A Little Better – The Power of Incrementalism

An ambitious load

“That looks a little better,” I think, nudging a weed-laden wheelbarrow south towards the brush pile. It’s turned hot, and my ponytail is stuck to the back of my neck. My friends are staying cool inside their offices, and I remind myself I planned on leaving work a couple of hours ago. Fifty feet down Lorax Lane, I stop at another garden and step out from between the worn wooden handles. Might as well pretty this bed up, too. Only a handful of weeds.

A wheelbarrow a day keeps the weeds at bay, that’s my motto. I pluck out everything that doesn’t belong: henbit, chickweed, vetch, and sedge. Despite the sweat bee pestering my left ear, I am sure I’ve got the best job on this sixteen acre eco-industrial/beverage-district business park.

As property manager of The Plant, I pull weeds, and cultivate relationships by chatting people up: curious strangers, co-workers, tenants, their employees and customers, contractors, and volunteers. We talk about everything, from shallow to deep, and over the years I’ve taken note of conversational trends. For a while it was the lingering “so..” at the end of an explanatory clause. Then the word “goddess” began cropping up. And lately, ADD and OCD.

I’ve heard so many people refer to “their ADD” I wonder if Attention Deficit Disorder hasn’t become a national badge of courage. I can’t tell if they are bragging or complaining, if they are proud of their ability to multi-task, or if they are looking for an excuse for lack of follow-through. Either way, I can relate because I’m easily sidetracked, too. Others label themselves OCD, and a few have implied they think I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They have a point. I do indulge my need to get things done just so.

Home grown roses

At home, I keep the same steady, yet fragmented pace. I’ll start to sweep the porch, then notice a weed, which reminds me to harvest some lettuce, and then to check the sourdough rising on the kitchen counter.

Bob and I are hard-wired incrementalists. We believe in the power of the small job. Because we find big jobs arduous and taxing, we prefer to tackle things before they balloon out of control. I’d rather haul the recycling in my car once a week than wait a couple of months and have to borrow a truck. Bob plants his garden one or two flats at a time, not all twenty at once.

While some glory in the occasional Herculean effort, I celebrate multiple daily victories as I chew through my list of small tasks. One bed mulched. Line-dried sheets. Tomorrow’s casserole assembled today. It makes me feel put together, in control, on top of things, and provided for. All tasks add to our quality of life: good home grown food, fresh flowers, and uncluttered horizontal space.

Despite prevailing evidence, I am neither OCD nor ADD. My pursuit of order is not a disorder; it is the essence of the good life. Seeing things that need fixed and fixing them right now is not a deficiency – it’s the opposite of procrastination. Losing myself in the minutia of everyday life is my path to nirvana. At the end of each day I sink into my heavenly bed, satisfied I’ve made a lot of things a little better.

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