Stuck in a Loop: How to Gain Perspective on an Unsolvable ProblemAug 15, 2022
If you’ve ever gone through a renovation on your house, let me apologize in advance for the flashbacks you’re probably about to have. But I’ve got a story I need to tell and a metaphor for business I want to share, and it all starts with a renovation. So without further ado…let’s talk about my laundry room, and how to gain perspective on what looks like an unsolvable problem.
Let me start with some backstory. Now, if we're connected on Instagram, it's possible that you already know the entire laundry room/pantry saga and have been watching this renovation unfold. If you haven’t, you can check it out on my page @orderlyaccountingbykatie; it’s in a highlight there labeled “Pantry.”
First of all, before we get into how to gain perspective, you need to know that my house is in south Florida, and most houses are not very big there. One of the things that we really lack specifically in my neighborhood is good storage. So long story short, there is this area of my house that was added on before I purchased it. The previous owners converted a garage into two separate rooms with two separate access points.
So off of the kitchen, you open up what was, and still is, a very small space that had the washer and dryer in it. Above the washing machine was a little bit of storage, and across from the washing machine was a big tank water heater. So it was tight. And when my father-in-law came over when we first moved in and looked at the room, the first thing that he noticed was that the dryer was venting up. So the vent for the lint was going straight up into the roof. And he told me that was a major fire hazard, because lint was going to get trapped up there, so we needed to vacuum it out regularly.
Now, I didn’t have time to figure out how to gain perspective on this problem yet; I didn’t tackle the project then because I was pregnant with my first child at the time. There was no chance that I was going to be taking the dryer apart and managing all that lint build-up. For the first couple of years, it was something that my father-in-law would do, so it was never a huge bother. Then there was a period of a couple more years where it wasn’t vacuumed out at all. During that time, I started to notice that the dryer was running really slowly—as in, it was taking me two hours to do a load of laundry.
Around this time, I had hired a handyman for simple little odds-and-ends jobs around the house that just were not getting done. And I was beginning to lose sleep over that neglected dryer vent, so I called out the handyman to start handling it. The first time he did it, he showed me pictures of how bad it had gotten: it was seventy-five percent clogged with lint, which was absolutely terrifying to see. Talk about how to gain perspective—seeing that was awful. And when he vacuumed it out, the length of the time to dry a load cut down by half.
So, clearly, something had to change. The problem was that I could not figure out what the actual solution was, outside of doing scheduled regular maintenance on something with a bigger root problem. I needed to learn how to gain perspective on it.
So even as the handyman was taking care of the maintenance, I kept looking at that space, desperately trying to figure out how to gain perspective I needed to solve it. When I did laundry, which was a lot of the time, the danger of that room was something that was glaringly obvious to me. But even so, I'd be in there talking myself through it, telling myself: “Katie, you know, there are people who don't have washing machines in their house. This is such a luxury that you have this. You're so lucky that you have a room that you have any storage at all.” And that was true! I’ve lived in places that didn't have a washer and dryer. So it basically was this thought process of, “This thing is not how I want it to be, but I can't make it how I want it to be. So I'm going to just talk myself through it by telling myself how much worse it could be.” And while that can be good, because there might not be a today solution to your problem, it’s also a little bit toxic. I was trying to teach myself how to gain perspective on the problem in a way that would make it not seem like a problem. Toxic positivity is so real; it can keep you in a loop of not looking for possibilities.
The thing is, the solution was there all along for me. I just couldn't see it because I was stuck looking at the walls that existed. But eventually, I finally figured out how to gain perspective and realized what I needed to do.
So in the middle of all this convincing myself that I’d already learned how to gain perspective and it was really okay to live like this, one day I walked in and looked up at that vent. Lint was packing inside. I was watching water damage accumulate. And I kept thinking to myself, “How do we fix this?” Then the next day I walked in, and all of the sudden…I knew how to gain perspective for real. I saw the answer clear as day.
Out of nowhere, I realized that on the opposite side of the laundry room wall was my fourth bedroom, the office that was originally part of the garage that was renovated and converted in order for the laundry room to exist. Because the laundry room was originally in the garage, it originally had proper venting access. It was only when they transformed the garage into two rooms that they really had a bad design. So one day I looked at it, and I realized on the opposite side of the wall was a closet in a bedroom that we weren’t even really using. And here’s the thing: you can bust through closets. It’s not a hard renovation to do. So I walked over to the opposite room and thought, “What happens if we take this closet? If we busted through that, then we’d have an entire area that used to be a closet where I could put a washer and dryer facing me. Maybe I could get cabinet space. Maybe I could have an overflow pantry…”
And with that one realization, I knew how to gain perspective, and I started to visualize this dream. I’d thought there was no solution there for me, but just by trading closets and forcing myself through figuring out how to gain perspective, it was suddenly possible for me to have safety, function, and aesthetic. And it does go in that order for me: safety first, function second, aesthetic third. I do this in my business, too. I'm always going to make sure that the foundation, the thing that really matters, is working really well. And once that’s ready, then I'll go and pretty it up. But if you pretty it up first, if you pretty up something that doesn't have function, it sucks. It's misleading. I could have prettied up that room, but why would I do that? You wouldn't want to renovate the room as it existed; you would want to remodel the room and then renovate it.
Now, another thing to keep in mind when it comes to learning how to gain perspective is that I’m no renovation expert. I had a dream, but I needed someone else to brainstorm with. For me, it was my handyman. I called him out and walked him through my whole idea, expecting him to say it wouldn’t work. And instead, he validated my idea, told me it was absolutely doable, and then enhanced that idea and then wrote me the quote to get to work. He gave me options I never even thought of. So when you have a wild idea, you may want to talk to people who are experienced enough to validate what you’re thinking and help you enhance it. That’s where another set of eyes comes in.
And That’s How to Gain Perspective!
The thing I want you to take home from this is that you may be in a position today where something feels awful, it's screaming at you all of the time, and you can't see the solution. But look, it took me seven years for it to finally hit me. Sometimes you've got to give yourself enough time for you to see it, and sometimes it takes calling in somebody else to look at the problem with you. But no matter what, you can absolutely figure out how to gain perspective and find a solution to what might seem like an unsolvable problem.
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