Ready, Set, Go

Are you ready?

Ready for what?

Anything. Everything.

The Center for Disease Control recommends we be ready for anything; earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, the latest strain of the flu, a zombie apocalypse (not kidding http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm). For each of these, they have suggested steps, measures, that we should take in order to be ready. I call this a plan.

We need a plan for all things in life. Big and small. I teach this in several of the classes I deliver at work. And although the plan of which I speak is specific to that particular facet of the profession, I use real life examples to drive the point home. For example, you plan what you wear each day based on the weather and what activities you think you’ll be participating in. Am I right? When you want to go on vacation, you plan your destination, your departure date, your return date, your transportation, your lodging, your activities. Am I right? Without these plans, we’d show up at work wholly inappropriately dressed, or worse yet, undressed, which I think may be a career limiting move, unless of course you work in the adult entertainment industry. When the first day of your vacation arrives and you show up at the airport without a ticket, or at your destination without hotel or campsite reservations, you’ll probably end up with a stay-cation instead. Plan equals readiness.

So, what is your plan for today? And are you ready? If you plan to run a few errands after work, there is no great amount of preparation required for that, I suppose. But lets say a friend calls and says “I have tickets to a concert and so and so can’t go, do you want to go?”, and lets say the concert is one you’d really, really like to see. Are you ready? Just like unexpected, bad things in life that the CDC warns us to be ready for, there are many good, wonderful and unexpected things in life we should be equally ready for.

If you are lounging around the house, un-showered, clothes not laundered, bank account empty, and your friend calls with those concert tickets, are you going to miss your chance to go because you aren’t ready? That would be a shame! Would you have regrets?

Personally, I prepare for each day like I have the most amazing plans in the world. I get up when I should, I eat, I shower, I get ready like I’m going somewhere, and even if I end up working at home all day long, I feel great, I look great, I smell great and if someone calls with concert tickets, I just have to grab my purse and go. The CDC would be proud if concert preparedness were something they were worried about.

In being “ready” every day, as I am, I find I am much more likely to go out into the world after work and socialize, or do something good for me, like work out at the gym or go to a fitness class, or call a friend to go out for a glass of wine. Moral of the story, I feel terrific all day and I’m more likely to have a stupendous evening, too. All because I am ready.

Let’s take this one step further. If a friend you cherish, but hadn’t seen in a very, very long time called and said, “I’m nearby, can I stop by for a visit?”, how ready would you be. Even if you’ve taken my advice and YOU are ready, are you ready for a visitor?

I happen to know, first hand, that most American homes don’t look like the homes portrayed on most television shows. Life happens and life is messy. My mom is known for having a spotless house. And while she does do a great job house cleaning, what most don’t know is, if you say you’re going to visit, she is rushing about fussing over the house until the second she hears footsteps on the porch. While there will never likely be a dirty ring in her toilet, there will be piles of newspapers, coupons, and mail on chairs, tables and countertops. The prospect of visitors totally stresses her out because she is never ready, to her satisfaction. She begins to freak out about an announced visitor weeks before they plan to arrive, and her house is really quite clean, but for the paper clutter. She vacuums more than anyone I know! I swear she has a holster for her Windex bottle! But she is convinced she isn’t ready for visitors to the point where she will turn down spending time with me, or her grandchildren, because she is “behind” schedule preparing the house for her eventual guests. To me, this is a shame. If you insist on a spotless house, keep it spotless, to your satisfaction. Be ready. Be set. So you can go!

My house used to be far worse than that. With a cluttered lifestyle, a husband who forbid anyone from touching his piles and piles of dusty papers that accumulated for years on end, and two children literally immersed, about two feet deep, in all the “must have” toys, and me working nearly full-time and leading various youth groups with my remaining time, my house was usually a disaster the CDC would have difficulty devising a plan for. For a while, when the youth group meetings were held at our house, I had a housekeeper. This translated to me scurrying around the morning she was due to arrive, before work, dealing with mountains of toys, paper and clutter so there would be surfaces exposed which could be cleaned. This was stressful, frustrating and expensive.

