What Parts of Adulting Are You Failing At?


And what organizational hacks have you figured out, that we can steal?

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

The other week we came home after dark with the kids, and the power was out at our house. We assumed we were having a neighborhood power outage, till we realized everyone else’s lights were fine. So after some fussing around with the breaker box, we called an electrician. His examination took all of two minutes, after which he announced that everything was fineour power had just been shut off.

So This Is Mortifying…

If we’d been struggling financially and unable to pay our bill, I would not be embarrassed to share this story. But that wasn’t the case. The mortifying truth is that we’d signed up for a fixed rate plan, and our energy usage had outstripped what we were paying, and we’d missed the letter (letters? I literally have no idea) with the bill. So they shut off our power, for being total failures at adulthood for overdue payment.

If this had happened when I was a kid, when my family lived under some serious financial stressors, it would have been a bad scene. There would have been crying and tons of stress figuring out how to pay the bills. Because having our power shut off wasn’t cheap. Not only did we have to pay the electrician’s fee and the back payment, but the energy company made us put down a deposit in case we screwed up again. But we’re really lucky these days. Not only are we able to pay those bills, we’re the family and friends who are able to help other people pay those kinds of bills when they’re in a tough spot. So in the end, the kids had a fun candlelight night, and we only had to deal with our total mortification in the morning.

Perfect Adults and Disaster Adults

When I was a kid, I thought there were two kinds of adults. There were people who were the disasters (my childhood home was often two steps away from chaos), and the Girl Scout Troop Leaders (in my case, both literally and figuratively)—who had perfectly organized homes and much-lower-stress families. These Perfect Moms seemed to impart all of their Perfection Skills to their kids, setting them up for a lifetime of meal planning binders and organized closets. But I grew up in an impoverished city, which means that many of my friends were living in homes that were closer to organizational and emotional disasters. And without anyone to teach us the skills of closet organization, I figured we might just be doomed to chaos in our home lives. I thought you grew up and were one kind of adult or the other and that you could never change things.

But it turns out, that’s not true. At least, it’s not true for me.

Are Adults Just People Learning?

I’ve been married for eight years now and cohabitating with my partner for ten. When we moved in together we were in our mid-twenties in a tiny apartment, and there was a lot less to manage. These days we have a much bigger house, two chaos-sowing children, and a lot more paperwork and responsibilities to manage.

And what I’m slowly figuring out is that it’s all learning… forever.

As for our energy outage adventure, here is what went wrong: in the hustle and bustle of having two kids and two careers, and our over reliance on electronic communication, we’d been letting our mail build up in a stack on our “junk table,” and we’d missed something actually important. So, we got the message, and have since gotten our shit together. I cleared off the junk table, hung a board where we could hang up important things, and came up with a basic filing system for mail.

I have (I think) finally managed to figure out a system where the mail gets dealt with in a timely way, and our electricity doesn’t end up accidentally turned off (or a five dollar library fine doesn’t end up sent to collections). But I’m still pretty far away from Girl Scout Troop Leader levels of organizational skill. Just to run through a short list of our flaws, we have closets that are disasters, no real way of managing the family calendar, and we’re not sorting out our compost—which seems mortifyingly embarrassing in the Bay Area. But we’re working on it, and we’re better than we were last year, and way better than we were three years ago. Heck, by the time our kids are in high school, maybe we’ll have achieved color-coded pantry levels of efficiency, and they’ll never know any different.

Maybe Imperfection is Okay

Nearly ten years into marriage, I feel like I’m still figuring out adulting, day by day, and mortifying mistake by mortifying mistake.

And I’ve decided I’m okay with this. We recently visited a friend’s house that was run with all of the exacting efficiency I can only dream of, and it also wasn’t very… fun. It turns out you can spend all your free time organizing your closets—but you might not want to. So I’ve decided that I’m okay with our mix of spontaneity, organization, and mild disasters… as long as the lights don’t get turned off again. Because that? Nah.

So how about you? What parts of adulthood are you failing at? Any mortifying stories of power outages/other unwarranted disasters? What organization systems are working for you, and what are your best tips we can steal? Which of you are already at the Girl Scout Troop Leader level?

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • penguin

    I’d love to hear your organizational tips for mail! Mail is the bane of our existence – we get so much junk mail, so we throw everything in a pile, then just dig through it when we’re looking for something specific or when something goes horribly wrong. Things we’ve missed this way:

    -I ordered checks and have no idea if they ever arrived (now I’m questioning if the order even went through? Going to look into that…)
    -We received a refund check for something, and didn’t see it for so long that it expired (this was…6 months). Thankfully it was for like $12, but still.
    -I’ve had multiple credit cards that were mailed to me, and I didn’t find and activate them within a certain window, so then they assumed it was lost and sent me a new one. These were new issues of existing cards (like when they added the chip, or changed the expiration), and this happened more than once.

    • Violet

      So, this advice is gonna depend on your willingness to put in a little effort, but… I call to get off of mailing lists. I say “Oh, I’m just trying to go green,” which is sorta true but also not the real reason. This takes some ongoing effort, because some companies will add you back on if you make an online purchase from them. They’re evil.
      I also opted out of ALL pre-approved credit card offers (I think the op-out is good for ten years; so I’ll have to do it again periodically) which cuts down on those. Everything else I take the sec to manage my preferences to get e-delivery of notifications.
      Ultimately, I don’t get a lot of mail. Since my partner doesn’t feel like calling, most of the mail that comes through is his, and it’s mostly junk. Most off the (minimal) mail addressed to me is “real.”

      • jem

        Omg how do you opt out of pre-approved credit card offers?!?!

        • Violet
          • jem

            Thank you!!!!!!

          • penguin

            Legendary, thanks so much! We get a TON of this kind of crap, and I never knew how to opt out of it.

          • Violet

            You’re welcome! I started doing it when I realized these pre-approved offers could be snatched out of your mail and then used to open a card without your knowledge. It’s good for identity theft protection to opt out.

          • Ashlah

            You’re my hero!

          • MDBethann

            Thank you!!

      • Gaby

        Thank you so much for this! My husband has settlement money and the amount of mail we get for that is astounding. Being able tor reduce credit card offers will make a nice dent in our unwanted mail.

      • penguin

        Yep I ordered stamps online from USPS one time, and now we get a stamp magazine. I didn’t want to get mail, I wanted to send it!

        • Lisa

          Have you tried PaperKarma? I was using the app for a while and petered out after the initial few months. I did notice a dramatic drop in catalogue and other random mail things. (Anthropologie no longer comes to my house to tempt me.) However, it did not seem to work for credit card offers so I’m glad for @Violet8315:disqus’s link!

          • Lisa

            RTA: Comment updated to fix the name of the app!

          • penguin

            I hadn’t heard of it, I’m going to try it though!!

    • Ashlah

      For me first and foremost is really just to make sure I go through it as soon as we bring it inside. I separate it into junk to recycle, junk to shred, and things I actually need to open. The junk is tossed immediately, the important stuff opened, and then decisions can be made re: sorting. Most of that also ends up getting shredded, but after that is where I also end up with a pile on the counter. The upside, though, is that you’re not completely missing anything important because you’ve already looked at it.

      I’ve also always just been someone who loves checking and opening the mail, so the idea of throwing unopened mail into a pile and forgetting about it is really foreign to me! So I don’t know how easily applicable my advice is to someone whose natural state is to ignore the mail :)

      • sage

        This is how I operate as well. Look at it right away and make as many decisions on the important stuff as possible in the moment. Every weekend (assuming I am not traveling), I return to the small pile and just force myself to handle everything I hadn’t taken care of yet. Tackling it as it comes in makes everything much more manageable over the long term.

    • CMT

      I’m so bad at this, too. I recently changed health insurance plans and now have an HSA. And they were sending me checks that I didn’t notice until a couple months later . . . Oops. For the most part, I think I just really need to deal with mail as soon as it comes in. When I set it down it just doesn’t get picked back up again until much later.

      • InTheBurbs

        If you can – see if the HSA has a direct deposit option – that was helpful for me in dealing with the checks…

    • Margret

      Not super fun or pinterest-worthy, but our system is to just deal with it right away. It never gets set in a pile on the table–that is a recipe for disaster in my house! Obvious junk gets thrown out without even opening, bills get opened and set next to the computer for input into YNAB, etc. It takes less than a minute to do this most days and it’s easy to implement.

    • AtHomeInWA

      The dude is responsible for collecting the mail. The first thing he does is walks to the recycling bin and dumps everything we know is junk. It never even makes it into the house.

      Does stuff still end up piled on the table? Yes. Do I worry that he might toss something important of mine? Sorta, which is why I give him a heads up if I know something is coming. But, the pile of stuff is at least stuff worth looking at.

      • Eve

        I do this too. We’re in a rental and in addition to the junk mail get a lot of mail for (I assume) the owners of the house, so I keep a pen in the mailbox to write “return to sender” on things without having to do the work of taking the stuff inside, writing on it, and taking it back out.

        • Ashlah

          Pen in the mailbox is a great idea! We still get a lot of mail for one of the previous owners of our house. They’re friends of ours, and I know she slacked on updating some of her addresses. I’ve actually taken to contacting some of the places sending mail for her and telling them they don’t live there. If they’ll accept it from me, I’ll provide their new address, otherwise it at least gets them to stop her sending mail to us.

          • Ilora

            I keep a mini pen on my keychain and use it for the same purpose!

    • Abby

      I second Violet’s advice to opt out of credit card offers– cut way down on the volume of mail.

      Until that goes through/you get around to that, though, I try to go through my mail over the recycle bin (or shredder) as soon as I walk in the door. 90% of the mail I get is junk, and it’s SO satisfying to take a 2-second look and throw it out immediately. When I do find something useful, I try to deal with it immediately- deposit checks via my bank’s mobile app (LOVE this feature), activate cards, etc. Not always perfect but I try to remind myself that 5 focused minutes right now will save me hours of feeling guilty over the growing stack of mail later.

      • Colleen

        The paper shredder is a life changer. We open mail as soon as it comes in the door and junk gets immediately shredded. There’s usually still a pile of mail on the corner of the table but we know it’s stuff that’s actually important and/or needs our attention. And it’s small… not a Leaning Tower of Mail!

        • Lisa

          +1000 for the paper shredder. We bought one with our BB&B gift cards from the wedding, and that thing is a champ. We usually have a stack of junk mail and receipts to get shredded on the corner of it and grind everything up every week or two.

          • SLG

            Yep. Our paper shredder lives right by our dining room table, because I’d rather have a random paper shredder around than have junk mail pile up.

      • lamarsh

        Yes to all of this. Sorting it into garbage or need to keep immediately is KEY.

      • Jess

        I have to do everything immediately also, otherwise it isn’t going to happen.

      • NolaJael

        I read some kind of organizational advice that said that junk mail should never enter your house. You should throw it away before you walk in the door. I try to live by that because junk mail is evil.

    • BSM

      We are SO BAD at this, especially lately as our house has been a complete disaster with the reno. Hoping to do some of the work @Violet8315:disqus recommended and get back into our sorting/shredding routine, which is similar to what @disqus_SU83Haapqj:disqus described, now that things are wrapping up…

      • Abby

        Interesting. Our reno making the apartment a disaster zone has actually made us so much better about this, because we got rid of the holder we used to use for “deal with it later” mail which forces us to deal with it immediately.

        • BSM

          I think our issues stemmed from the fact that we had to put our shredder in storage (in the garage) for the duration, since we were living exclusively in our living room for 3 months 😭 😭 😭

    • NolaJael

      OMG, ask me how many times I’ve re-ordered debit cards because I can NEVER get the card and pin that they send separately together before they assume I’ve lost them and the company cancels them. FAIL.

    • ART

      I try to check the mail on my way to the recycling bin outside, and not bring the junk in with me at all. I also open everything pretty much right away and toss the envelope and any inserts/envelopes inside that I don’t need (like for the one credit card statement we still get by mail). So at least if anything piles up, it’s open and we can see what it is! I have all our bills on autopay and online statements, and that really helps (why bother seeing the electricity bill in the mail when I can just see it in an email?)

      I had a total fail on activating a debit card, though, and couldn’t get cash on August 1 with my old one, whoops! Luckily my bank now has a card-free ATM option so I was able to get a code using my phone. Now I’m wondering if I need my debit card at all, since I only use it at ATMs.

    • Amy March

      I do not enter my house without sorting through the mail. I might leave it it the box too long, but I stand outside and figure out what is junk and what is not so at least I can throw all the junk away without ever setting it down on a surface in the apt.

      • JLily

        Same. I go to the recycling bin first, and then inside with the important stuff.

  • Ashlah

    We really struggle with creating/maintaining a home that doesn’t look like garbage. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but we’ve lived in our house for four years, and there is still almost nothing hung on the walls. The “music room” is still mainly a “store any crap without a designated spot in here” room, the yard is a total disaster almost all of the time, the garage is piled with junk. I don’t expect or want an immaculate home or a polished home, I’m okay with some clutter, but I just don’t know how adults make their homes look…put together? Organized and decorated at some base level that feels finished? We’ve done bits and pieces here and there, but it still feels like two young people got together in college, moved their crap into a house, and left it like that. (Because that’s pretty much exactly what happened). I know it’s something we just need to prioritize and commit to spending time and money on, but it feels so overwhelming! I don’t come from this sort of home, so I don’t know how it works!

    I think I struggle with feeling like it’s an all-or-nothing thing. Like, why spend time and money choosing wall art when everything else in the room looks a mess. When I know logically that it’s okay to get wall art one month, and end tables another month, and re-organize the furniture another month. It doesn’t all have to be perfected at once, and none of it is permanent. But where to begin! Maybe you all have tips for something that you felt made a huge difference in making a room feel put together?

    • Violet

      I enjoyed Marie Kondo more or less, but I disagreed with her that you have to do this All At Once. That to me feels like a recipe for failure. Slow and steady has always been my way of winning a race, and that includes getting a place in order. I’d fully recommend de-cluttering before trying to decorate. Otherwise it’s gonna feel a little silk purse on sow’s ear, which is not too satisfying. Plus, once you’ve gotten rid of stuff you don’t need or want anymore, you can assess what really matters to you and make decorating decisions around that.

    • Michigan Sara

      We have the same problem! The only room that is kind of finished is the nursery, and even that needs closet doors hung and a ceiling fan installed. Our kid is only 2. I feel so embarassed when people come over, especially my mom. My sister’s house is clean and matching and I just feel like a lazy disaster. It doesn’t help that my husband doesn’t understand where I’m coming from on this and why it makes me a little crazy.

    • penguin

      We’re still struggling with this, although our problem is maintaining the niceness. We’ll have people over, frantically work to make the house look great, and then let it slide for a month or so until it’s a wreck again. Things that work for us when we’re in the good part of the cycle:
      -Purge. Just get rid of stuff, and then it’s less to organize. We donate a lot of household things/clothes, and throw out what the donation places won’t take. We now have a box for donation stuff so that if we find a one-off thing, it can go in the box right away.
      -Focus on one room at a time. If we make the living room look really good, and then retreat to that room for a bit, I might have motivation to tackle the kitchen the next day.
      -Lower expectations. I know our house will never look like something out of Martha Stewart Living, and I’m mostly OK with that. It’s lived-in, it’s very “us”, and we like it.

      For your situation my process might go purge-clean-organize furniture-decorate.

      • AtHomeInWA

        Question: How do you get “we” to purge. I purge, but … “we” need some encouragement. Suggestions?

        • penguin

          Ah, I’m the one who needs encouragement in that department. My fiancé is great at getting me to get rid of stuff. I’m trying to think what we do – I think it’s a combination of I get sick of being overwhelmed with too much stuff, and he hangs out in the room with me while we go through things. If I want to keep something, he makes me think about if I REALLY need it, or if I’m just hanging on to it. Will I use it? Soon, or is this a someday thing? If it went missing today, would I buy another one or not miss it enough to want one? Stuff like that.

          Having him there helps keep me from spiraling into sentimental land and not actually sorting anything. Having us BOTH there keeps me from being anxious that he’s going to accidentally throw out something that actually is important to me.

          • AtHomeInWA

            What I do, if it helps, is to keep a bag in my closet so when I am in there in the morning searching for clothes and I think “god, why do I even have that? I’m never gonna wear it.” I pull it and put it in the bag. When the bag is full I go through it and make sure nothing makes me sad to see go (most of the time I had forgotten I even owned it) and then the bag goes into my car so I’m ready next time I drive past goodwill.

          • BSM

            This ^^^^^^^

          • Violet

            Genius. Can’t wait to go home and put a bag in my closet for this purpose!

          • Colleen

            I also rely on the “bag in the closet” trick. Except, I don’t let myself go back through it once it’s full. I can’t be trusted!

            While I certainly don’t have the perfect capsule wardrobe (yet?), it’s definitely more manageable and wearable than ever before.

          • Abby

            One thing that helps me get rid of clothes is having regular clothing swaps with my friends/family. I find it so much easier to get rid of things that just don’t quite work on me no matter how much I want them to when I can imagine that the people I love may look better in them than I do– and then you have an excuse to have people over for brunch, try on everything, take what works and then donate whatever’s leftover in one giant donation at the end of the day. Once you’ve seen that beautiful-on-the-rack outfit doesn’t actually look good ON anyone, it’s easier to let it go forever.

          • Lisa

            I love clothing swaps! They’re so much fun!

          • Abby

            Yes, doing it together is key. Good music helps me too, to make it feel less like a chore and more like we’re just hanging out and relaxing while adulting.

        • jem

          This is so passive aggressive and immature, but I just start piling stuff on his side of the room until he gets fed up and sorts through it

          • AtHomeInWA

            I love this :D

          • AP

            I do this too. Anything he leaves around the house for more than a couple days, I pile onto his dresser or desk. I don’t think it’s passive-aggressive if your intention is simply to remove the clutter to a place that’s less in-your-face. I don’t really care what the top of his dresser looks like (and neither does he), but I do want the shared spaces and kitchen counters cleared.

          • J

            Props for honesty! Sometimes, you just gotta do what works.

          • Natalie

            I do this, too. When I’m really fed up, I’ll pile it on top of his desk so he can’t work/play at his computer until he deals with the stuff he’s left in the middle of the living room floor for a week.

        • Abby

          I was the “we” that needed encouragement (was a total pack-rat before moving in with my now-husband) and patience and tough love were helpful. It’s been awhile and I’m totally pro-purging now, but I remember what helped a lot was sitting down together to tackle one decluttering project at a time (i.e. one closet on a Saturday) and him gently but firmly helping me be totally honest with myself about whether I would ever use something again. I’m now down to one small box of mementos and a much smaller closet and it feels incredible.

        • Lala

          Well, “we” personally use my partner’s super strong identity as an organized and rational human to encourage said purging. It gets a lot easier to encourage a purge when it isn’t about throwing away potentially precious things, and instead it’s about, “I found this embarrassing thing you still own, you cannot pretend that keeping this is organized and rational, here are ten more things just in one drawer, I wonder what I will find when I open the closet.”

        • quiet000001

          Dunno if anyone has suggested this, but professional organizers can be super helpful and while they are not cheap, ime it can be enough to have them come in once or twice to help you get started and then once you feel like you are making progress and you see what you are doing with them, it is easier to keep going in other rooms that aren’t as bad.

          We had some come in to help us reorganize the kitchen which was in a weird state of “well, I kind of know where I want things to go, except for this random stuff and since I can’t figure out random stuff I’m just stuck” and in about half a day we got things totally moved around and they helped brainstorm ideas for the stuck areas and then that kind of spilled over to the dining room and so on to the rest of the house even after they left. (We won’t talk about my closet, my wardrobe is confused right now. :D )

          Also, they are usually super good at talking people through decisions non-judgementally, so they can help get people who aren’t as into the cleaning to participate. They will do the work for you if you want, but usually they want you to be there to make decisions and answer questions, so no one can just bail and not participate.

          • Angela Howard

            We got a professional organizer to come out for a couple of hours with a groupon-type deal. She made a huge difference in our pantry in that time and offered tips that helped with our hall linen closet as well! (Over the door shoe organizers for random items like batteries, light bulbs, etc!)

        • I purge for both of us, I do not care.

          • Arie

            Me too, except I also do it as stress relief. So sometimes conversations in our house start with my husband saying gems like “please stop throwing away my backpacks, I know this is about your mother.”

          • Jan

            Me too, and this is why I’ve been a participant in two recent arguments about why there are not one million rubber bands at his immediate disposal.

          • That damn junk drawer! No matter how hard I try, that thing is always filled with crap that we don’t actually need. Like rubber bands and twist ties!

          • Natalie

            I believe rubber bands and twist ties are self-replicating. No matter how many I throw away there are always more next time I look in the drawer.

          • MDBethann

            If you have a CSA nearby, see if they can use things like the rubber bands. We get most of our rubber bands from our CSA (they hold bundles of broccoli, carrots, beets, leeks, etc) and when I reach critical mass, I return them. Same thing with those green cardboard berry/tomato boxes.

        • rg223

          I do not understand why this happens, but every time I purge for “we,” MY HUSBAND NOTICES AFTER NOT USING SAID ITEM FOR TWO YEARS. I. Do. Not. Understand. Good luck!

        • Natalie

          I waited until husband left town for work then threw away/ recycled/ donated his crap*. It’s been 4 months and he hasn’t noticed.

          *I only tossed things that most reasonable people would consider trash, disposable, and/or easy to replace (e.g., he had dozens of mason jars plus ~2,938,724 washed & reused glass peanut butter/jam/pickle jars; socks with holes in them; old bedsheets with holes in them he had been saving to use as rags for years but had never actually used as such).

