Grand Productivity Experiment: Phase Three… Partially Indigestible

Here’s the thing about frogs: there is no shortage of them. Life is, in fact, frogs all the way down. But I must confess that some of the frogs I ate this last week in my Eat That Frog experiment didn’t go all the way down.

Keelback eating a Dahls Aquatic Frog (8692590510)
I had three problems with it. First: how do you know when you’ve eaten enough frogs for the day? If “there’s always a bigger fish” then logically there is also always a smaller fish, and therefore a smaller frog. When do you stop?
Second: if the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, how many bites should you take out of an elephant-sized frog in one day? (And how big is a bite, anyway?)

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I Am Not Lazy Either

I have always wanted to live up to my name.

Deborah, that is. Makarios I’ve had for less than seven years; and the name I had before that means swamp – not high on my list of life goals.

The name Deborah means bee, and, by implication, busy as a bee. Hardworking. Industrious. As I say, it’s something I have always wanted to live up to, but for a long time I thought I didn’t.

In fact, if you asked me, I would tell you that I was basically lazy, but just did things out of fear of letting people down, getting in trouble, or the sundry other negative consequences life provides for those who Don’t Do Things. I have the ambition of a potato and the dread fate of couch-potatoitis always seemed to lurk close behind.

When FlyLady said “I know for a fact that I have never been lazy and I will wager the same about you,” I wanted to believe her – but of course, I didn’t. She was writing in a book, after all – she doesn’t know me from a bar of soap.

I even wrote a blog post about how my husband isn’t lazy (still isn’t) but failed to turn the same focus on myself. Indirectly, his tiredness helped me to my realization.

Having worn himself to a shadder with all the work he was doing helping me prepare Restoration Day for publication, he needed some time off. So one day, we arranged that he would stay in bed all day, and I would do any of his household work that needed to be done that day. And bring him meals, of course, because lack of food is not good for lack of energy.

Kramskoi Nekrasov in bed
And it was as I was reaching into the cupboard for a small bowl to mould the couscous into an appealing shape on the plate that I realized I wasn’t lazy. Because a lazy person wouldn’t volunteer to take care of someone else for a day (or for a week, as I subsequently did). And a lazy person definitely wouldn’t go to the extra effort of making the meal appealing on the plate – particularly when they were already tired themselves.

Mind you, the moulding didn’t work. The couscous stuck to the bowl and it came out all anyhow. I could have oiled the bowl, I suppose, but if you’re going to pour boiling water into a bowl, there’s not much use in oiling it.

But that isn’t the point. The point is that I could have easily weaselled out of that extra work – no one was asking it of me, no one would notice if I avoided it – and I didn’t. And therefore, since laziness is essentially a disinclination to exert oneself, I am not lazy.

John Singer Sargent - Nonchaloir (1911)
Sometimes unproductive, often disorganized and not infrequently tired, but not lazy.

Round 3: Knock-Out!

Or to relieve your feelings, kick-out (the Marquess of Queensberry need not apply. Nasty fellow).

Today we are going to be executing a purge in that room of waking hours, the living room. I have never understood why FlyLady puts the living room in the fifth week of the month with her zones, thus ensuring that it almost never gets a full week’s worth of attention.

SadHousewifeI don’t generally need a whole week each month to declutter and clean my bathroom, for example. The bathroom in the house we’re moving to is about 2×3 metres (if so much) and contains one bath, one basin (hanging on the wall) and one toilet. Storage is limited to a small cupboard built into the wall, and the windowsill. Of course, since that’s the only bathroom in the house, I could call it the “master bath” (Zone 4) and give the living room some more time and why didn’t I think of that before?

The living room in our new house will serve us for workspace (we both work at home), relaxation area, entertaining area and book storage. It is the largest room in the house. It needs to be. Half a week is not enough.

Today, however, we are going to have a stab at the stashes of stuff that build up in that most-used of rooms. What you have in your living room depends on what you use it for. Besides furniture you may have books, “media”, games, hobby stuff, paperwork, collections, magazines/newspapers, and items left on display such as photos, china and little decorative doodads. And that’s before we venture into any storage areas the room might have.

Fibber McGee and Molly closet photo 1948So feel free to adapt my suggestions to suit your own circumstances.

First up, the media. CDs, DVDs, LPs, videos, cassette tapes… Yep, I have all of these, although I must admit that the older a technology is the more likely it is that I have recently pruned it. That said, I’m sure there are a few items I could do without packing, moving and unpacking again. Let’s see what fifteen minutes can do.

I scored: one DVD, one video, 4 cassette cases (no idea what happened to their contents), 4 CDs and 10 LPs. Total of 20, and a relatively painless extraction at that. Phew – and onwards!

Next up: the books. Of which we have a great many. I haven’t counted them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they ran into the four digits. A large percentage of them were bought second-hand, which should make them easier to move on – but on the other hand also makes them easier to acquire, because they cost less. Still, there’s no use keeping a book you aren’t going to read again, unless it’s the sort you don’t really read as such, like a dictionary. I have read encyclopædia volumes in my time; I don’t think I’ve ever been quite desperate enough for reading material to embark on a cover-to-cover dictionary-a-thon.

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds 2Fifteen minutes on the clock….. and five books pulled out of the shelves, including philosophy, Elizabethan plays and the poetry of Robert Browning. Running total 25. Even if you don’t prune much, going through your library book by book will at least serve to remind you of all the good books you’d forgotten you still had and would now like to read again.

For the third course, following the light media appetizer and the rather stodgier main course of books, I thought we would end with a delicate bibelot or two – what my grandmother called “dustcatchers.” Depending on the level of decoration you prefer, this may take less than fifteen minutes, even if you wander into every other room in the house, but it’s worth doing. We get so used to seeing things sitting there on the shelf or the mantelpiece or the little end table that we stop consciously seeing them, which is a complete waste. You can also look at things hanging on the walls – pictures, paintings, posters etc. I would, but I’ve already taken ours down and packed them.

Fifteen minutes of knick-knackery, doo-daddery and decorative items – go!

Henry Treffry Dunn Rossetti and Dunton at 16 Cheyne Walk

I collected one clock (deceased), one origami crane (pink), one origami elephant (ditto), a vase full of peacock feathers, a small plastic dome with tiny flowers in it, a harmonica, a somewhat decorative box and a silver candlestick (badly tarnished). Total of 8; grand total 32 – more than the previous two weeks put together!

Putting them all together, though, I get 13 + 16 + 32 = 61! Sixty-one fewer items than I possessed a few short weeks ago, and all done in nine sets of fifteen minutes. For the statistically minded among you, that’s 135 minutes, or just over 2.2 minutes per item removed. So if you have five minutes to spare to consider your possessions, you can expect to find a couple to get rid of. Ten minutes, four items. Fifteen minutes, six items. Half an hour, twelve. A whole hour? Eighteen and a cup of tea.

All this is completely theoretical, of course – one person’s brief experience is hardly enough to base a rule on, even a rule of thumb (everyone’s thumb is different – ask Bertillon). But it’s worth remembering that even a short snatch of time can make a permanent difference. There are sixty-one things that I didn’t like or didn’t want or didn’t use (or all of the above) which took up space in my house and never paid rent or contributed anything – they just were. And now they aren’t, and I feel good about that.

so happy smiling cat