Category Archives: How do I Adult

How Do I Adult: Developing Sustainable Habits

This post is going to be a lot more general and simplistic than most of my How Do I Adult posts, but I still think it’s worthwhile. Being able to deliberately develop habits that you can then maintain long-term is an extremely good skill to have. Personally, it wasn’t until well into adulthood that I really learned how to do it. My go-to example is going to be hygiene things, since that was a big thing I struggled with getting into decent habits with, but the overall concepts I’ll be talking about apply to any habit you’re trying to develop.

For starters, I want to talk about What Not To Do. As far as I can tell, it’s pretty normal, when wanting to change oneself for the better, to get a sudden surge of inspiration, that then goes towards trying to fix ALL THE THINGS! Let’s start EVERY healthy habit we need or want to have! Let’s eliminate all of our unhealthy habits at once! It’ll be super great!

And then it is super great … for a while. Until it isn’t. Until, little by little, they start to slip. It starts to feel so exhausting. Maybe it’ll be ok to skip one or two, just today. And then today turns into another day. And then another day. Until eventually, somehow ALL the new habits we wanted to have are gone. NOTHING stuck. Which can be incredibly disheartening. 

… Or maybe that’s just me. 

Anyway, on to what DOES work.

Step One: Pick ONE Thing

Just one. I started with brushing my teeth in the morning. That was my one thing. Another time I wanted to improve my eating habits, so I stopped eating candy. I didn’t try to adjust ANYTHING else – just candy. So whatever it is you want to improve, pick just one, clear, simple thing.

Step Two: Keep Doing It

I mean, ok, this is pretty obvious, but it’s still incredibly important. Keep at it. Do it every single day. Repetition is so very, very important when it comes to making things a habit. 

Step Three: Resist the Temptation to Cheat

In my experience, there comes a point several months into the habit-building when the temptation to slack off really gets intense. “I’ve been doing Thing so well! For so many months!” my brain will whisper to me. “It’s ok to skip just one day. I’ll get back to it tomorrow! It’ll be fine!”

This is the DANGER ZONE. DO NOT GIVE IN. NOT EVEN ONCE. If you do, you’ve turned down the path of losing the habit again. One skipped day will turn into another skipped day in maybe a month’s time. Then another skipped day in a few more weeks. Eventually two skipped days in one week. It will just keep going like that until eventually, somehow, I find the habit has been lost completely and I need to start all over again. 

I have no idea how many times I’ve fallen into that particular trap, but it’s a lot. Look, I don’t always learn things the first time through, ok? Anyway, resist this temptation. The habit is NOT locked in yet.

Step Four: Lock It In

This one is also pretty simple. The sign that you have actually solidified your new habit is when you no longer have any desire to “cheat.” You won’t need to do Step Three anymore because the temptation will be gone. Hurray!

Step Five: Do It All Again

Ok, this one is optional, but I have found it often applies. Once I really had brushing my teeth in the morning really locked in, I started working on brushing my teeth in the evening. Sometimes it can feel like progress is just so slow and get frustrating, but that’s ok. Slow progress that sticks is so much better than fast progress that falls away again. 

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How Do I Adult: Getting Ready To Go

Remember how I had a “How Do I Adult” series? Honestly, you probably don’t. It’s been so long. In any case, I am making another installment! Today I am going to talk about how to get oneself ready and get out of the house to Go Do Things. For this post, I am focusing on things that are NOT part of your daily routine. So this is not about getting up in the morning and getting ready for work or things like that (though maybe I’ll make a post about that too), but more about running errands or going out to a restaurant (hah, as if anyone can do that nowadays) or whatever. Personally, I hop on a train to go into the city once a week*, so that is the example I am going to use.


My train trip is on a schedule – I do it the same day every week at the same time. So I know what I’m expecting. However, my partner and I also always plan our errands a day or so ahead of time. Maybe spontaneous people just up and go out to restaurants or whatever, but I am very much NOT spontaneous so I cannot speak to that. So my advice must be – plan it. Know ahead of time where you’re going, how long it takes to get there, and what time you must be walking out of the house in order to get there on time.


Ok, this one isn’t universal, but it’s important at least some of the time. In my case, whenever I go into the city I bring a backpack or bag that has a book to read and some sort of Thing I can do to occupy myself. Maybe crochet, maybe Extreme Dot to Dots, maybe a sketch pad, whatever. I make sure I have that together the night before. I also make sure I have my train fare at this point. 


I can hear it now. It’s an hour before it’s time to go, and you’re thinking “oh, I have plenty of time.” And you know what? You’re right! You do have plenty of time! This is why you start now, so you can do things at a leisurely pace and not be rushed. This is when I double-check my bag and train fare, get myself properly dressed if I’m not already, shave if I need to shave, etc. 

If you have trouble remembering the things you need to do, I happen to LOVE written out checklists. I can’t give much advice on what should be on the checklist because it varies for everyone, but I think it can usually come down to hygiene and supplies. Are you clean? Do you have the things you need? Ok, cool!

Step Four: 10 MORE MINUTES

At the 10-minutes-to-go mark, stand up and DON’T SIT BACK DOWN. This is it, it’s almost time to go. This is when I grab my wallet, phone, and keys. I triple-check my bag. I carry anything I’m taking with me to the door. Sometimes I’m not taking anything with me and that makes this particular part much easier. 

Pause for a minute or so to mentally think through. Do I feel like I’m forgetting something? If so, take these few minutes that I still have to figure out what and do whatever it is I need to do. Take a nice, deep breath. I’m prepared, I don’t need to flail. Get my shoes on and grab my stuff.


