Why I crush on brain scientists
People have been asking me, “Why chores?” Honestly, I am not particularly passionate about chores of any kind. Surprise!
What I am really a geek about is behavior change. What motivates us? What inspires us to act? What practical and proven steps can we use to hack our brains and improve our lives?
Or to get way more personal and make it all about me … what can I do to quiet my annoying friend anxiety when I feel overwhelmed or out-of-control.
That’s what I am crazy curious about. That's why I read self-help books and crush on brain and behavior scientists.
Like BJ Fogg, PhD from Stanford University. He’s the guru of tiny habits. Maybe you’ve seen his Tedx Talk. I have. Multiple times. I am not responsible for his 1+ million views but I definitely did my part.
Dr. Fogg’s research shows that small changes, or tiny habits, done consistently—and celebrated (that's my favorite part)—can lead to lasting positive change.
I tend to have big ideas. Grand schemes. But where to even begin?!? So if there’s any advice I can get behind it’s to start small.
Let’s hear a “Hooyah!” for low expectations. They’re the best.
Sure, life sometimes calls for big, bold moves. But often the most successful leaps are fueled by much smaller moves done over time. Just doing the next right thing and then, one more thing.
Moving one small rock at a time.
My own wacky science project
Dr. Fogg is just one of my academic heroes on behavior change. I think he’d approve of “The 10-Pick-Up Game Morning Edition.” It helped me create a new habit by establishing a trigger, starting small, being systematic and celebrating the small wins.
On the RYC blog, I’ll be sharing the work of other thought leaders on hacking our own brains to make things happen. My tiny mission: Translate the science into games and tricks we can use to make chores more fun and to get stuff done (and if you're me: to feel less freaked out).
Basically, I am my own science project, and I really appreciate you coming along for the ride. I’ll try not to make it a chore.
Vector art: Vecteezy.com
What’s hiding in your deep clutter?
That’s me ... throwing myself a little countertop chocolate milk party. It’s also evidence of my early need for fun and gratification—and chocolate. Always chocolate.
This was my dad’s favorite picture of me. It was lost for years, and he would tell me wistfully how much he wished he and my mom could find it.
When my siblings and I were cleaning out my parents’ home after they passed away (within months of each other), we discovered it. I thought about how happy that would have made my father—to see that grinning chocolately face. (This one's for you, Dad.)
It also makes me think of the lost memories in my home. I want to make this photo my inspiration to uncover those hidden treasures. I really regret that it was only after my parents were gone that we dove into the deep clutter. They would have loved sharing the memories with us and they could have answered our many questions.
So I am musing on what Rock Your Chores games I can come up with to go deep on clutter in 2019. I am hoping some of you will join me. (Like will you come to my house and help??!)
I can say with confidence that most of what I’ll uncover is probably more trash than treasure. That’s pretty motivating too. Less trash. More chocolate.
Sound like a plan?
Curator of The Happy Childhood Museum
Part of my personal clutter crisis is that I am holding on to artifacts from when our kids were young. Do they want these dusty relics of their upbringing? No—well, not in their own beautifully uncluttered adult homes, anyway. So I hold on. Can I finally part with soccer jerseys and science projects?
If you have let go of this type of sentimental clutter, please give me a kind word of advice, as I aim to find the true treasures in our deep clutter time capsule. The Disney movies on VHS, you ask? No way. Those are staying. This lady is a sucker for the tramp. This fox needs her hound. This beauty ... OK, enough of that.
New game! Mowing through your messes
You know that satisfying feeling you get when you create fresh neat rows of mowed grass?
You don’t have to overthink it. You just proceed—row by row—until the job is done.
I like to apply this strategy to systematically clean a messy room—to make the chore more fun. I call this game, “Mow the Lawn.” It keeps me from bouncing around and getting distracted. It also works great when you’re not sure where to even begin in places like cluttered closets and garages. (For me right now that's an oxymoron. Got some mowing to do!)
How it works
Start in one corner of the room or area. Decide which direction you’re going to mow through the mess. Proceed in rows, back and forth, until you’ve covered the entire room.
Unlike mowing the lawn, you’ll have to leave the row to put items away but just return to where you left off and keep mowing along—until the job is in the bag.
