The No-Nag Project

Photo: lifehacker

Photo: lifehacker

I have started a new project. I always have a bunch of little tasks that nag at me and never seem to get done. I tend not to list them because they are unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but they don’t take care of themselves and go away.

I will be honest here – one of them is doing dishes. We have a dishwasher which is used for dinnerware and glass. I do pots, pans, and plastic stuff by hand. I wash the dishes every time I make a meal, which requires a full clean-up. But on days I reheat leftovers, I tend to scrape and rinse the dishes and leave them by the sink. I also pack lunches and snacks for work, rinse the containers, and pile them on the counter. When I get a full sink’s worth of containers, I wash them all. It makes sense to me at some level – why waste water to wash 2 or 3 containers at a time – but even I don’t like coming home to stacks of used dishes on the counter.

I always procrastinate on mending, too, whether it’s an actual repair or just sewing a button. Another one is cleaning shoes and boots – this needs to be done a lot, to remove road salt in the winter. I also put off errands such as going to the bank or post office, although those are infrequent.

A whole category I like to sweep under the rug is Regular Maintenance. I am not fond of making appointments, whether it is for health check-ups, car maintenance, home repair jobs or whatever. Mainly because I have to take time out of my work day to make and return phone calls, and then take time off work to attend them. I do eventually come around, but begrudgingly.

I haven’t resorted to rewarding myself – maybe I am stoic, but I don’t think I should have to bribe myself to take the car for an oil change, or sew a button!

In the past two months, I have decided to apply the Getting Things Done method. In that book (which I wouldn’t recommend – it is deadly boring), the author suggests that if replying to a phone call or email would take you two minutes or less, reply immediately, rather than adding it to a list of things to do. I realized that a modified version would make my life simpler.

I am really not very short on time. I do have time to myself before and after work and on weekends. Apart from the weekday getting-ready-for-work rush, I can fit tasks in perfectly well, if I so choose, but it takes self-discipline.

So now, when I see that something needs to be done, I am trying to Just Do It. This mostly involves putting things away in their proper places, cleaning things and repairing things. Making arrangements for things to be checked and fixed. Buying pieces and restocking things. Resisting the lure of a good book and a cup of coffee while I wash the fricking dishes and polish the fricking boots!

Now you might wonder if Rom and I nag each other about doing things. As far as Rom is concerned, he does not nag. Not ever. Nor does he do things that I have agreed to do. What a great strategy! For me to eliminate the pesky tasks that nag at me, and then never have him mention anything I should be doing, means a stress-free home life. As for myself, I am not so virtuous. I am more the “remind-once-and-then-do-it-myself” type.

For the bigger jobs, I have decided on a new tactic. Sometimes we say we will paint a room, for example, or dig a garden bed, and we usually have a timeline in mind. The time comes and goes and the job doesn’t get done. It’s not urgent; maybe it can wait a month. Then maybe 6 months go by and we say: maybe next year. If the job is dependent on having saved money first, that makes sense. But if it’s only a matter of setting a high priority on it and getting it done, I have decided I won’t procrastinate any more. I will (a.) set a reasonable deadline (such as “by the end of the summer”), (b.) attempt to set a specific date (such as the first two weeks of July), and (c.) if after two attempts, I can’t manage to set a date, I will pay someone to do the job. Keeping in mind that procrastination will both cost me more and require me to make appointments, I will be highly motivated to get the work done myself. Or, I will consider the money well-spent.

What kinds of tasks nag at you? Is there much nagging at your house – and are you the nagger or the nagee?


  1. EcoCatLady

    Oy! Well, let us know how this goes. I have tried the “just do it” strategy soooo many times, and inevitably I fall off the wagon and then the chaos returns. I think for me a big part of it is that I have bad systems – or roadblocks that get in the way. Like with the dishes – if I can just make myself empty the dishwasher and put everything away when it’s done, then I can simply put dirty dishes in as I go and all is well. But if I don’t get it emptied in a timely manner, then the piles begin and soon the kitchen is buried again.

    CatMan maintains a “meh” attitude about these things. He sees it as some sort of mathematical equation – when the stress caused by the mess exceeded the stress caused by cleaning up said mess, cleaning will occur – so why worry about it. I wish I could see it in such an objective non-judgmental manner, without the whole “you are a hopelessly inadequate human being” twist. Sigh.

    • I wonder if my problem is that I have sooo many things that I “just do” all the time; everything around getting to work and getting stuff done at work; doing what I should. Maybe at some level I think I deserve more flexibility at home. And the more I insist on being flexible, the less gets done! Yet I don’t want my whole life to be regimented. So it is a balancing act.

