I always wondered how I’d make it into adulthood. When I was on the edge 18, I thought it would be easy. It didn’t seem that hard to cook for yourself, do your own laundry, go to school or work, and enjoy the rest of your free time. But nobody ever told me about what happens in the background.
No one tells you that actually you have to grocery shop before you can cook, and that you have to meal plan before you can grocery shop effectively, and budget plan before you meal plan, which depends of course on having a job before you meal plan. Before that you need a resume, and you’ll need skills to go on that resume, and let me tell you that if you think that’s easy, well, try waking up six months, or a year, or three years later and realizing that you missed the boat because the very first thing you have to do before you do all that is figure out who you are, where you are going, and how you’re going to get there (gee that sounds like an accomplishable goal for this Saturday afternoon). And you have to do it every single moment of every day or else you are in danger of feeling like you missed the boat.
You eventually miss it when you move out: the way you know your mom will always have ingredients on hand for that one favorite dish, or your household was never out of soap or shampoo. The way you could count on the garbage magically disappearing like clockwork. Well, you get there through the very unsexy practices of routine-ing. This includes repetition, the law of averages, standard rules, and preparation. Yes, all that jazz.
But don’t despair because before that you will have the wonderful years between about 18 and 25 where you will forget to eat your vegetables, realize you throw out hundreds of dollars in wilted veggies and rotten fruit each year, decide you don’t need to sleep so you can pass university, decide that university is not more important than getting blitzed with your friends, and altogether ruin a couple great relationships, start a few that never should have begun, fail a few classes and become humbled, give up, start over, and give up again. You will acquaint yourself to the fact that you feel like an overwhelmed failure a good percentage of the time.
But if you’re smart, you’ll also spend your free time when you are not *grocery shopping, washing the sheets, studying, and working out* reading a few blogs, books, and watching some movies that will eventually educate you into knowing what you want out of life. Because you’re parents were right, and education is the foundation of a well lived life.
Getting from that sloppy mess of a life to a well tuned machine starts to get more important as you reach your twenties, simply because you stop having time for inefficient, boring chores. In addition to that, it’s no longer cute and relatable when your bf/gf has to tiptoe through your horizontal version of organization because, well, they might be peering at hitting 30 years. And a sloppy 30 is not cute.
HOW TO HANDLE THE BASICS SO THAT YOU CAN LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE
First, prioritize. I don’t care who you are, your number one priority is self care. This includes eating, sleeping, water, and exercise. No matter what. Your secondary priorities include your school or job and your family and friend relationships and the extracurricular activities that allow you to pursue your passions.
Secondly, figure out your averages. On average, you may decide you likely need to wash your bed sheets once a week. Vacuum once a week. Wash your clothes twice a week. Need a fresh fruit and veg run twice a week, but a dry goods pantry stock up only once a week.
Thirdly, decide when, where, and what you need to make these things happen. If you have to start your healthy eating plan by eating nothing but your favorite cereal and the one type of fruit you can stomach for a month straight before you can handle the idea of more creative edibles, then do it. You will get there eventually. But you make a manageable plan and start. You will get tired of bran flakes and strawberries and start rotating in bananas, mangos, passionfruit, endives, acorn squash, and more. But start with the quick, easy, and stomachable.
Fourthly, figure out how to multitask. For example, laundry is really only a pseudo-chore. It takes five minutes to start a load in the machine, and forty minutes later you need another five minutes to move it to the dryer for another forty. That’s 80 free minutes where you can do laundry and meal prep, or clean the bathroom, or vacuum. Feel free to put on a face mask and while you’re doing laundry and vacuuming you’ll also be getting a deep pore cleansing.
Finally, stop fighting against yourself. You’re you. Whatever that is. Embrace it. One day you’ll be something else, but it is a much smoother ride if you love yourself along the way instead of hate yourself until you finally manage to do the ideal thing. (Seriously, can we all take a page from Miley Cyrus here — you definitely WILL change). If you don’t fold clothes, ever, then you don’t ever fold clothes. Buy yourself a nice second hand dresser with big bucket drawers and throw that fresh laundry directly in the drawer. Close it firmly and no one will ever know you forwent the folding.
I am in absolute awe of my parents, and fully functional adult human beings everywhere. They get ALOT done. And you will too one day. So for the perfectionists, idealists, and neat freaks everywhere, let me just say (and please believe me) take a load off. Dedicating a full day to cleaning up is not going to suddenly solve your overwhelm. Thinking and reflecting on certain silos of information carefully overtime, and considering different alternatives to useful organizational systems will, over time (like 1-4 years) eventually get you to where you want to be. If for no other reasons than someone pointed out how wrinkled your shirt was before a job interview or your new bf commented on those pinks rings starting to creep up the sides of your tub and toilet. You will get there. I promise.