Thresholds and Habits

Turns out I’m an adult?

I don’t like that. It seems in appropriate, and honestly, I think it was a bad idea. At some point civilisation decided that I was responsible for killing Applebees, and having a functional awareness of the different characters in MASK and how their toys weren’t the same scale as GI Joe, which were the same scale as C.O.R.P.S toys wasn’t actually a disqualifying criteria for that full-time adulting thing. But I don’t have any spaces where I can be fourteen years old, eat fuit gummi and play videogames, so instead, I make do with trying to manage my day to day with as reasonable a facsimile of being an adult as I can.

There’s stuff I’m not good at.

I think there comes a time when you have to honestly confront that there are chores you aren’t good at, and they need doing. Like, I have it attached to shame in my head: That it’s not just that I’m bad at being an adult, but that I’m a bad person if I fail to do my share of the chores, and that this division is really open and clear. Like, chores are a big progress bar, and if I don’t hit my 50% of a day, I have messed up.

This is a source of anxiety and it sucks, and part of how it sucks is that it makes me avoid the things I’m bad at, because all I can think about it is how long time spent not doing it makes me a bad person.

In thinking about this (a lot) I have come to consider there are two basic kinds of chore that I need to do, and which ones I do a better job at: Threshold chores, and habit chores.

Threshold Chores

A threshold chore is one that you don’t have to do, until you cross a certain threshold. They’re things where you kind of have to always pay attention, or have a reason to pay attention to, the thing they’re doing. This can create lopsided problems, of course. When I was leaving the house three times a week and needed fresh shirts every time, I was really good at noticing when the laundry needed doing. In ᴛʜᴇsᴇ ᴛʀʏɪɴɢ ᴛɪᴍᴇs there’s been an obvious change in that, and that means that the laundry is largely underwear – which can sure mount up deeper, resulting in huge loads of laundry, because I’m not paying attention.

Similarly, we have three bins; one for organic waste, one for recycling, and one for everything else. That everything else bin gets emptied once a week, and we don’t use it a lot, so it can quietly fill up and only get emptied when it ‘has’ to be. But the recycling bin, that fills up reasonably quickly, with cardboard and paper bags and whatnot. This means however, that the person who empties it is the person who emptied the last thing that won’t fit – which can often make that feel exasperating.

I don’t mind that one, I think I’m pretty okay at doing the recycling.

Habit Chores

This is the stuff that you know needs to get done every unit of time. Sometimes that’s a week, a month, or even a season. Like someone out there is the kind of time wizard capable of recognising the intervals to do the shower grout, instead of responding to how it looks. There’s a lot of chores like this that I do do, that I’m reasonably happy with. For example, I need to refill the water tanks in our fridge – two things that are there to make sure we have cold water to drink the next day, and two water bottles need to be set up too. Every night, before I go to bed, I am so far, pretty good at making sure those things are filled and cold.

I think that I’m pretty good at these habit chores. I am pretty good when I can have a schedule to slot the chore into, when I know that, no matter what it is or how much of it there is, if I just do it, it’ll be done and that’s okay. This works great for tasks where there’s no mapping around it – like, cleaning the toilet, you don’t normally have a queue for the toilet.

Remember The Stuff You Manage

These are not the only types of chore, and you may notice, if you think about it, that a lot of these ways of seeing chores are just permutations of one another. You can view the laundry as something that needs doing every n days, because that’s about when it’ll need doing and I can maximise the time it spends on the line. Or I can view it as a threshold thing, where I need to do it every time it’s full and there’s sun, because rainy days can be a real problem for it. Both are valid approaches, and their problems get solved in different ways.

Similarly, there are things that are habits, technically, that I just don’t have a good time thinking of that way. I don’t scrub the shower as often as I should, because I genuinely have a hard time remembering when I do it and when I should do it (though, you know, maybe this blog post will help me change that).

Plus, it’s not like I don’t do anything. I cook every day, more or less. There are days I don’t cook, but generally I cook, and the days I don’t cook, there’s a reason for it. I also put dishes in the dishwasher, and you – look. Look, that sounds like nothing but trust me, it is amazing to me that I have managed to get over a very stupid childhood brain problem, where I understood that ‘the dishwasher’ was expensive and inefficient to run and only something we had because someone didn’t want to do the washing up properly, resulting in me doing a lot of washing up I hated doing and did a bad job of, but thought I had to do, because I thought the alternative was wasting money and water and power.

Turns out, that’s completely false. Dishwashers are more efficient than washing up. Washing up should be for things you can’t dishwash, and it should be for things like cooking implements and delicates.

And that’s a tiny victory, knowing that, and being confident in that, because I have brain worms. I’m not good at chores, and I’m not good at being an adult.

But I’m getting better, and part of how is being accountable.

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