says:

        I definitely clean when I’m procrastinating. I also find it hard to work in a messy space. My desk at work is almost always a mess, but I don’t have a great organizational system (or the time/space to build one). I pretty much don’t do real work in my office anymore – grading, yes, emails, yes, but for real work I join a few friends in an immaculate group study room in the University library. That way the clutter is out of sight, out of mind. (Not to mention the peer pressure helping me stay on task.)

        On the other hand, my car is usually cleaner than my home or my office. I enforce a strict no eating in the car rule, and I don’t expect that to change when/if I have kids.

      • Leah Says:

        That’s why I do it. When life seems completely out of control and I am overwhelmed, I like to get some small successes. My favorite is washing the sheets (feels so good) followed by washing dishes or laundry. Sorting mail and recycling junk also helps.

        Wish decluttering was there, but that’s another area where mental power is required. I do the mindless cleaning when I’m stressed.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The locus of control thing totally makes sense. But I wonder how that can make so much sense but an article saying that you’re imperfect if the area behind your carseat is dirty can cause so much anxiety.

        What’s the difference between the two ideas that provides such opposite reactions?

      • chacha1 Says:

        because “locus of control” is intellectual and objective, and “you’re imperfect” is subjective and accusatory. :-)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Ha! I like that explanation!

        Though I’m not sure it gets at all of the difference. Maybe?

  7. Carolina (@braziliancakes) Says:

    I like to clean when I’m procrastinating. However, the only time I’ve thoroughly cleaned the carseat was when DC threw up all over it. Otherwise, I don’t tend to worry too much about its cleanliness.

    I find that I’m more likely to let things built up in terms of messiness and then just tackle the entire project at once. Instead of cleaning every week, I just clean it all up in one go once a month (or 2).

    On the other hand, I keep my lab notebooks in order and keep up to date with the table of contents as well as experiments. Those are too difficult to clean up once the mess has gotten out of hand. I prioritize the things that need to be dealt with, and other things (like cleaning the toilets) I deal with when I have a moment, or just don’t have the brain energy to do something more important.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We have also cleaned carseats because of vomit. Fun times!

      I really wish I’d gotten into the habit of lab notebooks like my DH does. Instead I’m always doing archival research using google and stata and old to-do lists trying to figure out what the heck it was I did and which things have been superceded with others. I always seem to assume I’ll just remember. (I am getting better, but this is another thing that is super organized when I have extra time but tends to go by the wayside when I’m busy.)

  8. MidA Says:

    There is, of course, a distinction between perfection and general tidiness/cleanliness/order, and different personalities have different thresholds for the minimum of the latter required to keep life functioning smoothly (which, for many, likely includes the feeling of being in control).

    Personally, when I feel overwhelmed (which often coincides with feeling less in control), restoring order to even small spaces can help get me back on track (e.g. Cleaning up the kitchen sink a la fly lady). It works due to some combination of proof that I can make progress (look, thanks to me, the sink is now empty and clean!), eliminating lingering decisions (when am I going to wash the dishes?)–also freeing up mental load, provides momentum (that wasn’t as hard as I thought), and creating a more pleasant environment in which to tackle the real, bigger problems (now I can easily fill the tea kettle in the sink so that I have a nice beverage to help me sort out all of the personal admin papers weighing me down).

    I think this is why completing simple tasks like cleaning the sink it making tr bed are advised and embraced. The bathroom floor, however….let’s just say I have a higher threshold for untidiness here. :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Those are really good points… I think chacha also mentions the order vs. cleanliness dichotomy below and others have talked about their own personality threshholds.

      We’ve got a previous post somewhere that contrasts organizing that makes things go faster (ex. alphabetizing the spices, keeping office stuff together) with cleanliness that could have health effects (ex. not leaving chicken blood on the counter or broken glass on the floor) and with general tidiness. The latter seems to be the most contentious point and the one that some people have genuine personality aversions to (in fact, we have *another* post in which we thank our mothers for allowing us to feel perfectly comfortable with untidiness!).

      Oddly, I care more about the cleanliness of the bathroom floor than the sink or the bed, even though it takes longer to clean (though it doesn’t need to be cleaned as much). We never make our beds and cleaning the sink requires emptying it first… Right now having a clean bathroom floor means I’m not stepping in cat litter after I take a shower.

