Secrets of Adulthood #1: Sweep and You'll Feel Better

Aug 21, 2015

Even though we still have more than a third of the year to go, I've already been contemplating my reading goals for 2016. I don't have them all figured out yet, but one thing that I do know is that a couple of rereads are in order. One of those rereads will be The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

I've forgotten many details from the book (hence, the reread), but a few of the things have stayed with me, particularly Gretchen's Secrets of Adulthood ("What's fun for other people may not be fun for you--and vice versa" is one of my favorites). Immediately after reading the book, I thought of several of my own, and I've been surprised with how often one of my Secrets of Adulthood will pop into my head at just the right time and calm me down or remind me of something important or make me smile.

In the book, Gretchen has her resolutions, her Twelve Commandments, and her Secrets of Adulthood, and so at first I was a little conflicted with how to categorize my little pieces of advice to myself. But where the resolutions are specific action plans for achieving goals and the commandments are sort of these overarching, big-picture values, the Secrets of Adulthood were just random tips and tricks. They aren't necessarily things that will make a big difference in your worldview, but they might make everyday life a little easier. So I decided my little thoughts fit best under the Secrets of Adulthood heading, and I've called them that ever since.

Today I'm going to share one of those with you, and this may become something of a regular feature on Sunlit Pages. We'll see. Additionally, I would love to hear about your own Secrets of Adulthood--those little daily mantras that help you survive and thrive.

Here's one that I repeat to myself on an almost daily basis:

[Sweep], and you'll feel better. 

Of course it needs an explanation.

With four boys running around, our home is always in varying degrees of chaos. There are moments when I can handle it just fine but other moments where it totally overwhelms me (and both types of moments happen cyclically every day). When I'm in my overwhelmed state, my irritation and frustration with the mess tend to escalate very quickly and unpredictably. Within seconds, every direction I turn sends me further into despair. It feels like I will never have a clean house ever again.

At this point, I can go one of two directions: either I can wander around while feeling more irritated and overwhelmed at every turn; or I can focus on fixing one thing, just one, while turning into a rational human being again.

It's in that critical moment of decision that this mantra comes in so handy. I repeat it silently to myself:

[Sweep], and you'll feel better. [Insert task of choice], and you'll feel better.

I find that when I set my mind to one chore, it doesn't really matter what it is. Just the act of bringing order to one thing (be it the sink full of dishes or the crumb-cluttered floor or the basket of clean laundry) calms me down enough that I can then tackle the rest of what's bothering me (and also delegate some of the work out to other family members).

Generally, the simpler this initial task is, the better. In fact, vacuuming might be my all-time favorite thing to do to bring almost immediate calm. Whether it's the white noise or the therapeutic motion or the instant lift it gives to a room, I always feel better after vacuuming (but I like the way "Sweep, and you'll feel better" sounds more than "Vacuum, and you'll better").

The key is to trust myself that it will actually work.

Clark agrees with me.

What do you do to restore yourself to a state of rational calm? What are your most oft-repeated Secrets of Adulthood? 


  1. I love this so much! I go through the same cycle and in moments of despair think. "Where did all of this stuff come from??" I had a dream (nightmare?) last night that there were several little friends over and my house was a complete disaster as a result. Obviously this weighs heavily on my soul! ;)

    I'd love to see a series of these!

  2. when I am feeling too tired or lazy to go somewhere I'm committed to be I think, "just show up." (that's the hardest part - and I usually am glad I made the effort once I am at said meeting/event)

  3. "Spilled water is an opportunity." It's not a mess, it's a chance to get some mini-mopping in. This probably doesn't work as well if your kids are juice drinkers, but it's a general chance to look for the opportunity in mishaps.

    "Let's light a candle." This is not an invitation to play with matches, but an alternative to "cursing the darkness." When you hear yourself (or your kids!) complaining about something, add in something, anything, that actually addresses a problem -- maybe sweeping!

  4. I, too, am working on my 2016 reading goals already. And I'm planning a Happiness Project re-read for December!

    I've adopted Gretchen's "Be Gretchen." I haven't even changed it to "Be Carrie," I'll just think to myself, "Be Gretchen," and I know what I need to do.

    As much as I like creating lists, I'm surprised I haven't created a list of Secrets of Adulthood. Maybe I should get on that!


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