What I like about this game:
Girls can kick some grass
When I was a kid, girls did not mow the lawn at our house. It wasn’t until I was a single mom with no manpower around that I ever yanked a starter cable. Somehow I made that sound a little dirty, and this is a clean blog about cleanliness, so don’t go there, OK?! Anyhoo, I remember how rewarding it felt to get the job done.
Confession time: Now I have a handsome hubby who does the mowing. I could do it. I totally could. He knows that. But instead, I am a weirdo “mowing the lawn” in my kitchen. That’s me.
I taught this make-chores-fun game to my 5-year-old granddaughter, and we mowed her messy bedroom in a matter of minutes. She happily sang, "mowing, mowing, mowing..." as we worked away. I recommend that for upping the fun and weirdo factor!
This Rock it Wednesday comes courtesy of a dear friend. She shared an idea she uses to inspire her to exercise ... and it involves ROCKS!! On brand, baby!
From the lovely Lynne:
"I have a wooden bowl that I put a rock in every time I exercise (bicycling, fishing or walking). When I get 10 rocks, I get a treat! It's fun to see the rocks piling up!"
She sent me the picture above of her beautiful bowl of inspiration. It was handmade by her son in middle school. How sweet is that?
Please don't say that anymore
Before Lynne headed to the hills to be a bonafide mountain woman, she was my walking buddy. Over the years, we put in a lot of miles and covered many topics of great importance, from our deepest emotional scars to how we could really use a cold beer.
One of my least favorite quotes comes from Lynne. When I would complain about getting older, she was fond of saying, "Just think about it. We'll never look better than we do right now." Thanks for that, Lynne. Really helpful. I refuse to believe that, by the way. Keeping hope, delusion and low-lighting alive. And you'll always be beautiful to me, friend. xo
The Put Up or Shut Up Jar
Here’s a weekly game for folks who have a list of someday-maybe tasks. I am with you! Someday we’ll feel like it, right? Maybe we’ll have time later. Someday. Maybe.
Organize my tax records. Order vacation prints. Detail the car. Sign up for a fitness class. Research a new laptop. Donate old coats. Clean the junk drawer. Trim that tree. Start that crafty project. Fix that broken thingamajig.
Chores like these don’t necessarily have to be done, but still, we would like to do them. And it can be a real drag when we carry them with us mentally month after month. That makes it time for "The Put Up or Shut Up Jar."
How it works
Write down a few someday-maybe tasks you can think of—the ones that come easily to mind. You can always add more later as they come to you. Let’s be retro and use real paper, because scissors are involved.
To add some fun (remember that’s why I am here), throw in a few happy things you tend to put off. Maybe that’s getting a massage, seeing a movie or having a beer with an old friend. Or finding the perfect gray boots (that's mine!). Whatever you’ve been meaning to do for yourself and haven't made the time.
Cut your list into separate tasks and fold them up … like cute little fortunes. Find a jar to put them in or use a bowl or cup.
OK, now comes the put up part. You saw that coming. Draw one item out. In the next week, that’s your chore to rock. Do one of these four things:
1. Just do it.
2. Make real progress on it.
3. For a bigger project, take the first key step to get the ball rolling.
4. Delegate it or hire someone to do it.
If you do one of those four things, you PUT UP. Way to go! If you finish early in the week, keep the progress party going and draw again. Just restart the 7-day clock. (I may have just invented something there.)
If you didn’t do any of those four things, well, here’s the SHUT UP part. It’s time to let that task go. You didn’t fail—you were given a sign. You don’t want it bad enough to move on it. That’s OK. We all have limited time, energy and headspace.
One day in the future, perhaps this undone chore will get bad enough, urgent enough or appealing enough to motivate you to take action. But for now, let go of the guilt and move on with life and to things that matter more to you.
Don’t put it back in the jar. It’s dead to you.
Mamas against meanness
Writing this post made me remember this fondly ... When my kids were young, we had a mason jar that was better known as “The Shut Up, Stupid Jar.” If they ever called each other stupid or told someone to shut up, they owed the jar a quarter.
At the time, I was a single mom and my tolerance for petty meanness was low, very low. I didn’t make much bank over the years, so they weren’t stupid and knew when to shut up. At the least, they had to come up with more creative comebacks and insults.
I am Margie Reece. I am here to help you rock your chores and have some fun doing it.