Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cleaning house

One day last week I caught myself polishing a silver serving stand after I dropped the kids off at camp, rather than returning to my office upstairs. 
I was avoiding my more-than-a-page-long to-do list.

It seemed impossible to cross anything off of it completely, but if I subdivided the tasks, the list would expand to who knows how many pages. (And yes, I still keep a list on paper, in a notebook, the back page of which includes all my passwords and other private data that if I worked in a normal office would completely violate workplace security regulations.)

There was no real reason to polish the silver stand; it wasn’t like I was prepping for a dinner party. Normally it sits on the corner of the counter with fruit in it. But I had left some peaches in it too long the week before and they’d practically fermented, leaving behind a sticky mess, which just shone a light on the fact that the piece was really tarnished. (And no, you can’t remove tarnish from silver with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge, but you can almost remove Sharpie marker from white cabinets or the dining room table).

I poked around under the kitchen sink and found the silver polish, which has probably been in our family for years, even decades. I don’t own all that much silver and I couldn’t even remember the last time I used it. I probably inherited it from my mom.

I spent maybe ten minutes methodically cleaning the piece and let my mind wander. I don’t remember what I thought about, but it wasn’t my to-do list.

I found myself doing similar mindless tasks during the past week that had nothing to do with work. A few times, I asked myself why I was “wasting” time doing this when I had so many other pressing things to do.

What I realized is I just needed a mental break, to feel like I was in control of something, to feel a sense of accomplishment. Getting back to work and staying focused became easier after I’d “cleaned house.”

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...