It’s spring! You could be wiping dust off the baseboards and scrubbing your window screens with a special brush, but I think I have some suggestions you’ll find more relevant.
Consider a to-do-list burning
Especially if you’re graduating soon. New life, new list. If it was important, you’ll remember it again.
If I were superstitious, I would have taken it as a sign when I was at a blowdry bar last month, happily transferring items from one paper to-do list to another, when the stylist blowdrying my hair swung left and hit a glass of champagne with his elbow, knocking it all over me and my scribbly notebooks. The sign could have been indicating, “If you’re lucky enough to be at a blowdry bar that serves champagne, do you really want to be looking at a to-do list?” Or it could have been indicating, “This list is kaput!”
What actually happened was that five ladies with blowdryers came over and blowdried my to-do lists (they insisted, because there was also broken glass in there and they didn’t want anyone getting cut). I then became embarrassed that these ladies were reading my lists. Because everyone’s list has something on there like, “Oranges? September business plan dream.”
Note: If your to-do list contains an item that says, “Organize to-do list,” you should consider starting afresh. Trash the list. Start anew by listing your goals, and working backwards from there.
Identify and replace small objects that annoy you
You might enjoy totally redecorating your apartment, but that sounds expensive. You know what actually feels pretty awesome? Replacing all your scissors. (If you only have one pair of scissors, that’ll be pretty cheap.) Having a deliciously sharp pair of office scissors, and hair scissors, and kitchen shears makes me feel like I am running my life with PRECISION.
If you’ve got $40 to spend, you can replace four $10 items that were annoying the living shit out of you. The napkin holder that napkins always fall out of? (Or the fact that you don’t have a napkin holder?) The makeup brush that sheds bristles all over your face? The water bottle you take to the gym that makes the water taste all wonky? Fuck those. Or, more specifically, replace them. You can get a whole new set of dishes at Target.com for $25. Are your spices really old? Throw them out and get new ones. (“Your spices are really old” sounds like some kind of Mad Men-season-1 housewifely insult.) You deserve a new toothbrush.
Your screws are loose, m’dear
Seriously, get a screwdriver. Two, actually: a Phillips head and a flat head. And then go around your house tightening the screws on everything that has screws. For instance: drying rack, ironing board, stepladder, bookcase, desk, desk chair, coffee table, wall hooks. I’ll bet your house was totally full of wobbly shit. Tighten it right up and it’s like new.
I also am convinced that women are disserved by our cultural disinclination towards making and repairing large and sturdy physical objects. You can reclaim the womanly arts and make all kinds of jams and ironic cross-stitch samplers, sure, but there’s just something very confidence-enhancing about making something as big as you are, or that can support a human’s weight. I took a Facebook poll one day, asking, “Who’s made something physically larger than themselves?” Most men had. One woman had erected a tent.
Anyway, facility with a screwdriver is a start.
Oh, and here’s Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program. (“Women Build is Habitat for Humanity’s program for women who want to learn construction skills and build homes and communities. This program brings together women from all walks of life to address the housing crisis facing millions of women and children worldwide. No experience is necessary!”)
If you are feeling down, it may have something to do with the fact that, in the modern world, virtually all of our successes are, well … virtual. Grades, articles, promotions … all intangible. Your brain chemistry changes and your accomplishments can seem to disappear into the ether. BUILD A FUCKING HOUSE. Or at least a table. Or at least fix a table. That shit does not disappear when you are sad.
Get rid of food that isn’t good for you and that you don’t enjoy that much anyway
If you love yourself some mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, I’m not talking about that.
I’m talking about that bag of grocery-store pretzels you ate 2/5 of and didn’t even enjoy. If it’s not good for you and it’s not even delicious — and you can afford to — kill it. KILL. Keep all the food that is healthy and/or delicious. Replace what you got rid of with, say, a whole watermelon. It’ll sit on your kitchen counter until you either go on an amazing watermelon cleanse (I’m not really recommending that), or you fill that motherfucker with vodka and have a party.
Clean out your closet without feeling bad about anything
I recently discovered Twice, where you can sell major-brand clothes very easily — they just send you a postage-paid bag, and you put the clothes in there and send it back. So you don’t have to go making individual listings on eBay for each of your items, or hot-gluing some shit on there and trying to convince Etsy shoppers you’ve “upcycled.” If you’ve got designer goods, try SnobSwap. Obviously, you can just cart your things over to the thrift store.
But more importantly, there is no need to feel bad about whatever’s going on with your closet. In fact, instead of feeling bad about how much money you spent on something that didn’t work out, or how something that fit once no longer fits, flip that shit around: just throw out any clothing that makes you feel bad.
Rather than trying to evaluate every item rationally (How long has it been since I’ve worn this? Does it go with other things I own? Is it still in style?), just grab everything that pisses you off and put it in a bag. At this point in industrialized society, most of us are really not buying clothing primarily for the practical purpose of covering our bodies and protecting us from the elements. We all have enough clothes to not be naked. Since you bought all those clothes to try to feel good, get rid of all the ones that make you feel bad. Happy closet! Itemize your receipt for your taxes.
(See Bullish: A Metaphor About Shoe Shopping That Is 100% Relevant To Hard-Nosed Business Thinking for more about thinking losses productively and rationally.)
Quit doing something that no longer serves a purpose for you.
Do you find yourself regularly going out of your way for someone who doesn’t care about you in return? Attending meetings of an organization that doesn’t match up with your life mission anymore, but you keep going because if you don’t, people will wonder what happened to you? Volunteering someplace you dread going, because you’d feel bad if you quit? Doing something because it’s just what you’ve always done? Dating a jerk because you’ve been doing it so long you feel like two trees grafted together, like some sort of hideous botanical freakshow? “This is what I’ve always done” is not a good enough reason to spend your time and energy.
A lot of things have a lot more value the first time you do them than the fiftieth time you do them. For instance, I used to run a comedy show in a bar. It was pretty cool to suddenly become someone who ran a comedy show in a bar (since I had a show, other comedians were all the sudden very open to booking me for their shows). But as I started to transition away from doing standup, I lost my reason for wanting to run a comedy show in a bar. If I had been doing it for the stagetime, it would have made sense to keep doing it. But I wasn’t — when the next show rolled around, I usually hadn’t gotten around to developing new material of my own anyway. When the show ended, it didn’t just free up alternate Monday nights for me — it turns out that the show had been eating up a lot more of my mental energy than I had realized.
And as a woman who recently got married, I can tell you that I can list a half-dozen other dudes I wish I had said goodbye to months or even years earlier. Just because you’ve been doing something so long it feels like a part of you is not a good enough reason to keep doing something. In fact, that feeling of wrenching yourself away, briefly nursing your wounds, and moving on to the unknown is perhaps the most important factor I know in achieving success.
Happy spring cleaning!
Originally published on The Gloss.