Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 21, 2021

Learning to handle the authority of adulthood

By KATY WILNER | February 20, 2020



For Wilner, adulting means handling the mundane tasks, like cleaning.

Adulting: (noun) The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

Legally, yes, I am an adult. I can vote, get married, get a piercing, come home at three in the morning, sleep until noon, leave alcohol out on the dining room table, have a boy sleep over and eat literal cake for dinner. The first step of adulthood is definitely doing all the things you really wanted to do in high school, but you didn’t because your mom would be mad at you.

After the novelty of freedom wears off, adulthood starts to get kind of scary. As a woman in my twenties I’m forced to ask myself some tough questions. Am I going to fill out my taxes this year? If I don’t, will the government actually track me down? Can my dad just do it for me? 

I’m probably not going to do my taxes all by myself this year, but the idea that I probably should be able to is frightening. In my heart, I am nowhere near ready to be classified as an adult (i.e. for dinner last night, I had toast and a bottle of wine). However, I am eager to start the adulting process. This is partially because I’m inevitably going to have to learn how to behave like a functioning member of society who does her laundry, goes grocery shopping and doesn’t get audited. 

But, more importantly, I know that my habits right now are not sustainable, and if I continue to live like a 12-year-old child who has been given free range and a credit card, I will self-implode.

Welcome to my column, where I will be learning how to do all the annoyingly necessary things that adults have to do. My goals are simple: create and sustain healthy habits; coexist better with my peers; and maybe, just maybe, buy a vegetable.

This week, I’ve decided to take on the basics — cleansing my personal space. This was an easy decision because I know personally it’s hard for me to do anything well if my room is a mess. And, I know for a fact that my floor is in desperate need of being vacuumed.

It’s always difficult to start cleaning, especially because procrastinating is so much more fun. Instead of dealing with the massive amount of laundry that has exploded inside my closet, doing tangential things like painting my nails or writing this column suddenly seem so invigorating. But, instead of just writing about how disgusting my room is, I’m going to go deal with it. 

To make it seem like less of a torturous job, cleaning is much more manageable when you break it down into tiny steps. Also, it’s a great excuse to put The Office on in the background, even though you’ve watched the entire thing several times through.

First step is always to make your bed. I like to think of a well-made bed as a blank canvas that I can pile all of the shit on my floor on top of. This is clever because then I have no choice but to put everything back where it belongs or else I won’t have a place to sleep. I like to think that there’s a difference between messy and dirty. I know I’m messy — one look at the heaping mountain of random shit that’s now on my bed can confirm that. 

But, I pride myself in not being dirty. Although it may be difficult to walk from one end of my room to the other for lack of available floor space, at least nothing in my room will attract rodents.

Now that the majority of my possessions are on top of my bed, it’s easy to give everything a good wipe-down. Because I’m incredibly allergic to dust and it feels like I’ve had a cold since freshman fall, I always prioritize dusting, vacuuming and disinfecting. Even if that’s as far as I get in my cleaning process tonight, I will be satisfied. Cleaning is important because everybody deserves to have a space where they can be comfortable and serene. The self-gratification that accompanies small achievements, like making your bed, is a bonus.

That’s really what adulting is to me. It’s doing the boring, sometimes unpleasant and unstimulating things, not because you have to but because we owe it to ourselves to take care of our bodies, belongings and psyche. 

My plan is to cling to this mentality as I continue on the horrific path of becoming a functional adult. Even though I know I’ll dread some of the challenges in my upcoming week (my plan is to learn how to make a budget and I’m not looking forward to figuring out how much I spend on wine), it feels good to know that at the end of the day, I’ll at least come home to my own warm, laundry-free space.

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