Kelly Williams Brown promises us that “being a Grownup isn’t all that complicated.” Take her week-long Grownup lifestyle challenge and see if you agree.
The good news: Being a Grownup isn’t all that complicated, and involves about 17 percent as much work as you think it does. The most difficult part of nearly anything you do in this life is actually beginning it — calling the dentist, or braving the Tupperware avalanches that happen every time you open that awful cupboard in order to actually get it organized.
The bad news: You are the only person who can do it. But you can. And you will! So this week, Society of Grownups presents the Get Your Sh*t in (Slightly More) Order challenge, by Kelly Williams Brown, author of Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps.
Sunday — Prepare yourself:
As approximately 1,273 posters that tried and failed to be inspirational have told you by now, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. In this case, that step is ridiculously easy and will take no more than five minutes.
Tonight, after you’ve completed dinner but before you settle in to watch your high-budget television show of choice, you will lay out your best work outfit for tomorrow, that one you keep for special occasions when you want to feel powerful and impressive—the one that makes you feel vaguely like Richard Branson or Elon Musk or Hillary Clinton or Joan Holloway or whomever it is you’d like to be a little bit more like at work.
Include shoes, underwear and any accessories. Then, set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than you normally get up, and make sure you have a little something to eat in the morning for breakfast, even if it’s just peanut butter smeared on toast.
Wake up and put that outfit on. Damn. You look good. Look at those shoes! These shoes are not only made for walking but also perhaps conquering the world, squishing your obstacles one at a time like so many crunchy fall leaves. Excellent job having those shoes. Someone who has shoes like that, well, the world is their oyster.
Now. On your way to work—if you ride public transit, you can do this on your electronic pacifier (phone, tablet, etc.) of choice, if not, you’ll just have to chatter to yourself like a crazy person in the car—you will do this:
Make a list of something—anything!—you’ve been meaning to accomplish at work but haven’t because you’ve been, you know, working…or on Facebook. It could be checking in with your supervisor to finally schedule that review, or presenting a new idea for a project, or even just making it through the week without snapping at anyone. Make it small but accomplishable.
And then, within 15 minutes of getting to work and settling in, send whatever email or make whatever phone call is necessary to set that plan in motion. Get an exact time—or even just block it out on your own calendar. Also, decide that this week, you will spend zero company time on Facebook, Reddit, Slate, etc.
Today, you will do not only the funnest step on this list, but also the most important.
Around lunchtime, you will text an old friend that you miss and don’t see enough. Maybe, if you’re the man-of-few-words type, a text message will be enough, but you should probably go a step further and ask if you two can catch up that night. If they’re far away, a phone call or Skype will do, but all the better if you can actually get together in person.
From now on, Tuesday (or Wednesday, or Thursday) is keeping in touch with people whom you love day. If you call or reach out to one per week, chances are good that people you really care about and want to keep in your life will not completely fall out of it.
Wednesday—Basic at-home supplies:
Another easy step: Today, go to your favorite Mom-n-Pop office supply store (or, you know, Staples) and get any of these things you don’t already have:
- Business envelopes
- A three-pack of Scotch tape (if you have this already, get more. No one was ever sad to have extra Scotch tape)
- A big accordion folder
- Label stickers
- A box of paperclips that will last you for at least 20 years
- A three-hole punch
- Toner—let’s be real. If you have an at-home printer, chances are 99.5 percent that you are either out of toner or about to be. Just get it now.
- Printer paper
Tonight, when you get home from work, you will physically lay hands on the important papers in your life. These include, but are not limited to:
- Birth certificate
- Social Security card
- Voter’s card
- Any insurance policies
- Your lease, if you’re a renter; your deed, if you own your home
- Your car title
- Last year’s tax return
- Any contracts you are currently involved in
Now. Remember that wonderful accordion folder and those labels you got yesterday? It is their time to shine. Each important paper will go in its own properly labeled slot. From now until when you die, if need be, at least you will live every day with the confidence that comes from knowing that if you need to go to the DMV and get a new driver’s license, you have everything you need to accomplish that.
Now. A lot of us cannot do this instantly and that is ok! But it does give you the list of things you need to attain. Maybe that’s as simple as calling your parents and asking them to send over whatever special documentation they’d been holding on to until now. It might be an issue of logging in to your insurance company’s website and requesting new paperwork to download. It might even, and I’m sorry to say this, involve filling out complicated government paperwork to get these things. But it’s so, so much better to do this now rather than when you actually need these things in a hurry.
Also, bonus points: if you have a scanner, scan these things and add them into your Google Drive. Or at least email them to yourself. Make sure the subject is nice and clear—GEICO Car Insurance Documents, for example—and then if for some reason your house burned down, they’ll still exist somewhere.
Finally, any old paperwork that you no longer need but still have sensitive information in them—think bills that have been paid, tax returns older than six years, old bank statements—and put them in a big paper bag. Write, in bold Sharpie “TO SHRED” and then doodle a shredder eating your old papers. The next time you leave the house, those papers go with you. If you ask nicely at work, they may let you shred it there!
Tonight, go out and appreciate what talented human beings are doing. This can be whatever form you like—go to a show, or a play, or stand-up comedy, or a good movie you wouldn’t normally see, or even a museum. Just add some wrinkle to your usual Friday night routine.
There is a form of cultural or artistic expression that every time you consume it, you think to yourself, “Huh! I should [go to a play/check out live country music/visit the historical society/witness a fierce Pokemon tournament] more often, because this is f**king neat!” Go do that thing tonight.
We won’t make you clean up your whole apartment. But! We do highly, highly suggest that you use this Saturday morning to tackle that Troublesome Spotin your house. Just a little one! Maybe it’s a drawer, or a cabinet, or even a corner that has many random objects that are living there because you haven’t figured out where they go.
Set a timer for 20 minutes—that’s enough to start with—and go to town. Pull everything out, figure out what actually should be there versus what has been crammed in because it’s a troublesome spot that you don’t like to think about.
Your job here is not completed until you have restored sanity to that teeny tiny space. But once you have…Feels good. Feels really good. And now…You have the rest of the weekend to bask in sunshine of your own boundless responsibility and capabilities. Enjoy it!
Let us know the results, Grownups! Which step was hardest for you? Which was the easiest? And, do you feel better now? Fill us in by filling up our comment box below.
Kelly Williams Brown is an award-winning reporter, columnist and author of Adulting: How to Become A Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. She lives in Portland, Oregon.