Believe it or not, this step actually has something in it. Literally at the point of walking out the door, do a quick re-check of the essentials. Do I have my wallet, my phone, my keys, and my mask? If not, quick, get them now! If yes, excellent, keep going. 

If it turns out I had forgotten something and I went back to get it, STILL DO THIS STEP when walking out the door. In fact, ALWAYS do this step when walking out the door. Wallet, phone, keys, mask. Check. 

And there you have it. My recommendation for how to get yourself ready to go on time without flailing or panicking. I know that much of it boils down to “plan ahead” but I really do follow this structure for things. Developing it helped me a lot in learning to Adult, so I hope it will help some of you too.

* Well, I did a train ride once a week when I originally wrote this. I am now back to staying home. Maybe in a month or three I’ll go back to going places via the train.


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How Do I Adult: Large Tasks

In my How Do I Adult series, I do my best to break down tasks that might seem large and overwhelming into small, bite-sized, easily understood portions that can be taken one step at a time. Knowing how to break down tasks like that is a skill unto itself (I know, because it is a skill I have not always had), and it occurred to me that it could make a How Do I Adult post unto itself.

Disclaimer: I’m not sure how this post is going to go. Trying to explain how to break things into pieces is actually kind of challenging, but I am going to do my best.

I’m going to use a couple of examples to walk through this: cleaning the house (which is generally a huge task for everyone) and raking the leaves (which many people consider an easy task to figure out, but not everyone).

So let’s say you have decided that you need to clean your house. This is a huge, overwhelming task. So you try to break it into smaller parts. Thing is, the task of breaking up the task can also be huge and overwhelming. There is just so much involved! How do you put it into smaller pieces that make sense without missing things?

My answer to that is to start with big chunks, which can each be broken into smaller chunks, which can again be broken into smaller chunks, and you can keep going until each task size is manageable. So for a house, the big chunks might be rooms. Bathroom, bedroom, living room, kitchen, etc. Pick one room, and figure out the best way to go about cleaning it.

Some people go by surfaces – clean a desk or a dresser or a bed, and clean surfaces one at a time. Other people might go by type of task – throw away trash, then get laundry together, then put away clutter, etc. For a bathroom, you might go by bathtub, toilet, sink, etc.

So we’ve broken it down to rooms, and items in the room. The task in front of us is cleaning the shower and tub. This can reasonably be called a single task, which we can break down into individual parts. These can be broken down into bringing together the tools needed, actually doing the cleaning with those tools, and then putting the tools away again. For something like this I may try to think through the process of cleaning and jot down the various tools/cleaners needed so I don’t forget anything only to realize I need it halfway through.

Another aspect of breaking down a task into manageable parts is figuring out how much is actually manageable. A friend of mine, Laura M, has a number of autoimmune disorders as well as an arthritis. Much of her life involves figuring out how to make tasks manageable for her, and she gave me a lot of wonderful information. For her, even a “small” task like raking the leaves can be large and unmanageable.

There is also the question of just how small of pieces you need the task to be broken into. Some people do fine with just “rake the leaves.” Other people will need it broken down a bit more, into gather tools, rake, bag, haul to curb. For yet others, it may need to be broken down even more. For instance, “gather tools” might need to become a number of individual tasks like take any necessary medications, put on appropriate clothing, take out rake and bags (assuming you are bagging your leaves).

For all tasks, from “clean the house” to “rake the yard” you need to decide how much you can reasonably do at a time or in a day and plan accordingly. This is not simply a matter of time, either. It is a matter of your physical or mental capacity, of sensory stimulus, of what how much you can do at a time before getting tired or overwhelmed. Basically, it’s about your spoons. So for my friend Laura, who has a number of physical challenges, she might need to break up the yard into quadrants, and then rake, bag, and haul to the curb one quadrant at a time. She may only be able to do one or two quadrants per day.

If I were going to rake a yard, the primary limiting factor would probably be ambient noise. I am very sensitive to sound and would need to either pick a day when it’s quiet, or if I can’t do that, take frequent quiet breaks to recover from the noise. Or, of course, wear earplugs or listen to music. Earplugs bother my ears, but for some reason ear buds for listening to music are ok.

Another thing to consider is the tools you want to use for breaking down tasks. Personally, I like to go into google docs and make lists. I start writing down what I need to do, and what is necessary to do them. I like to do this digitally because while I am in the process of writing, I tend to remember thing in random fragments or flashes of images. It’s helpful to be able to freely edit my lists and add to them as I think of things. Plus, since I never seem to be able to remember a full list all at once, it’s helpful to have it all written down for reference.

Ultimately, remember that figuring out how to do a task is often a task in and of itself, and it can be very useful to treat it as such. Approach this task thoughtfully, and work through it a piece at a time. Remember: big chunks, then smaller chunks.

How do you figure out how to accomplish big tasks?


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How Do I Adult: Doing the Laundry

Alright, let’s talk about doing the laundry. This is another one of those foundational adult things that is super important to do regularly. I actually had some trouble figuring out exactly how to put this post together, so here is my best try.

  1. Before you begin.

I actually start my laundry process (in a sense) while I am buying clothes. I am not particularly interested in clothes that need a lot of pampering or require dry cleaning or even need to be ironed. So when I purchase clothing I make a point to get items that I can wash in the general laundry. Personally, I highly recommend this method, but it does limit my options in the “fashion” realm. That is not a thing that impacts my life, but it may be a factor for you. You’ll have to decide for yourself how much effort you are willing (or need) to put into your laundry.