      • Ashlah

        We definitely struggle with maintaining too. I have gone through and purged and organized the music/storage room and the garage, but we end up filling up the space again. I think we need to do two things: 1) When we bring in something new, find it a designated spot right away, instead of thoughtlessly tossing it somewhere convenient; and 2) Setting up a chore calendar that includes regular purging/organizing tasks. I made a list of chores for us to consult during the weekend, but haven’t gotten to the point of making an actual calendar. I think doing that (and sticking to it) will be important for us. It’s way too easy to be lazy on the weekends, and then wonder why nothing gets done around the house!

        I’ve also seen mentioned here people setting like a five minute timer on weeknights to pick up clutter, and I love that idea. Need to get husband on board, but it seems like a low-impact way to make a big difference long-term.

        • Lisa

          Not bringing anything new into the house has been really important for me. If I can get away with renting/borrowing/making do with a reasonable substitute in order to not buy an item, that has become the default in our home. I have a hard time getting rid of possessions once they’re mine so it works out better if I never own it in the first place. This is really helping prevent further accumulation.

          • Ashlah

            That makes total sense. I’m often sort of the middle woman between my mom’s closet and the thrift store. Sometimes I get something nice from her, but more often than not, I have a bag of clothes I procrastinate in trying on that eventually all goes to the thrift store anyway, taking up space in the meantime.

            Also, we’re receiving SO many hand-me-downs and gifts for the upcoming kid that this has been extra challenging lately. I’m so grateful for all of it, but do we really want to store toddler clothes and toys for two years? I’m a sucker for free, but where does it go while we’re not using it? And will we remember we have it when the time comes? Those have been hard decisions to make.

          • Abfab

            I think for the baby things, if you have a box/bag/bin designated for each size that is labeled, look at the clothing items as you receive them to make sure they’re clean and in good enough shape. File them away in the separate containers by size, and then when kiddo grows into them, the clothes will be all together. The same system works in reverse for when clothes are being grown out of so you can save them for another kid if you want, or you can just donate them as they don’t fit.

            And if you are getting too many toys and stuff, it’s ok to pass them along! If your parents and siblings and friends are like mine, they will want to buy new presents for the baby, too. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to keep it!

          • TeaforTwo

            I thought that when I was pregnant too, but babies grow really fast, and while they’re growing they keep you pretty busy. I was always really grateful for our big bin of too-big hand-me-downs on the days when all of a sudden not a single thing in our son’s drawer fit because he’d just had a growth spurt.

            The great thing about baby/toddler clothes is that they are small so they don’t take up a ton of space for what they are, and you do plough through them pretty quickly. Our 13 month old is already wearing 2T clothes and we have officially run through all of our hand-me-downs (and um, he outgrew all the older kids who we were getting them from.)

            That said, be totally ruthless about what you hold onto with an eye to what is easy to get on and off. Does it have one billion snaps? Worse, does it have BUTTONS on the leg openings? Does it need to be ironed? Get rid of it now.

          • rg223

            Seconding all of this.

          • I’m a middle man for a couple of people too. And though I enjoy the “finds,” the rest adds me making more trips to the thrift store, etc. Thankfully, I don’t have kiddos people are giving me clothes for; that would be challenging! (Though I would probably find a way to organize the advance clothes in size order or something in the closet because I too am a sucker for free…)

          • MDBethann

            Clear storage bins that are clearly marked and labeled are great for baby/toddler things. We get boxes of hand-me-downs from my SIL and since we’re having a 2nd one next month, I’ve been saving the things my daughter outgrows. It’s definitely a challenge for storage, but our plan is that once #2 outgrows things, we are going to start “donate,” “sell,” and “save” bins for all clothing and toys as the kids grow. We’ll yard sale what we can (our neighborhood has yard sales twice yearly and there are some consignment sales in our area we can use) and my younger sister has asked us to keep some things for her future kids. I’ll also want to save some favorite outfits for my kids to have one day – I’ve honestly LOVED dressing my daughter up in some cute outfits that I wore at her age and my mom had saved for us.

            Will our storage room be cluttered in the short term? Yes. But we’ve set up a long term plan to avoid being overwhelmed with “stuff.”

      • angela

        Sometimes I invite people over JUST because I need to clean, and I know that’s the most efficient way to make it happen.

        • Oof

          I just had the horrible idea to have people over for some biweekly thing so I am forced to clean regularly. I need a really judgey book club, y’all.

          • ART

            That is not a horrible idea, it’s a brilliant life hack for home cleanliness and social interaction!

        • Yes, I have often thought that having a more regular schedule for inviting people over would be a very effective way for us to keep our household organized at top state more often…

      • I also really recommend not having children ;) They really don’t help with this situation at ALL.

    • MC

      I 100% feel this. We have hardly anything hanging on the walls, and a huge pile in my office of things to be framed that are not framed. I feel like our house has no design cohesion… no advice, just commiseration! Although I do think comparing my house to my friends’ actual houses and not pictures on the internet helps. And remembering that when people get photoshoots of their house they are often styled to look a little nicer than normal.

      • Ashlah

        Yes, no cohesion! That’s exactly it.

      • I think that matching or coordinating frames goes a long way in cohesion. All of the stuff I chose to have framed has white mat board and black simple frames. I have a lot of black and white photography too, so I made a wall collection of framed stuff together in the hall and love how it looks. It took some work, but I used the approach Young House Love used for theirs, and it turned out great! As far as the rest, I’m still working on it. But I do have a couple favourite colors that run through the house here and there (pillows, baskets, candle holders, etc.), and I like that for making things feel like that fit together…

        • MDBethann

          That’s pretty much what we’ve done. Our living room has dark walls, so we have gold frames and the pictures are mostly prints from my trips to the UK. The rest of our “public space” has simple black frames with white mats and the photos/art are of various places in the US and Europe that we’ve visited on our travels. There are wedding, family, and baby photos on mantles and bookshelves downstairs as well. Our upstairs hallway is a random hodgepodge of frames with family photos.

          I had a frame person at Michael’s tell me that different frames are better when I was trying to match some older frames for a new print, but I like my themed look and it works for us, so I pushed back.

    • Katharine Parker

      Decorating is my favorite hobby (along with skincare–#vanity), so we seem to place different priorities on this, but for me hanging art is essential to making a new place feel like home. Do you have any art that you like? Paintings, posters, prints, photos–both art photos and family photos, woven or crafted wall hangings, quilts, etc. It doesn’t matter what, but hang them! Do they need to be framed? Take them to a frame shop (expensive but gorgeous) or go to Ikea or AC Moore or Target and buy frames. Even in a cheap frame, they will look great. Do you need hanging fixtures? Go to the hardware store and buy them. Get a level and a hammer, and spend a Saturday morning hanging art. In a hour, you can hang a ton of stuff. Even if you do nothing else, this will make your house seem homey and proper adult house-like.

      I’d start with wall art as your first project and then prioritize from there. Do you have furniture that you want to replace? Make a list and a budget for it, then start looking on Craigslist (for older/antique pieces), at estate sales, or wherever else you like furniture. Rugs make a huge difference in a space. Thinking about your ideal home can be good for planning out purchases and changes you want to make, along with defining your style. Apartment Therapy can be good for ideas, along with Emily Henderson’s blog. She’s great at styling small vignettes throughout a home. Thinking about styling can be good for giving you ideas for what to do with the things that you have, rather than starting entirely fresh. I love House Beautiful magazine for inspiration, too.

      You can make your house into a lovely space!

      • Katharine Parker

        Also, mirrors are your friend. I’d say my number one decorating thing is to add mirrors–rooms look larger, they are great as decor, and they go anywhere.

      • Ashlah

        You’re right, we need to just do it! It feels so much more permanent than it is, which is what I struggle with for some reason. We don’t have to know exactly how we want our house to look for the next ten years, we just need to put something on the walls that will make it a little less sad right now. I appreciate the reminder!

        • Abfab

          I am definitely in the hanging things before anything else camp, but I get where you’re coming from there. The thing is, if you’re just using a nail or a command hook or whatever, you can totally move frames around! So maybe you’re putting things where it seems like they could work for a long time, or maybe the focus is instead on looking at where one the blank walls you would like something and then putting something in place there with the knowledge that you can totally swap it out.

        • AP

          This is so true, and it’s what finally got me to start committing to rugs, wall colors, art, furniture. You can always change things over time! I like yard sales and thrift stores for decorating, which helps because I don’t feel like I’ve spent a ton of money on something and therefore can never get rid of it. Another thing I do is to frame everything in the same color frame (I usually go with white, cheap frames from TJ Max or Walmart, in different sizes and textures/materials) and that way all the framed photos and prints coordinate without having to “match.” You can also change out the art, leaving the frames where they are. I also shamelessly copy looks I like from magazines or Pinterest.

        • Yes, just go for it! We’ve had our home less than three years, and I’ve already started repainting some walls and putting new items on shelves. I just get bored looking at the same things all the time, and love shaking things up! Things like a can of paint or a picture frame are inexpensive enough that if you pick something that doesn’t end up working out, it doesn’t take much to repaint or replace it.

        • Eenie

          3m picture hangers are my friend cause I can’t bare to put a nail hole in a freshly patched and painted wall.

        • I added a nice looking full length mirror at the end of a hall way, near the bathroom and bedroom and LOVE it. I use it ALL the time while getting ready. Before I was using my falling-apart college $6 mirror from a million years ago just to get ready (not to display!), and it is unbelievable how much I enjoy the nice, wall-mounted long one…

      • GCDC

        Okay but what do you do when your style clashes terribly with your significant other’s? I would describe my husband’s aesthetic as “Dolores Umbridge’s office in Hogwarts (complete with kitten plates hung on the wall)” and I’m more minimalist/modern. Buying a cheap couch so that we could have a place to sit in our basement when we watch TV took six months and multiple rounds of crying. I honestly do not know how we are going to ever decorate our house.

        • Katharine Parker

          There are a few ways to compromise, as I see it. You can divide your house by rooms, and you each get to take lead on certain rooms. You can divide by furniture and decor, so one person picks large furniture items, the other gets to choose rugs/lamps/throw pillows/art/accessories. You can try to find things that you agree on, or at least that neither of you hates. You can choose stuff that is neither of your style, so you both hate it (jk). Probably it’s going to be some combination of these things (and other ideas). Do you have anything that you agree on that you can start with?

          • GCDC

            Huh. This is genius. I’d always just assumed that all such decisions need to be jointly made but you’re so right – they don’t have to be! There are ways to split it up so that we don’t have to compromise on everything, which is good because our compromises in the past have usually ended up with something we both hate.

          • Ilora

            The small decor is 95% me because I buy it and he doesn’t. He just doesn’t care, meanwhile I get excited over things like lampshades/pillows etc. Anything that I know is obnoxiously not his taste I keep somewhere that he doesn’t have to see it much like the (former) spare bedroom, that room is now a nursery so I’m just spreading things out so it’s not all in one place/room.

            Furniture we come to an agreement, and that tends to favour his opinion because of my being the one picking the smaller decor. He doesn’t get free reign, but if we’ve narrowed down our options and are deciding purely on aesthetics he gets the final call. We found a bed frame that we both liked enough (neither of us would have bought it independently, but we also think it looks nice enough and gets the job done) and now our kitchen table/entertainment unit coordinate nicely with it, so those just fell into place. On the rare occasion where he gets legitimately excited about something I tend to just let him go for it (so long as I don’t absolutely passionately hate it) because I want him to feel fairly represented in our home and not like everything for him is a compromise.

            I’ve mentioned this before but I hate, hate, hate, posters. He doesn’t…and since I didn’t want to veto literally the only thing he’s ever asked to put on the walls we compromised and framed them. Frames make them “art” and it’s good to have art. I still don’t like them, but at least now I can look at them, sigh while shaking my head, then go back to admiring my floral lamp shades.

          • I hate posters too!! My husband keeps wanting to hang vinyl flags/banners on the walls…like the ones you get from bars that have beer brands and sport team logos on them. I’m like….”we’re in our 30’s. You don’t hang free bar giveaway items on your walls in your 30’s!”

          • Kat

            The light up plaster bull head hanging above my refrigerator would disagree with you. (Unrelated, how would one go about staging a fake breaking-and-entering scenario where the thief only took, say, one ugly bull head?)

          • YummieYummie

            I commend you on catching that before it got out of hand. My fiance LOVES hanging posters on the wall, so I said it’s fine as long as it’s contained to the den. Every time he’d put a new one up, I’d go “Oh god, it’s starting to look like a bar in here,” and he’d respond, “If you keep saying that, it might come true.” Lo and behold, two Christmases ago I went on a two week trip with my parents to visit family and I come back home to a literal bar in my den….

        • AP

          Solidarity. I tend to favor more romantic-hippie style and my husband would make our home look like an Apple store if he could. Our tastes don’t coordinate at all, but we’ve compromised on a couple of major themes- the clean lines and minimalism that he likes with the bolder colors and a little bit of whimsy that I like (midcentury modern has been a good compromise for us.) When we first moved in together, we fought over furniture and decorating, but I realized our fighting was mostly because we have different levels of interest in decorating in general. He really doesn’t care all that much about taking the time to pick out stuff. But I wanted to make all the decorating decisions together, so I kept asking his opinion and then he would invariably shoot down my ideas and we’d end up fighting. But now I don’t check with him before I buy something, I just buy it and put it up. I try to be considerate and keep his taste in mind, but I don’t make every decision a team project. Sometimes we just need a bed and I’m the one with the time/interest to pick one out.

          • Ashlah

            We’ve had ridiculous “fights” about how he “just doesn’t care” as much about, say, curtains. So I should just pick something, right? But I want his input! And I want him to care! (And to appreciate the effort I’m putting into making our home look nice). I’m so certain he must care! It feels so icky and traditionally gendered to make unilateral decor decisions. But accepting that I’m allowed to pick things on my own, and he’ll likely be content with it, is probably a good way for me to make this process go faster.

          • penguin

            For anything like that with us, if we’ve established that the other person really really doesn’t care, you either get to unilaterally make the decision, or just ask the other person “do you hate this one?”. I feel the compulsive need to ask my fiancé about stuff sometimes, and he’s pretty good about letting me know what he thinks.

          • penguin

            Replying to my own comment to add – I’m an indecisive person. I can usually narrow it down to a few choices, and then I get stuck. This is where it’s great to have my fiancé around to help – I’ll say “out of these three, which one do you like best?” and then that’s what we go with. Unless that makes me realize that actually I hate the one he picked, I wanted THIS one, but thankfully he’s usually gracious about it. Either way, a decision is made!

          • nutbrownrose

            Husband and I have a deal, for basically all the planning things: I do the leg work and research because it makes me happy and feel in control, and then I present him with options. But only options I like. And if I discover an opinion in there, I’ll say “this is my favorite, but here are some other options I would also be fine with if you hate my favorite.” And everyone’s happy, because he hates the legwork and I could (and have) spend hours upon hours choosing a cake topper and considering my options, and he doesn’t want to spend that much time. It feels gendered at some times, but I always (try to) make sure to allow him to have (or not have) an opinion. And sometimes I can find one that’s very ME (romantic, floral, curvy edges) and one that’s very HIM (black apple store), and one that’s a good blend. That’s the dream, if I could have that all the time.

          • Kat

            This is how we plan trips! I LOVE making itineraries and he hates doing the research involved, but is thrilled to do the budgeting/spreadsheet stuff when it comes to booking flights and hotels. So I usually do a bunch of research and then present 3 choices (sometimes there are slideshows involved). Then I also have a few ideas in my back pocket when it comes time to plan the next trip!

          • AtHomeInWA

            I am pro “do you hate this one?” It acknowledges that you don’t really care, but also respects that you live here too.

          • AP

            I had the SAME struggle when we first moved in together. Then he was gone for a month for work and I’d had a rough day and was like, “eff this, I want a cozy Master Retreat” so I bought new bedding, curtains and wall art. He came home to a totally redone bedroom and barely noticed. I took that as permission to take decorating liberties in all the rooms. It did feel gendered at first, but I finally decided that if this were any other hobby/interest I wouldn’t feel the same guilt about it, so I went for it.

          • Katharine Parker

            Yes to buying art when traveling!

          • Lisa

            This reminds me of planning a wedding. Even though my husband had little to no interest in what paper goods we chose or what our wedding web-site looked like, it felt like every decision should be crowd-sourced in order to not fall into the trap of gender roles.

          • rg223

            Yeah, speaking from personal experience, you have to just jump in and pick something. My husband hates nearly everything home-decor-wise if I ask in advance, but it’ll grow on him once it’s in the space (see: art-deco lightswitch plates).

          • Ilora

            Same!

          • Kat

            I feel this way sometimes about making decor decisions for the two of us but I have to remind myself that I’m just more influenced by my surroundings than he is. I like aesthetically pleasing things, I like light, bright spaces, I like keeping plants alive and hunting down art. He would play video games in a cave all weekend if he could. It’s more our personalities than our genders in this case.

          • j_essim_ac

            Are you me? My husband and I have the exact same preferences and we’ve finally reached a similar conclusion while we were at Simons looking at pillows and my husband decided NOW was the time to buy a paper towel holder. I was like, that one? And he sighed and told me to just shop without him and he’ll just accept what I bring home as long as it’s not too cutesy or over every top. It’s been 6 years living together, just married a month now, and we’ve finally mostly figured it out (for now)

          • Jan

            I’m cracking up right now because I very recently spent 20 minutes shopping for the right paper towel holder in BB&B.

          • Ah, you were shopping at Simons! (And I actually have been meaning to look there for pillows; mine’s lumpy…)

          • Jan

            Yeah, this. I’m into warm, romantic colors and patterns and my partner is basically the stepmother from Beetlejuice, but also doesn’t care THAT much. “Hey, you’re cool if I order these curtains, right? Cool, done.” has become my go-to way of incorporating his opinion in order to save myself from a fight about why we aren’t going to get, like, a hot pink snake sculpture to place on our mantle.

        • MC

          I am re-reading Order of the Phoenix right now so your Dolores Umbridge comment made me LOL. Also I can relate to this! We each have an area of the house that is “ours” that we get to make decorating/organizing decisions on – his is the garage, mine is the office. For everything else, we have veto power if we HATE something that the other loves, and if we just moderately dislike it but not in an overwhelming way, we’ll learn to live with it. We have been able to find more common ground than we thought originally, but it has taken a lot of looking at things together at Target, Wayfair, etc.

          • Ilora

            Yes to finding more common ground than expected! Neither of us Loves our furniture, and would have bought other things if we were single, but we do like it enough that it doesn’t feel like either of us “lost” in the compromise.

        • That’s like Maddie and me with office styling. Her home office was actually the same as Umbridge’s (every time I walked in I was like OMFG THE TEACUPS).

          • GCDC

            Speaking of teacups, my husband has a tea setting for six in this pattern (also place settings for 12, and something called a “butter wheelbarrow”) and loves them. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with Portmeiron, but it is the exact opposite of what I would choose. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d4c046a794d88b0f50ee86d4fd1369b67ba770d07a17cda88e5a39de5a07d546.jpg

          • Katharine Parker

            Could you display some of them on a modern sideboard or buffet as a compromise?

          • GCDC

            That is a good idea. When can you come decorate our house? Money is a bit tight right now but I can pay you in baked goods and tea cups.

          • Stephanie

            You live in NYC? I really love baked goods. :D

          • AP

            Lol, this was my mom and stepdad’s wedding pattern!

      • Lisa

        You can also buy cheap frames and hooks online (amazon, etc) if going to the store is one step too many. Hanging our art is one of the first things we do in every apartment we’ve lived in, and it instantly transforms the space.

      • penguin

        Good point about art – that’s what really makes a new place feel like home to me.

        My dad has a great method for this. Saturday he invited us over for dinner + decorating in his new house. He had piled all of the pictures/posters/frames/art things in one area, and had a bunch of nails and a hammer and basically said “go nuts, I trust your judgement”. Between my brother and I and my fiancé, we hung up art in the dining room, living room, kitchen, and a little reading nook, and it took us less than an hour and we had a blast.

      • Jessica

        I hadn’t read your second paragraph and was already at Apartment Therapy looking for articles on how to combine styles!

        If there is a lot of kitschy kitten stuff (like plates), I would suggest shadow boxes. Curate the display (his entire collection does not need to be on the wall–you can swap things out periodically) alongside some clean lines and minimalist books or something.

        • Katharine Parker

          Apartment therapy is usually good for this kind of thing, although I hate their website’s search function. Emily Henderson’s old HGTV show was about marrying two styles, actually, if watching something is more up anyone’s alley.

      • Kat

        Can you come to my house and cheer me on while I accomplish these tasks?

    • Eve

      We bought rugs for Christmas last year. We still have the mish-mash college student furniture and little to nothing on the walls, but damn our rug game is on point and everything looks so much better because of that.

      • Ashlah

        I hear this about rugs a lot, but I’m so wary to get them because of our cats! Well, one cat. She absolutely destroyed the carpet at our previous place, so it’s been nice to have nothing but hardwood on that front. I did get an (amazing) rainbow rug for the baby’s room, so maybe I’ll see how she does with that, then consider one for the living room if it goes well.

        • Cassidy

          May not be the case for you, but we’ve found that our cat generally ignores rugs with low/no pile. Anything with fibers he can dig his claws into he just can’t resist. This has been a learning process – he absolutely destroyed a rug we thankfully only paid $50 for on Craigslist.

          • Jessica

            Outdoor rugs can be indoor rugs if you just bring them inside. They are so much more durable than classic indoor rugs, and more amiable to spot cleaning.

