The Small Things

“All the small things” ~ Blink 182

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Small (adj): not large in scale or amount, of little importance


I wrote a to-do list recently. This is not an uncommon event. I write many to-do lists. I’ve even been known to write ‘start a new to-do list’ at the bottom of a to-do list. But this one was a little different.

I’d had a great few days but, in the emotional equivalent of the laws of gravity, what mood goes up must come down. I was tired and mopish and unimpressed with the world. In my head I could draw up a list of what might make me feel better and so I did (this is not the to-do list):

  • win the lottery & quit my day job
  • write a wildly successful weekly column
  • publish a best-selling book of 100-word stories
  • go to New York on the next flight
  • lose 3 stone by next weekend

It’s not the most sensible or logical of lists. But it has a common theme in that the majority of those things are not under my control. Elements of them are but, ultimately, that’s a letter to Father Christmas list. Might as well pop that into a fire and let it smoke up the chimney. Because I can’t achieve those things on my own.

What my actual to-do list looked like was something like:

  • De-limescale the bathroom grouting
  • Put the books, boxes, and general ephemera accumulated on the floor of my flat away or get rid.
  • Tidy the top of the bookcases and chests of drawers and bedside cabinet
  • Renew my home insurance

Now that’s a damn bloody boring list. But it’s the stuff I can control, it’s the bits of my life that affect me every day, it’s my small things that grind me down and stop me, possibly, going on to book a flight to New York or write more stories.

My flat is tiny. It could be deep-cleaned in a day. Probably less than a day. But I treat it in such a piecemeal fashion that it all builds up until it is like a many tentacled sea monster beyond my control. Which it really isn’t. So if I tackle just one tentacle (room/issue/space) then I wrest it back to how I want things to be. And what makes me happy.

I may still want all of the first list but do they affect my day to day happiness? Not really.  Does looking after myself, my space, my life, affect my day to day happiness? Does this mean if I deal with the small things on a regular basis I have better scope and capacity for the big things? Why, yes. Yes, it does.

So, whilst I wrestle with my own personal sea monster, why not work out your lists, big and small. If you can decide what it is in your circumference of control I’d love to hear how you get on in a comment box-shaped postcard.



4 thoughts on “The Small Things

  1. I like the sea monster eulogy a lot. I have a list like yours, with the same first item, and other life-changers, like going on honeymoon, and things which feel very out of reach.

    We need the positive element of ticking things off, don’t we. So I like more realistic lists as well – I’m on leave this week, and like so many people, I will end up spending a couple of days catching up on laundry and housework. It’s cyclical here – it really doesn’t need to be done for weeks on end and then suddenly it is a nightmare that requires days off to sort (perhaps that’s just me!).

    So, I will start my list for this week:

    – clear the laundry
    – make the living room safe for Esme to be in while we’re out

    But there is a danger that I will do all the things I need to do, without spending the time doing things I say are important to me, so I am going to add:

    – draw/paint/make jewellery and hope that’s not too vague. This is actually a bit of a scary item, as sometimes I’m not in the mood, and that can start a negative loop about being creative (well, about the results, at least). I’m hoping to build on my 30 Days of Creativity – I did 28 things in 30 days, so I know I can.
    – sort my art/craft supplies – this is a great one to have because I can hopefully re-connect with long-forgotten goodies, give some of said goodies to the charity shop, and clear my work-space (ta-dah).

    As I’m typing I am suddenly aware that the list which includes the laundry is actually the one I find more exciting (yes, I just said my list was exciting). We are funny creatures.

  2. I love your writing. Is is so sparse yet so fulfilling. And thank you for making me feel so much better about my lack of cleaning prowess. I simply don’t care enough about it 😀

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