  9. xykademiqz Says:

    I wish I were tidier. But that wish is offset by laziness.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Laziness FTW! (Though I’m actually at peace with my level of tidiness. Wish everybody else in my house would clean up after themselves in the kitchen from time to time, but I’ve made peace with that too since I don’t want to be the only person cooking all the time and they do eventually clean up the hardened spills that would have been easier to clean up while they were still wet.)

  10. oilandgarlic Says:

    Are you sure this is a controversial topic, at least among your regular readers/commenters?

  11. chacha1 Says:

    Short answer: no.
    However … I do think that being organized all the time makes it possible to be very much better at pretty much everything. And being organized is really a matter of taking a few extra seconds, per task, to not be a slob.

    Taking five minutes (that’s all it takes) once a day to put away the products, clean the bathroom sink and the toilet, wipe the water spots off the mirror, and sweep up the shed hair on the floor means that the bathroom is acceptably company-ready AND will be nice for YOU the next time you use it. (rhetorical “you,” there)
    Taking an extra forty seconds to park correctly means that you can get in and out of your car respectably … and so can your neighbors.
    Taking two minutes to scoop the trash in the footwell into a bag and dump it in the wastebasket means your car is not depressing to get into and embarrassing to share.
    Taking ten seconds to file and delete the email after you’ve answered it means you never have to look at it again and wonder “did I do that?” and waste time tracking it back.
    (I know this sounds judgy. I am in the midst of a work shitstorm that can be traced directly to people spending ten minutes to avoid two minutes’ worth of work. Also, hormones.)

    I don’t believe that “being organized” requires willpower. I do believe that it requires an understanding of just what “being organized” actually *is.* Many people confuse having matching bins & baskets with being organized. Being organized is about having only what you need to do what you do, knowing exactly where it is best stored and deployed, and keeping it where it belongs. Once you let things pile up – whether it’s emails or filing or unwashed dishes – you are subject to being Oppressed by Stuff, you are going to Avoid Doing Things, you are going to be less efficient, you are likely to miss things, and almost certainly you are going to be less successful in at least one area of your life (rhetorical “you” again).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Is there a difference between being organized and being clean? For example, trash in the car doesn’t seem like an organizational issue to me (nor is it really a dirt issue… it does not bother me at all, even if other sit in my car), whereas the email thing does seem like organization.

      Also, at what point do all these few minutes at a time add up to too much?

      • delagar Says:

        There is also the point that, in most households, it is the woman who does most of the ten minutes here (taking out the recycling), fifteen minutes there (clearing away the clutter in the living room), five minutes in this room (scrubbing up the bathroom). In general, unless you have an unusual spouse (and yay for you if so) getting Nigel to do his share requires another four or five minutes of negotiating, pleading, or shouting — on the woman’s part. That’s an hour or two a day (this shit adds up) that you don’t spend writing your novel, or learning French, or working out, or reading to your kid, or whatever.

        I’ll add that it’s interesting to me that many women here aren’t bothered by an untidy *desk* but are bothered by an untidy house. Socialization is interesting.

  12. Cloud Says:

    I do sometimes feel overwhelmed by clutter, or disorganization, or mess. But I don’t think I have to have a perfectly clean house in order to feel like I have my life under control. I’ve learned to stop and analyze the source of a feeling of my life being out of control- usually there is one specific area that is causing me to feel overwhelmed. I can fix that specific thing and then feel fine again. I wrote a post about this last year: http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2014/12/getting-organized-small-changes-can.html

    I suppose that if I couldn’t figure out what was causing the panicky, out of control feeling, I might start generally decluttering or cleaning. I don’t think I’d start with the area behind my car seats, though. To be honest, I’ve never thought about whether they are dirty or clean except for when we take one out. And then we tend to clean the empty space left behind.

    The only time I do unfocused cleaning/decluttering is when I’m angry and can’t go do something better with that, like exercise. I’ve cleaned when angry since I was a kid. I have no idea why.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’d never thought about the area behind the carseats either (again, except when we take them out or a fruit core gets lodged behind one and eventually makes itself known). That was the picture that really got to me (and inspired this post). Like, wait, now I’m supposed to be worried about something nobody ever sees? Who even thinks these things up?

  13. Thisbe Says:

    I had something to say about this earlier, thought about it more, and realized that what I really think is entirely different from what I was going to say before.

