Jan Risher

Jan Risher

The exterior windowsill beside my desk has been dirty for longer than I’d care to admit.

Dirty is not the best word for it, really. It’s filthy. There’s a live oak branch covered in resurrection fern that hovers near this corner of our house. I’m not sure if it’s the combination of live oak and resurrection fern or the doings of the rest of the chlorophyll-laden Louisiana backyard nearby, but something creates yucky, ucky black muck that settles on flat surfaces — windowsills being prime targets.

Stay with me here. I promise this is going somewhere.

I looked at the filthy windowsill from my desk perch through the cool weather this spring and thought, “That is so dirty and needs to be cleaned now, but the problem is, I don’t have time to clean all the windows and windowsills at this moment.”

I was busy — and, invariably when I noticed the grime on the windowsill, I was on a tight deadline or on a business call. There are three large windows beside my desk. There was no way I had time to clean the windowsills, not to mention the windows, properly.

So I kept working.

And another day would pass and I may or may not look down at the windowsill just on the other side of the window by my desk. Perhaps in partial thanks to the windowsills, I’ve even been working primarily from another small desk in the house, which wasn’t entirely convenient for anyone in the family.

However, for some reason, when I looked at the windowsill yesterday while on a call with a business colleague, I thought, “I wonder if I could just wipe that windowsill off. Maybe squirt some water on it and see if that helps?”

Still on the phone, I went to my cupboard full of cleaning supplies and grabbed a small towel, an old toothbrush and a squirt bottle of Windex. I knew the Windex wasn’t exactly what I needed, but I could reach it and it was wet. What could it hurt?

Still chatting on the phone, I walked outside and squirted away toward the windowsill, then I scrubbed for a minute or two with the old toothbrush, followed by a pass with the towel. It was as satisfying as pressure washing (which is a satisfaction that may not completely translate to those located outside the South). After less than 15 minutes, the windowsills on all three windows were significantly improved. I would go so far as to say they appeared almost squeaky clean. They were not, however, perfect — and I did not clean the windows at all. However, the windowsills were the right color and made my head and heart feel much brighter.

So, what’s the point of this parable of the mucky windowsill?

The point is that waiting to do something until I had all the time and materials in place to do the job perfectly is not always the way reality works. As I waited (for months) for the perfect time to go outside and scrub my windows and windowsills, the grime grew. And yet, in less than 15 minutes, my windowsills went from an F to a B-minus, maybe even a B. Is B-minus my goal? No, but B-minus is so much better than an F.

I love the view I have out the window by my desk. I hated the way the grimy windowsills tainted that view. Should I have done it months ago? Absolutely. But I didn’t.

I like that saying about planting trees. “When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. When is the second best time to plant a tree? Now.”

Same thing goes for all sorts of other tasks. Just because a task seems hard and may have needed to have be done for a while does not mean the task cannot be accomplished much more easily, with much less effort, than you might expect. Give it a go!

Email Jan Risher at jrisher@theadvocate.com.