Tag Archives: how do I adult

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: 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: 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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How Do I Adult: Cooking

Continuing with my experimental “How do I adult?” series, I thought I would tackle cooking. I am only at level 3 cooking myself, so that is as far as I can describe to you. If you are trying to figure out how to adult in terms of meals, this might be helpful to you.

Reminder to everyone: It’s ok to ask for help! Whether you are asking or being asked, please don’t treat the question as something that anyone should be ashamed of. If we didn’t get the help we needed to learn these things when growing up, we should still be able to get help to learn these things as adults, and we should be able to do it without feeling ashamed.

Level 1: Sandwiches and the microwave

If you are completely at a loss on how to make food for yourself and find yourself always dependent on other people to make your food for you, this is probably the easiest place to start.

Things to have

Microwave-safe dishes: a bowl, a plate, and maybe a casserole dish
Eating utensils: a butter knife, a fork, and a spoon


I think microwavable meals are the easiest way to get into feeding yourself. Many microwavable foods are not necessarily the healthiest choices out there, but it is food and you will eat. Options for foods to microwave include noodle bowls, canned pasta, and small frozen pizzas. They will all have microwave directions on them – simply follow the directions using your microwave-safe dishes if necessary, and you will have food!

Edited to add: E (The Third Glance) has reminded me that I really must explicitly point out – no metal in the microwave! No utensils, no aluminum foil, no metal dishes, and no dishes with metal trim. No metal WHATSOEVER goes in the microwave.

To get a bit more healthy, look in the frozen vegetables section of your grocery store (is this overwhelming? Don’t worry, a grocery shopping post is in the works). Many frozen vegetables can also be microwaved – look for cooking instructions on the bag.

Also in the frozen section are what I call bag meals. As with the vegetables, many of them have the option of cooking them in the microwave. You will need your microwave safe casserole dish for this. These can be healthy or not-healthy, depending on which ones you get. I usually try to find diet or low-fat bag meals, because meals with a lot of fat, oil, or grease give me stomach aches. Along with bag meals there are also pre-made microwavable meals in boxes that a designed to be heated in the microwave.

Getting away from the microwave

Maybe you don’t have access to a microwave. Or maybe you want to make simple foods that don’t require one. The simplest options I know of are noodle bowls again, and sandwiches.

Noodle bowls can often also be made by pouring boiling water into them, rather than heating them in the microwave. This does call for a kettle to boil and safely pour the water.

Then there are sandwiches. You will need bread and your choice of sandwich toppings, and probably a butter knife to spread toppings. A classic is peanut butter and jelly – spread the jelly on one slice, peanut butter on the other slice, and put together to be a sandwich. Lunchmeat sandwiches are a bit more involved, but can be very good.

Hey, how about I write out how to construct a basic lunchmeat sandwich?

You will need

a plate (or paper towel or simply a clean surface to make your sandwich on)
a butter knife (if you are planning on using mayonnaise or ketchup or mustard or other condiment)
optional: lettuce or other greenery, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard
(salad bags in the produce section can be a good way to handle your greenery)

Putting it all together

Take out two slices of bread and place them side-by-side on your plate (or other food-prep surface).

Start with your condiments. If you are wanting to use more than two condiments that can get a little tricky as you will need to layer them. I usually just use mayonnaise. You can use whatever you find tasty.

Take your lettuce and put it on one of your slices of bread. Take your lunchmeat and put it on top of the lettuce. Top it off with the other slice of bread, and presto! You have food!

Remember to close your bottles of condiments and put everything back where it was, and make sure your dirty dishes get into the dishwasher or sink or counter to be washed.

The nice thing about sandwiches is that they offer a very smooth way to level up if you want to. A sandwich can be as simple as peanut butter on bread, or can have all sorts of ingredients like pickles, tomatoes, peppers, and whatever else you want.

Want something a little more involved than this? Move onto level 2 – basic stovetop cooking. (you may need to scroll down to find the page buttons)


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