Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An unshakeable faith in lists

Well hello there! Long time no blog, I know.

This past summer...well, let's just say that it contained fewer hours than I expected it to, somehow. And we'll leave it at that.

We're back in the swing of the school year now. Above you see a couple of lists that I typed up to try and make things go a little more smoothly.

They work. You know, pretty well. When we actually use them.

Somehow, for example, the "pick out clothes for tomorrow" step never seems to happen in the evening. And then I find myself in the morning saying things like, "FINE. I don't care what you wear, just put something on," and walking to the bus stop with a girl wearing pink velour sweatpants that are about 6 inches too long for her on the rainiest day of the year.

(Whatever, FINE.)

Still, I retain an unshakeable faith in lists.

For me they are so soothing to make. So motivating to contemplate. So satisfying to cross things off on.

And so, perhaps inevitably, I've been thinking about how a list might help me make my house better.

It is probably obvious after even a cursory read here that even though I've named this blog after my aspirations for my home, I have a hard time actually making progress on my space. Remember when I was thinking about how to make our non-entryways more functional? Yeah, that was almost two years ago and I have done fuck-all on that project.

And yet, it's not as though I have changed my mind about any of it. I still really like the ideas that I came up with! I just don't seem to be able to carry them out.

That's a common theme with me: tons of ideas, no follow through. (So...how is a list going to help? Isn't that destined to be just one more way of making plans that I don't follow through on? Well, touché. But stick with me for a minute or two here.)

I think there are probably a few reasons for that. I have more ideas than time, for one. And I get distracted, I'll own up to that -- the "making plans" stage of a project is way more fun than the "actually having do do shit" stage. I also tend to get overwhelmed -- if there are twelve things to do sometimes I have trouble picking one to focus on.

And, though I say that I can come up with ideas that I like, I do lack a certain confidence about them. I don't have a ton of experience coming up with decorating ideas, carrying them out, and then thinking: yeah, that totally turned out like I was expecting! (And I have had some fails, for sure.) So, I talk myself out of things.

Finally, I have written a little bit about the difficulty my man and I have making aesthetic decisions together. That's a big barrier, too.

When I was growing up, my dad was the one who made pretty much all of the decisions about home decorating. I don't get the sense that my mom had no opinions about it or no aesthetic sense of her own, it was just -- he was in charge.

So, I don't have much of a model for how partners can compromise in this area or, better yet, develop a shared vision. I've noticed that when we're making decisions about the house I tend to feel pissed off when I don't get my way and anxious when I do. Often it is less uncomfortable to just do nothing.

There's little guidance to be gleaned from the Internets, either. Most home decoration/design blogs are helmed by women who seem to be exclusively in charge of making the aesthetic decisions. No one writes much about their partner's input into the aesthetics of a space; generally, the dudes get a honey-do list, a bench full of power tools, and praise for being "handy."

One exception might be the couple who run Young House Love, who have said that they don't bring anything into their house that they don't both love. Which sounds like a worthy goal, but seriously, HOW? What is the process?

I know this is a lot of navel-gazing, but decorating a house isn't just about picking out a rug and deciding which model of sofa to buy. That isn't even the main part of it, you know?

The point is, I've been thinking about how I could use my penchant for list-making to overcome some of these barriers.

Have you heard of the 101 Things in 1,0001 Days project? It's just what it sounds like -- you make a list of 101 things you want to do and then you have 1,001 days to accomplish them. Usually, people make lists that are a combination of fun and self-improvement, and that's what I've done in the past.

But this time, I decided to make a list focused on home projects. The idea is that having everything written down will make it easier to Just Pick Something and do it, rather than getting distracted by everything else that needs doing.

I've also tried to make the items very small, discrete steps rather than big projects, as I know that makes to-do lists work a lot better for me in general. As a result, this is not a list that is going to completely transform or "finish" our home, but I'm hoping it will help create some momentum.

Also, I asked my man to write a list of 10 or so home improvement projects that he would like to see get done. He sent me his list and I thought: awesome, these are on MY list, too! I've broken those out into a separate section of the 101 Things list and I'm hoping to tackle at least a few of them early on. It was nice to find that we actually do have a shared vision, at least in part, and I'd like to build on that.

Finally, I'm planning to send the whole list to him so that he can read it over and tell me if there are any items that strike him as crazy or off the wall. Okay, to be more precise, he can tell me which items are crazy or off the wall. But this is, in essence, his veto point. My hope is that if I can feel like he is on board in general, then I can have the confidence to proceed with projects in a bit more experimental way. (Instead of feeling like he's skeptical, and then I don't want to do anything and risk being wrong.)

And after that, I'll post the list here and we can get started! I've been procrastinating on sending the list to him, are you surprised?

1 comment:

  1. LOVE the kiddo checklist. I'm totally doing that. Thanks for the inspiration. Morning and evening routines are the same every day around here (they're ROUTINE, for goodness's sake) and yet they are a battle every.single.day. I think this would help a lot. I have a friend who did something similar but with a clothespin system that works like a checklist -- the kids move the clothespin for a task to the other side of the list when they're done. She says it's worked great for her (her kids are slightly older).

    Re. decorating the house and battling with the significant other -- it's kind of the same around here. I have so many ideas, and do most of the decorating. However, my husband is opinionated and will chime in with vehement vetoes on totally random stuff. So I usually make myself check in with him. Usually. If it's something that I'm really passionate about and I make a case for it, he tends to be nice and let me have it my way. Usually.

    It's a great idea to make a list of everything you want to tackle. I like the idea of 1001 days. In 3 years, you can probably accomplish a whole lot of stuff!