If you could choose to be a master (or mistress) of any skill in the world, which skill would you pick?
–365 Writing Prompts
Being an adult.
Seriously. I’m 27 and I haven’t figured out how to adult. I can barely function each day doing the bare minimum of required things to keep my life from falling apart, and honestly? I often don’t make the bare minimum.
I suck at keeping my house clean, or making three meals a day. Half of this is chronic illness and lack of spoons, but the other half is just not having the skills or habits down pat that would make it easier. Instead of doing a little bit each day, I’ve been stuck in a marathon/do nothing cycle for a long time. Place gets really messy? I do a marathon cleaning session of 13 hours which then kills me and I end up sleeping it off for several days. Then I don’t keep it clean, because I haven’t actually accumulated any habits — it’s easy to say to myself “Once it’s clean I’ll keep it that way, because I’ll want it to be clean!” The second part is true, but the first part isn’t.
The mess accumulates for ages, and then I do another marathon session. Which, in itself, is a habit — a bad one.
I need to learn to do several bursts of 15 or 20 minutes of cleaning each day. You can get a lot accomplished in 20 minutes. I need to learn to take breaks. And I need to drop my obsession with perfectionism.
Only then will I have any chance of being an adult.
Luckily, I’ve found some tools to help me, thanks to friends who let me know about them. The first is Unfuck Your Habitat. UFYH gives you a bunch of tools to help form habits of cleanliness. It’s sort of similar to FlyLady, except that UFYH doesn’t make me want to punch something. (FlyLady is great for those it’s great for; I’m not one of those people. I find myself rolling my eyes at most of what she suggests, and I’ve never stuck with the plan for more than a few days.)
Instead of shining your sink as a first step, they suggest making your bed — a lot more doable, honestly, and it makes more sense. A shiny sink doesn’t motivate me to clean more in the house. A made bed does.
They recommend 20/10s or 45/15s — 20 (45) minutes of cleaning followed by a 10 (15) minute break. I do something a bit modified: 15 minutes of cleaning, followed by a very long break — but I strive to do at least 4 sessions of 15 minute cleaning sprints each day. The break has to be long, because 15 minutes puts my back into a lot of pain.
The other thing that helps me, which ties into the UFYH fundamentals I’m trying to employ, is HabitRPG. I joined this site a long time ago when it was still really buggy, and ended up giving up on it. No idea what my username was, so I created a new one. It’s not super buggy anymore and it’s really helping me get my shit together. I’m already level 3!
HabitRPG is, basically, living your life like it’s a video game (RPG = role-playing game) — you get experience and gold for completing your tasks and forming good habits. With gold, you can purchase rewards — either things they have for sale in the item store, or meatspace things for which you set the price.
Here’s a screenshot of my homepage on HabitRPG. You can see I have several habits set up — I hit the plus signs whenever I make them — several dailies, or things that must be accomplished every day, and a to-do list, the items on which don’t have a default due date (you can set due dates individually, however). You can also add checklists to each big project to break it into manageable chunks.
There are also words in blue at the top — those are tags. I tag each thing I add to my list of habits, dailies, or to-do, and then if I need to see what I need to do for just that area, I can click the tag at top and only those tasks will show up. It helps if I want to focus on one thing for a while.
You might notice I have “Eat Breakfast” and “Eat Lunch or Dinner” on there. That’s because it’s difficult for me to remember to have actual meals and I didn’t want to overdo it by forcing myself to have 3 a day. So long as I have breakfast and one other meal, whether lunch or dinner, I consider that a success.
My health bar is full because I had a perfect day yesterday and completed all my tasks. If I don’t complete all my dailies, I get health penalties.
You can take some days off if needed; there’s a tavern where you can rest for a while in case of vacation, sudden illness, etc.
Your avatar is completely customizable and later on you can unlock classes and more customizations. There are guilds and parties — I’m part of a private guild of friends from a forum I’m on, but there are tons of public ones focused on common interests and things. You can be part of as many guilds as you wish.
There are challenges and quests you can complete, and achievements. I think there are boss battles too but I’m not that far yet.
Basically, it’s just like a real RPG — one that improves your life as you play.
Now that I’m armed with UFYH and HabitRPG, I feel a bit better about mastering the skill of adulting. I feel like adulting might actually be within my grasp…in a few years. (All things in good time and/or moderation.)