        • jem

          We’ve had good luck with Dash & Albert’s polypropylene rugs with our cats. They don’t feel so… outdoorsy… as some outdoor rugs (they’re soft) & they’re not too pricey. Plus, if cat gets into the pineapple and poos all over your rug, you can hose it down outside

          • Eve

            We also have primarily polypropylene, but from a Rugs USA sale. Our cat tends to leave the rugs alone if we have a fresh cardboard scratcher for her with some catnip sprinkled on it. We do have to be really careful with the catnip, because if we give her some and she drags it onto the rug, she’s more likely to scratch on it later. Which mostly translates into more frequent vacuuming.

    • Sarah E

      Yeah, we’re not necessarily living with college-apt things (except for the coffeepot– thanks old roomies!), but we rarely make choices just based on aesthetics, so we have lot of this-was-what-we-could-afford or antiques we inherited things, with no cohesive design vision. I definitely don’t want styled bookshelves, but I would love to make decisions based on a larger plan.

    • BSM

      I think soooooo many people struggle with this, so you’re definitely not alone.

      It might help to pinpoint where the bottleneck is happening:

      -Is it that you’re overwhelmed from the get-go and don’t know where to start?
      -Do you/your partner have issues purging clutter?
      -Is it tough for you to pull the trigger on new furniture/art/decorating decisions because of the cost or that you don’t know what you like?
      -Do you have stuff you like but can’t figure out how to put everything together?
      -Something else?

      In my mind, all those problems would fall under the umbrella of “creating/maintaining a home,” but they mostly all have different solutions.

      • Ashlah

        Great questions to think about! I think it mostly stems from it feeling overwhelming and the difficulty of pulling the trigger on new purchases/decisions (which sort of go hand in hand, I think). It’d probably be most helpful for us to break it down into small, achievable-in-a-day goals.

        • BSM

          Totally. I think getting from “ahhh, this room is such a jumble of IKEA stuff, hand-me-downs, and random junk; how will I ever Pinterest it???” to “step 1: purge junk, step 2: figure out what the room is missing, step 3: find rug, 2 pieces of art, and an end table, etc.” is both really tough and also a game changer when trying to deal with those feelings.

          And, like others have said, there’s definitely an element of just pulling the trigger when it comes to this kind of thing. I’ve had an element of imposter syndrome when it comes to home decor choices (also previously with fashion/beauty stuff), where I had trouble getting past the feeling of “Who am I to have a beautiful, put together home? That’s for adults with fancy, glamorous lives, not me!”

          I got over it in the last year or so by basically getting overwhelmed by my desire to have an aesthetically pleasing home and some stern self-talk about how we can afford to buy some nice house things, (most of) our decisions aren’t permanent, and if not now, when?

          • Fiona

            Two things that REALLY helped me are 1) Washi tape and 2) Apartment Therapy’s January cure (http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/collection/january-cure-2017-1274). Washi tape let me put up stuff on the walls temporarily without having to commit to wall holes or find appropriate frames (and clears up the PILE of stuff to put up off of my desk so another thing off the to-do list) which takes 10 minutes, $2, and makes me feel like I’ve taken a step – and the January Cure is magical in that it breaks everything down into tiny, bite sized pieces which makes life so much easier too…. Good luck!

          • BSM

            I actually don’t have this problem much anymore, but I love Apartment Therapy! Although I haven’t done any of the cures because those articles actually really stress me out (I need to do stuff at whatever manic or absurdly slow pace is comfortable for me).

            And I’m alllll about making holes in our walls lol. We own and everything is newly-ish painted, so any mistakes are easy to spackle and repaint over without having to do the whole wall. Washi tape sounds like a good idea for more temporary stuff, though.

            We do need to get some more art up on our walls, and I’ve decided to just outsource it. I’ve found that IKEA frames are an OK solution (great for the price), but I really hate the way their glass/plastic looks. We’re either going to find a local framing shop or outsource everything to Framebridge in one fell swoop.

    • NolaJael

      We get caught in the not-nice cycle. Our stuff isn’t nice, so new stuff will look weird or won’t go, so why bother? Then I just buy more crap when I need something, and the cycle continues. :(

      • Ilora

        I combat this by just buying the thing! It’s a gradual process, but it’s just too expensive to buy all new stuff all at once, so I like to just browse and when I find something I love I just get it. Currently I love our throw pillows on the couch, but the couch itself is an embarrassment so that’s next on the list of furniture that needs replacing! We’re at the point now where I’m fairly happy with all of our decor (though some is still waiting to be hung on the walls) and just need to actually deal with some of the furniture.

        • Ashlah

          Ha, so that’s a great example of where my mindset fails me. We just spent a stupid amount of money on new couches, and yet we still have the same horrible throw pillows that I’ve hated for all eight years we’ve been together. Why have I not just bought some damn throw pillows?! It’s a mystery. Just buy the damn thing, indeed!

          • Katharine Parker

            Ok, your first two decor tasks are hanging stuff and throw pillows. You can do at least one of these things this week or weekend! (Maybe even new pillows on the couch and a few things hung in that room??) Your house is going to look better soon!

          • penguin

            Or even just little pillow cases for your existing throw pillows!

          • Adding in here: IKEA has these super great down-filled square throw pillows and offer a bunch of different super affordable pillow cases to cover them. Since we’ve got a dog and cat in the house that are super-shedders, they’ve been a godsend since you can just toss them in the wash! And if you get bored and like to switch stuff up, the covers are so cheap that they’re easy to switch out :)

          • That’s a great idea!

    • Amy March

      I kinda focused on one area at a time when I was starting out decorating. So, 90% of this apt might be whatever I found used or at IKEA, but I’m going to make over this one corner to look nice. And then once one thing looked good, it was easier to figure out how to make the thing next to it look good. But the most impactful item was a rug.

      • penguin

        They really pull the room together.

    • I try to do one project a weekend, though I’m a little ambitious. But yeah, it really is just one thing at a time. Starting with storage (bookshelfs, etc) is really smart. Then you can move to walls. Things like closets you get to way later (I’m doing it now), because you can hide it away till then.

    • Mer

      Looks like I’m in the minority here and I have not implemented this plan but here are my thoughts. I don’t like decorating or browsing for home things or anything related to colors or patterns or furniture or rugs… there’s just too many choices and I don’t really have a style or vision (I also dislike shopping in general). For me, home decor is best a task left to outsourcing. Sooo…whenever we buy a house (next few years hopefully?), I’m probably going to hire someone to just do it all. Tell me what to do/ buy/ acquire and I’ll do. I’ll spend a boatload but once it’s done, I’ll never have to think about it again. That is my dream.

    • rg223

      Just offering solidarity on not having things decorated! My problem is that I don’t just want to buy shit to throw on the walls. I like A) things we bought on vacation or something that have meaning to us or B) thrift store/antique finds, both of which take more time than we have right now (as we chase around a toddler). We also have larger walls now than what we used to, so it’s hard to know what to fill the space with. But definitely agree with Violet elsewhere that it doesn’t have to happen RIGHT NOW – it took us time to fill up our old space, and it’ll be the same here!

    • MDBethann

      When we moved into our house 7 years ago, I purposefully took most of the week off so I could unpack because i didn’t want to live out of boxes. Art went up on walls over time and gets moved around and changed now and then. We figured out where the furniture would go together when we moved in.

      That said….. when we renovated 3 years ago, we added space out the back of our garage for work space (right now, it’s filled with bikes and toddler outdoor stuff) and we added a home office & a storage room over the garage because our basement came completely finished and had zero storage space other than a small closet. With a toddler, it has been amazing how fast the storage room filled up and how hard it is to keep it organized (especially while pregnant with #2; I can’t move boxes off of shelves, so they are all on the floor). We try to keep up, but with a 2 year old bringing things home from school each day and pulling out toys without cleaning up first (no matter how much you ask her to “help” and clean up) and a temporary inability to bend over to clean up toys and other clutter (gotta love pregnancy belly), the house is quickly approaching my breaking point for clutter. We try to do a big clean every 2 weeks or before we have guests and most of the time that helps, but I’m definitely back sliding right now and it’s driving me nuts. My usual goal is “organized chaos” which is the best I feel I can expect with small children around.

      Basically, we’ve learned that no matter how hard we may try sometimes to stay on top of clutter, life may get in the way and things pile up and we then just say “enough” and deal with it, whether it is dishes, toys, mail, or the “I’ll get to it later” pile. Or even new posters/art to hang on the wall. Our toddler is going to visit her grandparents for a week later this month and I’m really hoping I’ll have enough energy to use that time to clear out clutter and prepare for the baby. I got the nursery prepped last month while she was at the grandparents for a weekend, and that helped a lot. Now to tackle the rest of the house.

      And remember…. people who live in “perfect” houses may only seem that way. You have no idea if they’ve got a storage room (like mine) that’s in total chaos because that’s where everything is placed when guests are expected. Or what sort of stress they may put on themselves to be “perfect.” Or how much fun they might miss with their family (or friends) because they are so busy keeping up appearances. Get your house to a point where it feels like HOME and a place you are happy going to at the end of the day to relax, some place you WANT to be. It may take a weekend or two of work and “no fun,” but in the end it will be worth it to create the homey space you want for YOU.

  • Katharine Parker

    I feel like I can never get out ahead on laundry. It piles up so quickly between clothes, sheets, and towels. We don’t have our own machine, so remembering to get quarters for the basement machine is an added layer of struggle. It’s not at the level of our entire apartment being covered in clothes, but we’re not efficient with it–there is always a load to put on.

    I feel good about having an apartment that feels like an adult home. We have nice art on the walls and some nicer furniture now, with throw blankets and throw pillows and decent lamps. It makes a huge difference to my mood to come home to an apartment I love and to feel excited about inviting people over. My parents are great hosts, and I’m happy to be following in that tradition.

    • emmers

      I’m right there with you on laundry. It’s a struggle! It’s rare that we have completely folded laundry– typically it’s clean, but piled somewhere in the laundry room or laundry basket.

      I’m great at meal planning/grocery shopping planning though. I plan for a week/two week period in a google doc, and keep a running grocery list there. Before I go grocery shopping, I quickly reorganize ingredients by section of the store, which makes things go a lot quicker. I don’t love that I look like I’m texting while shopping as I glance at my list (and that it gets hard if someone calls me while I’m shopping), but other than that, it’s a system that works.

      • Abby

        We have gotten infinitely better at getting clean laundry folded and back in the closet since we started folding laundry while watching TV. Productive + relaxing all at once.

        • emmers

          It was my goal to do this this weekend, and then I just … didn’t. If/when we ever hire a cleaning professional, laundry folding is totally something I’m outsourcing. I’m fine with the washing/drying– we both are. We just both suck at keeping up with folding. But I totes agree– when I’m my best-chore-doing-self, then I fold in front of the TV, and put away (!) too.

          • Abby

            Once the clean laundry is in the basket, we literally just put the basket on the coffee table in between our couch & TV so that it’s next to impossible to watch TV without folding (though that’s not to say we don’t sometimes ignore it/move it to the floor).

          • jem

            Well, this is brilliant

          • quiet000001

            My partner and I have figured out a system wherein he puts all the stuff away while we talk about how our days went, etc. He doesn’t mind doing it but won’t do it if he isn’t reminded, and I hate doing it but usually notice it needs to be done. Sometimes we watch something on the iPad (so it can be in the closet) also, depends what needs to be talked about.

        • Julia

          tv + laundry, always. feels like less of a chore that way.

      • Angela’s Back

        I do my grocery list like that too!! My husband and I just moved though so I’m still learning where stuff is at the store and my list organization game has definitely taken a hit.

        • Ashlah

          Oh man, that’s the worst! Our grocery store is in the middle of a major remodel and it’s impossible to find anything. I can’t wait until it’s finished and we can re-learn where everything is located. Right now we have to circle back through like three times!

          • Angela’s Back

            ugh, that’s how the one by my work is, so any lunch time grocery run takes twice as long as it needs to between me not knowing the store, poor/transitional labels and the fact that stuff has moved around every time I go in.

        • emmers

          I just tried a new grocery store this weekend, and it took foreverrrr because of this. A whole new world!

      • I do this too with my grocery list! Not sure how I ever coped before having a smartphone with google docs!

      • flashphrase

        Meal planning is my adulting weak spot. Advice?

        • E.

          Meal planning is actually one of the few adulting things I’m good at. It’s mostly helped to have a pinterest board of favorite meals and a pinterest board of recipes I want to try.

          I do weekly plans Saturday morning while Husband is still sleeping. In an email I start by listing all of the produce we still have in the fridge. Then I list the days of the week along with any plans that will affect dinner. Next I look through the pinterest boards and my cookbooks to find recipes that use the produce we need to use up. When I choose a recipe I type it next to the day we’ll eat it with a hyperlink so we can find it easily. As I go I list ingredients we need at the bottom of the email. Then I send it to myself and husband and it’s done! It helps that it’s a flexible plan so if we forget to defrost chicken or something we swap days around, etc.

          This is what is basically looks like:
          kale
          avocado
          onions
          peppers
          carrots

          Monday- red lentils and rice (use carrots)
          Tuesday-enchilada casserole
          Wednesday-pesto pasta (kale, peppers)
          Thursday- spaghetti squash+peanut sauce
          Friday- burritos

          ginger
          canned tomatoes
          enchilada sauce

        • Crystal Chase

          I also like meal planning, it’s one of my favorite Friday-night-at-home activities. I follow a similar approach to E. I find the key is to be brutally honest with yourself.

          Be honest: How many meals will you really make that week? Our magic number is four: (1) Either Saturday or Sunday, (2) Three of the the four true weekdays (MTWR). Realistically, we don’t cook both days on the weekend. And realistically, once a week friends who ask us to do something, or someone stays late at work or has a bad day and just cannot deal. Friday is leftovers, takeout, or a meal from the week if we cheated and went out twice.

          Be honest: What do you actually have time and interest in making? We save more complex recipes for the weekend. We try to limit ourselves to trying a new recipe to once a week because it takes more effort (even if easy) than something where we already have our jobs established and know what we are doing. We also usually have one night where plan on dinner being pretty cheap and unimpressive. Our current favorite is store-cooked chicken + roasted broccoli + box of annie’s mac and cheese

          And then think about what you (and your spouse) actually like to eat. I keep a running bookmark of recipes we have actually made and liked (as opposed to those that were just okay, or are “try new”). In the summer, at least one night a week consists of BBQ’d meat + veggie or carb (caprese, kabob veggies, pasta salad, corn, vinegar cucumbers, potato salad, coleslaw, potato chips). That keeps us honest to make sure we cook even when it’s too hot to heat up the oven. In the winter, we eat soup at least once a week, because we love soup.

          ALSO, I should add this is the relationship version of meal planning. My single-girl version of meal planning was even more unimpressive and had much less variation. (Monday: something made with hamburger that would last two meals, Tuesday: leftovers, Wednesday: scrambled eggs, potatoes, and salsa, Thursday: frozen TJs meal. Repeat.)

        • emmers

          Sure!
          In my doc, I have MTWRFSS listed for the next week, and throughout the week I add meal ideas, or I sit down in front of the tv and brainstorm all at once (sometimes w/ cookbooks/Pinterest for inspiration).

          I try to do a mix of easy & hard meals- a new recipe every night is way too hard. Like tacos and salads are easy go-tos that I probably do almost every week. When I started I planned Mon-Thurs only. Be gentle with yourself. If you even start with one day, that’s progress! Oh & I only plan dinners.

          My process is generally plan, make a list of ingredients, check to see what I already have, and shop. Bonus points if I check ingredients first & then plan.

          It’s also helpful to have easy fallbacks like frozen pizza or frozen Trader Joe’s meals for if we decide we’re too tired to cook that day. And it’s better if I keep complicated recipes for weekends only.

          When I find recipes that work (fast/easy/cheap/healthyish in some combination) I pin them to a recipe board in Pinterest. Then when I’m meal planning in the future I have them to draw from. Budget Bytes has been good inspiration for me.

          I say start small! The best thing is when you’ve planned the meal & have the ingredients it minimizes the end of the day “what will we have” panic. Go you!

        • Laura

          Writing this makes me feel like a teensy bit of a crazy person, but I have a google spreadsheet called “meal planning” with dates in one column, meal name in the next, and then a link to the recipe in the third column. I just checked, and it dates back to 02/06/2012, which means I can technically tell you what I ate on any given day in the past five years (the crazy person part).

          Anyway, this is helpful because 1) I’m never starting from scratch, 2) all of my fave recipes are kept in the same place, and 3) since we try to eat somewhat seasonally, I can look back at what recipes we were enjoying last summer and repeat them.

          I make a list of meals for the upcoming 7 days and use that to create a grocery list. The important thing for us is that a meal isn’t assigned to any particular day, and I include some easy things and some more time-consuming meals. That way, we can choose what we’re in the mood for given our time constraints on any given night. Seven days’ worth of meal planning typically lasts us closer to 10 days, because we might be lazy one night or eat with friends, or whatever.

        • SLG

          Meal planning is also my weak spot. (OK, one of several weak spots.) I hate grocery shopping, my job is exhausting so I rarely get home in the mood to cook, but I feel way better when I’m eating healthy food. Here is what’s worked for me so far:

          – Having produce delivered to my door from a local CSA. I found one that lets you veto stuff you don’t like (i.e. “I hate beets, double my strawberries this week instead”). This is the sweet spot for me: they decide what goes in my box so I don’t have to think about it (one less thing for decision fatigue), but I can veto anything I know I won’t use (one less thing to feel guilty about).
          – Realizing that with produce, pretty much anything can be roasted, sauteed, or made into a salad. Throw some garlic, olive oil, and vinegar in there and feel extra fancy. :) Presto, no planning needed!
          – Buying a chest freezer. We found a compact-ish one that fits in a storage closet in our small house. This means I can buy meat in family packs once a month, throw it in there in single-serving sizes, and avoid the grocery store for the rest of the month.
          – Cooking larger quantities when I do cook. It’s not much more work to cook 8 servings instead of 2. Eat one meal, throw the rest in the freezer in single-serving sizes (quart-size freezer bags are the best).
          – Buying and freezing meat that defrosts quickly: frozen individually wrapped frozen fish, kielbasa, boneless chicken breast / thighs, pork tenderloin. If I have a smidge of energy when I get home from work, thaw one of those in the sink with lukewarm water, then broil / saute it with some garlic and spices, and eat with aforementioned veggies. Presto, dinner!
          – Keeping some pantry staples stocked via those monthly grocery store trips: rice, pasta, olive oil, a few good vinegars, some standard spices, canned beans, shredded cheese.

          Basically, having the components of good food around makes it easier to throw something together on an unpredictable schedule. (Tomatoes from the CSA + salt + balsamic vinegar = feeling fancy AF with very little work.) And there’s always chopping tomatoes + bell peppers to put ON TOP of my nachos and telling myself it’s health food :)

    • Anon

      My MIL was forever behind on laundry and we couldn’t figure out why. Turned out that five people were throwing their bath towels in the hamper after one use and sheets more than once a week. It took a bit of doing but we finally convinced her of the merits of lower standards!

      • Anon

        I had the same towel problem… One day I got mad and hid most of the towels far away from the bathroom. Only 1 spare towel each left on the shelf. I’m almost ashamed to say that it worked really well…

      • Ashlah

        Now I’m curious how often you all clean your towels… Husband and I each use one bath towel for an entire week, then throw it in with our own weekly laundry. We’ll have an extra load of towels maybe once a month (towels used for various spills and other purposes). What’s the norm in towel cleanliness?

        • Eenie

          My husband showers twice a day so we change them twice a week. If they don’t smell and aren’t stiff, I say use them the whole week!

        • Katharine Parker

          We change towels once or twice a week, but I like to wash towels separately from clothes. I use a new facecloth daily, too, which adds up.

        • Julia

          My husband and I will use the same towels for more than a week. I try to remember to wash them weekly, but if I don’t toss them all in the wash, he sure as heck doesn’t remember to!

          The question of washing sheets/towels came up in a huge FB parenting group I’m in, and the variation in frequency was enormous. Ranged from people using a new towel every shower, to “I plead the 5th” – and several folks endorsed only washing sheets every few months. I’m not sure there is a “norm” anymore, but there is definitely a Good Housekeeping Magazine scale :)

          • Ashlah

            We’re definitely less regular on our sheets! It pretty much happens whenever one of us realizes it’s been “a while,” whatever that means. I like the idea of doing it monthly, but we’re not great at keeping track!

        • Abby

          I’m impressed by all of you. Since we got in-unit laundry we usually remember to change them out when we’re doing a load, but there are definitely times they just get used until someone notices them smelling less than fresh.

        • emmers

          My husband washes his towel once a week, and I wash mine.. when I remember? Which is probably once every two weeks? I feel sheepish about that. :)

        • We change out our towels once a week. Sheets I used to be pretty bad about, but since getting a dog I wash them every 2-3 weeks or so since she sleeps with us and her hair gets EVERYWHERE.

          • Kara E

            I try to do sheets every Saturday (or if it’s a week with our *marriage-saving/sanity saving* cleaning lady, have them ready for her to change them on Monday). My kiddo’s get changed Saturday or “as needed” (which tends to be more often). We have 2 sets of everything which lowers pressure. I definitely collect all the towels and washcloths on the weekend for our Saturday or Sunday evening TV-watching folding party. I really love having laundry in the house (after many years of communal laundry).

        • quiet000001

          I usually get a new towel every 2 showers. (That may be two days in a row, or less frequent, depending on time of year and how active I’ve been, etc. In the winter showering every day is a recipe for my skin to get seriously unhappy because of how dry it gets, that sort of thing.) I also have a hair towel and a body towel, and the hair towel goes longer between washes – every week or so – because I figure it collects less in the way of shedding skin cells and so on and is mostly just soaking up clean water from my wet hair.

