Hi, all. What an awful week. From the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the targeting of trans kids in Texas and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida — all in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic — the world feels so overwhelming right now. Our family is emerging from our second bout of COVID in six weeks and this one packed a real punch. It’s a lot on top of a lot.
Today felt like a good time to share the simple strategy I use for managing a mess. I wrote this thinking about actual, physical messes, as in the cacophony of toys my kids leave scattered around the house. But I think this approach could apply to other parts of life, too. More below.
Also, in these very trying and uncertain times, a gentle reminder that a quick gesture of kindness goes a very long way. A number of friends sent us things while we were sick (thank you from the bottom of my heart, you lovely humans!). They didn’t ask, they just sent...and it meant so much. I am working to pay it forward. Small and thoughtful reminders — like a quick text to say hello (no response needed, obvs) or a weeknight meal — can make a big difference.
How are you coping with <gestures wildly> life at the moment? Please hit “Join the discussion” at the bottom of this email and share in the comments. I would love for us to help one another and those in need.
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What is your tolerance for mess? To be very honest, mine is maddeningly low. While I am learning to embrace some of the chaos that comes with children — see: my failed Lego organization attempts — on the whole, I find messes triggering. Any sense of inner calm or ability to think clearly evaporates when our house is torn apart. My face resembles that spiral-eye emoji (you know the one!).
Our house has seen more than the usual amount of mess these last two weeks while we have been dealing with COVID. Four of the five of us were sick and yet only the grown-ups seemed to slow down. Trapped in the house, my three small children played with every toy we own at least three times. The result? Messes on top of messes. Life’s chores (I’m looking at you, laundry and dishes) piled up, too.
I turned, as I often do, to the advice of my former Wall Street Journal colleague and dear friend, Ellen Byron. She is the author of *so many* incredible how-to-do-life-smarter pieces, on how much laundry detergent to use or the right way to load a dishwasher. Years ago, when our oldest son hit toddlerhood, Ellen told me that the best way to tackle a massive kid mess was to start in one corner of a room and back yourself out, cleaning as you go.
It reminded me of that old adage: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. But Ellen’s advice has an important twist, essentially changing your view of that elephant. Do not stand and survey a messy room! It’s too much. Instead, walk to one corner and focus on one task at a time. Work your way out, appreciating your progress as you go. HUZZAH.
Try it with your kitchen dishes, your closet, even your car. And use it on your kids! If I ask my littles to clean up an entire space, like the family room, they often groan and protest. But if I assign each of them a sliver of the task (“You tackle that pile of Magna-tiles!”) it seems much more doable.
Given all that’s happening in the news right now, I wonder if this approach could apply elsewhere? Zero in on one thing you can do to help, like signing a petition or finding a local on-the-ground organization in need of donations. Give what you can and/or amplify the group on social media. Then find a way to share your thoughts with your representatives. And, when the time comes, VOTE.
Get started with small steps.
What advice do you have for tackling an overwhelming problem? Please hit “Join the discussion” at the bottom of this email and share in the comments of this newsletter.
PS I’m working on how I think about mess as it relates to motherhood. If you are, too, check out Dr. Becky Kennedy’s lessons on this. I repeat her mantra often: “My house is a mess. I am not a mess.”
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Five Things To Check Out This Week
READ / President Biden announced Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court this morning. If confirmed, she would be the first Black woman to sit on the nation’s highest court, as well as the first public defender. “Jackson has shown a deep interest in trying to ensure fair processes for often unpopular clients,” writes Irin Camron. (New York Magazine)
READ / Robin Givhan has an extraordinarily powerful piece on Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and her reaction following the verdict that the three men who murdered her son were guilty of hate crimes: “She was the unabashedly determined, stubborn and angry Black woman. Cooper-Jones epitomized all that is beautiful and wondrous in that phrase. Despite the effort society has expended trying to transform that trope into something ugly and hateful, there is no greater salvation than to rest under the protective wing of someone who loves you fiercely and relentlessly, who is enraged by your pain and who will fight your battles when you no longer can.” (The Washington Post)
READ / No words for what Texas Governor Greg Abbott is doing to trans youth in Texas — only rage. Harper’s Bazaar has an explainer of this vile politicking, as well as a list of resources on how to help. (Harper’s Bazaar)
LISTEN / I really appreciated the very frank conversation Doree Shafrir and Kate Spencer had with Heather Havrilesky (of Ask Polly fame!) on their latest episode. As Kate says at the end, Heather gives of the best “big sister” vibes. Come for her reflections on how her latest book was treated by the New York Times, stay for her comments on the power of a great photo. (Forever35, Heather’s latest book / Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage)
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Hang in there, friends. Wishing you a restful weekend. I’ll see you back in your inboxes on Tuesday.
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