    1) I’m not really that interested in achieving or approaching perfection in any area, let alone all of them. So my answer to the actual question at the bottom of your post is, I don’t really know but I also don’t really care. I’m better at most things I do than most other people are, and that’s fine for me. (We play trivia sometimes at a local pub, and consistently are in the top five teams out of twenty but not the top two. I was an intentional B student in graduate school; I probably could have gotten more As, but I would have had to basically eliminate the small amount of time I spent doing other things that are fun for me. Et cetera.)

    2) Having effective systems in place does make life a lot easier, because you don’t have to make decisions about what’s going to happen and how it will be accomplished. To the extent that having effective systems results in a clean car or tidy bathroom or whatever, those things will be decent proxies for a smoothly-running life. However, my current system involves piling up dirty laundry on the floor of one of the bathrooms until laundry day – I can imagine having a different system, but not in the house and job I’m in now, so I’m not going to change it. If the reason something is untidy or dirty or something is that there is no system in place to take care of it, OR the system is bad, that could possibly be a proxy for that person’s life being more difficult and less effective than it needs to be. But my life is not a mess, and my bathroom floor is absolutely a mess.

    Related aside, annual performance evaluations at my work contained the interesting feature that every single employee received a poor mark in the “inventory control” category. (Some managers might look at that and think “Gosh it looks like we should figure out a different way to do inventory control”, but this manager said “You ALL need to get better at inventory control”. SMH.) Probably everything about my place of work would be a lot better if our inventory control was better, both as a direct effect but also because it would mean that someone was putting effort into designing workflow systems that function well. I don’t really know what happens behind car seats – are important things getting lost back there? If it’s just crumbs, it’s hard for me to see why anyone should care enough to have a pattern in place about cleaning it unless they just enjoy vacuuming the car. Which, to be fair, can be fun – car wash vacuums are really powerful!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That is an excellent point. Maybe the entire premise is wrong. Maybe that’s why the behind-the-carseat example hits a bad chord–that’s something that only Martha Stewart should care about. Satisficing is far more important than reaching perfection in so many areas of our lives, and for most of us, that means hitting a bar that doesn’t include regular cleaning of things nobody sees. (And yes, it’s usually just crumbs.)

  14. becca Says:

    There are two kinds of cleaning for me- laundry and dishes are Sisyphean enough that I feel good when I stay on top of them, simply because I feel angry and put-upon when they are huge messes (NB- when I lived alone I could let these things go because they only make me angry when I’m cleaning after other humans). This is a problem because Carebear is driven to do dishes when there are no clean dishes, and I am driven to do dishes when I want a clean sink.
    Then there is bathroom/kitchen deep clean, organizing my sock drawers, making sure my car is tidy or washed… basically everything that falls under “nice to have, not essential today”. I often feel good when I do these things, but I only feel driven to do them when I need to exert extra control over my environment. Often, these tasks just make me incredibly angry at the amount of stuff I have. If everyone were like me, the only people with clean houses would have anger management issues.
    I work great in my messes, but not well in other people’s, so I assume everyone is like that and try not to leave messes for others. I usually fail, but I’m 110% more awesome than my parents, so at least there’s that. Sometimes it helps when you view your weaknesses as part of intergenerational-growth mindset.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, leaving messes for others is not cool. It is [pause for dramatic effect] IMPOLITE (a huge no-no)!

      #2 does writing through anger instead of cleaning.

      • becca Says:

        Creative outlets are the healthiest for anger, right? I think cleaning is neutral, if no one is around to hear me bang the pots when I wash them ;-) I used to run, until I realized I’m at the age where I could seriously hurt myself running angry. I keep meaning to pick up a brush again, someday…

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I have no idea what the healthiest outlet for anger is… maybe meditation?

  15. Alicia Says:

    Gosh I really don’t believe anything summarized from that article. For one thing, what constitutes a mess (with regard to your life?). And as you mentioned, how do you know? There’s usually some tipping point that things start showing up, but I mean, before that, most people are likely blindly unaware of it.

    As for myself… I’ve gotten a little messier, even as I’ve been getting my act together. My place is not filthy by any stretch, but it could probably use an extra swiffer or two. I’m okay with that. I hardly think that reflects on how my life is going. In some cases, sure it could, but those are not what is going on with my life. I’m happy with a few more tumble weeds of cat hair and more time with family, or other things deemed important.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I wonder if controlling for time matters. Like, if you have the same amount of stuff going on in your life then you need the house to be cleaner, but if you have more stuff going on in your life then it’s ok for the house to be less clean because you’re too busy to notice. Or, maybe as the people talking about locus of control have been saying, the direction goes the other way. (Or maybe it’s a U shape…)

  16. SP Says:

    Well, if you want to be perfect at anything, maybe you should rethink that goal. (Ok, I’m just nitpicking on your word choice, but “perfect” is a word that I generally don’t accept into my life any more.)