          For face, I use a clean towel every time to avoid breaking out, but I have super soft washcloths for that so it is easy to have a big pile without taking up a lot of space. (Patting my face dry after washing doesn’t need much towel square footage, so a washcloth works fine.)

          Sheets I try to do every two weeks but often life gets in the way of that one. My goal with sheets is to always have a clean set ready for each bed, though – that way if there is some incident (kid has a bad nosebleed, dog rolls on the bed after taking a mud bath, etc.) they can be swapped right away so people don’t have to wait to sleep. Also when people are sick I try to increase sheet changing because I think it feels better and more restful to have nice clean sheets, not sweaty gross ones.

        • Lisa

          We wash our towels weekly (& shower every other day), but use a new washcloth each time. Kitchen towels and cloth napkins get replaced more frequently, probably two or three times a week.

        • ART

          I can usually get two weeks out of mine, but that’s mostly because I shower at the gym often and so I only take 2-3 showers at home a week these days. My husband somehow has the smelliest towels and can only use them for a few days before I rip them off the towel rack and make him get a new one out. We do towels separate from other laundry because I don’t use detergent on them anymore, just vinegar if they need it and then Oxyclean (well, I recently switched to Biz). I thought that would help with the mildew problem on my husband’s towels, but it hasn’t made a huge difference. I think he just carries a lot more water out of the shower with him because he has hairy arms and legs? His towels drive me insane. I’ve spent more time than I like to admit googling how to wash towels.

          • When washcloths get crunchy/nonsoft, it grosses me out. A few years back I spent a hot summer day boiling all my washcloths (in small batches) for 12 or 15 m or whatever each round. It was gross, but really helped the problem I was having with smelly towels/washcloths. (And I washed all the smelly towels on hot with vinegar and then dried them forever to make sure they were completely dry.) Last weekend I boiled two washcloths that, for some reason, always come out of the dryer a little non-soft… It’s two that are the same brand…not sure if they hold onto soap more or something?? So weird. But I have also done my share of googling! And I recently washed a load with a big cup of apple cider vinegar because a towel smelled…

        • RNLindsay

          I do sheets and towels every 2 weeks (we registered for all white stuff so it can all go together with a big ole splash of bleach). Idk, I know people switch out their linens more often than that, but they never seem terrible!

        • MDBethann

          We go a whole week with our towels. I do a single load of towels, wash cloths, hand towels, etc. every 7-10 days. I also have a toddler, so I do a load or two a week for her, plus a load for myself each week. Husband does his own laundry. Things will pick up once baby #2 arrives. Did a lot more laundry with a baby than with a toddler.

      • Oh dear…. We do sheets monthly, when we remember, and towels… less often. We’ve only just moved on from having only one each (well, technically we still do, but we also own two guest towels now, so we have back ups), so my default for washing towels means doing them on a day when we won’t need them the next morning, and we don’t have a dryer so sunny days are best or sundays, because cooking a roast dinner means the kitchen is nice and warm. They don’t really smell, though? I mean, they don’t even get that wet after a shower, and our water is so chlorinated they’re getting disinfected each time anyway?

        • Mer

          Yeah we do sheets…every other week when we’re on a good streak? We, too, just got 2 more towels, bringing our total to 4 (I lived with 1 towel for 3 years). And it was mainly because I had a friend coming to stay for a night and we would NOT HAVE HAD A TOWEL for her. Hence, 2 extras.

          We also hang dry everything so towels tend to be done on Saturday afternoons. Luckily we live in southern California where sun is almost always available.

    • Angela’s Back

      I’ll know I’ve made it as an adult when I have my own damn washer/dryer. I’m so sick of getting cash out to change into quarters and going downstairs hoping the machines are free and setting phone timers so I don’t leave my stuff down there unattended…

      • penguin

        We moved into an apartment with an in-unit washer and dryer about two years ago and we’re still riding that high lol.

      • ART

        We have our own machines, but they are in a shared laundry room that we have to go outside (and through a gate, gasp) to access, and I know myself well enough to know that doing the added baby/kid laundry when it’s raining and I have to go OUTSIDE is going to be a big hurdle. It’s one of my primary motivators for trying to find a house before the baby is born!

      • A washer and dryer are like, 40% of my life goals at the moment. We own our apartment, but there isn’t in-unit laundry. Meanwhile, there is a small mountain of dirty laundry in our bedroom, and I am dying a little inside.

    • jem

      Before we had in-unit laundry, I had three coping mechanisms:
      1. A good spot to air out clothes that had been worn but didn’t actually need to be washed (hooks on inside of closet door)
      2. A bucket tucked under the bathroom sink for hand-washing & a good drying rack
      3. A really good microfiber cloth (Norwex) for getting out spills between washes

      I can never manage to fold/put away laundry.

      • quiet000001

        Number 1 is huge – resident kid lives in hoodies and wants to wear the same one multiple days in a row, and they do much better now that I’ve convinced him to hang them up when he gets home from school rather than dumping them in a pile on the floor. Lets them dry and air out.

        (He is working hard on being a gross teenage boy, though, so sometimes he does still need to be made to change. Like, I’m happy you love that hoodie, but you’ve worn it everyday this week and it’s been hot, that hoodie is going to walk around on it’s own powered by stink.)

      • I’ve given up on folding laundry. For whatever reason it’s much easier for me to motivate myself to hang my clothes, so I’ve started doing that even for things like t-shirts that you really aren’t supposed to.

        • penguin

          We do this! Hangers forever, down with folding.

        • I’m the opposite. If I could get away with folding formal dresses and bunging them in the chest of drawers I absolutely would. Grew up in a house with Victorian wardrobes, which were really shallow because they were designed to hang clothes on hooks at the back (because you’d only have a couple of dresses to hang anyway), but previous owners had put a bar in and hanging stuff up always meant squeezing stuff in at weird angles, bending and breaking hangers, and a lot of stuff just falling on the floor. Even though we now live in a house with a massive wardrobe wardrobe it still feels like the same battle I just do not want to fight every time.

      • ART

        I try to dump clean laundry out on the bed right when I bring it inside. Even if we don’t fold it right away, we are forced to do so before going to sleep (and often it will prompt my husband to just do it when he sees the pile, whereas if I left it in the basket, he would not really notice it).

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      When I lived in an apartment and had to use a Laundromat, I accumulated enough underwear (and everything else) that I only had to go once a month. I would do many loads while I was there, but 4 hours once a month was better than 3 hours every other week. So now I live in a house, with a washer and a dryer, and a man who has enough clothing to last him a week. He does his laundry, pretty much all the time, and I still do my 2 or 3 large loads once a month, or whenever I run out of clean work pants.

      • Lisa

        Same! I try to run the laundry every 1-2 weeks because my husband fills the laundry basket so quickly, but I have enough clothes to easily last me a month. The fact that we only have enough washcloths for 1.5 weeks has been very helpful in enforcing the schedule.

    • RNLindsay

      I just let it pile up! I also have coin operated laundry in the basement. My schedule is clothes every 2 weeks and sheets/towels every 2 weeks- alternating weeks. We have a hamper large enough to fit 2 weeks worth of clothes and I have enough scrubs to get to 2 weeks. I actually only do 3 loads of laundry (4 sometimes) on clothes laundry day. I should say though that my husband wears suits to work so those are dry cleaned.

  • G.

    The thing I didn’t realize about being an adult as a young person or even in my 20s, is that no matter what your particular life set-up is (partnered or single, kids or no kids, pets or no pets, elder care responsibilities or not, high-powered career or not, etc), responsibilities just grow. In many ways, from the outside, my life in my late 30s doesn’t look all that different from life in my mid-20s (still single, still renting, no kids, etc), but my responsibilities — at home, at work, in life — have nonetheless grown and support from others has shrunk. As a result, my house is messier, my frustration is higher, and my brain more scattered. And although I’m a very organized person, I find dealing with logistics incredibly annoying and draining (be that finding a dogsitter, calling the cable company, making a dentist appointment, planning vacation, etc). I now understand why rich people have personal assistants and travel agents.

    In the meantime, I use the internet as much as I can (I love online scheduling because I hate the phone and I tend to think of this sort of thing at 10 pm or 7 am), I finally set bills to auto-pay (my finances are such that barring an unexpectedly enormous bill, there’s enough cushion for variation), and I’m working on accepting that I vacuum when I think about it or if people are coming over and that’s ok. I still need someone to force me to get over decision fatigue and plan vacations, so that’s a goal for the year.

  • Eve

    I’m so here for the failing-at-adulthood confessions. We had our water shut off last summer because fiancé failed at setting up autopay and we missed two months’ worth of payments. It was so embarrassing and I don’t think I’ve even told anyone, because how can you possibly miss not just one but two water bills and still call yourself an adult?

    We’ve recently started some systems to keep better track of our weekly schedules/bills/etc. We have a white board divided into a weekly calendar and on Sunday we go through and fill our week’s events in. I hate how it looks, but it has to be big enough that fiancé can’t miss it (which was our problem when we were just writing things on a wall calendar). We haven’t done it long enough to see if it’ll work long-term, but the water hasn’t been shut off again so I guess we’re doing okay.

    • penguin

      Our internet bill got shut off in a similar way. We’d moved to the new apartment and they got it all set up, and then I was waiting to get a bill in the mail. We never got one (turns out they had our apartment number wrong, even though they visited it IN PERSON to set up the service), and I never set up auto pay. Didn’t realize anything was wrong until the service got shut off.

      What I started doing in YNAB is that each bill is its own budget category, and I have the date due in the name of the category. So I can look at my categories and see that the internet autopay has gone through, but the car payment hasn’t yet. If it reaches the due date and there’s still nothing, I know to go check on it. So far it’s worked pretty well.

      • Lisa

        YNAB is awesome in that way. I also just got dinged an extra $20 by my exercise class for no apparent reason, and because of YNAB I was able to call them and ask what was up – and ultimately get reimbursed. In general, it’s so helpful for making sure that bills went through and for catching unexpected things that would otherwise slip through the cracks.

      • Angela’s Back

        I had autopay set up on my last internet account and then they *didn’t charge me* and the next thing I know, I’m getting a late fee added onto my bill the next month. The worst thing is that this happened more than once. Never will I ever use Comcast again… plus now I’m overly paranoid about autopay not working.

    • Eenie

      I check at the end of the month to make sure all the bills were auto pulled from our accounts in our budget program. This is how we discovered my husband put down a $100 deposit on the water bill (I assume after he didn’t pay it and had his water cut off) that was used towards our balance since they’ve decided we are trustworthy again.

  • Sara Clark

    I’ve had “will/trust” on my (actual, written down every week) to-do list since before my kiddo was born. He’s 2.5 now…..

    • JSK

      I hear ya.

      I’ve had the “Get Your Shit Together” Checklist (gyst.com) in my inbox since 1/22/13. My inbox is my to-do list.

      We’ve done some of the things on the list, but I’ve never printed out the list and just knocked out the last few items.

    • Kara E

      Kiddo is 4 here. We agree on everything except who will take care of the kiddo if something happens to both of us. Really REALLY need to fix this.

    • Angela Howard

      We met with the lawyer. She emailed us the paperwork. It is still sitting in my inbox. Time to print it out right now. Thanks for the push! (P.S. It wasn’t as scary or expensive as I thought. You can all do it!)

  • Violet

    My failing at adulthood all feel like small things, most of which probably have pretty obvious solutions, that I just either don’t feel like doing or have decided it’s fine by me to keep failing at. But they kind of pile up, death by a thousand cuts-style. Overall it makes me feel like a bit lazy, but oh well. No one’s perfect?
    – Still can’t figure out how to order what I want on Amazon Prime without some of the items being “Pantry.” Wtf is “pantry,” what is a “box,” and why do I have to fill one if I have Prime, aka free shipping already? Ugh, Amazon. They’re gonna take over the world, and I’m partially culpable.
    – Our place is always tidy, but not always clean. We have many, many pets, but they’re all dust bunnies.
    – Can never figure out how long food is good for, how long it’s good for in the freezer, etc.
    – We never clean our shower liner. We just periodically throw it out and replace it. Bring on the environmental judging, I know, I know.

    • Abby

      I JUST learned that apparently you can wash shower liners in the washing machine after trying (and failing) to keep up with wiping it down for YEARS. Still haven’t actually implemented this solution, but who knew that that was even an option?

      • Lisa

        Wait, what? This is a thing I can do??

        • Abby

          I KNOW!! My mind was totally blown.

        • Yes, if its fabric! I’m not sure if you can wash the plastic ones. I tend to buy slightly nicer fabric liners and then just launder them (probably not as often as I should, I admit) instead of buying new ones every time.

          • Abby

            Apparently you can wash the plastic ones– that’s where I was so surprised. I just assumed of course it would destroy both the curtain and my washing machine. But my mother-in-law swears it works.

          • Lisa

            Reader’s Digest says it’s a thing so I’m definitely going to have to try it.

          • Jess

            Oh man. I have a horrifying plastic one and I am so looking forward to doing this tomorrow now.

          • Colleen

            I have never been so excited about a cleaning hack in my life! The plastic shower liners are the single grossest thing in my house.

          • AtHomeInWA

            Hahaaaa. If that is the case, don’t go into my kitchen…..

          • AP

            I used to wash the plastic ones too! You just have to throw a couple old towels in with it to keep it from wrapping around the spinner! Now I buy the fabric ones because they last longer.

          • emmers

            We wash our plastic one. You sometimes have to wash it multiple times, but I vastly prefer that to scrubbing! Or if it gets really bad, we replace it.

            ETA– also, a big hack we semi-recently discovered was that we can actually throw our shower curtain, plastic liner, and plastic rings all in the washer at the same time, without disconnecting the plastic rings. Our shower curtain rod is spring loaded, so we just disconnect it, and then take the curtain/liner/rings (still all connected) and put them in the wash as a unit. It saves so much time not having to disconnect and reconnect those stupid rings.

        • Cdn icecube

          Yes! I chuck our plastic one in the washing machine with some laundry soap and a bunch of bleach. It comes out super clean and then I wash my whites after (because i’m always paranoid about extra bleach being left in the washer somehow and staining my darks.

      • I bought a fabric shower curtain that’s quick drying and washable and stopped with the plastic liners. Love it. I’ve been using it……probably more than 10 years…

  • sage

    Fiance and I were discussing the subject of #adulting just last week. Our realization was that something like 50% of being an adult is learning to just deal with all the little things as soon as they pop up and not letting them fester. When I wait or avoid tasks I know I should get around to, anxiety is introduced into the equation and the tasks start to feel like they will be more difficult to accomplish than they actually are.

    Difficult in practice, but I’ve gotten so much better at this over the last few years… Taking this approach of addressing things immediately has also made me much better at my job. YMMV

    • sage

      Along the same lines… when I realize things have piled up to a ridiculous point (because I am by no means perfect at this), the trick for me is to just do something, anything. The sense of accomplishment sometimes propels me to knock off a few to-do list items.

      • Abby

        Yes to all of this. I always come back to this comic: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/06/this-is-why-ill-never-be-adult.html and the “do something, anything” is the only way to start breaking the vicious cycle.

        • Hyperbole and a Half is the BEST! Have you read her book?! Terrific stuff.

      • angela

        Yes! One trick I use for this is a timer. I’ll set it for somewhere between 10 and 60 minutes, depending on how much time I have, put on a podcast or a playlist I love, and tell myself I just need to be cleaning or doing something – anything – on my list for that long. It doesn’t matter what it is or how “lame” of a to-do it feels like (for example: no matter how little motivation I have, I find I can hang things back up on existing hangers). I also, in this time frame, give myself permission to skip the things that can just seem insurmountable (finding a new place for clothes that don’t have something already designated).

      • Jessica

        I use a Passion Planner, and every planner comes with a sticker that says “Action Cures Fear.” An oversimplification for many, but so true when it comes to things like cleaning the bathroom or starting a painting project.

        I also really like Unfuck Your Habitat (http://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com/) for help in celebrating small achievements in cleaning and organizing, especially since they focus on helping encourage people to do these things when they have a chronic illness and/or depression.

    • Katelyn

      This is very Pinterest-y but I love my bullet journal. It looks nothing like the fancy online kinds – but it gets my ass in gear. My fleeting thoughts of “house projects” and “movies I’d like to see” and “things I want to do by the end of this month” have a place, unlike the regular calendar planners I’ve used in the past.

      I also love that I can abandon it for awhile and come back without having 20 blank pages reminding me of my failure. A few weeks ago, I went back in earnest and got my IUD scheduled, eyes checked, went to the dentist, and got my windshield replaced (non-urgent crack for 3 months… woops).

      I’m huge on digital documentation but, for some things, having that physical pen and paper is much more effective.

      • Kat

        My bullet journal (BF calls it my “Quest Log”) sorta of serves as a catch-all for grocery lists, writing ideas, doctors appointment notes, restaurants I want to try, etc. I’ve definitely been known to pull over on my way home from work to jot down and idea before I lose it for good. It’s a life saver when I can’t remember something to be able to check my journal and usually find what I’m looking for

      • Rachel

        Totally with you on the physical pen and paper! I’m a more structured-planner than bullet-journal type–I’m two months into my second Passion Planner (I got the undated kind so I could start whenever) and it’s been a total game-changer for me! I still use Google Calendar/my phone for keeping track of dates further out than a month, but then every month I copy them into my Passion Planner, and just having that forced daily/weekly/monthly check-in with my schedule and to-do lists and longer term goals has been INSANELY helpful for me. It’s like if I have the crutch of technology, I get lazy or something? I don’t know!

    • Lisa

      We use trello, so we can access it on our computers and our phones. We have a chore board and a sprint board (for one-off tasks) and a monthly meeting where we divvy out responsibilities and check-in on progress. We can always see what the other person has done (without nagging – yay!) and what is festering and perhaps needs some intervention.

      • Mariah

        PLEASE SAY MORE!!!! I’m just getting into trello, and I’m a bit stumped about the set-up – how to communicate effectively about assigning tasks, or stuff like that. How do you make it work for you?

        • Lisa

          So I use it for work too, but in our house my partner and I have 3 boards. One is a master list that I’m in charge of, the second is a “sprint” board that he is more in charge of (but we both use), and the third is a chore board for regularly occurring chores. The chore board has monthly lists and we move each task to the next month once we’ve completed it (screenshot attached). The master board is where I note upcoming tasks & projects, but they might be low priority. Each sprint/month we sit down together and talk about events coming up and projects that need to be done, and I move those tasks to the sprint board (or create new cards, if needed). We state how long the sprint is and assign those cards, and my partner is in charge of checking in weekly to see how we’re doing (just a quick convo) and running the monthly sprint meeting where we assess what we did and didn’t get to and I add cards for the next month (screenshot for the sprint board attached too). The monthly meetings usually run about an hour, and we also talk about what’s working well and what isn’t so that we can adjust when necessary and congratulate ourselves when we kicked butt.

          We generally assign cards together at home, but at work we just assign cards and an email notifies the person.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9dc0b598e8af5445a4fcd1bfcaf924ba5a20b5a89187b66c9cf2204e84f7561e.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/57789651a8d46db74b2a2460c2cec1dbae1a138a0f0b2aab73373ad3b573b2ba.png

        • Lisa

          Also, if you have specific questions I’m happy to answer them. I really like Trello, and we used it to plan our wedding as well (which it’s actually more suited to than day-to-day tasks).

    • Girl preach. I guess I should pay that $25 random bill Oakland sent me for having an alarm then, huh?

    • Rebecca

      Yes! I’m almost 30 and finally learning to ‘eat the frog’ first thing – to tackle the hardest thing first in my day. Not only do I have more mental energy so it’s easier, I know I have time to do it so I don’t freak out, I’m no longer feeling anxious about it and that makes everything else feel good, and even if i get nothing else done that day I ATE THE FROG. So the thing I was dreading is done and I feel good! It’s amazing the difference it makes on all aspects of life…..

  • Gaby

    I’m about to ask to leave early with sick leave because I slept in too late yesterday and therefore had terrible sleep last night and am too tired to function well enough at the office without a nap. It’s not the worst thing, but it happens around once a month for me. I’m trying to accrue more sick leave for when I eventually choose to get pregnant and need maternity leave, but this keeps happening!

    • Arie

      Oh, I feel you. I’ve always had trouble sleeping and when my schedule gets off, this gets bad. Also I live in a very sunny place and on days when it’s raining sometimes I just really need a nap. Is there anything that makes you feel less like an adult than needing an afternoon nap? Not in my world. The only thing I’ve found that helps is these melatonin gummies (because nothing is more grown up than gummies!!) Anyway, they help me get to sleep when I know I really need to be asleep before midnight.

      • Cellistec

        MELATONIN GUMMIES. What.

        • Arie

          Yeah! Adult gummies! They’re lower dosage than the pills, which is great because a full dosage gives me weird nightmares.

          • Cellistec

            I was going to ask about that–other people have said they get weird dreams from the regular ones, so good to hear the gummies are gentler!

          • Arie

            Yeah, they’re typically a smaller dose than the pills, so you can just take 1 gummy instead of having to cut a tiny pill in half.

          • emmers

            Trader Joes has tiny dose pills of melatonin (comparative to most pills). I think they’re 500 micrograms, where most other pills are like 5-10 milligrams.

            But I like the idea of gummies :)

        • Abby

          That’s magical. I was fully on board with gummy vitamins, but this is a new one I’ll have to look into.

  • Studies Say

    “A place for everything and everything in it’s place!” That mysterious phrase assumes I have any understanding of where things belong. I don’t (or at least my understanding is limited), and for this reason have concluded that it is time to call in the professionals. Hire somebody to come help me identify systems to tame the chaos? Hire somebody to come organize things so that all I need to do is maintain the system? Yes, please. The deal has not yet been solidified (seriously, where the eff did I put that lady’s number?!), but hopefully within the next 8 weeks. If nothing else, hiring somebody to just help me sort out the paperwork and reduce clutter is probably worth the investment.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Wait, there are people that do that? How do I find them?

