Keeping Up the Good Work

To create one’s own world takes courage.” – Georgia O’Keefe

Before I got married to my former husband, I would throw all the clean Tupperware into one big cupboard. But my ex had a great idea that if the tops and bottoms were matched when it was put away, it would be way easier to use the Tupperware.

The problem was, he liked to have the Tupperware like that but he didn’t want to do the work to put it away like that. I’m not really dogging on my ex-husband (well, not much) because I think there’s always a big divide between knowing what to do and doing it.

For all our human knowledge and experience, the hardest part is implementing it.

I know I need to get 7-8 hours of sleep at night. But it’s still hard to get out of the chair at night and go to bed.

I’m completely aware I need to eat more greens and less sugar. But then the Easter candy is left out and I’m helping myself.

I want to teach the kids to put their coats away in the proper place when we come in but I often find it easier to just pick them up and put them away myself instead of tracking them down.

All this thinking about systems came up for me because I recently bought my daughter some socks that show the day of the week and she spent an hour devising a box in which they can be neatly stored. It’s delightful. I’m laughing because I’m the one that does the laundry and therefore it reminds me very much of putting the Tupperware away for my ex.

Maybe, in an effort to instill part of the DOING for her, I’ll wash them – but she has to put them away. 😊

How about you? Any tricks to narrow the gap between knowing and doing? Does anyone remember the scene in the RomCom where someone tells the funny break-up story due to day of the week underpants?

36 thoughts on “Keeping Up the Good Work

  1. I don’t naturally want to put anything away. Left to my own devices I could easily turn into Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple. That being said, your daughter’s socks box would entice me to put things away because I like pretty. And for me that seems to be the trick for doing what I know I should be doing. If I can make something pretty, I’ll do it without hesitation because I don’t think of it as a chore.

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    1. That’s an interesting take – that the aesthetics make something worthwhile. Hmm – makes me realize I’ll eat a good salad because it looks good. Thanks for the compliment on my daughter’s sock box. She’s awfully proud of it! 🙂

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  2. My tupperware cupboard is chaos. I’ve tried a few times to follow a system, but it never sticks.

    One system that I started a few years ago that I have stuck with is Marie Kondo’s clothes folding method. The brilliance of it is sufficient to take that extra bit of time folding after I’ve done the laundry.

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    1. Oh, I need that system! I have not been folding clothes – just dressing my family from the clean clothes basket. I need help in this area. And I love that the method is brilliant enough to keep you at it.

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    2. I binge-watched Marie Kondo when it came out, and I’m hooked on her folding! I had bought the Ikea Kallax cube shelving and added the small drawers to a couple of the cubes to store socks etc. Marie’s system works really well with those small drawers.

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  3. If you come up with something that works, you’ll become rich and famous. I think the gap is one we all struggle with in some category or other. I’m good in the house for various reasons, but getting out of the metaphoric chair to deal with outside chores seems to my brain to be mostly a step too far lol.

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    1. Agreed! It’s an area that fascinates me as well, and I recently read a book about habit formation. One of my biggest takeaways was while we form habits (which is extremely difficult, so it’s not just us being lazy 🙃), is that context and cues are key. We like to believe that it’s all willpower, but it would take more willpower than there is laundry (yes, THAT much!) to act consistently on willpower alone. “Eye level is buy level” works for a reason 🙂

      So maybe if the coat hanger was an “obstacle” in front of the door as one walks in? We still need oodles of willpower to start working out, every day, after working out every day for more than 2 years 🤷‍♀️

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      1. Context and cues – that’s brilliant! And such a good one for helping to think through cueing my little ones to start their habits. Great idea – thanks for adding it to the discussion. What was the book? I’ve heard James Clear talk about his new book Atomic Habits but haven’t read it yet.

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      2. You’re too kind, thank you! Would you recommend James Clear’s book?

        The book I read was by Wendy Wood: I read some of her articles over the years and was completely taken by them. Maybe that’s why I had such high expectations for the book, “Good Habits, Bad Habits”, which was ok, but I felt was not as powerful as her individual articles. While it made some fantastic points, it meandered at times, and, to me, was not as convincing as her articles. So it did not meet (my admittedly very high) expectations. If you know of good books in this space, please do recommend!

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      3. Interesting about the author’s book versus her articles. I’ll check out some of her articles.
        I haven’t read James Clear’s book but it sounded like he had some solid content and I found listening to him to be very motivating. The phrase that I heard him say that is memorable is “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

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      4. That is both a power and a memorable phrase, and words to live by. It resonates with what Wendy Wood says in her book as well: we tend to think that resolutions will work by sheer will power alone. But there’s not enough will power to make them happen, which is why most fail. By the time it gets to having to find the little ones to hang their coats, there’s just not enough will power left to do it, it’s easier not to. 🙂

        She has good takeaways throughout, like latching a new, desired habit to an existing, entrenched one. She recommends rewards in the habit-forming phase. Once a habit is formed, she says it should be “relatively insensitive to rewards.”

        Her article about why additional information, in some cases, does not change people’s minds was a revelation to me!

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      5. Eye level is buy level is something I maybe knew, but forgot? I’m going to reorganize a few things in the house with that in mind.