    And to answer your question, absolutely not. They are often (not always) correlated for me. If my house is mess, either I”m super busy being awesome at something else, or I’m unmotivated to do anything that doesn’t HAVE to be done.

    I’m also not in the make your bed camp. I’m just not. It takes just a few seconds, but provides little to no utility. The room looks nicer, but… so? I am in the clean/wipe the sink camp, because that not only looks nicer, but maintains the clean. “you have to make your bed” really turned me off flylad. Also “get dressed to your shoes” – who wears shoes in the house? I would never advise that to help someone keep a cleaner home. I can’t tell if I’m the weird one – what percentage of the US population wears shoes in their homes? Google didn’t immediately give me a conclusive result, but I think less than 50%?

    • Katherine Says:

      I’m totally in the bed-making camp. I hate the way the sheets and blankets move around independently so I refuse to get into an unmade bed. I kind of hate the world if I’m tired and all l want is to just get into bed but I have to make it first. Life is just better if I make the bed in the morning. I do it about 95% of the time.

      • Thisbe Says:

        This is why I eventually transitioned to Scandinavian-style bed with duvet cover and no top sheet. Bed-making time decreased to the time it takes to shake out the duvet and spread it out. :) Scandinavians are so smart!

      • SP Says:

        I can’t reply to Thisbe, but YES to the Scandinavian style. Top sheets are ridiculous. It extends the life of the duvet cover in theory, but ours don’t stay in place enough to do that anyway, and my duvets have covers already, so….

        But uh, still don’t make the bed. It does make it easy to climb in at night.

        (However, in the winter I use 2 light weight twin comforters under our mid/lightweight queen duvet. This was mostly because it was cheaper than getting a heavier winter queen duvet. I’m a bed diva (with dust allergies), so I insist on a silk filled comforter. The winter weight ones were even more $$$. Also, now no one ever steals my covers.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        My sleep improved tremendously when DH and I realized we don’t need to share sheets. He’s big and there’s always a gap that lets in a draft when we share whenever he turns to his side.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That gets at what Thisbe was saying about perfection as not necessarily being a goal. It’s not really my word though so much as the picture I was getting from the blog post about a women’s magazine article. (eg If there’s no crumbs behind your carseat, then there must be no crumbs in your life at all, as that is the last place anybody would ever clean.)

    • chacha1 Says:

      I make my bed because otherwise the cats would spend all day lounging in it and picking their toes on my sheets. :-)

      But I “have time” to do that because I don’t have kids, e.g. nobody to clean up after, no car seats (!), etc.

      tangentially … the “I don’t have time” excuse to me is always an excuse. The truthful statement is “I don’t take time.” If something isn’t important to you (or if Thing A is less important to you than Things B-Z) and you don’t want to take time to do it, that’s totally legit. I do think it’s important to be conscious of how we verbalize things, because in a way “I don’t have time” is a statement of no choice, whereas “I don’t take time” is all about choice.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think we’ve been pretty loud in our acceptance of statements like that as short-hand for “my preferences and budget constraint don’t meet there” are just fine. (See I can’t have fine china until my kids are older follow-up post). Taking away choice can be a good thing!

  17. Mrs PoP Says:

    I only have so much capacity for work (and housework is a subset of what I consider work), so if paying jobs or high ROI projects (like our kitchen remodel) are taking up the vast majority of that capacity, other things have to slide and the bathroom doesn’t get scrubbed as often. Would it be great if my house were always spotless? Sure. But I’m not going to stress about it or think I’m any less of a competent, prepared, got-my-$hit-together woman because of it.

    Makes me think of when a friend stopped by to drop off some fresh eggs from her chicken and check out our remodel progress (sans ceiling) a couple of weeks ago. It turned into an impromptu breakfast for dinner and as she’s washing the eggs to get a few spots of chicken poo off she said, “I hope you’re okay with the fact that you saw these eggs with a little poo on them!” To which I replied, “Half our kitchen counter is covered with a saw and sawdust. We don’t have a ceiling. If you’re okay with eating eggs that we scramble in here, then I’m 100% not concerned about a little chicken poo that you’re rinsing off before we eat.” =)

  18. omdg Says:

    I can’t even imagine having enough time or mental energy to give even the teeniest-tiniest smallest of a crap about whether the space behind my daughter’s carseat is clean, and I consider myself one of the most organized and efficient people I know. Hopefully I have not offended the majority of your readers, but I’ve always sort of viewed compulsive cleanliness as a mental disorder.

