On a recent cold and wet morning, I was walking to the post office. I came across a robin exhibiting what seemed to me un-robin-like behavior. It was on a paved parking lot next to a fairly busy road and didn’t move as I walked by. I talked to it, asking what might be wrong and if there was anything I could do to help. Perhaps a cozy box with a heating pad or a saucer of warm water? When I returned from the post office it was still there. That’s when I noticed that the rain and snow mix had encouraged worms to come up and take a look at the above-ground world. The robin was enjoying an easy meal.

I’m frequently faced with tasks that at first glance, like todays robin, seem to be something they’re not. In the case of tasks, they appear onerous. Moving piles of stone. Blowing insulation into an attic single-handedly. Cleaning my house. What works for me is shifting my perspective. Here’s how I deal with these three examples.

One of the advantages to living in a smaller space is that it’s relatively easy to clean. I’ll make a deal with myself. Instead of continually dreading the task, I completely focus on it for the length of one CD. One CD played loud. Experience has proven that I can wash a sink full of dirty dishes, fold and put away laundry, scrub the bathroom, shake out the area rugs, tidy up all surfaces, and vacuum the house in under one CD; less than 40 minutes.

When you blow in insulation it’s really nice to have one person feeding bales of insulation into the machine, another at the end of the 50-foot hose putting the insulation in place. The first time I was faced with doing this task solo it looked daunting. The machine and bales of insulation were outside. I was insulating the floor of an attic and the sloped potions of ceiling accessible from above. The most efficient path from machine to attic involved a 6-foot ladder to get on the porch and over the railing. Next, in the house and up the stairs. An 8-foot step ladder through the attic hatch and into the attic. The job required 40 bales of insulation. The machine accepts a half bale at a time. If I was super efficient I was looking at 80 round trips. Transitioning the task from daunting to strangely fun involved adjusting my attitude. I deemed it the “Insulation Steeplechase.” Running a blow-in machine solo relies heavily on a working remote to control the machine. I’ve done it solo utilizing a machine lacking a remote. It wasn’t nearly as fun.

Moving piles of stone falls in the working meditation mode of task. A repetitive task that doesn’t require much thought. Unfortunately, I’m not that Zen. I just want it done. Instead I take this meditative task and turn it into a workout challenge. If the ground is soft I make travel paths with planks for the wheelbarrow. I count shovelfuls needed to load the wheelbarrow full but still manageable. I’ll turn my brain off and set goals. Ten loads then a 5-minute break, or my default unit of measurement, one CD, then a break.



Jim Bahoosh has been a solo house builder and designer since 1984. He lives in Unity.