Low Hanging Fruit

Do you remember talking about the Ideal Life Themes? It was the subject we spent a week overviewing just before we dove in and nearly drowned in our discussion of Mise en Place. If you need a refresher, here is the first of the articles on pursuing our ideal life.

The purpose of the Ideal Life Exercise was to macgyver the KonMari Method. Marie Kondo urges us to imagine our ideal life, but then once the actually decluttering part is done, doesn’t have a plan for helping us get closer to our ideal life. Enter MacGyverlily.

I am a person who…

The process of pursuing my ideal life began with pages and pages and pages of statements that started with the words “In my ideal life, I am a person who…” From those statements I was able to identify a certain number of general themes.

Each day, I examine one of those categories and ask myself: What is working? What isn’t working? Then, if I have any random ideas or factoids I spend a few moments considering them, and then I write down anything I need to do. This is the essence of my Ideal Life Exercise.

I start with the idea that any time, no matter how short, that I spend thinking about my Ideal Life in concrete terms; anything I do, no matter how small, is still progress towards my Ideal Life.

Low Hanging Fruit

Here is the kicker: after the initial few rounds of doing these exercises, I would find that some of the same things kept coming up.

For example, for someone who said that in her ideal life, “I am a person with a tidy kitchen,” I sure had a hard time putting my dishes away after they were washed. (This was notable because I think in one month I broke like three bowls and two plates because dishes were so precariously stacked next to the sink!!!)

With the repetition of the Ideal Life Exercise, I realized that there was low hanging fruit on the way to living my ideal life. If I could just put my dishes away when I was done washing them, this little irritation would go away.

I am ever the proponent of the “do the easy stuff first” school of thought. But it never crossed my mind that I could possibly stop breaking dishes and getting mad about the overflow next to my sink by actually putting the dishes away until, after a month or so, I mentioned my irritation about it in my Ideal Life Exercise.

So I grabbed that super-low hanging fruit and plucked it: The next time I do the dishes, I will dry them and put them away immediately.

Just doing this once made such a difference in how I felt about my kitchen. Even as I dried the dishes and hung the dishtowel over the oven handle to dry, I felt my heart swell, almost to the point of tears.

I know this seems like a tiny, tiny, tiny insignificant thing to cry over. But the fact that I was capable of making change and seeing real progress made me feel successful. Feeling successful made me want to cry, because there are times in our lives when success at anything seems far off. This was one of those times, until I dried my stupid dishes and put them away.

If it pisses me off…

I live in an apartment building with five floors and thirty four other apartments besides my own. It is a historic landmark, a building designed by a colleague of LeCorbusier. I love my building, I love my apartment.

Not all of my neighbors love the building as much as I do, as evidenced by the footprints on the walls, the trash left in the lobby, the inch of dust and dirt in elevator vestibule leading from the garage. There is a cleaning service that we all pay for who comes once a week. They do a mediocre job of washing the floors, but their interest in the building pretty much ends there.

People whine about it all the time. I, personally, have a very low tolerance for complaints. I do not like to hear them, and I very rarely complain about anything.

I do not complain, because I know that if I do, then I better be willing to do something about it. This is how, in spite of paying for a cleaning service, I have ended up in the lobby with a bucket and a sponge scrubbing the walls clean. I have washed the windows in the hallways. I have cleaned the elevator vestibule. My neighbors think I am crazy.

I tell them, “Low hanging fruit.” This doesn’t help them think I am less crazy.

Using the Ideal Life Exercise

It’s now been a few weeks since we discussed the Ideal Life Exercise. Did you do your I am a person who… statements? Did you come up with your own categories?

We are going to take some time to determine what are some low-hanging fruit in each category. The beauty of starting with the easy stuff first is that it builds momentum. When we are paralyzed by not knowing where to start, we can feel like nothing will ever make a difference. Sometimes, accomplishing one small task (drying the dishes, for example) can start us rolling.

Homework

Getting started is the hardest part, but you won’t get anywhere until you do. Ideal Lives don’t just happen. They are forged in the thousands of little thoughts, tasks and decisions we make throughout the day.

So…if you haven’t gotten started at all yet, write out your In my Ideal Life, I am a person who… statements. These are the highly personal foundational blocks that will help you make start making progress. Yes, it takes some time. Yes, it requires a tiny bit of perspective. So keep a notebook handy. When something irritates you, formulate a statement to correct it: In my Ideal Life, I am a person who knows where she put her keys. These little irritations can reveal greater truths about what you want for your life.

If you have gotten started, start perusing your statements for broader themes. Start lumping together your statements and begin articulating your vision for that part of your life. For example: in my Ideal Life, I know where I put things because everything has its own home and I put it back there when I am done with it.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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