      • Lisa

        I have a friend who does this. They are called “professional organizers” and you can find them through the national association of productivity and organizing (NAPO), or possibly through Yelp, etc.

    • Angela Howard

      Get a groupon/deal for a personal organizer. It will give you a cheaper way to see if you like one and get started with the process.

  • Julia

    Earlier this year, after we moved from an apartment to a house, I called the water company and bitched them out, big-time, over the phone for a bill. Turns out I never cancelled the service. It still makes me laugh thinking about that five-second pause with confused customer service where I was like “Oh…. okay…. well then… can I pay it online?” Had to backtrack so fast and I was SO SURE I was right.

    For me, being a mom of a 1 1/2 year old and working full-time means I often THINK I do task things (usually mail/bill/house oriented) but it turns out I didn’t ACTUALLY do them. I’ve forgotten to RSVP to a good friend’s wedding (the little card was up on our bulletin board, though!), mail the paperwork for rebates (buried in a basket), find the receipt to return something, etc., etc. I went to Goodwill last month to donate some clothes, and accidentally donated a bag of clothes I meant to return at TJMaxx. I didn’t remember until way later, and it was over $100 of stuff. And just last Friday, I was working from home when a friend texted me asking if we were still supposed to meet for coffee that morning. Completely forgot, and I was the one who invited HER! Ugh.

    My husband and I try to divide and conquer, and I *mostly* have my life together, but damn, adulting is hard.

    • Cathi

      Not actually doing things that I think I have done is my biggest downfall too (also a working parent, is this a brain-resource-utilization thing?). I either have to do [task that pops into my head] RIGHT THE EFF NOW or write it down immediately and put that note somewhere painfully obvious, or else it just doesn’t get done. I used to think it’s because I was just forgetting to do them, but I always had the sense that I really did those things because of how hard I ~*intended*~ to do them.

      I forgot my mom was coming over to visit a couple weeks ago. I went to the movies with a friend :( I was just so excited about the ability to be spontaneous that everything else faded into the background.

    • Violet

      I do this all the time with telling people things. “Did I tell you XYZ already, or did I just think about telling you?” Yikes.

  • Cellistec

    We’ve failed to train our dog, pretty much at all. Last week my husband deliberately let go of her leash when the elevator doors opened to let us out on our floor, and she dashed out and cornered a neighbor. Her barking and lunging scared him so much he lost a sandal in the chaos. I felt like such a failure for not addressing her reactivity issues in the past nearly 2 years we’ve had her. (But I was also angry at my husband for letting go of the leash, and super scared that the incident could have gone very, very badly, and we talked about that at length.) I contacted a trainer right away so we can put a stop to it, but I’m still embarrassed as hell. We’re THOSE dog owners, you know?

    • Marcela

      We’ve tried training two different times with our fear reactive pup. Part of our problem is that only one person (guess who?) actually tries to stick to the training regime. I get so frustrated with my husband’s lack of caring about the training rules that I just throw up my hands. And now poor pup is 8 years old and very very badly behaved.

      • quiet000001

        Would it help to frame it as “this isn’t about the dog behaving better, it is about the dog FEELING better?”? Because fear reactive dogs are pretty anxious and unhappy dogs at some level – that is why they are so reactive.

        I had a dog who was a rescue who had anxiety issues and after about a year he seemed a bit happier and to have settled in, but then a year after that we went away with him on a long car trip and I don’t know what it was, but something during that experience flipped a switch in his head and suddenly he was SO MUCH less anxious. Like I hadn’t realized how anxious he still was until it went away. Same dog but he seemed so much happier then. (Our best guess is that something about the trip finally convinced him that he was staying with us and could trust us?)

    • Lisa

      As someone who gets really nervous around dogs after being bitten as a kid, I thank you for taking ownership of this and working to resolve the issue!

  • Cleo

    Success: I treat going to the gym, in my mind, the same way I treat going to work. I sign up for my 7am weekday classes at the beginning of the month and it’s just a fact that I’m going to each one. There’s no hemming and hawing, no negotiation. I’ve been doing this (with various workouts) for about 7 years now with only a few gaps when I’ve been going through a break-up or I’ve been sick.

    On the Needs Improvement side — in general, any task that requires me to take time out of my schedule to do it feels like a mountain. I recently celebrated my success of getting my broken headlight replaced only 2 days after I noticed it had gone out. And then, 5 days later, my other headlight went out (why so close together?!?!) and I still have yet to get it replaced (I’m forcing myself to go tonight because last night, some dude pointed it out to me and when I said, “Thanks, I know,” he mansplained to me about how dangerous it was to have a headlight out and I could just go to Jiffy Lube as if I hadn’t been driving a car for 16 years)

    • Laura C

      Ok, I’ll give myself this: I’m really good about going to the gym three times a week and doing a lot of walking two-three other days. One of my things is, if I get to the gym and I really can’t make myself do a full workout, I don’t force it. But I don’t let myself drop the habit. This is, of course, easier when your gym is close.

      • Mer

        This! I never feel bad about going to the gym. It is never a ‘mistake’ to go. Yeah, maybe the workout was sub-par, or I only moved around for 20 minutes and then called it a day. But that is still loads better than not going at all, both mentally and physically. Sometimes my planned workout is “show up and see what happens”

  • Sarah E

    My biggest issue right now is figuring out how much to invest in a rental that we’d like to move on from in two years (it’s a nice house, but we’ll need to move on life wise on way or the other). How much to make things pretty and pleasing for the present and how much is way too much effort and stress with no return? It’s a tough line.

    • Lisa

      I struggle with this so much, and that line changes day by day depending on our savings goals and how annoying or ugly a particular thing is. We make low-cost changes and changes that we can take with us, especially if we live in that rental for more than one year. That includes paint, hanging art, sometimes swapping out doorknobs and fixtures, a cheap new lamp from ikea, annuals in pots on our porch, etc. We also bought a washer and dryer (there was a hook-up but no appliances) because it impacts our quality of life so much, and we could potentially take it with us when we move. It doesn’t include more expensive things that are specific to the apartment, like replacing the ugly blinds or covering a section of the floor that we dislike, unfortunately.

      • Sarah E

        Yeah, right now savings goals are standing in the way of “replace the cheap lamp I hate” or “buy curtains to replace those blinds I hate.” I try to keep things uncluttered and rearrange things when I feel antsy about not spending.

        • Lisa

          This won’t help with your current apartment, but we budget extra in our “Moving” category for each move, knowing that there are always things that we’ll need to buy when we move in (an extra garbage can because we now have two bathrooms, that ugly lamp, etc). So maybe for the next move, tack on a few hundred dollars extra when you’re saving for the moving truck, deposit, etc. I know it’s not any consolation right now, though.

      • Lisa

        Our current apartment is the first place I’ve had an in-unit washer/dryer in my adult life, and I will never live anywhere without one again if it’s at all possible.

        • Abby

          Seriously. Just got ours recently and re-learning how to just do laundry whenever the hamper is full (instead of overflowing for weeks) is so lifechanging.

          • Lexipedia

            I used to be so good at laundry when I had in-unit, and then I moved to an apartment with shared machines and descended into overflowing-bin territory. When FI and I were moving in together I was so excited about in-unit and said I’d do ALL THE LAUNDRY, but I haven’t managed to switch back to my good schedule. I try and blame it on the fact that our “energy efficient” machines take 3+ hours to dry anything, but really it’s just laziness.

          • Abby

            Yes! I’m sure the energy efficient machines are great for the environment but I haven’t gotten used to the 3+ hour dry time and the clothes not being warm and fluffy yet. I just try to throw in at least one load a night when there’s enough to go in there. (“try” being the operative word…)

          • Lexipedia

            Exactly – and sometimes the 3 hour cycle doesn’t get it done, and if I forget to check the dryness then I end up with damp towels the next morning.

  • jem

    Oh boy.

    Saving money?! I tried the free trial of YNAB and lasted… a minute? before just feeling like a guilty failure. I make enough to pay our bills but I’m not used to having to ration my fun money. So I don’t. And then live to regret it.

    Time management. I can keep the house reasonably clean OR I can exercise regularly, but for some reason I just can’t do both.

    Shopping around. I haven’t changed my car insurance or my cable provider in four years simply because I am too lazy to switch.

    Keeping our car clean & serviced. I’ve had my car for a year and a half and it’s been to the car wash once. When i had a slow tire leak six months ago, I called my dad crying and he came down and took it to the shop for me. The shame.

    • jem

      Omg also…. actually taking things to goodwill. I am GREAT at purging, but then it sits in a box in the second bedroom for nine months

      • penguin

        I put our full boxes in front of the door to encourage us to take it out. I also just ask my fiancé to take it since I know I won’t….

        • jem

          Omg the shame! I actually DID get the box into my car a couple weeks ago. It’s still there 😳

          • Katharine Parker

            I had a st vinny’s box in my car for over a year until last week. I’m telling myself, never again–just donate it that day. You can make a change!

      • Ashlah

        Guilty of keeping donation stuff in a box (or multiple boxes…and bags) in the garage for a long time. Sometimes it gets to be enough that it makes sense to request a pickup. That might be worth looking into! I might feel weird asking for it for a tiny box of stuff, but if there are a few boxes, a lot of locations offer free pickups of donated stuff.

      • Gaby

        We live like 1000 feet from the closest thrift store and we still are working on getting better at this.

      • Jess

        I finally was so embarrassed by our donation boxes in the dining room that I took them out last week. After two years.

      • JC

        We just went to Goodwill yesterday after I have been staring at these donations since March!!!

    • Lisa

      Seconding shopping around. It’s so hard to go that extra mile when the status quo is fine.

    • ART

      As part of my Google calendar finance system, I have set up numerous automatic deposits from my checking to various savings accounts (emergency fund, vacations, car maintenance, etc.), and I treat them exactly the same way I do bills that get autopaid. That has been the key to saving money for me. I use CapitalOne360 (used to be ING Direct) for these savings accounts and hook it up to my Wells Fargo checking account, so I can’t instantly transfer money back to checking, it takes a few days (for planned expenses like vacations and car maintenance, I put it on my credit card and transfer that amount back to Wells Fargo so I can pay the credit card off quickly). Since it’s not easy to access on a whim, I don’t use it for fun money spending.

    • Angela Howard

      Find an insurance broker to give you quotes for your car insurance (homeowners, rental, etc.). So far they haven’t found a cheaper option for me, but I feel like I did the due diligence without having the make all the calls, etc.

  • Arie

    I kept getting ambushed by all these annual things that crop up at different times. AAA membership renewal. Renter’s insurance renewal. License Plate renewals. Birthdays. Prescriptions. We do okay on monthly things but these annual occurrences just kept throwing me off, so I finally made a list. It’s literally just a google sheet that’s titled “things that don’t occur monthly”, which is a little absurd, but whenever i start to get that itchy-dread feeling that I’m missing something, I can go look at that sheet and feel like I know a little bit about what TF is going on.

    • Ashlah

      I’ve been putting these things in YNAB as they’ve occurred, and it’s been so nice not to be surprised by annual bills! Plus saving a monthly amount towards an annual bill makes it almost painless to pay.

    • penguin

      This is one of my big categories on YNAB! I used to use Mint, so I looked back at it to ballpark how much I spent on a thing in a year (car maintenance, CSA costs, presents). Then I split that estimated total over 12 months, and save each month towards that number. Adjust as needed.

      This has helped cut down on the surprise costs like a big excise tax (thanks Massachusetts).

    • Lisa

      This is one of the things I love about YNAB is that they encourage you to create categories for annual expenses and then fund them on a monthly basis. Like I know my life insurance is about $220/year so I set aside $18.33/month so that in January I’m guaranteed to have that money in my account. It makes me feel so much more in control of what’s actually happening with my money!

      I love this YNAB video where Jesse talks about how “There is no normal month” because it’s so true!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syYJ8slW8vA

      • Jessica

        I just re-started a YNAB budget from scratch (going from a double income to less than half of that is such a mind fuck) and it’s really hard to see my nice savings for insurance and Christmas go back down to $0, and not be able to budget much for them. I’m so glad I have this program because it’s going to make it easier to save up, but holy cow what a mind shift!

        (PS-I will have more money to put in there, but the divorce is kind of sucking up some savings right now. I refuse to let either one of us touch the emergency fund since it holds the biggest pot of money, and a real emergency may come up at any time).

        • Lisa

          You’ll get there! People might just get a nice card and a pair of socks for Christmas, and I don’t think anyone in your family would fault you for that after the year you’ve had.

        • Charise

          I also had a stressful money year of “what the heck is my new budget going to be? what will have to change in my lifestyle? don’t touch any of the money! panic! anxiety!” when I was going through my divorce a year or two ago. Yet one more thing that sucks about the situation, but you are right, you will eventually get settled to the point you feel more comfortable with starting to spend and save for specific things again!

        • I totally understand this! With my divorce, my budget really took a hit because I had been making about a 1/3 of our household income. It was rough for a while. My income was enough to pay for the essentials, but zero money for clothes, shoes, restaurants, trips, etc. Thankfully I ended up developing a side job and that kept me afloat and my income was more than my expenses that first year re-single. Hang in there! It’ll get better…

    • Abby

      I’ve started putting deadlines like this on my google calendar as “events” – i.e. when I got my license renewed (months late, I don’t drive regularly) I put the new expiration date in there immediately. Important birthdays are recurring appointments (with 1-2 week reminders, though I still fail at sending cards), etc. Not perfect, but it helps.

      • Violet

        Not that you’re asking for advice, but this reminds me: whenever there’s a good sale, I buy cute, ambiguous note cards. That way when a birthday comes up, someone dies, or someone gets into grad school, I’ve got no delay time in jotting down a note and getting a card in the mail. I love getting cards, so I try to be the person who sends them.

        • Abby

          This is definitely the goal! Just haven’t gotten to that point of adulting yet :-)

          • Violet

            Gotcha. I’m a sucker for cute cards, so this one feels like a treat to me. ; )

          • Abfab

            I’m with you! I get them at the one spot in Target – there are often ones 8/$1 that are super cute and non-specific. I still don’t send them as often as I would like, but I have quite a stockpile!

          • Abby

            Any favorite sources? I love cute cards but my husband just can’t get behind the cost of them, so would definitely prefer to stock up on sale but have no idea where to even start looking.

          • Violet

            Sure! I like Papyrus and Paperchase.

          • Abby

            Thanks!

          • Jessica

            I love Emily McDowell’s cards, and keep an eye on her instagram for regular sales and Imperfection Sales (where the card might be slightly damaged, but I’m putting it in the mail anyway so it doesn’t matter)

          • Oof

            If you shop at Trader Joe’s, their cards are a buck and very beautiful. I have a little stash of cards including sympathy cards. I’ve also ordered some cheap but pretty card sets on Amazon.

          • JLily

            Stores like Marshalls or TJMax usually have cards that are nice + discounted!

        • AP

          My mom does this. She keeps a little accordion file of “occasions” and keeps cards in there! #scoutleadermom

        • Lexipedia

          My grandma buys all of her family birthday cards at the beginning of the year (seven kids + grandkids…), signs and dates them, writes postdated cheques, and puts them in one of those monthly accordion folders. Then she pulls them out on the first of the month and drops them in the mail. #organization goals

          I discovered this when I asked after she accidentally mailed mine with a cousin who has a birthday two months before mine but it was dated for the future.

          • Violet

            WOAH. That is some high-level organization!

          • Lexipedia

            No kidding. I was proud that I bought a pile of cards on Saturday because Papyrus was having a buy three, get one free sale, but it’s nowhere near grandma-level.

          • JSK

            My maternal grandmother and my MIL have the life skill that my husband and I call “knowing how the mail works” whereby their birthday cards always arrive ON the day of your birthday. I’ll never not be blown the hell away by it.

          • nutbrownrose

            I want this life skill!

          • Lisa

            That is awesome. My grandmother has taken “being fair” to a whole different level, but in a good way. She makes sure that all of our her kids and grandkids are treated equally, and we all know that. A few years ago she called me because she wanted to know how much she had given me for my 8th grade graduation, as some of my younger cousins were graduating and she wanted to make sure they got the same amount. I’m in my mid-30s. It was so sweet though.

          • Violet

            Did she adjust for inflation, though? ; )

          • CMT

            Ha! I wonder if she adjusted for inflation?

          • Violet

            Lol, great minds.

          • penguin

            My grandma buys a ton of cards ahead, so she always has birthday and Christmas cards available. This has only ever backfired once, when she sent my older brother a frilly pink card wishing her lovely granddaughter a happy birthday.

          • Jessica

            I’ve considered starting a service where I do this for people–we sit down at the beginning of the year and I have them sign all the cards and put cash in them when necessary, then mail it out for them.

          • penguin

            I’d use that service. I’m lucky if I send my little brother a birthday card and a Christmas card every year, much less if they are on time (or within like, two months of the event).

          • Jessica

            Just curious–if you did use this service, would you be willing to send out an email to family/close friends to ask them to add their Big Events to an online calendar? I’m just thinking about all the things that can come up in a year (anniversarys, graduations, retirements, etc) that might get missed if you do it all at once.

          • penguin

            My family and friends are really bad about responding to email (no idea why) but I’d be willing to keep a calendar updated as part of the service. It’s the actual process of finding/writing in/stamping/mailing the card that I fail at pretty spectacularly.

          • Amy March

            If I have to fill out some form for you, to me why bother? It’s the thought that counts and then I’m doing the thinking!

          • Jessica

            Thinking is often easier than doing. And if that’s your mindset this is not a service for you.

          • Amy March

            I’m speaking as one of the potential recipients of the card, not a person sending them out.

          • Jessica

            So telling someone, in an organized way, when important things in your life that are happening in the year negates the thought put into sending a card for said events?

          • Amy March

            It just feels really impersonal to me! If you want to know when my birthday is, call me and ask, or look it up on Facebook. If you want to be able to send me anniversary cards, make the effort to write that date down or, again, have a personal conversation about it. I’d even be fine with just an email saying “hey can you remind me when your graduation date is and while we are at it send my your address” but just let me reply to the email, don’t send me off to fill in some online calendar for you. That’s outsourcing your work to me, and yes, it does make receiving a card less special. Like, it would be easier to do thank you cards if you had everyone at your shower write her address on an envelope but actually you’re supposed to do that hard work not the people you’re trying to do something for. That’s just me.

          • Kat

            Every time I go home it’s with car full of gifts/cards that never made it into the mail for birthdays, graduations, engagements, etc. I’m the worst. I LOVE giving gifts but hate going to the post office (are they always mean to everyone or am I making this up?)

          • penguin

            I’ve had that experience too! I hate going to the post office unless I don’t have to interact with people. Even then it’s painful.

          • I used to hate going to my old post office in Chicago. I would often get so mad I’d cry, or have to try not to. And the lines where always long, to the door, so it took a long time. But my post office here (in Canada) is great. Sometimes the line in a 5 people long, but the people who work there are nice and some even know exactly who I am and never ask for ID because they know my name! I love it…

          • Lexipedia

            Even better – if they can do it online and Paypal you the money for the gifts…

            Though I guess that takes out the “by hand” component.

          • Jessica

            Well, with something like this having the sender actually put time into it makes the thought there, but takes away the responsibility of acting more than one day. It’d be kind of like a New Year’s Resolution you can get done immediately.

          • Lexipedia

            True – and they could always sign all the cards and drop them into a pre-paid mailer so they get to you easily.

          • Abby

            I would definitely use this service, but I agree that the handwritten component is key – I got a wedding thank-you that, now that I see the handwrytten site, was almost definitely from there, and it felt a bit impersonal. The kicker is that as someone who is terrible about all cards/thank you notes/etc. I normally don’t even notice or care if I get a thank-you note–so the “I outsourced this” note was actually more offensive to me than not getting one at all.

            So, for your market research, the ideal for me would be: 1) getting an email reminder of recurring birthdays/dates and addresses to confirm/add to for the year; 2) once the dates/events are confirmed, a second email with a curated selection of cards and a form to match them to the previously-selected life events (you could offer gift cards to various businesses at this stage too); 3) I get a mailer with those cards in pre-addressed/stamped envelopes so I can handwrite notes/add cash or gift cards; and then alternatives for step 4: either a) reminder emails/calendar invites to remind me to send those cards calculating mailing time to the pre-entered addresses; or b) for an additional fee, as soon as I’ve filled them out I send them back to the service in one bulk mailer and the service automatically drops them in the mail on the appropriate date.

          • Jessica

            This is not a new idea: https://www.handwrytten.com/cards

          • Holly

            I love this idea!

        • Jan

          I had the brilliant idea to do this a couple years ago, and those damn things are still sitting in a box unused. I either forget to buy a card entirely or forget I already have cards. Everyone in my family are notorious buy-a-card-and-let-it-sit-for-three-weeks-in-the-back-of-your-car-while-the-birthday-is-long-over people, so at least they don’t take my cardlessness personally.

          • toomanybooks

            My problem with cards is… I’m an artist and get ambitious. I think I’m going to make someone a very cool, personal, handmade card. And then I never do.

            In the past with thank you notes I think “I’m going to send a thank you note for this Christmas present!” and then realized I never end up doing that and I should just text the person right now with a picture of me using it at the moment to be like “thanks for that cool tea kettle!! I love using it!!” if I want to actually get the message to them.

        • A few years back I got some pretty and minimal monogrammed ivory notecards and envelopes, and they are so practical. I was just thinking earlier today how much I love them and how useful they are. When I run out, I’ll definitely want to order more!

