Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year, Old Goals, Better Strategy

At the beginning of 2012, I chose this quote to be my guiding point of the year:

"A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest...wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image." -- Joan Didion.

It is clear to me now that I had no idea how exhausting Ms. Didion, her quote, and this house were going to be.

Two years later, I still have many of the same things on my to-do list. While I got my kitchen cabinets refinished and the walls painted that year:

And I managed to launch an extensive exterior paint job in 2013: 

Other items on the list have languished, like my bathroom facelift from 2013: 

My bedroom is still a construction zone, my upstairs bathroom also needs some help, and well, I've got more painting and gardening projects to do. 

But one thing I learned from my exterior paint project is this: 

Big projects, viewed as one big task, tend to overwhelm me. Even breaking them down into a long list of smaller tasks, while perhaps necessary for long-range planning and budgeting, aren't a good way for me to tackle goals. 

I could be a goal weenie. Or scatterbrained. Or tired. All of these are true, I reckon. Add in family responsibilities and the desire to occasionally spend a Sunday afternoon on the sofa, and it's clear that it's not a way to get a lot done or feel good about it. I need a different psychological strategy.

One thing I said in this post, a review of the house painting season, I really liked. 

"Progress is progress." Considering the craziness of my life right now, I like the concept that implies--that even incremental bits and pieces, individually, make a difference, and taken together over the long term, add up. 

I'm still going to choose three areas, by way of prioritizing all these incremental bits of progress. 

1. Season two of house painting: 

2. Continue short-term improvements in the main floor bathroom: 

3. Pick up where I left off in my bedroom:

I can always add smaller projects in around the edges, or pick up another theme if one of these becomes fully realized. But for now I'm just going to concentrate on one small improvement after the other, and try to ignore that larger, scarier-looking picture for the time being. Progress is progress. It's a new year, let's go make some!


  1. Well, I love the Didion quotation. I think there is a lot of truth in it. And, now that I'm sitting here thinking, I don't think that your guiding words are in contradiction with yours. You can love your home radically through many small steps over time.

    Small steps over time seems to be the only way we can do anything. And it means that lots of things stay unfinished for lots of time. I prepped the doors and door frames for paint in a small hallway outside our family room back in October. Still waiting...

    We finally painted the trim on 3 windows in our living room over our winter break. We've been meaning to do that for at least 1.5 years. The actual painting probably only took 2 hours. But, truly, we did not have that two hours earlier. We used all of our hours on other things that were more important.

    I love "progress is progress." Wish everyone could see and believe that.

    1. I still love the Didion quote. But I think in my mind I was originally picturing a Rosy the Riveter type icon (Helga the Homeowner??) who came swooping in with a crow bar and a gung-ho attitude, and things happened quickly. I somewhat suspect the HGTV effect, where TV shows present the notion that miraculous changes can happen in half an hour. And the 'progress is progress?" I'll keep telling myself that until I believe it. ;)

  2. I love the Didion quote, but yeah...I hear ya. Progress IS progress, even if it's one little thing. It all adds up over time. I suspect we all suffer from the HGTV effect, which is why I've largely stopped watching it, except for Nicole Curtis's show.