Maybe FlyLady has it right. Maybe it does all start with your kitchen sink.
My desk at home. Hosting a pile of 1099s, receipts, W-2s, and the TurboTax box from when I did my taxes. The taxes are in. Submitted. Paid. Complete. Except there’s this pile I haven’t done anything with yet.
My project list in BaseCamp. A huge April 6 event still has several unchecked boxes. The event is done. People came. Kids had a blast and made tons of art. Had the staff iteration of a post-mortem. Complete. Except that there are these few last closing bits I haven’t gotten to yet.
My front room. Bags of stuff, mostly ready to be donated. The sorting happened. The decisions were made. Cleaned out. Complete. Except we still have all those things in our house.
I am at my kitchen sink, rinsing plates and putting them in the dishwasher while my child picks out her clothes for the next day. I put the plates in, the silverware, the glasses. I make my last sweep of the table and gather up the salt, the leftover guacamole, the flattened banana peel. I put the handwash-only knives in the sink to be dealt with in the morning when we will use them again to make breakfast. I pause, remembering something I read somewhere sometime by someone I can’t remember about finishing the dishes completely. Joshua Becker maybe?
I wash the knives and put them on the drying pad. I pause, eyes resting on the gallon ziploc bag and the empty herbal tincture dropper that have been sitting beside the sink for three days. I wash them, too. And I wash the mason jar that was sitting there with water in it to loosen the stuck-on salad dressing my husband made.
I keep going, bit by bit, not committing to anything except the very next step, because otherwise it feels like too much, because otherwise I’ll rationalize it away, because otherwise I’ll feel like a failure if my daughter needs me before I’m done. Methodically, and in fact almost rhythmically, I put away the cloth napkins and the jar of honey that could’ve stayed out for breakfast. I put away the tea thermoses gathering in the corner and toss the grocery receipts piled on the edge. I put away the heavy cast iron frying pan, the two cans of coconut milk, my daughter’s ring that has been innocuously sitting on the counter ledge for at least three weeks. Not only do I do all these things and wipe down the counters, I also dry the odds and ends that are on the drying pad and put those suckers where they belong.
There is not one thing left for me to do in the kitchen. No loose ends. Nothing left dangling. No take-care-of that-in-the-mornings. Total completion.
God, it feels good. About 10 minutes have passed since the point when I would usually stop and call it done. But 10 minutes ago, it wasn’t done. Now, it’s done.
I feel myself double-clutching as I type this, because there is a certain amount of “good enough” that is so important to get right with so you can move on, so you can get to the most important things. I wonder if I’m telling a whole bunch of people who already do all the things some version of “Hey! You’re not doing all the things well enough!”
And then I think, well dang, maybe I am saying that: You’re not doing all the things well enough.
But that doesn’t mean you should do all the things better. It means if you had fewer things on your plate, you could do them all the way to done. Really done. Total completion.
This is a life work for me. I love the feeling of total completion, and yet my natural tendency is to never leave space for it. I’ve got some figuring to do on my own space-making again.
In words of Bono via my excellent friend Brent: “I preach what I need to hear.”