How Can A Cactus And Clean Laundry Change Your Whole Life?


How do you feel about doing the little things in life? Don’t know about you but I absolutely, fundamentally hate to do laundry. Like any normal person, I reserve most of my hatred for reprehensible things like child slavery, sex trafficking, and Donald Trump. But if there’s still any loathsome feelings left over I apply them to my laundry. Despite my irrational hatred for it, I just did all my laundry and I feel way better. Not quite orgasmic but it’s far better than my typical Tuesday morning. Smells better, too.

Why is it so easy to forget the good feelings we gain from doing the little things in life?

Why do we ignore that little voice that reminds us what we need to do, or usually, more accurately, what we should get up and go do?

Do we resent authority so much, that even when it’s the little voice inside us, we’ll ignore it?

Maybe you don’t. But I need to listen to mine more because I usually forget how good clean laundry feels. Every week it slips from memory. For some silly reason, I have trouble keeping in mind how little things like clean laundry actually make a huge difference. Perhaps I need to get a tattoo to remind me: Do The Little Things, Jackass!

You might have heard someone say: You are your truest self when nobody is looking.

In the moments when you’re alone, when there’s nothing to gain or risk socially, when there’s no one to impress, no one to scold or shame you, that’s when you see who and how you are as plainly and obviously as the sun in the sky. There’s no denying or rationalizing how you behave when you’re alone. There’s no one around to secretly blame, no one to motivate you to do what you must. Those dishes in the sink are like some accusatory finger. If company was coming over they probably wouldn’t still be there. That would be embarrassing. Since it’s just you… you can wash the dishes later.

Yet two unspoken questions remain: Doesn’t your environment matter? Aren’t you as important as your guests?

In order to enjoy some life in my home I keep cacti and other succulent plants. They’re not my favorite plants but they can live for weeks without water. It’s hard to kill a cactus. Of course… I’ve done it. But it takes time. It’s why I don’t have a pet. I’d worry about any creature that came under my care. You don’t need to watch me slow-kill a houseplant to know maintenance isn’t my thing. All you really need to see is my attitude towards laundry and there’s no denying I suck at doing those terribly necessary things we call life maintenance. The fact I dislike laundry means I also forget about oil changes. You’ll notice it’s the same choice disguised by details. There’s an invisible connection between the two. And it’s the same for you- any one choice you make resembles all your other choices.

Buying cacti and keeping them alive helps me to remember to do my laundry, which helps me remember to change my oil, which helps me remember to buy groceries on a regular basis. Each choice ripples and makes it easier to make other smart choices. Basically, not killing a cactus means I eat better.

If you have a few things about yourself you’d like to change, behaviors you’d like to adopt, bad habits you’d like to drop, it doesn’t matter if it’s a big thing like quitting smoking, losing weight, learning to save money, or just a small thing like remembering to do your laundry, here’s a little secret that’ll help you find the ceaseless motivation necessary to change. And trust me I know because I need the reminder probably way more than you do.

The secret is: don’t focus on the thing you want to change.

With such tight tunnel vision you’re often easily overcome by negative thinking. You psychologically compound the situation whenever you obsessively fixate on what you wish to change. And then every time you fail to change or make that new choice… you beat yourself up a little more. Instead of focusing on that one negative thing, such as a bad habit, enlarge your gaze and pay attention to how you do everything.

If you want to remember to do your laundry, make sure you floss. Value your health throughout your life. If you want to quit smoking, start playing softball or kickball, or whatever the hipsters in your ‘hood play in some league. It’ll help you make healthier choices when they’re fun. If you want to want to lose weight, don’t start some crazy strict diet and say no to yourself all the time. That’s horseshit. What are you a bad puppy? Something like weight-loss can be easy and fun. Don’t eat three hours before you go to bed, eat breakfast, then throughout the rest of the day eat multiple colors of food, which becomes a fun daily challenge. I had green, yellow and orange, what should my red and blue foods be today? And go find a pool and start swimming regularly. Or if a bathing suit makes you feel awkward, pick an activity you enjoy doing that gets you up and moving. Within a week, you’ll see how much easier it is to make new food choices. Your general attitude will shift from negative obsession to positive gain. You get to focus on yes instead of no. You’ll naturally shift your priorities and make different choices.

Experts say that after making new choices for 90 days or so, you unconsciously develop new habits. In three months, you develop a new way to move through the world. 90 days… that’s a quarter of the year, a season. You can totally do three months if you’re saying yes to yourself all the time. And as you benefit from doing those little things and you keep making different choices, you get stoked with happy results like clean laundry, good feelings like maybe a trip to the beach (or pool), and you’ll start to notice the effects of your spreading confidence, making it easier for you to continue to make better choices, and those old bad behaviors/old habits, your poor choices, they fall away like dead leaves in autumn.

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image – kevin dooley