  1. Sorting.

Ok, so now you have clothes and they need to be washed. Next up is sorting. Many people sort their laundry before washing it, in order to have certain “types” of loads. However, different people sort in different ways depending on their needs. Here are a few different options.

  1. color. If you have lots of differently-colored clothes, this can be an important one. The general categories are lights, darks, colors, and reds (red is often kept separate because it is often more prone to bleeding). This minimizes color bleed and can allow for special color-specific loads, such as bleach for the whites or color-fast detergent for bright colors.
  2. delicacy. If you have some clothes that need special handling, you may need to have a separate load for delicates. You may need to wash them in a laundry bag, or do a special wash on the delicate cycle (this will be a setting on your machine).
  3. dirtiness. This is for if you have a job or pastime that leads to getting *very* dirty. Then you might have clothes that you will want to sort into their own load – maybe because you want to put them through a heavy-duty cycle, or run them through twice, or just don’t want them up close and personal with your cleaner clothes.
  4. temperature. sometimes certain items will have temperature specifications for how they are to be washed.

Depending on your personal laundry needs, you will need to come up with your own sorting system that may include any combination of the above options – or maybe even others that you come up with on your own! Basically, figure out what works for you and then stick with it. Also, I tend to think that simpler is better. Sort however you need to, but if you are choosing between a simple option and a complicated option, go with the simple one if you can.

  1. The cleaning.

Honestly, this part is not one that I can elaborate on very much. Different washers and dryers have different ways they are used, and I can’t cover all of the options out there. Luckily, that’s why user manuals exist! They will cover how to use your specific machine.

I’m not going to just leave you hanging, though. While the details may vary from one machine to another, here are the basics.

  1. Put in the laundry detergent. I usually pour about an inch of detergent into the cap of the bottle, and then pour that into the detergent tray in the washing machine.
  2. Put the clothes in the machine. Mostly just dump them in, but it’s worth trying to distribute them evenly if you have a top-loading machine.
  4. Close the lid (or door), turn it on, choose your cycle type, and tell it go to.
  1. Drying.

You may have some clothes that need to be hung or laid flat to dry. Once they are washed, take them out to hang or lay. Or you may hang all of your clothes to dry on a line. Just take them out, grab some clothespins, and hang them up. On a side note, I gather there is a sort of line-drying etiquette out there if you are drying your clothes outside. Apparently you are supposed to put shirts, pants, and possibly sheets on the outside of your line – anywhere that neighbors might be able to see. Socks and underwear are to be hung behind them, so that they are less visible.

If you are transferring clothes to the dryer, first empty out your dryer’s lint trap. This is usually just inside the dryer door – you pull it out, clean off the lint, and put it back. After that go ahead and pile in the clothes. Close the dryer door, turn it on, select your options, and press go!

  1. Other options.

There are always options. Sometimes people just don’t have time to do laundry. Or are physically unable to go through this whole process. Or maybe just don’t want to. In that case, there are full-service laundromats that will do all of it for you. All you need to do is pile your laundry in a bag, haul it there, and drop it off along with any instructions. I have never personally used one so I don’t know if payment is due ahead of time or after you pick up your laundry. I also don’t know any details of how they work. If any of my readers do, I’d love you to leave a comment on how they work for you!

  1. Final points.

Just a few little things that I don’t think would make good points on their own.

First of all, I strongly recommend folding and putting your laundry away very soon after it is done. Don’t just let it sit in the dryer or laundry basket for days on end.

Secondly, I find that my executive functioning depends very heavily on routines. I function fairly well within my routines, but not at all without them. So I have two days a week that are laundry days, and I always do my laundry on those days. This isn’t long enough for very much laundry to pile up, but Nee and I both only wear dark clothes that can be washed on regular cycle, so tossing them (and some towels and robes) all together into one load works fine. If you have executive functioning difficulties, routines are an excellent tool.

Do you have any laundry tips for people who are leaning to adult? Do you have any suggestions for future How Do I Adult posts? Let me know in the comments!


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How Do I Adult: Tooth Hygiene

Let’s talk about tooth hygiene. Originally this was purely going to be about brushing your teeth, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I need to include more than simply the mechanics of brushing. So I’m going to go over a few things today that will hopefully make this aspect of being an adult easier. Remember folks – it is ok to need help to learn to adult! There is to be no criticizing or mocking people for wanting assistance.

First things first: Choosing Toothpaste

This might actually be the most important part of this entire write-up. Even among NTs, it is common and normal for people to be incredibly picky about the toothpaste they choose. Adding in possible taste or texture issues to a substance that we are going to be scrubbing around in our mouths can make finding a non-offensive toothpaste incredibly difficult. There is not much I can do to change that, but hopefully going over options and what you can look for will help some.

Before going further, I want to refer you to my How Do I Adult: Making Decisions post. This will hopefully get you started. The primary things I want you to pull from that post for what we are doing here is:

  1. Decide what is important, and do not worry about the rest.
  2. Once you find what you like, just stick with it!

Also, when you are looking for the right toothpaste for you, definitely try to find sample or travel tubes or other small quantities of toothpaste to try, so you don’t wind up investing in lots of full tubes of toothpaste that you can’t stand to use.

However, I am not just going to leave you hanging with nothing else. Now, we move on to the main things to look out for when choosing toothpaste (at least from my point of view); texture and taste.


Toothpastes actually have a wide variety of textures available, so hopefully if you have issues with texture (like I do), you will still find something that works for you.