My philosophy has totally changed. First, I have been on a mission to de-clutter my life. This year, with my W2, I handed my CPA a stack an inch high of Goodwill donation receipts. And I am not done. With another move in progress, I intend to discard much more. I throw away junk mail before I even enter the house. What statements I still receive in paper form (damn them!), I shred, I manage all of my accounts and payments electronically. I take publications electronically, too, and those few I don’t, I toss after reading them (though I may scan an article or recipe here and there first).

This is beneficial in another stress reducing, always ready, respect; I can find things when I need them, like my W2 and all those Goodwill receipts! The time I save by having a plan, a system, a little organization and a wee bit of discipline has been a real boost! I have more time because I’m not always searching for things, and I have way less stress because when I need something, I know exactly where it is!

And, life has become a bit simpler, by design. I have de-cluttered my schedule a bit, though I thrive on being busy, and seek to have activities outside of work daily, I do plan for that extra five minutes after my shower to clean out the tub, that two seconds every day or so to swish a brush around the toilet, that two minutes every week to wash the mirror and countertop. I set aside ten minutes every now and then to chase a vacuum around a room. I hate dusting, so rather than setting aside time to occasionally dust, I just rid my life of things that require dusting. I can run a rag over shelves and tables without anything impeding my progress, and I am done. I do my dishes immediately after I eat, rather than saving them up for when I need that pan or dish. I wipe down the stove and counters, routinely, as part of my dishwashing task. I take the garbage out every night, run the dishwasher every night, and unload it in the morning while my coffee is brewing. I probably add twenty minutes a day to my routine, but my house is ALWAYS ready for visitors. And I totally enjoy my time at home, however brief.

I try to put things away, where they belong, and my only likely slip up are shoes. For as much as I love shoes, they tend to be discarded somewhere in the house soon after arriving home. I remove them in the car, too. I love shoes. I love buying shoes. I love owning shoes, but I don’t really like to wear shoes. I’ve been making a conscious effort to take them off and put them away, so things are better, but it used to be that you could walk through my front door and see several shoes scattered about the house randomly. And my kids are the same way, so when they lived with me, we were ankle deep in shoes we weren’t wearing! Now, if shoes aren’t put away where they belong, you’ll likely find them under my desk or under a chair in my bedroom. I’ve become slightly, just slightly, more disciplined.

I once heard a theory, from my son who was taking high school physics at the time. The theory is that there is only so much mess and so much neatness, and when something that was messy is made neat, something, somewhere else is made messy. I know this was true for much of the time when I was raising my family. The clutter and mess throughout the house; shoes, papers, toys, books, mail, clothes, would all be gathered up from the common areas and shoved into the usually somewhat clutter free master bedroom. The door would be pulled shut, and company  would arrive shortly thereafter. The house looked neat, the master bedroom was a mess. How this occurs, globally, though, I don’t really know. And now that my life is neater because my kids are grown and have moved away, and there isn’t a husband in the house, I wonder who’s life I caused to become messier? Is that how the theory works, or am I missing the it? If so, whoever you are, wherever you are, with the messier house, the messier life, I’m sorry.

For me, I have found that less mess equals less stress. I enjoy my free time at home more, I am happy to have people stop by, I am always ready. I am always set. I am always good to go. Well, mostly. By focussing on always being ready, by taking small, routine measures, I find I have so much more time to pursue activities I enjoy, both at home and out and about. I am way more productive, too. When I have some project for work, or back in school, and the house was messy, one of the methods of procrastination I would employ, to avoid the project, would be to clean things up, a bit, first. Funny, though, when my house was chaos with kids and the husband and pets and all, I’d procrastinate about cleaning house by working on projects instead!

Less mess. Keep it straight. That’s all there is to it. I know I make this sound really simple, but shouldn’t it be? And if it isn’t, perhaps simplifying a bit is in order. I find the simpler life is made, the simpler life becomes. You are in charge of that, by the way, and only you. But that’s a topic for another day. As the CDC suggests, take measures now to be ready. As the Boy Scout motto goes, “be prepared.” Plan for it. Plan for anything. Plan for everything. Ready? Ready. Set? Set. Go!

 

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