      • ART

        I totally put this kind of stuff on my google calendar, set to repeat yearly or whatever is appropriate, with email reminders. If it’s a money thing (e.g. renter’s insurance), I put it on my Finances calendar. Anything else goes on my personal calendar.

        • Abby

          How have I never thought to make a Finances calendar? So brilliant.

          • ART

            I posted a little more about it above – it’s legit my #1 financial management tool. I even have the Target debits for our Toilet Paper and toothpaste subscriptions (also an adulting win) on there.

        • I’m starting a finances calendar now! Everything is already on my google calendar but just in my personal one, but I like the idea of putting them all on a finances calendar!

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      My aunt has a list of birthdays that she pulls out on the first of every month, and sends all her cards at once. Doesn’t work if you want to meet up with someone or do more than send a card, but it knocks out a lot of people if you’re a card mailer.

      • ssha

        oooh, I really like this.

    • maybemum

      Same problem! I know that itchy-dread “what am I forgetting” feeling too well. Stealing this idea. Simple but effective.

    • Yes! I tell my clients Christmas is not an emergency! Figure out how much you want to spend, and set it aside each month. Create a “slush” account for the non-monthly annual expenses. Insurance, vet bills, vacations, holidays, amazon prime, car expenses… the list goes on. I also have folks keep it in a 3rd account just for these expenses so it doesn’t feel like you are taking from savings to pay those bills.

  • CMT

    My big problem is dust/dirt/cat hair in my apartment. I moved last winter to an apartment with hardwood floors, which I like so much better! but it doesn’t hide all that grossness like carpet did. And I’m on the first floor of motel-style building, so I think dirt and little rocks and stuff just get tracked in way more. I am CONSTANTLY sweeping and it’s a losing battle. If anybody has any tips, I’d greatly appreciate them!

    • Lisa

      Recommending a cheap roomba (or equivalent). It’s life-altering!

      • Ashlah

        Seconding the Roomba! Outsource your chores to robots! (And use a shop vac/sweep once in a while to get in the corners the Roomba can’t reach). Our struggle is staying on top of mopping. I would love to also have a Roomba mop, but they apparently aren’t good for laminate flooring.

        • Lisa

          Same. We don’t wash our floors nearly often enough.

        • suchbrightlights

          We also have a mopping robot. Takes forever, makes a strange noise that scares the cat, and in my opinion leaves too much wet on the floor for too long. Overrated. You are not missing anything.

      • emmers

        This is my future goal! Til then, I just let it get grubby, and then we clean it when we can’t stand it anymore.

    • Laura C

      Our current apartment has very dark wood floors and it is so much worse than paler wood floors. I was feeling terrible about how you could always see dust/dirt/cat hair everywhere, and then I mentioned it to one of my cleanest friends, who said that she’d had the exact same experience when she had dark wood floors: no amount of sweeping was ever enough. So I feel a tiny bit better now.

      • CMT

        Yeah, this is definitely part of the problem. Ban dark wood floors!

      • Alli

        Yeah, I loved our dark wood floors at our apartment, and even though I don’t like our light wood floors at our house quite as much, it’s amazing to not have to sweep or vacuum twice a week. Vacuuming did work a lot better than sweeping though, I guess less stuff get’s lost to the void only to settle back down a half hour later.

    • Abby

      I am SO bad at cleaning our floors, but implementing a no-shoes policy in the apartment helps a lot with not tracking things in (and I love going barefoot). Doesn’t need to be super strict, getting in the habit of shoes off at the door makes home feel super relaxed and cozy to me, and keeps things cleaner.

      • Violet

        Haha, another fail of mine: every now and then my partner and I think we’re going to institute a no-shoes policy. Usually lasts all of one week (and that’s probably a stretch).

        • Abby

          Having a shoe rack by the door helps with this. So does keeping my work shoes in my desk at work and basically only wearing one commuting shoe pair per season (croc sandals in the summer, boots in other seasons) so my daily shoe routine doesn’t vary much.

          • Violet

            We’re both good at taking them off by the door- but I don’t like how they look sitting there, all out ‘n exposed. So I put them back in their boxes. Then the next morning when I’m deciding which shoes to wear, I put them on when I get dressed and, voila, have already violated the rule since I’m walking from the bedroom to the front door in shoes. And god forbid getting dressed wasn’t the last thing I did (oh, gotta go walk over and turn off the lamp, get my lunch from the fridge, etc.). Or one of us comes in from being outside desperately needing to use the bathroom so we just go straight there. It’s almost comical the amount of times we’ve tried this and just cannot keep it up!

          • Abby

            Oh you’re fine! If the shoes you’re putting on are reasonably clean/dry, no need to beat yourself up over having them on for a few minutes in the morning– that’s not adding to the general grime of floors all that much more than bare feet or slippers. It’s just that getting into the habit of off-when-you-walk-in keeps you from forgetting you’re tracking in mud/water/god forbid you stepped in something and didn’t notice. I break the “rule” all the time in the ways you’re talking about (though it helps our bathroom is immediately inside our front door!) but keep it as a more general guideline.

          • Violet

            Oh, so maybe we’re not failing as badly as I thought! We wear slippers (me, when I get cold) or flip flops around if we’re spending extended time there.

          • Abby

            Nope, not failing at all!

          • Jess

            Even my draconian girl scout troop leader mother runs into the house to use the bathroom after a road trip without taking off her shoes. They just come off immediately afterward.

          • Violet

            I mean, when nature calls…

        • Lexipedia

          Slippers/house shoes by the door!

        • E.

          My mom and stepmom use hats, gloves, whatever’s by the door to step on if they need to come in for something quick and don’t want to take their shoes off. They are also super super neat/clean freaks. I took shoes off my whole life so now I feel weird wearing shoes inside anyone’s home!

          • Abby

            That’s… super intense. I feel like the dirty hat/glove/scarf is WAY worse (to have to do laundry and ew, mud in your hat) than wiping a puddle off the floor (as long as it’s wood/tile and not carpet), but maybe I’m just still having laundry PTSD from the 10 years I didn’t have a washer/dryer in my apartment.

          • E.

            Haha yeah I tease them all the time. Though to be fair they don’t do it with super muddy shoes or hats and gloves they care about

    • sage

      Microfiber dust mop? I just bought one this weekend for our new house (it’s mostly hardwood, which is new territory for me), and I read that these work better than brooms for daily cleaning.

      • Kara E

        I sweep (for the crumbs) then use a Bona dust mop for our hardwoods – but just in the kitchen (where there are crumbs and outside stuff being tracked in). The rest of the house gets just the dust mop. We have a no shoes policy (though my husband often wears his dress shoes upstairs – though our kiddo has recently been bugging him about not taking his shoes off “in the shoes off place.”

        • sage

          Good to know these hacks! I just bought a Bona dust mop :)

    • suchbrightlights

      We have a long-haired dog and a long-haired cat. We gave up and bought an Anker vacuum robot for $100 on Amazon. It’s been game-changing. I made fun of my fiance for getting it (vacuuming is his job, and he hates it, so he partially outsourced it to the robot) but it does a pretty good job of maintenance cleaning and keeping down the tumbleweeds and the random cat tracking. We run that every few nights and then he vacuums once a week, and the house is livable.

      • This sounds great, but how do your animals react? Is your cat afraid of it? How loud is it? This sounds great, but I worry that it might stress my cat out. Or that he might attack it and break it, if he wasn’t scared of it…

        • suchbrightlights

          The animals both got over it and the cat hasn’t attacked it yet- it’s been a year. No luck yet getting him to ride it.

    • GotMarried!

      My Bobbi (vacuum robot) saved my life on the hardwood floor collecting dust/dog hair problem. I actually think of it more like a vacuum sweeper and collector of dust … I don’t find it works particularly well to vacuum actual carpet, but is amazing on hard surfaces.

  • Laura C

    I am reading this thread and I’m like, “I have all these problems. All of them.” Just so totally overwhelmed by life right now.

    • Lisa

      Sending encouragement! Remember that it is temporary.

      • BSM

        Lol, I doubt this is how you meant it, but I read your comment in an incredibly morbid way (like, life is temporary). I’m kind of a morbid person, so I appreciated it that way, too.

        • Violet

          Hahahaha, love this. Like, “Who cares we’re all effing it up? We’ll be dead one day, anyway!”

          • Jess

            I have non-ironically told myself this. It helped! :)

        • rg223
    • TeaforTwo

      FWIW I think that all parents of young children in the US should get 50 bonus points right out of the gate.

      I’m on month 14 of an 18 month maternity leave and we still wind up ordering emergency takeout at least once a week, we have two full “chaos rooms” of unpacked boxes in the new house (that we moved into two months ago), and because I’m so behind on ordering blinds, our current privacy situation in our bathroom (which has a window that the neighbours overlook) is a piece of waxed paper taped to the window frame.

      If I were also working full time and dealing with childcare pickup/dropoff etc. I would…I don’t know. Not have found the time to tape up the waxed paper yet?

      • Kara E

        There’s a reason I gained 30 lbs when I went back to work with a 6 month old (who incidentally didn’t sleep and wouldn’t take a bottle at daycare).

  • NotMotherTheresa

    My biggest adulting failure is money–namely, that I’m not very good at making it.

    I have a great education. I’m theoretically an employable person. If I actually set my mind to it (and was willing to relocate outside my tiny, impoverished town), I could probably find a very good job somewhere. But, I haven’t set my mind to it. My husband makes enough that I don’t ~have~ to have a serious career in order for us to meet our basic needs, and since I don’t particularly like working, I haven’t given too much effort to that whole climbing the corporate ladder thing.

    Which, honestly, makes me feel like a pretty big failure as an adult. It’s not that I think a person’s value is defined by their career or how much money they make, and I would honestly have no shame about my lack of a career if we were in amazing financial shape, but in our case, my lack of income is really holding us back from goals like buying a bigger house or starting a family. Plus, it obviously puts us both in a somewhat precarious position, since we’re almost completely reliant on his income.

    My biggest adulting win? My general competence at life. Our house is reasonably clean. We have a filing cabinet for all of our important information, and it’s pretty well organized. When I go out, I usually look like a presentable human being. I’m good at managing the money we do have. I can cook decent-ish meals that people are willing to eat. I eat at least a couple servings of vegetables every day, and I usually get my 10,000 steps a day in. I think my house looks pretty nice most of the time. We ~usually~ manage to send out Christmas cards.

    I don’t know. I don’t have any great organizational tips, and I’m definitely not at Girl Scout Troop Leader Level, but on the whole, I feel decent about my adult-y-ness. I’ll probably never be Color Coded Binder Person, but I’m also not such an organizational and emotional disaster that my messes become a public spectacle, and in many ways, that’s how I categorize adulthood now: Adults Who Look Like Responsible Adults To The Outside World, and Adults Who Cannot Even Fake Having Things Together.

    Because honestly? Nobody has EVERYTHING together. The real question is whether it’s together ~enough~ that day to day life doesn’t feel like some horrible combination of Hoarders/Maury/Intervention/Every Other Exploitative Reality Show Ever.

    • Lisa

      I feel similarly on the not being great at making money. I know I’m a competent and intelligent person with a master’s degree (in something completely unrelated), but I definitely feel underemployed and have had a lot of trouble figuring out how to plan out a career and the steps it would take to make that happen.

      • Abby

        So I know this isn’t a career plan, but that personal finance blog this crowd is always trying to get you to start could definitely be a lucrative side-hustle via affiliate links and the like. (I have no real experience here, as I have zero side-hustle game, but I have friends who have developed this type of passive income and swear by it). Plus it would make all of us APWers super happy!

        • A single sarah

          The phrasing of this comment made me smile. Lisa, let us know when you launch ;)

    • Lisa

      I love this comment. You’re absolutely right that nobody has everything together. It’s so important to remember that what we know is only what a person chooses to disclose.

      I’m also with you on being generally competent at life and having my house together, etc, but failing to earn what I would like. I’m definitely not trying to get rich, and we do fine financially, but I wish we were able to save more for major life goals. We’re actually great at saving, but it can be discouraging knowing that it isn’t money management but simple income levels that are holding us back.

    • I DIE: “that’s how I categorize adulthood now: Adults Who Look Like Responsible Adults To The Outside World, and Adults Who Cannot Even Fake Having Things Together.”

      This is exactly it.

    • Sarah E

      Your work/not-work situation is incredibly similar to mine right now, and I am also well-educated, reasonably employable, and have our home life pretty much well-managed.

      This is exactly what I was just talking to my therapist about today, too: “It’s not that I think a person’s value is defined by their career or how much money they make, and I would honestly have no shame about my lack of a career if we were in amazing financial shape, but in our case, my lack of income is really holding us back from goals like buying a bigger house or starting a family. Plus, it obviously puts us both in a somewhat precarious position, since we’re almost completely reliant on his income.”

  • Eenie

    Guys, my husband decided the next house project we should tackle is ORGANIZING OUR CLOSETS AND BASEMENT! This, coming from a man who has an entire plastic tub of mail from 2008-2012 when he just didn’t look at his mail (he’s moved this tub THREE TIMES). It made me so happy, and even though most of the stuff is his, I’m excited to go through my clothes as well.

    As far as our current mail situation goes, we immediately recycle all junk mail and open all other mail before it goes on the table. Since I’ve moved in none of the utilities have been shut off.

    As far as horror stories go, having your water shut off is pretty bad. It takes a day or two for them to turn it back on too. Bucket showers were a thing for a couple days.

    • Lisa

      That’s so exciting, @weste0023:disqus. Good luck!

    • Katelyn

      My minimal lifestyle is finally rubbing off on my fiance… instead of thinking “I need more clothes storage” the other day as he smushed his t-shirts into the drawer, he said “I should get rid of some of these t-shirts sometime”. Might take a year to actually do it, but PROGRESS!!

      I just lovingly accept the 6 stringed instruments, the 8-IKEA-cubes of vinyl records, and the craft beer collection.

    • That sounds amazing. Mail is definitely a sore point for my husband and me. He rarely opens his mail because it makes him anxious. Meanwhile, it makes ME anxious to see the unopened mail sitting on the table… I used to let it slip before we were married, but now that a letter from the health insurance company is also MY health insurance company and a letter from the bank also impacts MY bank account…well there’s more pressure. But I hate being a nagging person so I’m never quite sure what to do :(

      • Ashlah

        Can you open his mail for him? If something requires action, you can let him know, otherwise now you know what’s going on, and he can get to it in his own time.

        • Lisa

          Seconding this. If it’s a personal letter or card, we’ll set it aside, but otherwise we have no qualms about opening each other’s mail (and dealing with it, if we can).

        • sometimes I do resort to that

          • Abby

            I third @lhoelle:disqus’s tactic below- it’s not nagging to set up a system to quell both partners’ anxiety around mail by letting you open anything that could affect joint healthcare/finances etc. (plus, in my experience, most of the “scary” health insurance mail I get is actually just regular notifications that we could opt in to getting our statements in French/Spanish/Mandarin if we wanted to– not at all scary once you open it!)

      • Natalie

        We have a mail sorting system using a wall-mounted magazine rack from IKEA that I’ve found super helpful (manila folders work, too). We have slots for Incoming mail (unopened, unsorted, just arrived), Outgoing mail (stamped & needs to be dropped in box), His attention (things addressed to him, unopened), His To-do (things either he or I have sorted/opened that he needs to deal with; e.g., bills it’s his responsibility to pay), Her attention, Her To-do. Junk mail gets tossed during the sort from Incoming to Attention, or by the addressee between Attention and To-do. That way we don’t necessarily have to deal with the mail every single day, but stuff gets sorted & dealt with reasonably often because the rack only holds so much.

        This mail sorting system works in tandem with a detailed filing system Husband created, with files for Retirement statements, Health-related bills/insurance info, car-related crap, dog’s vet invoices, etc., etc. Having a dedicated place to put that health insurance policy info sheet that I’m not sure I need but might be useful so maybe I shouldn’t throw it away makes sorting the mail so much less stressful. There are no decisions to make – I just put things where they need to go.

    • lolololol water shut off. Sigh.

      Organizing closets is my everything though. I budgeted some Container Store money this month, and hit it up yesterday. You should see my closet. MAGIC.

  • ruth

    Thank you so much for sharing this story, Meg – that makes me feel SO much better about myself! (I think I’d just assumed everyone else was a Girl Scout Leader, while I alone was a Disaster – so hearing a story like this from someone I deem one of my “adulthood” role models is extremely comforting!) I watched a great TED Talk recently (trying to remember who it was by so I can link) on time management, where the speaker basically argued that there’s no such thing as not enough time, only whether or not something is a priority. I have basically come to the realization that my home will always be a mess – because cleaning / domesticity is just not my priority. I’m a novelist. I published two fantasy novels last year on top of working a full time day job. I chose this life, because I love it – but it doesn’t not include much time/energy for cleaning / cooking / organizing etc…. My husband also has a crazy freelance career and is managing a health condition – so he doesn’t have much time/energy to do domestic stuff either. We have figured out what is the bare minimum we can do in order to stay functional (i.e. make sure bills are paid on time, make sure dirty dishes don’t pile up to a point of causing disease, and we do laundry enough that we always have something to wear to work) we pay someone to deep clean the house once a month, and everything else we just LET GO. This means that our home is never going to look like one of these beautiful, organized, aesthetic, color-coded oases – and there’s a part of me that feels like I failed in some Martha Stewart school I didn’t know I signed up for – but then I realize, I chose to prioritize my writing. And frankly, I hate domestic work – it doesn’t make me happy. So I do the minimum necessary to survive, and then focus on what I what actually “sparks joy” – and that tends to be experiences.

  • Jessica

    Real, not-self-imposed deadlines are a saving grace right now. I’m going to have three students staying with me for two weeks this month, and knowing the day they are arriving and that they need clean rooms, without broken shelves, and actual space to move around has made me hop to it and get home projects done that could have lingered for so much longer. It really helps to know that at the end of the month the house interior will be close to sale-ready, all because these three students were moving in.

    I know the same was true for my parents about my wedding–they had a deadline to get the bathrooms and basement updated from their original 1980’s glory, and by God having all of our relatives over really helped them get over the hump on that.

    • Violet

      We need real deadlines for cleaning, too. It’s like, if we don’t have a guest over (even if it’s just family) about once a month, the apartment starts to look *terrible.*

      • Abby

        Yep! Tidying we do for ourselves, but guests are the best (and often only) excuses to actually clean.

      • Alli

        Yep, our trick to having a clean house is to invite people over at least twice a month.

    • AP

      YES. We have guests coming for Labor Day weekend, and that is the motivating factor in getting all the junk out of our guest room and finally going through it or putting it in the attic.

      • Kate

        My mom is a terrible hoarder and imparts unsolicited junk on us constantly (despite us pleading with her to stop bringing us things each time she visits), so we concluded that everything she gives us goes in the guest room where she sleeps and she has to live around it when she visits.

        She quit bringing us stuff

  • Confession

    We had roaches in the first house we owned – and never totally got rid of them. It had previously been a rental and neither of us grew up where this was a major problem so we didn’t have good anti-roach habits. And they were a real problem. Like infested our electronics and would short-circuit things. I was mortified. And angry at my partner. And overwhelmed. It wasn’t a problem that I thought “someone like me” would have. It was eye-opening.

    • Oof

      We have a box elder bug infestation right now. They’re not attracted to food or electronics so it’s not the same ick factor as roaches but I’m embarrassed to have anyone over because they’re mating everywhere and there’s not much I can do except vacuum up the ones I see. I’ve been lazy about it because I was hoping it was temporary/they would disappear with cooler weather.

    • Jess

      Oh my gosh, I would have no idea what to do with a roach infestation. I would be so ashamed, but I am totally lacking the skills to manage it.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Being an actual Girl Scout Troop Leader adds and extra layer of enjoyment to this piece.For what it’s worth, I am a really cluttery person, and am really bad at both creating homes for things, and then putting them back in those homes. Organization is just noooooot something I’ve figured out. I also get really overwhelmed with paper copies of things, but I also know that I’m a lot more likely to ignore e-statements entirely, as opposed to ignoring paper statements for a month or two. Living with a stuff-purging tidyness-needing dude who is a little obsessive about cleaning came with some definite growing pains, but it’s also been a good influence.

  • NolaJael

    Having a dishwasher upped our whole cleanliness game. We cook real meals from scratch almost every night. So before, just doing the dishes every evening basically sucked up all the time and mental energy that we were willing to sacrifice for cleanliness. Now that we have a dishwasher (and a routine around running it every night), we are much more likely to also do a quick load of laundry, sweep or some other minor task before bed.

    • Lexipedia

      FI still handwashes the dishes, and THEN runs them through the dishwasher to get them “clean” because this is what his parents have always done. They look clean to me, but apparently soap and sponge and hot water aren’t enough. Then again, he actually enjoys watching dishes.

      I totally just throw everything in the dishwasher when he’s not looking.

      • Laura C
        • Ashlah

          What are these dishwashers that don’t bake on food particles? I don’t wash (like, with soap) before I load the dishwasher, but I do use a brush a remove all residue. Otherwise it’s still there when I unload, and now harder to wash off than before. Do we have a particularly shitty dishwasher? We have a much newer hand-me-down one waiting for installation, I’m curious if it could better handle actual dirty dishes.

          • penguin

            This has always been my experience with dishwashers too. We rinse off all the visible stuff, then run it through the dishwasher to really get it clean.

          • NolaJael

            If anything is baked on or dried on we soak it first. We almost always have a pan or something soaking in the sink, so we throw in utensils or small dishes to soak until the nightly loading. That cuts down on dried on particles.