First of all, toothpastes tend to be divided up into two big categories of texture – gels and pastes. If you can separate texture from taste, try one of each to see which feels better in your mouth. If you find you distinctly favor one over the other, that’s great! It helps you narrow down what to look for. If both are fine, then you just don’t have to worry about it as you go forward. If both are equally bad, that’s ok too. There are other things you can look into.

Some toothpastes use baking soda in their formulas, which also changes the texture. That would also be something to try.

Now, if having anything goo-like in your mouth is just a non-starter, that’s ok! There are still more options! While not super-common (you may need to buy online), solid teeth-cleaning products also exist. Lush makes a line of tooth tabs, and there are a number of sellers on Etsy, and probably scattered across the internet as well, that make solid teeth-cleaning products. I will expand a bit on how to use them over in the section on the mechanics of cleaning your teeth.


This one might be tougher if you have issues around taste. Most toothpastes are mint flavored in some way, as we seem to associate mint flavor with pleasant breath. However, these are not the only flavors out there. On this one, there is not much I can tell you besides encouraging you to experiment. Once you know what you need as far as texture, you can look around to try different flavors of toothpaste and find one that is inoffensive. Or maybe even pleasant!

Some things to possibly look for in terms of taste – some toothpastes come in “plain” and don’t have a strong flavor attached. Sulfate-free toothpastes (or other products) will probably also be friendlier to your mouth. Another option is to make your own toothpaste (the internet is awash in recipes) which would let you have a great deal of control over how you flavor it.

Remember – you don’t have to stick with the “standard” options you find in most drug or grocery stores! If those are not working, there are other options! Take a look around and see what you can find.

Now let’s move on to The Mechanics.

First, though, there is one thing I want to make clear. Commercials are lying to you. Ok, obviously this is true, commercials are all about inventing need and convincing you to buy things, but there is something specific here that I am referring to. Commercials and other toothpaste imagery tend to show people putting these big, full, strips of toothpaste on their brushes. That looks pretty for an image, but it is WAY more than you actually need to brush with. In fact, you could easily get away with using only a third of what they sometimes show.


{Image shows a toothbrush with a small amount of toothpaste on the bristles. This is a far more realistic amount to use to clean your mouth}

The actual mechanics of brushing are pretty straighforward.

  1. Wet your toothbrush. Toothpaste (or whatever you are using) will work better if there is water involved.
  1. Add toothpaste to your brush. Don’t overdo it! Many people say to always squeeze from the bottom, but I lack the manual dexterity for that. Instead, I just go ahead and squeeze from the middle until the toothpaste is at least half gone. Only then do I squeeze it all to the top of the tube, and from then on I squeeze from the bottom of where the toothpaste is. That makes it a lot easier for me.
  1. (optional) Wet your toothbrush again. I do this. Maybe I’m just neurotic.
  1. Start brushing! The big thing here is to remember to brush the ENTIRE surface of your teeth. Personally, I always brush my teeth in the same way every time, so I know I never forget anything. Just remember – brush the outsides of your teeth, the insides, the tops of your lower teeth and the bottoms of your top teeth, reach way back to get your molars or wisdom teeth (if you have them), BEHIND your molars, and all around your gumlines. While you’re at it, also brush the roof of your mouth and your tongue.

I want to mention – I always have to spit halfway through this process. Toothpaste can foam up a lot and become difficult to manage. Just spit out any excess into the sink and continue the cleaning process.

5.  Rinse. You’ll need to rinse both the toothbrush you used, and your mouth. I usually start with my toothbrush, because it’s quick and then I can put it away before I deal with my mouth. Just rinse off any foam or missed toothpaste from the handle and bristles, and put your brush away. Then it’s time to rinse your mouth.

Some people keep a cup in their bathroom specifically for this purpose, other people just cup water in their hands. Do what works best for you. Just put some water in your mouth, swish it around (in both the front and back of your mouth!) and spit it out. Do this several times, until you are no longer spitting out foam along with water.

Many toothpastes will leave your mouth tasting weird for a while and make many foods and beverages taste bad. Personally, I just wait it out – my mouth returns to normal within an hour and I do not find it a terrible inconvenience. If this causes you undue bother, maybe go back to looking for a tasteless or sulfate-free teeth-cleaning product.

If you are using solid tooth tabs (or something along those lines)

Tooth tabs are used slightly differently than toothpaste. Instead of putting it on your toothbrush, stick a tab in your mouth, between your molars, and bite it a couple times. After that, wet your toothbrush, and then continue from step 3 (above).

However, not all solid teeth-cleaning products work this way. The big thing is that since solids are fairly unusual, they will probably come with instructions on how to use them. Just follow the instructions and you should be fine.

The extras

Being thorough with your tooth hygiene means more than regular brushing. It also means regular flossing and mouthwash.

Flossing is for cleaning between your teeth – not just bits of food that got stuck there, but also plaque and such that your brush may have missed. Like toothpaste, you’ll need to find a floss that works for you. Personally, I like floss that is very smooth and easily glides between my teeth.

To floss, break off a length of floss (maybe 18 inches or so), and wind the ends around your middle fingers until there is just a few inches between. I usually wind just a couple of times around my left middle finger, and lots of times around my right. Slide the floss between each of your teeth and move if back and forth a few times to dislodge anything. Ideally go in each between-space twice. When you pull the floss up and out, pull it to the right the first time and the left the second. The idea here is to scrape each side of each tooth with the floss to get it clean.

As plaque or missed bits of food get on the floss, wind it onto one finger and off the next to get to the next few inches of clean floss. Once you are done, wind the floss off your fingers and throw it away.

Compared to all that, mouthwash is pretty easy. Simply put some in your mouth, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, SO MUCH SWISHING, and finally spit it out into the sink. After that rinse your mouth yet again.

