How Do I Adult?

I never learned how to adult and it’s really hard to form the habits now.

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.

Screen shot 2014-01-22 at 3.19.01 PMThere 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.)

Every day, in every way…

Often I need to hit a point that’s just below overwhelm to actually accomplish things; if I have too little to do, I procrastinate, and if I have too much, I escape from the stress by doing anything except what I’m supposed to.

I feel as if I’m simultaneously taking on too much and not enough at the same time. It’s an odd sensation.

On the one hand, I’ve been incredibly productive since the year began. On the other, I’ve noticed my tendency to get distracted is in full swing. Often I need to hit a point that’s just below overwhelm to actually accomplish things; if I have too little to do, I procrastinate, and if I have too much, I escape from the stress by doing anything except what I’m supposed to.

I cleared up some necessary things in the first few days of the year, striking them off my to-do list. Right now I’m looking at trying to finish cleaning my house so I can go visit my mom in Powell River. Yes, it needs to be spotless before I leave. Is it? Not remotely.

I worked as hard as I could yesterday doing this, as well as several other necessary things. (For example, writing every day — while a pleasure for me — is a necessary item. I view it as something I may not skip out on. Thus, I sat down to start a story and maybe write 750 words yesterday, and ended up penning just over 3,000. This morning I finished the story with another 1,144. It’s fantastic that I’m going so far over my word count goal, putting me far ahead of my current YTD goal for both Get Your Words Out and Inking It Out, but I need to reel it in a bit — if I expend too much of my momentum in one day, I often think to myself I can skip the next day. The point is to build up a steady habit of writing, not continue in the cycle of boom and bust.)

I think I’m just way too tired, physically, today. When I woke up this morning I could barely make it to the kitchen to get the coffee I so obviously needed. And my body did that thing it likes to do, again, where I went to bed at 10 pm so it woke me up at 3am for no particular reason. Luckily I was able to fall asleep again, but I slept in — instead of waking up at 5:30, I woke up at 6:45.

So I’m working on cleaning as fast as I can, but trying not to overtax myself. I’m having a big breakfast and moving as my back allows. I still have hopes of leaving by noon, which will put me at my mom’s place sometime in the early evening, depending on the ferry.

Here’s to continuing productivity, even if I would have rather stayed in bed a bit longer. Every day in every way, I chip away at my undisciplined self, reaching the productive adult I know lies somewhere within. Deep, deep within.

Attack of the Zombie Bugs

Don’t set fire to your apartment, even if it is infested with gross nasty disgusting bugs that are eating all your food and not paying rent.

I spent a good part of this weekend battling a bug infestation. It was, for lack of a better word, abso-frakking-lutely disgusting.

They’re apparently called Indian meal moths (I’m not sure if they’re from India or if Indian is supposed to be short for American Indian), and they come into your house via hippy food. Which I tend to eat a lot of. Apparently, so do they. They lay their eggs in grain-foods, and then disgusting larvae crawl out and nest in the corners of your house before eventually evolving to their final form, the fearless mini-moth.

They are pernicious and voracious.

I had to throw out most of my food. They were in the cupboards, the big pantry. Everywhere. I even found some in the bathroom. That didn’t make sense until I realized they were also in the pantry, which is right next to the bathroom. (I think the pantry is supposed to be a linen closet, but I had more food than linens, so.)

These bugs are the same bugs that infested my mom’s house a few weeks back. Actually, probably a lot longer than a few weeks back, but ‘a few weeks back’ is when I cleaned out the infestation. Apparently they traveled from her place to mine, via the Box-of-Food Car on the Volvo Train.

As soon as I realized what was going on, I looked into buying  a flamethrower. Turns out flamethrowers are a lot harder to get than the movies would have you believe, so I searched out other options. Also, I don’t think mom would appreciate coming home from Nicaragua to find the apartment building had burned to the ground in a “mysterious blaze”.

It soon became apparent that my only option was to clean. By hand. Like a Muggle.

And to find some way of killing the bugs that didn’t involve me actually touching them until they were good and dead. I was raised a Buddhist and I try to have respect for all living things, but there are limits to my compassion. Besides, it’s not like these guys are endangered. BELIEVE ME. There were a million+ in my apartment.

I spent hours cleaning out cupboard and pantry. I went through every piece of food, saving what was bug-free and throwing out what was not. These bugs are so horrible that I couldn’t even risk keeping a lot of stuff that looked like it might have been infestation-free — I had to get rid of it.

I ended up throwing out some of my tea. That was heartbreaking.

Once the pantry was empty, I searched for a way to slaughter the bugs in glorious conquest! I wanted to make a million widows in one day.

But, you know, I’m not a rich person. So I searched within myself my house for what I might already have that could murder insects. I found an innocuous-looking clear liquid that smells quite strongly. Vinegar. Wonderful vinegar, amazing vinegar — will your gifts upon mortals know no limits? You kill plants. You burn retinas. You must be like acid to insect bodies.

Vinegar in a spray bottle is possibly the greatest innovation to the lazy housekeeper. It cleans everyonething! Spray, wipe, done.

A mixture of vinegar and some water in a spray bottle will fix most cleaning woes in your house. Everything else can be solved with baking soda and Magic Erasers. Or fire. I never like ruling that one out completely.

I got to work spraying the bugs with my vinegar-water mix. On Sunday I sprayed so much vinegar into the now-empty pantry that I could barely breathe. I sneezed more times that day than my mom does in a day, and that’s a pretty amazing feat. When the vinegar hit the bugs they writhed and fell from their headlong flight out of hell. The larvae didn’t fall off the walls, but they writhed just the same. I thought my work was done.

On Monday I woke up early enough to get work done before I would have to start Thanksgiving dinner for Nate and myself. I had some coffee and sat down to work for several hours. At some point I decided to check and see if the bugs were still dead.

They weren’t.

Somehow they’d Lazarused their way back to the world of the living. I sprayed them again with vinegar, and this time they writhed and then shook it off like godsdamn zombies.

I now had zombie bugs in my apartment, and they were getting smarter.

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