          • quiet000001

            Ours is a Bosch and when we got it we delighted in putting in all kinds of weird baked on things to see what it couldn’t cope with. It isn’t the cheapest dishwasher but since with the prior one we literally had to wash the dishes before washing the dishes, it is so worth it.

            The only thing it seems to have trouble with is REALLY dried/baked on stuff like sometimes if someone over-microwaved something with cheese on top, and the cheese turns into glue and adheres to the plate? But I suspect that might be due to rinse aid – we tried a different one for a while and that seemed to get everything clean, but I couldn’t stand the smell, so we swapped back and just give anything super baked on a quick scrub with a brush to knock off the stuck bits before loading. Other than that, a scrape into the trash is all that is needed.

        • Lexipedia

          I totally will. Though I feel like I don’t get to complain – I almost never have to wash anything myself.

        • Alli

          My husband read an article like that, and still refuses to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Although I don’t blame him, when we moved into our house he went to clean the dishwasher and pulled up the bottom drainy thing to find years of food gunk and mold, which sent him into a panic (he gets major anxiety about mold in any form) and we ended up just buying a new dishwasher.

          • penguin

            Oh god ultimate nightmare. Now I feel compelled to check the drainy thing on our dishwasher but I’m sure I’ll regret it.

          • Alli

            I’m sure there’s a way to clean down there by running the washer? Like pour a bunch of vinegar in it or something and running that? I’m thinking we’ll need to do that at least once every few months if we want to avoid buying a new washer every couple of years

      • Violet

        Soap and sponge and hot water are definitely enough, and better for your immune system than dishwashers. But washing by hand also uses a lot more water than dishwashers.

      • Lisa

        My husband has “special” items that he prefers to wash by hand instead of putting them in the dishwasher. This still bugs me sometimes, but since he does 95% of the grocery shopping and cooking, I’ve decided that if he wants me to hand wash a mixing bowl every once in a while that it’s a fair trade-off.

        • RNLindsay

          Ugh my husband is particular about certain things too. But I’m the one doing the majority of the cooking and dishwashing. I told him he’s not allowed to buy anything else that’s not dishwasher safe

          • Lisa

            Yes, I actually had a meltdown about the mixing bowls in the C&B parking lot three days after our wedding. He had wanted to put them on the registry, and I remembered that I had objected but couldn’t think of what those were in the moment so I let him get them to make up some of the gift card balance. When we got halfway out of the store, I was like, “They don’t have lids AND they can’t go in the dishwasher! I don’t want these bowls in my house!” But he loved them so much and I was so tired and pissed that I finally did a “fine, whatever.” Never again!

    • Abby

      We’re putting in a dishwasher soon and I am beyond excited for it.

    • I miss having a dishwasher. Apparently it’s not a priority until we have kids (to be fair, it would mean replumbing half the kitchen) since J is happy to wash dishes, but it makes his eczema so bad and it doesn’t feel like a good use of our time.

      • NolaJael

        We have a roll up to the sink one! I had always heard they were poor quality and inconvenient, but honestly, ours is great. We just run a load each night when we don’t need the sink and roll it back into place in the morning. Someday I’d like to have a real plumbed one, but this is a much better intermediate step than I’d thought, I would have gotten one in our last place if I’d known how nice it was.

  • NolaJael

    We struggle with budgeting and prioritizing home improvement. My husband sees every thing that is wrong with the house as a “need” – a leaky faucet “needs” to be fixed, the door that has to be shoved “needs” new hardware. Whereas, I’m more budget focused and think that some of that should be put off, because money comes in over time. He will spend hundreds of dollars a month on these things. He doesn’t view them as luxuries because they aren’t decorative, but to me they aren’t necessary immediately. So we argue.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Oh man, I have this same issue with my husband!

      Making it even worse, he often sees the decorative things as needs, too, so he’ll start a project to “fix” the outdated cabinets or battered laminate. Then, midway through, he realizes that whatever project he started is going to cost more than he’d anticipated, so we end spending six months with half painted cabinets because he couldn’t afford to finish them and/or got sidetracked with another “necessary” project.

      I feel like I’m living with Tim the Tool Man Taylor, except waaaaay less funny.

    • Ashlah

      Can you come to a compromise and save a specific amount each month towards home improvements? If it fits within that month’s budget, great, do it right away! If not, you’ll have to come to an agreement to either pull money from elsewhere, or save up that money for however many months it takes to cover the cost. (Forgive me if you’re already doing this, and the struggle is that he wants to prioritize those things anyway, regardless of what the budget says!)

      • NolaJael

        This is probably the solution. We got into a bad habit because our last home was a duplex, so conceivably anything that benefited the rental side was a tax deduction. Now we’re in a new house and have to actually budget for those things. But my husband is of the mindset that if they house needs it, it’s more important than the budget. Maybe I should get him a prepaid credit card and when he runs out of money tell him there’s no more until next month, LOL.

  • One part of adulthood I’m completely failing at is yard work. I can’t for the life of me manage to get outside and keep up on all the weeding, mulching, and general effort that it takes to make the outside of our house look like responsible adults live there. We live in a nice subdivision and are one of the younger couples/families on our block, so it feels like EVERYONE ELSE has their crap together since they’ve all been doing this for years and years. But I just can’t do it! By the time late summer comes around I admit defeat and call my gardener-pro mom to come help me manage the jungle that my flower beds have become. And by that point they’re so bad she needs to bring an electric trimmer and a blowtorch.

    • Abby

      But you have a yard. 10,000,000 adulting points right there, in my book.

      • True! Very true. Gotta keep things in perspective :)

    • Jessica

      Ditto! It’s just…not fun?

      • Yes! Why do people do it for fun? I don’t understand. It’s hot and achey and boring and tiring and it all grows back anyway so what’s the point?

      • Not at ALL. I’d rather do dishes than weed. And I HATE dishes.

    • Ashlah

      We’re horrible at this. Horrible! We have friends the same age who have a flawless yard. We don’t prioritize it, I guess. Also we moved into a house with out of control bamboo all over the yard, and my god is it impossible to stay on top of. I finally got husband to agree to having someone come regularly to pull weeds and trim and such! Now I just need to figure out how much that will cost and find the right person/business.

      • Eve

        My mom has out of control bamboo at her house too and she’s found several people who want the cut bamboo. They come every so often, cut it, and take it away. Might be worth putting an ad on Craigslist or something to see if there’s anyone in your neighborhood dying for cut bamboo.

        • suchbrightlights

          That’s a thought.

          Not to scare you though, Ashlah, but some friends moved into a house with what they thought was out-of-control bamboo at the time. They learned a year later that what the thought was out-of-control bamboo was actually manageable bamboo. Out-of-control bamboo, it turns out, comes up through your foundation and starts growing in your finished basement. So that might be something to consider killing with fire.

      • The prior owner planted mint in one of the front beds, and that stuff has spread EVERYWHERE. She also planted lambs ear which has to be one of the most hard-to-get-rid-of plants on the planet. We spray it with weed killer every year and it comes back stronger than ever! I’m looking forward to the day when we can just pay somebody else to handle this mess, because I don’t think I’m gonna take control of it anytime soon…

        • Kara E

          @staceysoden:disqus – You have to dig out the roots – get a good digger or spike tool. You can even get a stander/digger tool (i covet my neighbor’s). Ditto the mint. And if you can help it, don’t let it flower! We have mint and bindweed, which is really frustrating to deal with too. Good luck.

    • NolaJael

      If it’s just for looks I would never do it. But I’m willing to water, weed, trim, etc. in the yard areas that we spend time in. Maybe a bench swing or a table would help you enjoy the space and motivate you to keep it nice?

      • We’re better about the backyard since it’s a used space, like you mention. But we’re rarely in our front yard (even with the dog), and that’s the area people actually see! A bench is a good idea, though :)

    • G.

      I have a tiny back patio and it’s a total disaster. Desperation-level weeding needs. I see it every day and…do nothing about it. I guess I’m hoping that when it gets cold, things will die and disappear?

    • jem

      Is there a neighbor kid you could pay $10 to weed for you?

      • Jess

        This sounds like a perfect baby-sitting arrangement: Hey would you let me pay Julie and Tommy $5 to weed my garden? I’ll watch them the whole time – you could head out and take a nap.

      • If I could find one, I’d be all over that. I’m part of a buy/sell/trade group on FB for my area…maybe I’ll post there and see if there’s any interest? The kid who gets the job is gonna make a killing!

    • suchbrightlights

      I feel you. My mom is a devoted gardener whose home could be on the cover of a magazine, and this weekend I called her to ask if I could borrow a machete because the viney weedy thing that had taken over the back corner of our backyard and was trying to eat the fence had fallen over in a storm and was acting like it would take the fence with it. She said “I do not have anything like a machete.” Well of course you don’t, your garden would never dare to do that to you, just like your lilies never get eaten by the deer and the squirrels never dig up your bulbs. It’s just not fair.

      I’ve decided that the solution to That Weedy Patch Between The Front Walk and The Garage is going to be solved by building a raised bed and just dumping soil over everything that’s there until whatever I plant kills the weeds underneath. That’s viable, right?

      • Totally!! Don’t get me wrong, I value all the work the prior owner of our house did on the exterior….she planted tons of beautiful annuals, bushes, and trees. But there are some days where I want to just rip it all out, throw gravel on it, and never think about it again. haha.

        • suchbrightlights

          I live in the Comfort of knowing that the previous owners of our house planted plastic flowers. So as long as I have something growing, I’m feeling like I come out ahead here.

          It’s a lot of work to keep other organisms alive!

    • InTheBurbs

      Amen. I love our community garden veggie plot…and hate the yard. It’s overwhelming – where as I can control the 10×15 plot

    • bee

      Next year, put preen down as soon as temps stop dropping below freezing (this is usually March for me in Indiana). It prevents weed growth (to a point).

  • Oof

    So I just managed to file my 2016 state taxes last week. Felt like quite the adulting fail, because the online tax preparer I was using wouldn’t do it for me so I just shrugged and forgot about it for months until I realized I actually really needed to do that. I ended up having to do them all by hand which sucked hard and was hella stressful.

  • Jess

    I grew up in a Girl Scout Troop Leader household (with tasks outsourced to children, ie me and brother), and while I can confirm it was exactly zero percent fun, it did prepare me well for managing dirty dishes, cleaning weekly, keeping my closets organized and regularly purging belongings.

    I have struggled in the past with paying regular and irregular bills, but with online banking, I automated anything regular and take care of anything irregular the second I receive the bill.

    We’re working with a financial planner R has used for years to revise our strategy towards investing and saving in light of our life goals. I know nothing about investing, other than I need to do it instead of just shoving my money in a savings account.

    We figured out very early that with constant work travel, we cannot do weekly meal planning due to the wasted food, so we do daily grocery shopping.

    I figure putting things in place to control for the stuff I know I’m not good at is about as adult as it gets.

    • Abby

      I also grew up in a pretty Girl Scout Troop Leader household, and spent the better part of my 20s mentally beating myself up for not being better at keeping my house clean/cooking every meal from scratch in the way my mom always did– until I realized that she was a stay-at-home mom/part-time work at her busiest, whereas I work 40-80 hour weeks. Once I had that Captain Obvious moment, it was way easier to let myself off the hook for cleanliness “fails” around the house. I still want to find a way to get to that beautiful and clean a home someday, but I’ve accepted that will definitely mean outsourcing and that’s ok.

      • E.

        I used to beat myself up for not have as clean and tidy a house as my mom and stepmom, until I remembered that my mom works part time and they usually eat salad +popcorn for dinner and we eat real meals almost every night. Different priorities and time commitments!

      • Jess

        Yeah, my mom *did* work 40-80 hour weeks. The expectations were just very high.

        So far as household labor goes, it was actually shockingly equitable. She outsourced much of the housework to kids/husband (and paid someone to do the cleaning when we were small). My dad cooks, everybody cleans, everybody does yardwork, once a year everybody goes through their stuff and cleans everything (including cleaning the floors, windows, and walls).

        Every Saturday we cleaned. If that meant we woke up early so everything was spotless before leaving for soccer tournaments, we woke up early. Before we moved on to doing homework, we washed and dried the dishes.

        But, like I said, it was zero percent fun. I have chosen to prioritize actual enjoyment in my life, which means that in order to make it to that concert at the bar, we leave the dishes in the sink to be washed tomorrow. I’m ok with that.

        • Abby

          That’s impressive, but I agree with you that finding the fun/clean balance that works for your family is top priority.

  • ssha

    This thread and piece is so validating! I’m currently unemployed and I have ADD, so the lack of external structure is really getting to me. I often set overly ambitious goals- I’m home all day and if I haven’t done laundry and dishes and applied for 3 jobs and written 5 wedding thank you notes when my husband gets home, I berate myself. It’s not good. One thing that does help is setting timers as some people have mentioned and then writing lists for what to do during those time frames. I use the moosti timer (www.moosti.com) and it gives me a reference- if I finish a task I’m likely to get distracted by facebook for half an hour if I don’t have a Next Thing To Do.

  • Amy March

    Oh gosh the fridge. I recently cleaned out half of it and don’t feel emotionally ready to tackle the rest? It’s so bad.

    • Lisa

      I remember a time when I made a pot of French onion soup before going home for a grad school break, and I knew it was going to be bad when I got home so I kept putting off dealing with it. It wasn’t until March when I finally got myself to throw it out. I don’t think I’ve had that soup since, and my stomach is turning just thinking about it!

      • Abby

        Oh no! I freeze soups immediately for exactly this reason – I can never trust myself to remember how long they’ve been in the fridge.

        • Lisa

          Yes, I definitely do that now! It was one of the first times I made soup for myself. I greatly underestimated how much I’d be able to consume before I left and forgot about it in my packing haste. With two of us now, most soups disappear within a week, and if it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to eat it all, some goes into the freezer for later.

      • CMT

        Yup, I’ve done pretty much the same thing. Honestly, there are diminishing marginal returns to grossness, so I decided to make it Future CMT’s problem.

      • Her Lindsayship

        Similarly but not quite as stomach-turning, we just got back from our honeymoon and discovered that no one remembered to empty the two glass beverage dispensers we had set out with lemon water and cucumber-mint water. The water had been mostly drunk, but then the dispensers were just packed up into a box and brought to our place with sliced cucumber/lemon still in them, and then they sat there for two weeks and… grew things. It was disturbing and I made my new husband deal with it! :P

        • Abfab

          My husband left a glass of Gatorade (too fancy to drink it out of the bottle? who can say?) sitting out during our 10 day honeymoon, and our attic apartment in late June with the air conditioner turned off got warm enough to make Gatorade grow mold. I did not know this was possible.

      • suchbrightlights

        There is a jar of chicken stock in the back of my fridge waiting for garbage day. When garbage day comes I inevitably forget that it’s there.

    • penguin

      I forgot, I had adulting tips for the fridge! We’ve gotten way better at dealing with this. We keep a roll of painter’s tape and a Sharpie by the fridge, and we label all leftovers that go in with what they are, and the date. That way when we find a container of something we at least know how old it is, so we know whether to eat it ASAP or just throw it out.

      In our last apartment we got pretty good at keeping two little white boards on the front of the fridge, and keeping track of what was in there. That way it was easy to see that we had leftover enchiladas to finish, or soup to deal with, or whatever. Since moving to our current apartment we’ve just never put the whiteboards up, so we haven’t gone back to this system yet.

      • Abby

        Yep, masking tape + sharpie before anything goes in the freezer is a game-changer.

      • Yessss labeling. I have like, big problems with contamination paranoias and my husband leans toward the “it isn’t bad until there is stuff visibly growing on it” camp. Putting dates on things cut a *major* source of tension out of our kitchen-life.

      • I like this white board idea!

    • HarrietVane

      I just cleaned out my fridge, but I am the WORST with this. It just feels like such failure not to eat leftovers that I prefer to leave them there and not acknowledge them for a long, long time until they get so gross I don’t want to open the container. It’s a miserable cycle.

    • JSK

      Same, but for the freezer and deep freeze. How am I supposed to (1) remember that there’s hamburger in there and (2) remember to take it out to defrost before it’s needed in a recipe? I’m not MacGuyver.

      • ART

        I just cleaned out my freezer enough to fit the new squeeze pop maker I got at Target because I REALLY wanted to make popsicles. I ate one today and it was totally worth the effort (and squeeze pops are soooo cool compared to regular DIY popsicle things!)

      • penguin

        What we did was go through everything in the freezer (we have a big stand-up one) and write it down on construction paper. We vaguely grouped the items on the list (vegetables, meat & fish, fruit, etc) and put tally marks for how many items of each we had. Each mark just means one container (bag, box, whatever). We stuck that on the front with magnets and taped a Sharpie next to it. If anything goes into or out of the freezer, it gets updated on the sheet. This really helps us see at a glance that we need to use up stuff, or we’re low on something.

        • Natalie

          Oooooh, that’s brilliant.

        • karyn_arden

          I did this in Google Keep so that when I’m grocery shopping, I can make sure I don’t overbuy stuff that I already have.

      • I’m one of those people that’s TERRIBLE at remembering to take meat out of the freezer, so enter the Instant Pot. Best invention ever! I can throw everything in there frozen, and it comes out cooked and delicious a half hour later. Definitely worth the investment if you’re a lazy cook like me.

    • bee

      I always do a check for old/gross food on trash day. That way I remember and it doesn’t sit in the kitchen trash- it goes right out.

  • HarrietVane

    Paying someone to clean our house once a week feels like such an adulting win for me. It’s not affordable for many/most people, but my wife and I CAN afford it and it makes such a difference. Honestly, the fact that they do such a good job brings the level of my own cleaning up so much higher and I make sure to sweep and scrub everything enough between when they come. Before, it just felt like, “well, who’s going to notice a tiny bit more mess” until it was just a giant dusty mountain of clutter.

    On the ‘Fail’ side of things: I repeatedly failed to pay my health insurance premium because I forgot + then they messed up + then I forgot again until I got so frustrated and angry I let the policy lapse completely. Happily I am now on my wife’s insurance, but there were several ‘let’s just not get sick’ months simply because I couldn’t deal with them. I’m also not really succeeding with this ‘meal planning’ thing and we’re eating way too much expensive take-out.

    • penguin

      Meal planning is such a struggle for us. We both like to cook, but I don’t want to keep making the same things over and over but we get derailed trying to look for what to make.

      • Lisa

        Have you considered a meal planning service where you pick up all of the groceries yourself? We use Cook Smarts and like it because the recipes rotate on a weekly basis, but we can favorite ones to come back to later. We also can customize the recipes and easily change the serving sizes. They also do a good job of building the recipes around a few ingredients so we don’t end up with a jar of something that we’ll only use once. Cook Smarts is just one, but I know there are many others out there!

        • penguin

          That’s something to consider! We’re normally trying to use up something we have (vegetables usually, or meat in the freezer), but this might be worth a shot. We’re usually pretty good at adapting recipes to our liking, we just need to have a starting point. Thanks!

          • Lisa

            Yes, and over time, we’ve started to adapt some of our favorite recipes to accommodate what we have, too. (Love the stir fry sauce recipe but don’t have the requisite vegetables so we toss in the leftovers from our CSA instead, etc.) It’s definitely helped curb our eating out because husband doesn’t have to be in the mindset of choosing a fancy recipe, going to the grocery almost daily, and then coming home to cook whatever he found, which is how he was operating before. Much less time and effort = more likely to make the food we already have on hand.

          • Abby

            Would you mind sharing your stir fry sauce recipe if you have one you love? Every time I try to make a good one it seems like the only recipes I can find have a million ingredients and I mess them up no matter how closely I follow the instructions. I’ve been meaning to take a sauce-based cooking class but that’s an adulting badge I have yet to earn.

          • Lisa

            I had really good luck with this recipe the first few times I used it, and last time I used powdered ginger, which I think was bad because it had a really bitter aftertaste. Otherwise, I’ve been very happy with it!

          • Abby

            Thank you thank you! This looks so much easier than ones I’ve tried in the past (and I even have fresh ginger on hand right now… might have to make a stir fry this week!)

          • A single sarah

            Not stir fry sauce but Budget bytes dragon noodles are my go-to dish for using up veggies.

          • Kat

            I’ve found that minced/sauteed garlic, (low sodium) soy sauce, a little brown sugar and red pepper flakes (adjusted to taste) makes a really good sauce to go over whatever frozen veggies we have left over + protein and rice. I totally eyeball it and it always ends up great.

          • Abby

            I basically approach meal planning like a week-long episode of Chopped, trying to minimize the “pantry” (aka grocery store) ingredients I have to buy– what can I make out of this random combination of fridge/freezer/pantry ingredients I have on hand and need to use up? I definitely have some fallback meals that get made more often than others (you can shoehorn pretty much any ingredients into a pasta + salad base) but this keeps me feeding the creative cook need AND minimizing wasted food. The http://www.tastespotting.com/ search feature is great for finding recipes that combine otherwise random ingredients.

        • Kara E

          SIL uses “6 o clock scramble!”

      • HarrietVane

        I feel like the fact that I love to cook hurts my ability to meal plan! I am always wanting to try new things, which makes is so much more effort.

      • Jan

        I lost 30 lbs last year doing Weight Watchers so had to figure out the meal planning thing. I do it like clockwork: Monday mornings while I have my coffee I find my recipes (and calculate my points because WW), make an ingredients list and adjust for things I need to use in my fridge/pantry, and then make a grocery list by store (we are those people who go to 2-3 stores). The process takes about 30-45 minutes depending on how sick of my usual meals I am. I have a little chalkboard I hung in my kitchen where I list our “menu” and then just choose which meal I feel like eating or cooking that night. I learned to give myself a variety of options (varied levels of difficulty, heaviness, etc), and I only plan 4-5 meals knowing we will have leftovers or go out. The system has saved me so much money and time.