Once you are done, make sure the cap is back on the toothpaste, rinse the sink, and make sure the various things you used are put away where they belong.

Do you have any tips for ways you keep your teeth cleaned? Do you have any ideas for How Do I Adult? Let me know!


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How Do I Adult: Fixing Problematic Behavior

One thing I don’t see getting a lot of attention in terms of how to be an adult is learning to change our own behaviors, if we happen to have bad habits or such things. When we’re children we get a great deal of assistance (or pressure) from our parents/other responsible adults, but once we grow up that changes. We’re on our own.

Some people seem to treat adulthood as being somehow a “finished product,” we’re done developing now. I do not at all find that to be the case, at least not for me. I am a work in progress and I plan to be for the rest of my life. Other times I see people treating changing behavior as an adult as something that is somehow simple, not requiring a great deal of thought or effort. I have not found that to be true either. Habits and behaviors can get really quite engrained, and changing that behavior can be really quite challenging.

I am going to go through the process I use to change a behavior that needs changing. In order to have an example I’m going to pretend that I still suck my thumb, and I’ve decided that I need to stop.

1. Start noticing when I do it

Once I’ve identified a problematic behavior in myself, my first step is learning to notice when I’m doing it. This can be surprisingly challenging – the more ingrained a behavior is, the more likely it is that I will do it without thinking about it or even taking any sort of conscious notice. So this involves a great deal of watching myself and creating mental checkpoints to help alert me to the behavior. If I have good friends who are willing to help, it can be really quite helpful if they point out to me any time they notice the behavior, since I might not have. However, if you are going to ask for help this way, make sure you always respond graciously when the behavior is pointed out. Getting irritated or snippy will mess up the process. It might also help, if I am feeling particularly obsessive about it, to keep a log of when I find myself doing it.

Note: this step actually does not involve any amount of behavior modification at all. I am only trying to notice when it happens.

Once I am reasonably sure that I am noticing the behavior more often than not (trying to achieve perfection before moving forward is ultimately self-defeating), it’s time to move to step two.

2. Choose a replacement behavior

This step is incredibly important. Re-training a behavior will go far better than attempting to un-train a behavior. Plus, any ingrained behavior has a high probability of actually doing something for me, however maladaptive it ultimately is. So choosing a replacement behavior may involve figuring out why I’ve been doing the thing I need to change, so that I can choose a better, healthier behavior that will achieve the same end.

So if I suck my thumb, maybe I do it to deal with stress or sensory overload. Maybe I tend to stim with my mouth. If I were to just try to stop sucking my thumb without deliberately choosing a replacement, I would almost certainly replace it anyway. However, the replacement behavior might not be any better than the behavior I’m trying to change – maybe I would simply switch to clenching or grinding my teeth. That would just give me another behavior to try to change down the road. So instead, I must choose something else to do instead. Maybe I could chew gum, or suck on a lollipop, or get a fidget toy designed for mouth stimulation.

3. Start replacing

Now we finally get to the part where we start changing the behavior. Using the skills developed in step one, I will use my replacement behavior whenever I notice myself sucking my thumb. If I find it particularly difficult to consistently replace the behavior, I might focus on this step for a while. If I find it coming easily I may start on step four right away.

Regardless, much like step one, this step is also meant to be continuous. Hopefully each step will get easier as I keep doing it, but I do not stop working on it simply because I’ve added another step to the mix.

4. Notice the behavior ahead of time

This one is getting a little advanced. In this one, I try to start noticing when I am about to engage in the behavior, before I actually start doing it. If I kept a log in step one, it would probably become very useful now. This becomes about identifying patterns and noticing triggers – what’s causing me to suck my thumb? Is there anything that usually happens just before I get an urge to suck my thumb? What patterns can I find?

I also tend to find it the most challenging of all the steps. Often I will have started to notice ahead of time at least a little just in doing steps one through three, but managing it reasonably consistently is another matter entirely. Still, keep at it. This is how I ultimately eliminate a behavior, rather than simply correcting it when I see it.

5. Replace before it starts

Finally, once I am pretty good at noticing when I am about to suck my thumb, I would start engaging my replacement behavior before my thumb ever reaches my mouth. The end goal is ultimately to replace a bad habit with a good (or at least better) habit, so it is important to be consistent and to use the replacement behavior as soon as possible in each instance. The more I do it, the easier it will get.

In the end, I have eliminated a maladaptive behavior and replaced it with something healthier, without leaving myself with a hole in my coping mechanisms or focusing on “fighting” myself. If a behavior is particularly complex a straightforward replacement might not be enough – I may need to add extra coping mechanisms into the mix. Changing a behavior is unavoidably stressful, but if I can reduce that stress in any way, I will. Ideally the replacement will ultimately be more appealing than the problematic behavior was, though it may take time to get to that point.

What sorts of things do you do when you find a behavior you need to change?

Do you have any ideas for a How Do I Adult post? Let me know in the comments or through the Have an Idea? tab!


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How Do I Adult: Shaving

First things first: shaving is optional! There are books and such out there that try to tell us that shaving is a requirement, and they are simply wrong. It is entirely up to you whether or not to shave any part of your body. The only people who actually have any right to input as to your shaving practices are your employer or, if you are a minor, your parent or guardian, and even then it is only for hair that is publicly visible.

That said, people will definitely respond to you differently depending on how you groom yourself. People expect anyone they see as female to have shaved legs and armpits, and there are social consequences for someone who is seen as a woman to not shave those places. People who are seen as men definitely have more leeway in terms of facial hair as a wide variety of grooming choices are all seen ok, but even that will still have an impact on how people interact with you.

