A Clean-Out Vacation

My 6-year-old daughter is away on vacation, so I have 10 days to myself. So am I lounging around the house all day, reading, writing, daydreaming?


I am cleaning the house like a maniac.

I don’t know if all 6-year-olds are like this, but mine is like a hoarder. Every scrap of paper, every plastic fast-food toy, every empty toilet paper roll apparently has sentimental value, so throwing it away in her presence precipitates an emotional meltdown. Piles of junk accumulate, stuffed in corners and closets and dressers.

My daughter, while a pack rat, is very good at being neat about it. She manages to pack a HUGE amount of detritus into a small space. Every box, every bag, every cup or bucket I found brimmed with these questionable treasures. And yet, her room seemed tidy at first glance. The living room (which doubles as a play room) appeared spacious. (The picture below was after I had moved some things into the living room from her bedroom.) But her room has a large closet, and the living room was artfully arranged so the dollhouses blocked the view of the “storage.”

Living Room Before Vacation Cleaning

Living Room Before

Combined, it took me 9 hours to sort through and clean up those 2 rooms.

I am not an unfeeling person. I understand the urge to keep all the things. I have a bit of the pack rat in me, too. So my cleaning is not dumping willy-nilly. I do actually look at every piece of paper, and every toy (albeit quickly) and decide if my child will look for it when she comes home. Did this item mean something special to her? To me? To her dad? The items that hadn’t seen the light of day for months got pitched, the rest sorted and saved.

Thus the 9 hours.

Living Room After Vacation Cleaning

Living Room After

After 5 days of cleaning, I am now at the end. The house is about 50 pounds lighter (seriously, I took 7 bags of trash and 2 loads of recycle to the curb this week), and much neater. I don’t think the house has been this clean since we moved in. The inside of the fridge blinded me when I looked in. I can see my desk in my office. An avalanche does not swamp me when I open my daughter’s closet. The whole space seems both lighter and brighter.

I dislike cleaning, but I do love the instant gratification it gives. You clear a space, and it’s clear. You dust something, and it shines. You vacuum and the carpet doesn’t have those annoying little flecks on it. Everything is in order.

Order doesn’t happen often in this world.

I plan to spend the rest of my vacation writing. Then my young one will come barreling in the front door and chaos will rule again—and I will be glad.

Are you an everyday clean fiend or a marathon cleaner like me?




Break It Down to Avoid a Breakdown

If you read my post about all the hats we writers wear, you can see how overwhelming our tasks can be, and also see why so many authors get burnt out. With so many tasks to accomplish, how can we do it without having a mental breakdown? Simple: break it down.

Marketing is a huge task, and ideally all the many moving parts should combine into an overarching whole. But if I look at the marketing plan as a whole it seems un-doable. Mind-shattering—especially for a deep introvert like me. So I break it down.

Breaking down is not a new concept to any writer. We do this all the time when we write, particularly when we revise. Trying to fix everything in every chapter on one pass is impossible—we would inevitably miss something. So we break down the editing into multiple passes. We do one for structure, one for chronology, one for character arc, one for dialogue, one for grammar, etc. We take a huge, overwhelming task and break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Revision Chart for The Curse of the Pharaoh's Stone

Marketing is another mammoth task that can paralyze me with its sheer magnitude. So I have to break it down. I choose one or two tasks a day to accomplish. One day I might contact possible reviewers. The next I might work on my email list. The following day I might update my website. And every day I carve out a little bit of time for the big social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. (although I admit Facebook is where I spend most of my time).

When I break it down that way, it doesn’t seem as overwhelming. Also, since the marketing is the hardest (emotionally) task for me, knowing I have only one or two tasks to complete in a day makes it easier. Otherwise my well-honed procrastination skills would kick in and I’d push it off forever.

Breaking down large tasks creates a longer To-Do list, but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment because I can check tasks off the list quickly. That sense of immediate gratification is nice—especially with the marketing, where sometimes you don’t see the impact of your efforts for weeks. Plus, since I often have to grab small amounts of time to work, having smaller tasks allows me to get more done in the scattered work environment I have at the moment.

To Do List for marketing Kerry Gans' book The Witch of Zal

So that’s how I avoid having a mental breakdown over the huge tasks—I break them down and tackle the pieces one at a time.

Do you break down larger tasks into smaller ones?

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