    • Lexipedia

      We pay for once a month, and it’s glorious. Once we do a post-wedding budget I’m hoping to bump it up to once every two weeks.

    • Kat

      Growing up my mom would always make us clean the house before the Merry Maids lady would come once every two weeks, and it drove me nuts. I totally get it now, though.

      • Natalie

        My dad is still annoyed, after 20 years of doing it, that Mom makes him “clean” the night before the maids come. “Clean” in this case means tidy up the clutter so they can actually clean under/around the clutter.

  • ART

    I once housesat for a close family friend in her new-ish house, and while I was there the gas got turned off. I got it turned on late the same night, but it turned out that they had two gas meters in the house from some long-ago partitioning of a sort of in-law unit, and accidentally got the unused one hooked up to their gas/electric account, and the one that actually metered their gas usage was not on anyone’s account so wasn’t being paid. They just didn’t notice for months that the gas portion of their combined bill was $0. I think they were pretty embarrassed, but I didn’t hold it against them…weird new house circumstances!

    My biggest failing is keeping the house tidy. We have a Roomba but it lost its programming so we just run it from time to time, but aspire to get it programmed again :) The Google calendar/Google sheets system I’ve created for tracking/automating finances, and savings in particular, is probably my biggest adulting win. I’ve been using it for nearly 10 years and have never missed a payment on anything, and have regular withdrawals set up for 6 different savings and retirement accounts. I track all of our accounts at least every two weeks (payday, for me). This lets me give my husband regular updates, and I feel like if anything happened to me he’d be able to go to one place and see where all our money is kept and what we owe.

  • april

    Ugh – our biggest adult “fail” is getting a handle on our finances. We’re fine with the day-to-day stuff – my husband and I are both debt-free at this point, and we live very much within our means – but we both acknowledge that we need help with the long-term planning. We keep saying that we’d like to meet with a financial planner, but then we keep putting it off. Part of the problem is that we don’t really know how to choose one! I like the idea of using a fee-base CFP, who’s not trying to sell us anything, and I’ve even gone as far as looking up the contact info for ones in our area. But after that, how do we choose? Does anyone have experience with this?

    • Abby

      I have zero advice as I’m in the exact same boat, but following this thread for sure! You’re definitely not the only one.

    • Gaby

      We’re on the same boat. Right now we’re focusing on saving for a 6-months-worth-of-bills emergency fund, but we’ve been meaning to both join our accounts and meet with a financial planner since January. Since I was apprehensive about speaking to someone without knowing enough about it, I signed up for a free personal finance class through our library’s partnership with Gale courses… but I signed on once and never completed the class -__- My older coworkers swears by her Charles Schwab guy though, she says it’s fee based and she’s never had to pay out of pocket, and has a great retirement plan in place.

  • Amanda

    We have Obamacare insurance and due to misunderstanding the text of letters and missing warning letters our daughter’s insurance got cut off. I only found out when we were AT the doctor’s office for something. Embarassing. Then she had to be on the state medicaid plan until open enrollment began because we couldn’t put her back on our plan, it had been too long. Ugh. I am looking foward to going back to a job with benefits (at some point) so I can not deal with paying a company directly for health insurance.

  • Kara E

    Clothes. My closet is out of control. I attempted to consign a bunch of too-small prebaby stuff, but I got too ridiculously low an amount for them and so the rest of the prebaby stuff is still in crates. I keep hoping for an opportunity to donate to DFS without having to re-dryclean, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon. It is time. [And if you’re in the Denver area and want some businessy attire in 14ish, let me know!]

    Kitchen stuff was pretty bad, but we’ve slowly started figuring out a system. I keep “inventory” on the freezer door, tend to have a game plan for busy weeks (not exactly a meal plan, but at least an idea of what needs to happen and when/what meals I’m planning on), and have a list of “fast dinner ideas for disaster days*” on a post-it note on the fridge.

    *the list has stuff that we should always have ingredients for (like breakfast burritos, quiche with frozen pie crust, pancakes/waffles, and quesadillas). Add veg/fruit and that gets to be a meal. Cheese and crackers for dinner doesn’t cut it with a small person at home.

  • april
  • idkmybffjill

    Man this can be tough for me.
    I’m an EA – so my whole job is sort of being the Girl Scout Troop Leader, but for other people. Sometimes it translates to my life – i.e. – wedding planning, but sometimes I feel like I burn all my organizational resources at work and just CANNOT when I get home (i.e. – the boxes that are my craft supplies that are just not at all organized ever).

    I feel like if I’m ever able to make the jump out of a job where I’m organizing all the live long day, my household will really prosper. And sometimes it really pains me that I’m making other people’s lives run so smoothly but not always applying the same care to my own.

    • BSM

      Girl, that is the truth. I am legit considering taking a couple days off next month to get my house in order because this GS Troop Leader/EA needs to nest/deal with the insanity that is our living room.

      • idkmybffjill

        Do it. And I forget when you’re due – but try and do it before the third tri if you can. The exhaustion is REALLLLL.

  • JC

    We have ants, so many ants. And we have a frequently dirty house. And the thing is, those two adulting fails aren’t necessarily related. We live in an old, old home that has lots of holes for small creatures to crawl in and out of. We have water faucets that provide water to those creatures, and the apartment is cooler than outside in the summer and warmer in the winter. We’re just always going to have ants.

    But we’re also not very clean people, and not being clean feels like it contributes to the ants, and having ants feels like it contributes to the not being clean. They reinforce the guilt and shame.

    BUT yesterday we scrubbed everything down and put down ant traps, and today everything feels washed fresh. Hopefully we can get it to last more than a day or two!

    • ART

      (Dos Equis voice) We don’t always have ants, but when we do we get All The Ants. Since it’s pretty much just a once-a-year onslaught, I figure there’s not that much I can do about it (they come in from behind the dishwasher, ughh!) and I never use any sprays, but when they arrive, I start outlining their trail in white chalk, and just slowly close in on their entry point until I cut them off from the rest of the kitchen. I end up with white chalk lines all over my floors, counters, and walls, but they wash off easily later, and they make the ants lose their trail and go away, eventually. Then I can do a big clean-up of the chalk and wherever they went. Might not work in your situation, but if anyone else gets the ant army invasion, that is my tip!

      • Kat

        CSI:ANT!

    • Katharine Parker

      A few years ago I lived in an apartment that had mice. It was a situation where there was nothing I could do, too–I constantly set traps but they would always return, and my landlord didn’t care. I was fairly clean, too, and it still didn’t matter. But it felt awful. My then-boyfriend, now-husband, moved in with me and would tell people, “living together is great, except for the rats!” And I would be MORTIFIED. I explained why that was horrifying to me (mice are not rats! And also everyone doesn’t need to know, dude!), but oh god, it sucked.

      That said, if you own your place, I’d look into exterminators. If you rent, I’d try pressuring your landlord. I don’t think you should have to always have ants–the problems of an old house are not insurmountable!

      • JC

        You’re totally right that we SHOULD check in with the landlords. I think we can get some help. I will do it…someday!

        • CII

          Tell your landlord. In our prior house (from the 1950s) we had ants. We live with a cat who is crazy about food, so we always put our food away, but they were still there. And sometimes they got into sealed containers. We tried all sorts of internet remedies, and none of them worked long-term.

          But I was filled with ALL THE SHAME. I was convinced the landlord would blame it on us. After my husband threw up his hands (reasonably enough), I agreed that we could email her. And she responds five minutes later and says “Oh, thanks for letting me know. Call my ant guy and make an appointment.” That’s right, this problem is so commonplace that she HAS A GUY FOR THAT. And then when he saw our situation, he was like “Yeah, you could never get rid of these yourself, they are clearly living under your house.” And he happily worked with my husband to place the treatment in certain locations so that our cats wouldn’t be able to interact with it.

      • ART

        Ohhh that does suck. The first time I left my now-husband alone at my apartment when I went to work, I came home to discover that my roommate’s cleanup of her rotten watermelon wasn’t as thorough as she thought, and there were maggots crawling alllll over the kitchen floor. I had never experienced anything like that before. It was a nightmare, and cleaning them up was the worst, and I was so afraid he would be like “who is this gross person?”

        • Katharine Parker

          Maggots are another level. Roommates are the worst.

          • ART

            Haha she was actually one of the best ones I’ve had, but after that we had to institute a “no storing food on the floor” rule – she’d left a whole watermelon in a plastic shopping bag for a few days and it did not fare well!

          • Kara E

            I had a meal worm infection many years ago. Blergh. And they showed up on a day when one of my mom’s (gentile, proper, lovely) friends visited me at my house – my housemate left a note on the door along the lines of “meeting tonight, but we have a disaster in the kitchen.” And yes we did. I almost cried in disgust and embarrassment – and she said “oh honey, I’m from Texas, we deal with this all the time!” I threw away an entire cupboard of food and sealed everything else in ziplock bags.

          • Lexipedia

            I discovered my meal worm infestation when I grabbed an extra handful of pecans to sprinkle on a (very time consuming to make) finished pie and then as I carried it out to the dining table I realized that the top of the pie was MOVING. I screamed and dropped the whole thing on the floor, then burst into tears and all of the guests came running into the kitchen thinking I’d injured myself.

          • Ashlah

            Oh nooo, this story makes me so sad :(

          • That is the exact most appropriate reaction to something in your hands that you are carrying starting to move when it shouldn’t. Possibly followed by running backwards away from the thing and hiding in another room until someone else sorts it out.

          • Lexipedia

            Yep – my parents were some of the guests and my very kind mother tidied it up for me and then stayed late to help me clean out the pantry.

          • penguin

            We had a big plastic bowl of onions in our college apartment, and one at the bottom went spectacularly bad. We ended up throwing out the bowl too, along with the maggoty onions. It was horrible.

          • Kat

            I’ve lost more than one piece of Tupperware by forgetting something I put away in the back of the fridge and then accidentally growing a small civilization and just tossing the whole thing instead of trying to sanitize it. #notanadult

        • Eenie

          A case of cat food we bought and stored in a cabinet had one can that was damaged and we wondered why we had all these flies and I finally opened the cabinet and the cat food was covered in maggots. I washed off all the unopened came and it was so gross. My husband comes in mid cleaning and asks why I’m washing the cat food cans. I made him look in the trash for judging my actions so harshly.

      • Lexipedia

        Oh god – the mice. We thought we just had an occasional one, and then when we called the exterminators we found out that they had basically been living in our storage room full of cardboard boxes. The exterminators wouldn’t even do anything until we moved all the boxes and we found that there were droppings all hidden behind them. I was so, so, so embarrassed.

    • been there / done that.

      I’m so sorry sweetheart. Ants are ick. If you can get yourself to your local hardware store, you can get cans of spray in foam insulation to spray around the major holes (like around pipes etc.). It’s not perfect, but sealing those go a long way toward getting the entry points sealed. You can also stuff steel wool into the gaps to have something that larger critters can’t chew through – then overlay the foam. The 2 should be like 6 dollars at a hardware store (together). I had mice, roaches, AND ants in an old apartment (ARGH) and got really good about cleaning up everything ALL THE TIME and sealing up entry points.

    • Ashlah

      We struggle with ants every spring and summer, I hate it so much! Usually it’s the cat food they’re attracted to, but this year they got into our cabinets and I had to throw out a brand new giant bag of sugar! The traps are great, but I hate that they attract more ants before they start to work, so we try to use them outside as much as possible.

      For the cat food, when it’s ant season, we have to basically put the food bowl in the middle of a water moat. Small dish of cat food inside a larger dish of water. For people food, we’ve been trying to put more of it in sealed containers (even just freezer bags), and we do our best to stay on top of vacuuming and wiping crumbs off the counter. But it’s often the first trail of ants that inspire us to do it, then we slack off when the ants die down. It’s a tough cycle, and sometimes you can’t even figure out what they’re after!

    • suchbrightlights

      We have ants. So many ants. And we have a frequently clean house, and a yard studded with ant traps, AND I STILL HAVE ANT TRAPS ON MY KITCHEN COUNTER and last week I had to apologize to my boss and say “I have to leave and go to Target because THERE ARE ANTS ON MY OFFICE WALL and I cannot even with the ants and we are out of ant bait.” This is also the story of the time I quietly rage-sprayed outdoor ant spray on my office wall while in a meeting with my grandboss and the VP, desperately trying to be Serious Business about a Serious Problem while conducting Serious Ant Warfare.

      So, look, ants are going to happen no matter how clean or dirty your house is, but if you like the way your house feels when it’s clean, then go you for doing the scrubbing and go you the next time you do the scrubbing!

    • E.

      You’ve probably tried this already, but when we had ants in our first floor apartment we used terro liquid bait and it is diabolical because it is slow acting so they all come eat it and then go back to the nest and die. But ants eat dead ants so then they get poisoned too! We had to endure a really disgusting few days as they mobbed the bait, but it wiped out the whole colony.

      • JC

        We are in the disgusting phase with the terro bait, and it’s both gross and so satisfying!

    • bee

      Best defense is keeping all food in airtight containers. Then at least if they get in anyway, there’s no food.

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  • Angela Howard

    Help! We need to put up curtains in my daughter’s room to help with afternoon naps. There are mini-blinds, but they aren’t enough to combat the southwest exposure in her room. Where do I go & what do I get to put up curtains (rods, etc.)?

    • CII

      Depending on the size of your window, a quick and inexpensive solution would be a tension rod (from your local hardware store, home depot, target, etc.) and ikea curtains. The nice thing about a tension rod is that you can rotate it out easily, i.e., if she ages out of afternoon maps, or it is not as sunny in winter, etc.

    • Mer

      One thing I did was put up a tension rod and put blackout liners on said tension rod. On some of my windows I actually have blackout curtains on a curtain rod and blackout liners on a tension rod behind the curtains.

      So it’s curtain rod + black out curtains, then blinds, then behind or in front of the blinds, depending on the type of window and how the blinds are mounted, there’s a tension rod with blackout liners. My bedroom is dark, dark, dark and it’s amazing

    • ART

      Forgive me if this explanation overlaps with your existing knowledge – trying to answer the where do I go and what do I do part of the question! I like to mount regular curtains well above and outside of windows so they really cut down on the overflow from the top and sides of the blinds. So measure your window and get a curtain rod that’s at least, say, 12″ longer than that width (most will be adjustable, two tubes of slightly different sizes so one slides within the other to get the length you need), and many of them come with the wall-mounted hardware (brackets) to put the rod up, and the finials that attach to the end of the rods so that makes it easy, I would recommend that kind of combo product! (like this: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S99929241/). I usually get mine at IKEA but Target, Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. all have them. They even have versions with two rods so you can put something more sheer behind, for privacy/prettiness but not light as much light blocking, and then the heavier curtains in front. My personal preference is curtains with tabs or a tube at the top that just slide over the rod, no rings or hooks or any of that – they cover the curtain rod so if it’s kind of a cheap one that’s fine, and they stick up a little further so I find them more helpful with light blocking at the top!

      I do not really recommend Target’s blackout curtains though they may be OK if you have blinds closed all the time – in my experience, if they get baked in direct sun they start to smell shockingly awful to the point that thinking about it 6 years later makes me nauseated.

  • Eh

    I am a Girl Guide leader. Iknow some who are very organized and many how aren’t – most people who know me would put me on the organized side. I am currently on vacation and ignoring my adulting duties. Our ongoing adulting fail is that we don’t have a will, POA, or gaurdianship for our daughter. I have also given up on weeding (note: we have had one of the wettest May and July on record, and June wasn’t much better – so the weeds grew like crazy). We currently have a toilet that leaks; this is one of the few adulting things that will hopefully get fixed on the staycation part of of our vacation. Two months ago we forgot to pay our water bill because we thought it was autopaid (it is now).

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  • suchbrightlights

    My mom was a single parent of two teenaged girls at one time, a public school teacher, active in the community and in her own hobbies, and both a literal and figurative girl scout leader.

    And I once bounced two checks in a row to the electric company because I’d set up automatic bill pay at one account and that was the account I forgot to change over to my new bank. So then I had to call them every month and pay off of a credit card, because despite having outstandingly good credit I had bounced two checks and they were not interested in maintaining a trusting relationship with someone who did not reliably pay them.

    I am in other ways a meticulous record-keeper, and the keeper of the household budget and calendar (I get hives if it isn’t written down, fiance gets hives if he has to think about writing it down, and the cat doesn’t have opposable thumbs.) I make spreadsheets in my sleep. Literally, I dream about spreadsheets.

    Sometimes I adult really well, and other times I need to go back to bed and try again.

    • ART

      I moved several times, changed my bank account/credit card numbers, and then changed my name and had to update billing info so many times in a short span that I started a google doc of that kind of chore, so it lists EVERYTHING I might need to update my address or billing info on, including DMV, Post Office for forwarding, utilities, all my autopay things, my retirement accounts, my various banks, my transit pre-tax card, my transit fare card, and on and on. It doesn’t have any personal information, just a simple list of like “Clipper Card, Fidelity, etc.” Seriously one of the most helpful things I did for myself, because that sort of thing is so easy to lose in the shuffle!

      • suchbrightlights

        I also had a list! But it wasn’t exhaustive.

        Lesson learned. Next time I will make a different mistake.

        • ART

          Yeah, there’s always a new one you haven’t gotten to yet :)

  • Jan

    We have a reasonably tidy house, I work out 3-4 days a week, I cook decent meals, and I stay on top of irregular chores like cleaning out my fridge or washing the baseboards. I struggle with anxiety so if it’s a small, home-based thing that I can hyper focus on when I’m anxious I’m such a successful adult it’s insane.

    But, that anxiety also means I can be paralyzed when it comes to tasks that seem larger or scarier (read: involving other human beings). Scheduling appointments or car maintenance, paying that bill I forgot about, calling customer service, etc. I let those things fester until it’s suddenly an emergency or my partner handles them. I’m trying to be better about just taking care of something immediately and auto-pay has been a help, but man it’s hard sometimes. But, like, you should totally see my clean baseboards.

    • Gaby

      I have been putting off calling a landscaper to help us out with our messy yard for two months D:

    • Kat

      Car maintenance and dr. appointments are really, really hard for me. Especially going to the doctor. I’ve lived in GA for 2.5 years now and still haven’t found a GP to go to, and I really need to do so, but half the battle is getting over my fear of a judgmental doctor (ridiculous, yeah I know.)

  • toomanybooks

    Keeping a clean home is a struggle for me. It’s the clutter that’s the real problem. I look at all the clutter and I just get overwhelmed. I’m actually great at cleaning the bathroom, because to me it’s a small, manageable space that mostly involves wiping down surfaces and neatly organizing the few things that are in there – all of which definitely belong in that room, so it’s easy to know where to put them and easy to get the job done because I don’t have to move around a lot. But… the living room? There are dishes that need to go in the kitchen to be washed, there are clothes that need to go in the laundry, there’s trash to throw out, there are books lying around, etc etc etc.

    I also find it a lot easier to clean when I have the place to myself? Like I just feel more focused and in the zone.

    • Ilora

      Definitely easier to clean alone! Partly because I’m able to get totally into the zone, partly because I enjoy being able to show off the “surprise, I did this today!” and partly because I don’t have to answer my husbands questions about “where do you want me to put x thing?”.

  • toomanybooks

    Also! I felt SUPER gaslit by my bank account yesterday. My wife and I made a big purchase recently (new bed and mattress) that brought my account down to a pretty low amount. She had sent money to me (online transfer – a sizeable amount, to cover half the new purchase costs) but it hadn’t gone through yet. I called the bank and they said it was in there and my banking app must have just not updated to reflect the amount yet. But my balance at the ATM and a call to the number on my debit card said I had the low amount that I was seeing.

    I checked my account *every day* for that money and never saw it. So a week later I called the bank again. They said that they saw the transfer in my account, on a date a few days after my wife had sent it. I checked and it was in there and now the balance on the previous days had been changed to reflect what it would have been had I been able to see the money she’d transferred me. But the thing is – I was checking my account every day and never saw either a record of the transfer in my activity or a bump in my account balance from the money transferred. My wife (an economist) was trying to explain to me that the dates things had actually cleared were different from the dates the purchases/transfers/etc had happened and it all added up, but I remembered what my balance was every day/after every purchase and just felt like I must be horrible at math and a raging shopaholic if I wasn’t getting how this happened and never noticed the transfer clearing. See: feeling super gaslit!

    Eventually I was just like “okay, I accept that the dates are all jumbled and it somehow all adds up and I’ll never truly understand why and I just wanted to explain to you WHY I was confused” as my wife was trying to figure it out to explain to me.

  • anonforthis

    My partner and I come from working class backgrounds, and neither of our parents have ever owned property. Right now we are in the process of purchasing a house/acquiring a mortgage and it is pretty overwhelming. Never being homeowners themselves, our parents have pretty much zero insight or skills to offer (and obviously no financial assistance).
    We have always rented! We don’t know how to fix things! We have trouble remembering to change the lightbulbs! How are we going to look after a whole house + yard??? Simultaneously, we are planning a major career change, a cross-country move, and saying goodbye to stable income/benefits. Also we have tiny kids who seem to make enormous messes at every opportunity. Being a grown-up feels like a lot of work these days.

  • Kat

    The chore I hate THE MOST is vacuuming/sweeping. Our new place has hardwood floors downstairs and they are great but when stuff gets tracked in it’s immediately noticeable. We finally caught a Groupon for one of those Roomba vacuums and it is a game changer. I generally come downstairs in the morning, turn the chairs upside down onto the kitchen table, and set it loose while I make coffee. do my makeup, etc. Works like a charm and goes a longggg way towards making a kind-of gross room like at least 50% cleaner without having to do any other chores.