All that said, if you desire to shave but are having trouble learning how, here are some written instructions that might help. I’ll be covering three of the most common areas to shave – under the arms, legs, and face. Only want to read about how to shave your face? Skip ahead to page 3. Also, if you do better with visual instructions rather than written instructions, look for how-to videos on youtube. They can be great!


Things you will want to have

A sharp safety razor
A lathering agent (gentle soap or shaving cream/gel)
A washcloth

Where you shave is up to you. Many people shave in the shower as part of their overall showering regimen (see also, How Do I Adult: Showering LINK). I shave in the sink, as my eyesight is so poor that I cannot see my legs well enough to shave them without my glasses on. If you are shaving in the shower, you may want to just go ahead and sit on the floor of your shower for this for the sake of stability. You definitely do not want to slip in the shower while holding a razor.

First, take the leg that you are shaving and prop it up in front of you so that you can reach to your ankle. Make sure your leg is nice and wet, or at least the section of your leg that you intend to shave (some women shave their entire legs, other women only shave their lower legs. it’s up to you to decide how much to shave). Then take your lathering agent and spread it across the hair you want to shave off. If you are using soap, simply lather up your leg. If you are using a shaving cream or gel, first squirt some onto your fingers, and then spread it into your leg.

Once this is done, it’s time to shave. I highly recommend having a good, high quality razor with at least three blades for this. The cheap, one-use disposable razors are very harsh and make for an unpleasant shaving experience and a poor shave. Make sure you rinse all the lathering agent off your hands to minimize the risk of the razor slipping in your fingers. Start shaving at your ankles, go against the grain, and slowly work up your leg.

Use the razor gently!

Do not press the razor into your skin. You should run it across your leg very very softly. If you find to need to start pressing harder with it in order to shave your hair, then it is too dull and you need to replace the blade.

Some notes on joints

Shaving around knees and ankles tends to be a bit fraught as the area tends to be more uneven and it can become very easy to nick oneself. When I am shaving my ankles I always point my foot, so that there is a straight line from the top of my knee to the top of my toes. This evens out the skin and gives a smoother surface for the razor.

Knees tend to be much the same. Straightening your leg means more loose skin, but it also means a flatter surface, and that is what you want. Just make sure to be very gentle with the razor.

Nicks and cuts

They happen, unfortunately. As you get more skilled with shaving they will happen less often, but they are always a risk when skin is coming into contact with something very sharp. If this happens take care of it the way you would any other cut.

Once you’ve shaved as high as you want to, repeat the procedure for the other leg. Once finished rinse your legs off nice and well. If you want, once you are finished and out of the shower (if you shaved while showering), you can apply a lotion or moisturizer to your legs.

When you are done remember to put all your supplies away in their appropriate locations.

Summary of shaving legs:

1. Get legs wet
2. Lather up with soap or a shaving cream or gel
3. Shave – very gently, against the grain
4. Rinse well
5. Apply lotion or moisturizer (optional)

An alternative

Personally, I hate shaving my legs as it always leaves me horrifically itchy and it can take my nerves hours to calm down and recover. As such, I have no shaved my legs in years. However, I also really dislike being hairy. My solution is to use an electric razor.

Do not use anything electric in the shower!

Using an electric razor is much simpler than using a regular razor, but it is also less effective – you cannot get a close, smooth shave with the electric razor. For me, I consider it good enough, but I also generally do not show my bare legs in public. For this, you can simply use them on dry, unprepared legs. Any electric clippers or shavers should come with instructions for how to use and take care of them that you can follow. For me, I still use mine against the grain, and move from my ankle towards my knee.

Waxing is another hair removal possibility for legs. This is something I personally have very little experience in so I cannot write out a thorough how-to, but I wanted to mention it simply for the sake of covering all options.

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How Do I Adult: Washing the Dishes

Continuing my How Do I Adult series, today is about washing the dishes.

As usual, let’s all be kind. It’s ok to still be learning the basics and it’s ok to ask for help.

There are a lot of variations in exactly how one can go about washing the dishes, so first I’m going to talk about how I wash the dishes, then I’ll talk about some ways it can be done differently than my method to help you figure out what will work best for you, and I’ll finish up with talking a bit about dishwashers.

Things you will need

Dishwashing soap
A sink
A drying rack
Rubber gloves (optional)

Ok then. Here’s what I do!

First I turn on the hot water on high to get the hot water through the pipes. While that is warming up I will put away any dishes that are still in the drying rack from the last time I washed the dishes, and organize the dirty dishes so that they are easier for me to get through. I’ll stack plates together, bowls together, and pile the eating utensils all together.

Once the hot water is coming out the tap, I will lower the hot water flow and turn on the cold (I have separate knobs for hot and cold) and adjust the water temperature so that it’s about the hottest I can reasonably handle. Then I take my sponge and get it wet, put some liquid dish soap on it, fold it in half, and rub the halves together to get the soap lathered up. After that, it’s time to start washing.

I start with the plates. I’ll take my stack of plates and put the entire stack in the sink under the flow of water. Then I wash each plate one at a time – I pick one up, get it wet, use the sponge to thoroughly clean both the top and the bottom, rinse it off, and then place it in my drying rack. I start with the big plates and move to the small plates, as it helps them fit nicely in the drying rack.

Then I move to bowls. Again, I will place the entire stack of bowls in the sink and wash them one at a time, getting each one wet, cleaning each side, and rinsing it back off. I wash bowls from smallest to largest, again because I find that stacks best in my drying rack.

