Sunday, October 18, 2009

Organizing is like a bowl of oatmeal

This post is something akin to
"Life is like a box of chocolates."

Let me explain...

My husband eats a bowl of oatmeal almost every day. However, he rarely finishes it before he leaves for work and he finishes it on the way. That means the bowl sits in his car all day before he gets home and sets it in the sink.

You know what that bowl is like 10 hours later, right? The difference between dried oatmeal and superglue is minuscule at this point. That bowl has got to soak for hours in water before it can be cleaned (by hand). There's no point in putting it in the dishwasher, which seems to only multiply the superglue effect of dried oatmeal.

My point here around organizing is this: it's often much easier to get to (and complete) a project or task right away, rather than letting it "ripen."

Those bowls or any other dishes, when newly dirty, are often extremely easy to clean. A moment of swishing a bowl with water and a scrubber will clean them well enough to set in the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning and sterilizing.

However, if you let dishes sit to dry and harden, it not only takes time to let them soak, but then more water (a precious resource in in drought-prone California), more effort (elbow grease) and more time (scrubbing, soaking) to get an item clean. What might have taken seconds and very little water, is taking minutes and gallons of water and energy just because you didn't rinse an item right away.

Now, is this an essay about the rewards of doing your dishes right away? (Yes and no.) For some of my clients, creating a habit of cleaning the kitchen is something we work on together. But really, I'm looking at the bigger picture here.

What other tasks are you putting off that cost you more in time, effort, energy and possibly money (since time is money)?

I know I've got a couple of overdue library books racking up some fines. (Actual dollars there.)

If I let the laundry go too long, then I suddenly have several loads to wash, dry, fold and put away. (And in the same vein, if I let the laundry sit in the dryer too long, I then have a load of wrinkled clothes that will now cost me time (and electricity...$) to iron.

If I don't open my mail and put all the bills in the "bills to pay" folder, I might miss a bill, have to pay a late fee ($) and possibly harm my credit.

If you can nip anything in the bud, then you will keep it from overtaking you and putting you in "overwhelm." Often, "overwhelm" isn't because we have so many things coming at us (well, for some people it is), but it's because we've let so many things get away from us and they become wild and unruly like spoiled children. Kids don't come out of the birth canal spoiled. Parents that have neglected to set rules and boundaries create spoiled children. Omissions rather than an actual act of trying to spoil kids. A lot like our omissions of not getting to tasks.

(In truth, a child does come out of the womb spoiled. They have had everything they have ever needed fed to them through a tube or encased around them. Heck, they haven't even had to chew and swallow. And I do believe we should "spoil" them for quite awhile after they enter the world with all that they need: food, sleep, clean clothes and diapers and love and attention. At some point, though, gentle boundaries are taught and they begin to assimilate into a world with other beings. But I think I have digressed a tad...)

All I am saying is this...the next time you are about to procrastinate on a task, think down the line a little. How long will it take right now versus how long it will take tomorrow or next week? Is there a price to pay? The price you pay may be in dollars, time, effort, another person's hurt feelings, your reputation or your credit score!

What's it worth?

Oh, and those oatmeal bowls? I think I'll encourage DH to eat toast...


Anonymous said...

You are dead-on. Taking care of something early on saves so much time, effort and angst. However, sometimes waiting for the dust to settle can have its merit too. Lack of planning by others can create a false sense of urgency. Such as someone saying, “Hurry up; take care of this request.” Especially without all of the facts or details being known. Later you find out the effort was wasted or unnecessary. In the words of Gilda Radner's character, Emily Litela "Never mind."
Lack of planning on someone else's part does not constitute a need for a heroic effort on your part. Try squeezing the oatmeal out of a ziplock plastic 'to go' baggy. Just a thought.

Gina said...

Margaret, you make me laugh! :D
This is so true... I can't stand it when I let the oatmeal bowl go beyond the quick swish in the sink! lol... So true, how it always connects to 'organizing' in some way or another in life... so true! lol...