        I find that if I put something in my way or in an odd place, it helps. My trowel and bucket are in the kitchen this morning as motivation. Here’s hoping it rains 😉

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      6. Oh my goodness, I just was skimming through a couple of her pieces and this jumped out at me, “One of the interesting things that emerged early on in this research was that if you live with other people, particularly children, you have fewer habits overall than other people simply because of the disruption that other people cause in your life. The important thing I found when I was a mom with young kids is to find a time or a place where you have actually do have some control. For me, it was 6:00 in the morning, because my kids usually slept until 7:00. ”

        Yes! In fact, the only reason I can read this is that my children are still sleeping. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work!

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      7. Indeed, how interesting! It makes sense that with constant “disruptions” it’d be harder to form habits, which require repetition (and then some more repetition…). It’s almost like a eureka moment that’s obvious after it was said, less so before? 🙃

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      8. That is so true! It makes so much sense because she put words to my experience and now I have a better understanding of that knowledge because it’s codified. Love that feeling!

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  4. Another great post, Wynne; thanks very much for sharing it! You made several great points, including the part about giving your daughter the pleasure (i hope) of putting her own socks away. She may love growing into that responsiblity.

    Tricks to help narrow the gap? Well, because I am an idealist (a different paradigm of the world, kind), I believe that I must “be” first in consciousness, before I can ever expect the results that I desire to appear in my “reality.” Due to this, I do my best to be aware of what I’m impressing into mind. Every time that I leave a project unfinished by losing faith, I impress “unfinished” results into mind. That is, therefore, what I receive. Likewise, with driving on the road, and being mindful to impress good habits, such as checking mirrors, etc, prior to lane change. In short, I must embody what I desire, before I can expect it to show up.
    I’ll be looking forward to your next post!

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    1. Ah, such an interesting comment about bringing the power of envisioning to our habits. I wonder how we can help little ones with that level of consciousness – or if it’s just good habits that build to the power of consciousness as they grow more aware.

      You’re right – my daughter does love growing into that responsibility. The consistency is not always internal for her yet but I can see the desire that will help her get there.

      Thanks for a great and thought provoking comment, Art!

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      1. Thanks, Wynne. That’s nice that your daughter is growing into her responsibilities; I’m sure the consistency will come as time goes on.

        About envisioning, the first thought that came to mind is the old story about the train that thought it could–I think I can, I think I can. Maybe, if that mentality was put together of the end result that the children desired, they could truly begin to feel it. I think that children can naturally believe they can graduate from tricycle to bicycle, especially if their vision is supported (as I know it would be in your case).

        Great writing! Thanks. I truly enjoy your posts.

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  5. I learned the one-touch rule years ago, which says if you have something in your hands don’t just move it to another spot, put it away, or put it where it needs to go for the next step. That helped me turn from a piler and a stacker into someone who puts away most of her things. Mostly. Not a neat freak, but being able to keep my clutter mostly under control is a big deal!

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    1. I love the one touch rule. I first learned about it in an email class, which is a whole other level of clutter. But you’re right, if we can just handle things once, it saves so much time!

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      1. It really helped me to get control of my clutter tendencies. Not 💯 there, but I’m happy with the improvement! 😊😊

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  6. I was about say that your husband sounded like he was finally good for something… and then I read the second paragraph. 😂

    I agree that theory vs practice can often have a gap, sometimes large in between. It’s great that you got those socks for your daughter and she seems motivated to do it.

    For me, it’s really about starting in small steps. You get the positive reinforcement from the incremental successes and they build on top of each other. And also really picking and choosing your battles cuz things inevitably get into the way of your best intentions!

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    1. Oh, I’m howling about your comment about my ex. Hilarious!

      Small steps and picking and choosing. Yes – so much wisdom in what you say. When we start too big, it’s a little overwhelming isn’t it?

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  7. I think it is awesome that your daughter invested herself in this way! Learning to put her own socks away is probably a good next step, one she might be excited about (hey, whatever gets you excited about laundry, right?!?). Oh, and I finally found a tupperware (at Target) that works for me. The storage containers come in different depths (so some can hold more than others), but all the lids are the same size. I donated all my other tupperware to Goodwill and bought a second box of this style. I LOVE it!

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    1. That Tupperware sounds wonderful! I can see why you love it! You are so right that it’s fun that Miss O wanted to get organized like this. As you point out, anything that gets her excited about laundry. In fact as I was writing it, I was wondering, “Is 6 too young to do laundry?” She needs a few more inches but I’ll take the help with putting socks away! 🙂

      Hope you are having a great week!

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  8. I don’t know the day of the week underpants story in the romcom, so now I’m curious. Doing for our kids instead of teaching them to do is a weekly struggle. Doing it ourselves is always quicker and easier in the short term, but taking more time initially to teach them so you eventually never have to do it yourself obviously has more lasting rewards. This is another example of knowing the right thing to do, yet I still don’t do it. 😛

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  9. I don’t do it either. It’s so hard to teach them – and then enforce it. When I think about the things I want to hold my ground on, this doesn’t usually meet the bar.

    It’s When Harry Met Sally – Meg Ryan’s character is telling Billy Crystal’s character why she had to break up with Sheldon. She had day of the week underpants but no Sunday and he was always going on about “Where’s Sunday?” 🙂 Not sure I did that justice…

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