Usually around halfway through the washing I need to replenish the soap on my sponge. As I adjust to the water temperature I can sometimes also turn it a bit hotter.

As I am washing I will also wash the utensils, generally several at a time interspersed between the various other dishes I am washing. Each utensil also gets washed one at a time – I will wash the “business end” thoroughly and usually give the handle a quick wipe down. They then get placed in the utensil cup part of the drying rack business end up – except for sharp knives, which ALWAYS get put away point DOWN.

Sometimes cups will need to soak for a few minutes to make washing them easier, depending on what was in them (remnants of milk can be quite difficult to clean). As I get through the dishes I will start glancing at the cups and any I see with dried beverage on the bottom get a little bit of water in them to start soaking.

I usually do cups, pots, and pans last, along with miscellaneous things that need washing like measuring cups and such. If the drying rack is full at this point (or any previous point, if I had an unusually large number of dishes to wash) I will go ahead and empty it – if the water is nice and hot, the dishes generally get dry enough to put away within minutes.

As part of my dishwashing regimen I also wipe down the counters and the stove top and the kitchen table. Finally, I rinse out my sponge, squeeze out the water as much as I can and put it next to the sink, rinse out the sink if necessary and then turn off the water. I’m done!


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How Do I Adult: Making Decisions

I’m barely into my “How Do I Adult” series (see that? I’m being hopeful that it will continue!) and I’m starting to notice a theme. Both in places where I got my inspiration for this series in the first place, and in comments all you lovely folks are leaving me (I love comments, I really do). That theme being: decisions are hard!

I’m not talking about the big decisions, here. Big decisions, like buying a car or a house or when or whether or not to have kids, these are expected to be difficult. As such, lots of people talk about the process of handling them, there are lots of resources out there to help manage overwhelming choices when the decision is big and scary and potentially life altering. Little decisions, though, seem to be things that most people just do without thinking about it. People hardly ever talk about how to go about choosing what soap or shampoo to get, or what to have for dinner, or which yogurt to get at the grocery store.

As such, I thought that I might try to tackle this one.


Thinking things through ahead of time is a wonderful way to handle decisions, even the little ones. If you get to the store and are frozen by the wide array of options for Every. Little. Thing. then planning ahead is definitely your friend.

So one thing is to explicitly think about what is important to you for what you are looking for. How much does it actually matter? This is different for everyone, so don’t worry about what you think should be important, just think about what is important for you.

For example, let’s think about that yogurt thing. Let’s say you know you want to munch on yogurt, but you don’t know which one you want to get. First thing, decide what is important to you. For instance, many people need to keep to a budget and have a limited amount of money set aside for groceries. In that case, price will need to be very high on the list of priorities. In that case, you could just go with the cheapest options, or you could just randomly grab the first one you see that happens to be within your price range.

However, maybe other things matter. Maybe flavor is important. Maybe probiotic is important.

I was originally going to say that once you decide what is important to you, just disregard the rest. Don’t even worry about it, don’t try to find some perfect ideal for every single little decision. Now, I do stick by that, but Nee pointed out that there is another facet to this prioritizing – it can also help to explicitly think about what is NOT important to you. Decide on what just doesn’t really matter, and make an explicit choice to just let that go.

Also, and this may seem weird for me to say, there is a lot that can be said for arbitrary brand loyalty. By that I don’t mean that you’ve tested all the brands and have compared and decided which one is best – that’s for cars, not yogurt. I mean just pick one and stick with it because why not? Nee sticks with a brand of yogurt that he remembers commercials of from his childhood. I drink the same beverages all the time because I know I like them and don’t feel like exploring others. It’s ok to explore more if you want to, but it’s also ok to not explore if you don’t want to.


It’s really tempting to want to say that EVERYTHING matters. However, that is simply not a viable way to handle every little decision that’s going to come your way. Hence the prioritizing. There will be many, many situations in which you will be well-served to not be particularly picky. My approach is that it’s totally cool to be super picky about some things that you decide are important to you, provided that you don’t try to be super picky about everything.

So for example, I am extremely picky about my soap and other showering products. There are specific things I need my soap to be, and I refuse to tolerate any deviation from those things. This is very important to me. Other things I’m kind of picky about simply in that I always get the same thing because I know I like them and I don’t want to explore. Oh, I probably could explore if I had to (and sometimes I do if the store is out of what I like), but if I don’t have to then I just stick with what I know. And some things I just don’t care – like milk. Provided that I’m not drinking whole milk, I really don’t care what fat percentage it has or what brand it is or anything. Nee, on the other hand, cares quite a bit about which milk we get. End result – he chooses the milk and we’re both happy.

So basically, prioritize your pickiness as well. This is more deciding ahead of time what is important to you.

Planning and structure

I love routines. I have routines around so many things, and I find them so very helpful. It’s very important for me to have structure in my life, and I am quite happy to find and impose my own structure, designed around what works best for me. Choosing what to cook is one of those places that is well-served by pre-planning and lots of structure.

Happily, this is one that is well-served by various products and services out there designed to make meal planning easier. Lots of people write up weekly schedules for what to cook. You can get into detail, noting down exactly which day to take out meat to thaw it for a meal a day or two later and things like that. Get it all down, and then just follow the schedule.


In terms of services, there are websites like Supercook that let you put in the ingredients you have, and then come back with recipes that use those particular ingredients.

Nee and I simply mostly rely on dinners that require little in the way of pre-planning, and only ever focus on one “big” meal at a time. It works for us, but won’t work for everyone. Happily, there are so many tools out there (some I mentioned, and probably many that I have not) to help you find a solution that works for you.

