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This is a blog about Truth, Justice and the American Way. The stories are true. No names have been changed to protect anyone's identity, including my own. If the story is about me, then I'll say so right up front. If I don't use a name to identify whom the story is about, then it's because it's not relevant. So please do not call me or e-mail me with your kind condolences or unwarranted congratulations about something that you believe is a cleverly disguised bio from my alter ego. These stories, like my photo, are unretouched.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How to Avoid Doing Anything

OK, I admit it: I’m “stuck.” I’m out of work; I’m depressed; I haven't blogged in nearly two months; I’m not answering people’s emails; I’m not cleaning my house. Frankly, I’m not doing anything. I’m stuck.

I’m not stuck physically, although if I gain any more weight or go another day without mopping my kitchen floor I may just get stuck there as well, unable to move my feet in the grime – much the same way that I am now unable to move my mind.

So, in the interests of continuing to provide good information to my readers (if I still have any readers left after this long period of inactivity), I am going to share my many helpful tricks to avoiding doing practically anything.

It helps that the Olympics are on, because watching all those bobsledders, and skaters, and skiers, and luge sliders is a full time job. And is it just me, or are those German luge guys just plain nuts? I’m happy for their five medals but still…. 95mph with no protection but a helmet? How crazy is that? In any case, as a proud citizen it is my patriotic duty to watch each and every competition, rooting for America. Plus it keeps me from being able to do much else right now.

Of course, if you are not doing anything then it stands to reason that your housekeeping is something less than spiffy. So there’s the problem of hiding things when you have company. Sure, when you’re as depressed as I have been you avoid having company as much as possible, if for no other reason than the general messiness of the house. But sometimes people do show up – maybe to watch the SuperBowl or the Olympics. How can you avoid letting them see how dysfunctional you are right now? The answer: Costco grape boxes! These things are not only free but they are amazing. They are really strong and will take a lot of weight. They run about 23½ inches by 15½ inches and they are technically nearly 5½ inches tall, but you really don’t want to fill them up higher than 5 inches because then it makes them hard to stack. And stacking is the best thing about Costco grape boxes. They have these four tabs that make the boxes interlocking. You can stack these suckers up to the ceiling!

So when someone is coming over and you haven’t the time or the mental capacity to actually go through all of that crap that has accumulated on every single flat surface in your house, you just sweep it into a Costco grape box. My personal system is to keep the surfaces separated so that you can later dig items out of the boxes more easily. The stuff from the dining room table goes in one box; the scraps of paper all over the coffee table into another; the magazines and mail balanced precariously on the chair goes into a different box; junk lying around the floor into another. See!! Brilliant. When I need something, I recall that I’m pretty sure it was somewhere on the dining room table. So you just go to the “Dining Room Table” box and dig thorough that. It actually helps a lot if you label the boxes as you stack them but there’s two problems with that:

1. It requires time and effort and the whole point of sweeping everything into Costco boxes is the elimination of time and effort.

2. The minute you start labeling them, there is a sense of “permanency” to the process. You are admitting to yourself that you’re not really going to immediately “unbox” everything as soon as your guests leave. Even if this is true (and let’s face it, it probably is), admitting it will diminish your self-esteem even further, make you more depressed and cause you to have to lie down….. some more….

So now that you have everything swept away, where do you put the boxes? Well, my current favorite is the garage. That garage will never see a car. My husband and I joke that our whole life is “somewhere in the garage.” Whatever we are looking for – our sunglasses, the 800-number to order a ShamWow, the title to the car, our overall sanity – is “somewhere in the garage.”

I didn’t used to have a garage. When we lived in an apartment in the city there was no storage whatsoever. So you know where I stashed the stacked-up Costco boxes? In the spare bedroom. You just throw a large white tablecloth over the stack, toss a flower arrangement on top and who is to know? Hey, when you live in an apartment you have to make due. I used to know a couple who kept a little studio apartment in Atlantic City. It was so small, that on laundry day, they pulled the tablecloths off of their bed-side tables and voila! One of the bed-tables was a mini washing machine and the other was a little dryer. Seriously. You make due.

Even worse, when I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, hiding the Costco boxes got more difficult. Where did I put them? In the shower in the master bathroom. Of course, that makes it harder to ignore them once the guests go home. But, hey, you make due.

I should mention that occasionally your crap is taller than 5 inches? The answer: The Costco Dulcinea PureHeart seedless watermelon box or the Tuscan-style cantaloupe box. It’s a full 7½ inches tall (for those extra bulky items). And the tabs still fit neatly into the grape box slots for stacking convenience.

I have lots of other tips for avoiding doing anything. You can put off laundry forever as long as you have lots of underwear. You have a choice. You can do the laundry and face all that work (2-4 hours minimum) or the next time you’re in WalMart or Macy’s, just grab another couple of packs of underwear (32 seconds maximum). You do the math.

Of course, these days the obvious way to avoid getting any productive work done is social networking. Between email, participating in LinkedIn discussion groups, Tweeting, making witty remarks on your friends’ FaceBook pages, and answering the DM’s you have received from your many “business friends” across the country….. well, it pretty much consumes the day. And you have to do this stuff because this is the way we do business in 2010. (Or don’t do much business in 2010 – I’m not quite sure.)

I could give you more tips, but all of this blogging is exhausting and now I have to lie down …. some more. Maybe I should double up on my Prozac. But that would require walking up the stairs. Never mind. I think the women’s figure skating long program is starting. I’d like to return a couple of important phone calls, but unfortunately I’ll be stuck lying on the sofa for the next three hours. It’s my patriotic duty.