Kendra Adachi is the author of The Lazy Genius Way. Her book is intended to help you hack your life, and decide how to spend your time without the shame of comparison or the guilt of not being good enough. Adachi says “being a Lazy Genius is not about doing things the right way but about finally finding your own way.”
One of her Lazy Genius principles is about creating House Rules. We all have them. Take your shoes off at the door. The toys get picked up before bed. No dirty dishes left in the sink.
They make sense to you and your family, and they’re designed to stave off chaos. But they can sometimes create more stress and make you – and the people you care about – miserable. If your rules are making you or your family crazy, maybe it’s time to get lazier about them.
Adachi writes: “When you go full genius (overdrive) about the rules for your own house, you’re likely focusing on something you wish didn’t affect you so much: your reputation, how impressive your interior décor is—your general insecurity about not being enough. Deep down, most people want to be free of those things. We want to be people who live authentically and are accepted for it.”
If you’ve ever found yourself feeling out of control, snapping at your kids, your partner, or your coworkers, it’s likely you’ve slipped into protection mode – trying to control how you feel by controlling your environment. The problem with protecting is that it keeps us from connecting with those who are important to us.
Adachi says the Lazy Genius way to build house rules is to look for the first domino. Adachi describes it like this: “Somehow one choice has led to a dozen unintended ones, everything is falling apart, and we don’t know where it all went wrong.” That’s when we start to get angry, when we start yelling. And our hapless partner, kids, or coworkers never know what hit them.
For Adachi, who has small children, the first domino that turned her evening into stress-filled misery was always backpacks on the floor after school. The kids would just drop them the minute they walked into the house, and somehow, within a few minutes, a whole load of junk, including toys, permission slips, and projects would be scattered over the floor. It made her crazy.
You probably have one domino that is the root of your stress, too. For me, it’s a pile of mail on the counter when I come home. I’m a “handle it once” kind of girl, so I sort mail the minute it crosses the threshold. Junk mail goes straight into the trash. Bills go in a leather box in the desk in the kitchen until the day I do my home office work, Catalogs of interest in a neat stack for perusal later.
If I come home to a random pile of unsorted mail, I tense up immediately. I worry that important bills are somehow stuffed inside useless fliers. I panic about missing something critical. My stress level, especially if it’s been a busy, chaotic day, goes through the roof. My evening’s off to a bad start.
Taking a few minutes to sort and file the mail is an easy way to reduce my stress level. And one of our house rules is “The person who does it is the person to whom it matters the most.” So I sort. And I feel calmer. I can focus on connecting with my husband, rather than protecting my sense of order.
Adachi says “A house rule is a tool to support what matters and keep you from going too far down a road you don’t like to travel.” Genius.