Some outside perspective

After writing the above I asked various people how they handle various day-to-day decisions, and I got some interesting answers.

L says:

These types of decisions are usually made without a lot of thought or perhaps applying one or two factors. The shampoo choice is mainly cost, as it doesn’t really matter much. I may have looked at ingredients at one time and saw they were about the same for any shampoo. For something to eat or cook, that would vary with the timeframe. Given what is in the house, the choice may be arbitrary (just randomly pick one menu). For the longer term, nutritional concerns, taste, and cost were usually factors. I guess to summarize, the decisions usually have some previous background investigation, and then become somewhat arbitrary.

(emphasis mine)

What stands out for me here is the combination of some amount of background investigation, and then going rather arbitrary. L also has her specific primary concerns – specifically, nutrition, taste, and cost. Importantly, once the choices are within whatever she has chosen her limits to be, the final decisions become arbitrary.

A— P— says:

There was a store I really liked in NJ called “Produce Junction.” You’d walk up to the counter and say “give me apples.” It was really nice because you’d just get a bag of them, and you wouldn’t have to obsess over picking the “best” apples.

What jumped out at me about this one was something I had not explicitly thought of – if you can, just let someone else make the decision! This is unlikely to work for all decisions but for some things, if you really feel frozen and there is someone available who can choose for you, just let them choose.

anonymous says:

The yoghurt example: I’d look at the ingredient list and the nutritional information. Then go for the one that has the least amount of mystery ingredients (long chemical names or stuff I don’t know what the H it is), then lowest fat. I may try a new flavour if I’m feeling adventurous.

Sometimes I’l be bored with my standard fare…then it’s “Hmmm that looks interesting ” and I’ll try a new food…which may get tossed out cause it’s horrid.

Anonymous is another one who goes with a combination of choosing what is important to him (mystery ingredients and fat content), and going arbitrary.


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How do I Adult: Grocery Shopping

Now that we’ve gone over cooking it’s time to address another scary adult task: grocery shopping. Grocery shopping and cooking are fairly intertwined tasks since they are both ultimately about what you eat and impact each other quite a bit. So if you find grocery shopping an overwhelming task, that’s ok! I am here for you.

Get Organized

Getting organized is a very important part of grocery shopping. You’re going to want to have at least some idea of what you need and what you want to get before you ever leave the house. The first thing is knowing about what cooking level you are. NOTE: This is not about where you want to be, it’s about where you are. What can you do. Challenging yourself to do more is wonderful, but remember to do it one step at a time. Don’t go and grab a week’s worth of level 3 groceries when you are only comfortable at level 1.

Next you need to figure out for about how long you are shopping: for instance, it’s fairly common for people to shop once a week, and get one week’s worth of groceries at a time. However, some people shop more often, and other people shop less often. Figuring out how long you need the food to last will help you figure out how much of it to get. I’ll be writing this with the assumption of one week of food; you should adjust that to whatever works best for you.

Ok. So assuming you want to shop for one week, that means seven breakfasts, seven lunches, and seven dinners, plus any snacks you may want to have.

You are generally safe grabbing something quick and simple to have for breakfasts – cold or hot cereal, microwavable oatmeal, that sort of thing. Many of these things are bought in large packages that will last you for many meals, so when you are making your grocery list, check to see how your breakfast supplies are doing. If you are running low, add them to the list.

Lunches are often level 1 meals – things like leftovers from previous dinners, sandwiches, or easy microwavable meals. Some people simply choose to get take-out or food from a lunch truck during the week, in which case you only need to worry about lunch on the weekends. Personally, I like to make sure I always have a variety of easy microwavable meals on hand to eat, and then I add “lunches” to my list when I run low. You may want to be much more specific than that when you are making your list.

Dinners are where it gets more serious. How many people need to be fed? What sort of meals do you want to make, and how much effort do you want to put into your meals? Do you want to make big meals that will have a lot of leftovers? It really helps to plan what sort of dinners you will want to make for the week ahead of time, and then get the necessary supplies.

For instance, Nee and I like to do one or two level 3 meals per week. We will decide ahead of time what we want them to be and write down the ingredients we need to get on our grocery list. We also make sure to have a number of level 2 meals on hand (usually frozen bag meals and pasta for us), and make a point to refresh our supply when we get low.

Snacks are really up to you. Do you like to snack during the day? Do you like to have dessert after a meal? You can consider things like chips, pretzels, crackers, and cookies to keep around for munching on.

Make your list

As you get an idea of what you need to buy and how much of it you need to get, write out your grocery list. You will need to decide for yourself how specific you need that list to be – can you just write “lunches” and know what that means, or will it be better for you to write out exactly what sort of lunches you want to get? If you aren’t sure, I would lean towards being more specific rather than less. However, you might be exploring, figuring out what to get in the first place, in which case a number might be better. Like maybe “7 microwavable meals” or something.

Look through your pantry and refrigerator to see what you already have and what you are running low on to help figure out what you need. Write down any ingredients you may need for meals.

Grocery stores also often sell things like cleaning supplies, paper towels, and toilet paper. It can be useful to take a look at your various supplies to see if you need more of any. If you do, add them to the list as well.

Once you have your list written out, it’s time to go to the store.

Bring with you:

Your list
A pen
Money, checks, or a bank or credit card to pay with (a bank or credit card will often be the easiest way to handle the transaction)
If you use them, your reusable bags

Next up, the grocery store! If you’re pretty sure already that the store is just too much for you, that’s ok! Skip ahead to page 3.

(as usual, you may need to scroll down to find the page buttons)


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