  19. TheologyAndGeometry Says:

    When we bought our van, DH moved the car seats and therefore had the unenviable job of cleaning out underneath them. I asked him if it was really bad and what he found under there, to which he replied, “Owls.” I laughed and we left it at that.

  20. Cardinal Says:

    I’m attempting to feel some compassion for the woman who has so little of value to do with her time that she has to attribute value to cleaning behind the carseat. And I’m thankful that I’m not her! Both my partner and I have a fairly high need for Stuff to be In Its Place, otherwise we get that anxious & irritable feeling. But a lesson that we learned very powerfully when our twins were born is that adulthood and parenthood require compromise. Not compromise between what he wants and what I want, but compromise between what’s genuinely important and what’s merely desirable. Important: up-to-date carseats that meet safety standards, clean bums & hands, nutritious food, plenty of unscheduled play time. Desirable: clean toilets, kitchen counters, clothes, locally-grown organic food, instruction in sports & music. Negotiable: laundry folded & put away, work clothes ironed, crumbs removed from car, Christmas cards mailed in the calendar year in which Christmas falls. The important stuff happens no matter how little time we have. The desirables happen during periods when our household routines are functioning well. (More often now than when twins were littler). The negotiables are like little bonuses: you get to feel extra proud of yourself if you do get them done, but you don’t get to feel guilty if they don’t get done.

    • Cardinal Says:

      And you certainly don’t get to judge other people for not having them done. And we try (but don’t always succeed) to refrain from judging people whose Important list is different from ours.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I was torn between feeling sorry for her and feeling angry at her for writing it up in a women’s magazine in order to make other women feel more insecure.

      That sounds like a good philosophy!

  21. jmgrohneuro Says:

    I frame chores as exercise. Where exercise means something other than sitting. I check my pedometer at the end of the paid-work day and if I’m a thousand or so steps short of my goal, but it is dark and cold outside and no other form of activity is appealing? This might be a good evening to move those boxes of outgrown clothes out to the car. I concur, however, with rejecting any patriarchal overtones to the task. (This comment brought to you in honor of February/Grumpy-Rumblings’ exercise month…)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oddly (or really, not so oddly), none of the chore-doing muscles are the least bit sore with the 7 min workout. (The laundry-lifting muscles, the walking muscles, the baby-lift muscles, etc.)

      • jmgrohneuro Says:

        When I lived in the north, snow shoveling was my main winter chore/workout. You’re right, though, I don’t think it would have made the pushups in 7MW any easier.

  22. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    Thanks for linking! The space behind my carseats is likely a mess, but I’m not sure. I haven’t looked recently. I like having a clean and neat house, but given the absolute limits on time, it’s not something I’m choosing to prioritize. The good news is that since I’ve had extra people around to help with the baby, the house is looking quite nice, since when I’m feeding him or he’s napping, they’ve organized various trouble spots. I probably won’t maintain it well once this stretch of time is over, but it doesn’t matter too much. I’m able to work/think/relax in a messy house.

    On some level, I get that this could be a personality thing, though I agree that it seems to be a strangely gendered personality thing. If men are, in general, able to focus and relax when there are crumbs behind the carseats, then perhaps women can learn to do so as well. No one has to, of course. If people enjoy cleaning, then they should go for it. If they don’t, there’s much to be said for good enough.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Cleaning is a cheap hobby! But, sadly, not one I enjoy except for a few chores we do as a family activity. (And organizing things, but one only organizes things once. After that they stay organized. Because if they don’t stay organized, I say, “SOMEONE is MESSING WITH MY SYSTEM” and then the culprit apologizes profusely and makes it right.)

      Who even thinks about the space behind carseats when they don’t have to?

  23. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I have battled this for YEARS because of my upbringing. YEARS. But you know what? If chaos worked for Einstein, it can work for me too: http://life.time.com/culture/albert-einstein-last-photo-taken-of-his-princeton-office/#1

  24. undinenotofgeneralinterest Says:

    I like what you said about having enough willpower to do certain things and if you waste it on car seat cleaning (!), there might not be enough for other tasks. But the car seat cleaning thing meaning something? It really is true that on the internet everyone has more opinions than information. I like what you said way better.


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