Breaking It Down

Golden Rule #24: Make the Minutes Count. There’s Always Something You Can Move Forward.

You’ve probably heard the adage, if you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it. It’s more true than you know. And there’s this, which is so true it’s not just a saying, it’s one of Newton’s Laws: a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

A big job that seems overwhelming can be broken down into many manageable steps. For instance, I’ve been groaning and sighing over the state of my disorganized garage for longer than I can remember. I’d tackle it, make some headway, and then it would drift back in again. It was frustrating, overwhelming, and always there.

This summer, when my schedule turned into a weird blend of quiet weeks alone followed by less-than-predictable days of various family members coming home, I realized I had some say in things. Yes, it was still summer in Florida, and too miserably hot and humid to spend time cleaning out the garage. But if I brought the garage into, say, the dining room, a few boxes at a time, nobody was going to be disturbed. Except me, of course.

It started with nine Rubbermaid tubs. Some had Christmas decorations in them. Some had mystery contents. Nine was a manageable number, stacked against the wall. I could go through three or so in the evening after walking Copper. I set up a work station: the table cleared and ready to accept box contents for sorting. A large trash bag under the table, easily accessed. Empty boxes for items to be donated or sold. And a box for kept items to be organized and labeled for future access. I kept a file box of blank index cards handy for labeling and referencing box contents.

I apologized to the dining room almost nightly, as the piles continued to grow. Bags of trash went outside to the trash can. Boxes were loaded into the garage for yard sales and donations.

The progress, at first, was almost imperceptible. I couldn’t imagine ever getting through the load of stuff lingering in the garage. But little by little, evening by evening, weekend by weekend, it began to happen. At one point I had thirty empty Rubbermaid tubs in the dining room. Yes. Thirty. It was stunning. The decisions began to come more easily. I could lift something up and know almost instantly whether I would keep it, toss it, or recycle it. Turns out I had a lot of stuff that, while still useful, had served its purpose in my life and was ready for a new life with someone else. I could keep the memories without having to keep the stuff. That right there was life-changing!

Three garage sales. Yes. Three. In a single summer. (That’s it’s own post right there.) A plan for reorganizing the garage that, while it’s waiting for cooler weather, is going to happen before the end of the year. And so this massive project, which still would have been waiting to be tackled, is well in hand, thanks to a determination to move things forward even in small increments. It didn’t get the way it was overnight. It wasn’t going to get organized overnight. But it will happen.

How did Copper teach me about this particular life lesson? He knows all about making minutes count. When the prospect of doing 20 minutes of homework every day seemed overwhelming, he could break it down into five-minute increments of having fun together. It was a delight to see his mind challenged and his eyes focused on whatever we were tackling together. And after five minutes, if he was losing interest, it was time to stop anyway, and start again with something else a little while later. It worked beautifully. Over the course of many months, those five-minute increments were resulting in a better trained dog (and handler) than I had ever imagined. Years’ worth of work were managed five minutes at a time.

copper sleeping with canada goose

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