By Leo Babauta
One of the least likable characters in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Count Vronsky, has a habit that I really like: every now and then he has a “laundry day” where he puts all his affairs (financial, career, etc.) in order, and completely clears his mind.
And when he’s done “doing his laundry” (he doesn’t actually wash his clothes), he feels like a new man. His friend says it always looks like he just got out of a bath.
Designating a day to put your affairs in order — a “Life Laundry Day” — is a great way to straighten things up in your life, get your mind clear, and make you feel like a new person. I know that every time I get everything taken care of, I feel amazing.
How would a Life Laundry Day work? It’s simple: designate one day each week or each month, depending on what works for you, for putting things in order. Maybe that’s a weekday, if you can spare it, or perhaps a Saturday if that’s better. Maybe it’s the first of the month. Make a list of the things you need to do that morning, or the night before, and then try to knock off all the things on the list — or as many as possible.
Think of it as a GTD Weekly Review, where you clean up your system, but instead of just making lists, you actually take care of as much as you can.
Alternatively, you could do everything as it comes in each day (pay a bill when it comes in, clean as you go, etc.) and that’s often the best method. But even if you do that, as I try to do, there will be things that slip between the cracks, or things you didn’t have time to do during the rest of the week. And that’s why we all need a Life Laundry Day now and then.
Here are some of the things you can tackle — but you don’t have to do all of them. Choose the ones that you think would do the most for you, in clearing your mind.
Financial. Create or update your list of debts, and go over your plan to pay these debts. Make a debt payment if possible. Do the same thing with your bills, and any other expenses. Update your spending plan and checking register/personal finance program. Feel the bliss when you’re done.
Paperwork. You should have one inbox in your home, and another at work, where all incoming papers go. I recommend clearing these inboxes each day, processing each paper in them until you get to empty. However, if there is paperwork here during your Life Laundry Day, get the inbox processed and empty.
Cleaning. Is your house (or workspace) a mess? Do a quick clean so that things are nice and tidy. You don’t necessarily have to do any deep cleaning — you can do that another day if you like — but you can if you have the time or the inclination.
Errands. Instead of doing errands each day, I definitely recommend that you do them one day a week. If they can fit in with your Life Laundry Day, so much the better — it’s great to take care of everything at once, including errands, so see if you can fit them into your day.
Repairs and maintenance. Little things need to be fixed — maybe a faucet is leaky, maybe a button came off your pants, maybe your car needs an oil change — and we often don’t have time to take care of these things right away. Do them on Life Laundry Day, and feel great afterward.
Career. This is the time to take a step back and think about your job, and your career in general. How do things seem to be going? If they’re not going well, what needs to be done? Make a plan to get things going in the direction you want them to go.
Relationships. What are the state of your most important relationships? Have you been regularly spending time with the people you love most? If not, make appointments or dates to do so, right now. Are there any people who you need to contact, that you haven’t talked to in a long time? Call them now. Anyone who you aren’t talking to because of some silly grudge? Call them now and make up — life is too short for grudges.
Goals. Review your life goals. Are these still the goals you have for yourself? Which one are you focusing on right now — if you’re not just focusing on one, choose one and make that your priority. What are you doing to further that goal along? Put the next action item for that goal on your calendar or to-do list, and get back on track!
Clutter. If you have time, a Life Laundry Day is a great day to do some decluttering. Clear the clutter out of your closet, your bookshelf, your counters or tabletops, your floor, your (shudder) garage. Put all the stuff you don’t need in bags or boxes, and put them in your car to donate or recycle.
When you’re done with your Life Laundry Day (and it can just be a few hours or a half day if you like), rejoice in the wonder that is your life. Feel the beauty of a life that’s in better order. Hallelujah!