  2. This is such an interesting post for my ‘right now’. The weekend and today, I have had high motivation and energy, and so have accomplished the following: polished a pair of shoes, stain treated a pillow case, mended trouser hems, collected shampoo, toothbrush and exchanged a gift all in town (ie specific trip), baked two cakes for church (a first, after many ‘I shoulds’), ordered, collected and served tea and coffee to additional 80 more guests than usual at church, buying 4L milk whilst doing setup for coffee (ie super last minute opps, as someone usually does it for me) bought a new dress for a wedding in April (and a 30th dinner), online shopped for wedding gifts (which wrap, card and deliver!), bought flowers and took my own vase to have them made in, picked up dry cleaning, washed up (twice I think!), did a load or two of washing, bought a birthday card… I think that’s about all, though today being Monday, it extended to work tasks in addition to following up on coffee levels in church and scanning and emailing my two reciepts. I set up our cleaner on direct deposit and paid her for tomorrow, and last week did a two side typed up version of my expectations, do’s and don’ts and all that (so I can reprint next time we get a ‘new’ cleaner). I even hand wrote a four page letter on Friday morning. I’m just whipping through tasks at the moment, and it feels AWESOME.

    I actually recall saying to myself to have a ‘screen free Saturday’ and though I didn’t consciously mean to, I more or less had one. I took selfies of my shopping and kept up contact with my mum and BF, but I didn’t devote the hours I’ve been known to on blogs on a Sat morning, which sets the scene for the weekend. I did it Sunday arvo and it was enough.

    I wish I knew where all this ‘go get ’em’ spark came from, but I’m using it to the best of my ability, let me assure you! To do lists get DONE. It’s just a miracle. If only I knew what cause this!! I’ll send you some vibes through the internet.

    On my BF’s front, he’s not a nagger with chores or tasks – but with exercise and eating. I try not to nag, but have learnt two askings are required (ie he was near the laptop and it takes a while to boot up, whilst I was doing laundry, and first time didn’t seem to illicit action). Thankfully, when I hold up to washing the dishes (like you mentioned), he seems to rise to tidying after himself more.

  3. Ginger R

    Not much nagging here. Dan will hear the buzzer on the dryer and say “your dryer quit” or he’ll hear me open the dryer door and say “honey you’ve got a loaf of clothes in the dryer”. Duh. I think he likes to be on top of things here. I let him. He’s just as likely to jump up and fold clothes or empty the dishwasher – or we do it together.
    The one task I procrastinate about is DUSTING. Hate. It. I have a regular morning routine and before bed routine (ala FlyLady) and I do a weekly quick clean of changing bed linens, vacuuming, mopping, mirrors and… dusting. I do it all – but I never finish dusting. (I’m working on it.)
    I designate Wednesdays and Fridays for desk work – pay bills and phone calls. It doesn’t take much time and I’m off the hook until Wednesday. If I don’t finish it Wednesday – I have to do it Friday before noon.
    Dirty dishes are rinsed and put in the dishwasher. (It’s are dirty dish storage.) When there’s a full load – we run it at night. We load it all – pots, pans, plastic ware. We empty it in the morning.

    • Dusting is barely on my radar 🙂 I really like your Wed/Fri system. I have one morning a week off (I work a later shift) so if I can’t do my errands that day, I know it will be another week before I do. That can motivate me (especially if there is something wrong with my car!)

  4. Ginger R.

    Mark McGuinness of wrote about 7 steps for smashing procrastination. I’ve used these strategies and they worked for me.

    Smash Procrastination:
    ⭐️ 1. Decide in advance – when you will do it
    ⭐️ 2. Make it a habit
    ⭐️ 3. Pretend you’re not going to do it – just going to prep, get supplies together
    ⭐️ 4. Accept that it’ll never be perfect
    ⭐️ 5. Break it down to steps
    ⭐️ 6. Sprint against the task (pomodoro tech)
    ⭐️ 7. Put yourself on the line. Public commitment

    I also use an app – HomeRoutines. The app is designed to be used with FlyLady’s system but it can be useful to anyone who wants to establish routines and keep lists.

    • Great advice – I love #3! HomeRoutines looks really good. For the past month, I have been making up my own sets of routines on Trello, but this app is even better suited for it. Once you buy the app, does it work better to keep buying add-ons and upgrades, or is it a one-time fee?

      • Ginger R.

        Sorry I didn’t catch this question earlier! I’ve never seen any offers for – or bought any – add-ons or upgrades and it’s worked fine. It’s a one-time fee. I’ve used it for 2+ years now.

      • Thank you – I will give it a try!

      • Ginger R.

        #3 is my favorite method. I also use a timer and play beat the timer. I’ve timed myself doing ️Routine tasks -and wrote the times in my list. So when I’m procrastinating – I tell myself – it only takes 7 minutes to put away dishes – just do it and get it over with!

  5. Fiona

    I am stressing out about this so much at the moment! The problem here is that I realistically don’t have enough time left after working a 50-60 hr week to actually do the nagging chores on top of housework, cooking, shopping, bills etc. I do love the GTD approach though.

    I used a ‘brain dump’ (straight out of GTD) a few weeks ago. What I did was put all those nagging chores on yellow sticky notes and stuck them straight on the kitchen wall, where they’re right up front and centre each day. It’s prompting me to ‘grab a ticket’ whenever I can and do things. There’s at least 15 notes still on the wall at the moment!

    As for nagging…I think the notes are (not intentionally) my non-verbal nagging! Everyone in the family can see the and potentially act on them as well!

  6. I love your title and purpose herein. I list the small things, as I get satisfaction of striking something off my list. It also helps when I pool errands, so that I can maximize utility on trips.

  7. Juhli

    Timely post! We were just having the discussion this weekend about needing to put together a task list with time frames to get our house ready to go on the market in a year. Weather drives some things like painting the outside or freshening the landscaping. We both were being vague about timing for the first step and finally said we just need to do it. So on my list for this week is asking the realtor we plan to use to come over and tell us what the must do’s are going to be. Yikes.

  8. I have the exact same habits as you! Excuse me while I go put my leftover containers in the sink. They will sit there as long as my husband is out of town.

  9. Ugh I despise doing the dishes too… And use my dishwasher as a dish rack (is that just an Asian thing? lol) but I also don’t like having dishes in the sink. I try to wash them after every meal since it makes me uncomfortable going to bed with a sink full off dirty dishes… But sometimes it literally just doesn’t get done.

    … So that and taking out the trash. Can do without ’em!

  10. Why don’t you put plastic things in the dishwasher? That’d save you some stuff on the drainer. We put our plastics on the top shelf and have had no problems.

    I am the nag. But honestly, my boys do jack around the house. I’d happily have one move out and visit me. His laziness and dirtiness and my responsive nagging is ruining our relationship. I can only think of all he hasn’t done and how much smell and dirt he hasn’t addressed when we ocassionally have a chat.

    • With only two of us, we have a method to our madness; we run the dishwasher twice a week when it’s full (everything is rinsed first) and we handwash the plastics and pots and pans daily. I stopped doing pots and pans in the dishwasher when it ruined the finish on a new set. For the plastic stuff, they have so many edges and seals that they don’t dry in the dishwasher and I have to take them out and dry them with a dish towel, so it doesn’t seem worth the bother. That’s the rationale – whether it makes sense to anyone else is another story!

    • As to the child problem, if I were to diagnose, I would say depression combined with passive-aggressiveness on his part! Not sure about the cure, though. I hope you have some activities you enjoy together (in or out of the house) so the mess is not your only point of interaction.

  11. Jamie

    I’m back at uni, so am behind on all of my blog reading. 🙂

    Strangely, when I was a new SAHM with young babies I wasn’t into routines. But as they’ve gotten older I’ve found that we all respond well to some routine. But life always gets in the way!

    I hate doing the dishes at night, but I also hate waking to a dirty kitchen. My husband said that I need to decide which I hate more. So, now I set myself the task of doing the dishes at night. I’ve got a bit of a routine happening for it and I find it works well if I manage to give the kitchen a quick tidy after every meal (5 people home for every meal and snack, every day). I only wash at night, though. I have given in and started washing plastic containers in the dishwasher, but I still wash the lids by hand. Through the day I stack the machine after every meal and snack, and wipe the benches down. Anything that won’t go in the machine I put in the small side sink (so I don’t have to look at it all day). Every night I run the machine and hand wash. In the morning I pack everything away, shake the plastic containers from the machineand leave them in the now-empty dish drainer to finish drying.

    My husband decided he wanted to get productive on the weekends and Get Things Done. He asked that I add jobs to our weekly whiteboard calendar. It was very productive for the first few weekends, but now he has stopped marking jobs off and I feel like a nag continuing to write them down.

    • Hi Jamie, That is such a good point – I don’t like waking up to dirty dishes either, even though I am the one leaving them there! So I have started washing dishes every night, too. I like your plastics system. I also like the idea of getting rid of all plastic containers and using glass, but they are so heavy to bring to work and back, and they all have plastic or metal lids! We have a long weekend now, so I am scheming to come up with a chores division plan.

  12. I’m glad it’s not just me, we are EXACTLY the same. I do try to do washing up more-or-less straight away and I do have a little clean and tidy up after using things and before going to bed. Mostly because it’s frustrating to wake up or come home from work to a messy house. But other things I do put off. All the rooms in the house need a paint. We did two of them a year ago and never finished the rest because it’s rare we have a full day off together to do it. But we have agreed soon (note we haven’t pinned down a date…) that we’ll start doing the odd hour here and there of painting. Even if we do one wall a time it’s better than nothing!

    • As soon as anyone mentions painting, I hang my head in shame. I have a paint job needing to be done in the house, that has not been addressed for over 5 years! And it is in a visible area, too! I hate painting and Rom is in no rush to do it. We are saving to hire someone to paint the whole house interior, but we had several other expensive home projects that took priority. Your approach is much better!

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