|by Reggie Darling
Reggie recognizes that there is but a thin line for many of us between managing the myriad challenges and responsibilities of day-to-day life and having it all careen out of control into one big messy collapse. After all the years he has been on this planet, stumbling about, Reggie has learned that when he keeps on top of the little things in his life—at least the ones that are in his control—he is better equipped to also manage the bigger challenges that inevitably come his way.
Over the years Reggie has come up with a list of ten (little) rules that he endeavors to follow in his daily rounds, and which he finds are helpful in "keeping it together" when managing his day-to-day existence. They are, you will agree, very basic rules, and ones that many of our mothers taught us when we were children (or in the case of Reggie's mother, MD, drilled into him, because he was—admittedly—a rather slow learner of such things).
Herewith, Dear Reader, I share my list of top ten (little) rules in the hope that you will find them, at best, interesting or, at worst, mildly diverting.
1. Make Your Bed
Every morning before I get on with my day, I make our bed. It doesn't take much time, and I feel more in control of my life when I do it. And you will too. The bed doesn't have to be made with military precision or gussied up as if for a photo shoot for a decorating rag—just pull up the sheets and blankets, plump the pillows, and smooth out the covers. It is far more pleasant and satisfying to walk into a bedroom at the end of the day where the bed has been made than to be confronted with an unwelcoming mess of tangled sheets and wrinkled pillows.
|This young Miss knows that making her bed is a good daily habit and can be done in a jiffy, too!|
|2. Wash and Put Away the Dishes
I find that keeping a tidy kitchen is quite satisfying, and it is one of those (rare) tasks where I actually see tangible evidence of my efforts—something that is often lacking in my workaday life. A kitchen that is chronically full of dirty dishes and unwashed pots and pans is a sure sign of depression and despair, of a life out of control. It is okay to go to bed without finishing washing every dish and utensil, but I try never to leave the house the next day without having done so. It is far better to come home to a tidy kitchen than to a messy one.
|Washing up after a meal can be a pleasant way to spend "quality time" with one's loved ones.|
|3. Hang Up Your Clothes and Put Away the Laundry
It drives me crazy when clothes mount up in our bedroom, whether clean or dirty, as it makes me feel out of control. When I change my clothes I hang them up, put them away, or put them in the hamper. Furthermore—as far as I’m concerned—laundry isn’t finished until it’s been properly put away. Also, I endeavor to be a good citizen, mindful of the environment, and I return the wire hangers our dry cleaning comes home on when I next drop off clothes at the cleaners
|One really does feel so much better when one's clothes are properly cared for.|
|4. Tend to the Mail
It is alarmingly easy to let the mail build up, accumulating in stacks scattered around the apartment or house. Don't let that happen! You’ll feel a lot better about it (and yourself) if you buy a basket or canvas bag to keep it all in one place, and then sort it at least once a week, segregating bills from periodicals and personal mail, and then putting the rest into recycling. I hate it when my unopened mail uncontrollably piles up.
|This is the unfortunate consequence of allowing one's mail to get out of control ...|
|5. Get Your Hair Cut
It is important to stay on top of one's appearance, and one's hair is a critical aspect of doing so. Being a "hair-challenged" fellow, I endeavor to get what hair I have left cut at least every two weeks, and I am unhappy when I procrastinate doing so. Don’t let yourself go too long between haircuts, gentlemen, because it looks slovenly. Also, for those of you with more hair than Reggie has (and this applies to both men and women), please rethink the appropriateness of your hairstyle every now and then. Look at yourself in the mirror with a gimlet eye from time to time and check and see if that hairstyle that looked so good on you when you were in high school or college remains flattering today. It most likely doesn’t anymore.
|These men know that appearances really do count!|
|6. Men Over Forty: Shave
Just as it is important to stay on top of one's hair, I believe men over forty—such as Reggie—really should shave every day, like it or not. That's because there are few of us on the far side of forty who actually look good in a stubble. Contrary to what you might tell yourself, gentlemen, that grizzled mug of yours makes you look more like an escapee from an ICU, or the neighborhood drunk, than the village heartthrob. Leave the sexy stubble to the boys under forty or to the rare movie star who can still carry it off. If you don’t like wet-shaving on weekends, buy yourself an electric razor. And use it.
|A clean-shaven man has a decided advantage in getting ahead in today's cutthroat world.|
|And here's an alternate rule for the ladies:
Women Over Forty: Pay Attention to Your Roots
Nothing says “I’ve given up” like an inch of gray roots when the rest of your hair is (or once was) dyed chestnut brown. Ladies, do yourself (and us) a favor and either keep up with coloring your roots, or let your hair go gray. It's one or the other.
7. Wear Clean, Cared-For Clothes
I endeavor never to leave my house or apartment wearing dirty, unkempt clothes. While this is hardly shocking news, I am routinely surprised by the number of people I see out and about wearing filthy jeans, stained shirts, and—in the winter—grimy or soiled outerwear. One can be forgiven for wearing inappropriate or threadbare clothing, but never dirty clothes. The sole exception is when one is wearing garments that have become soiled by one's honest, dirty labors, such as from gardening or cleaning out the garage, and where a quick related trip to the local garden center or hardware store is required. Reggie is not saying that he believes one should only be seen in public wearing one's finest, but rather that one must endeavor only to wear clean clothes. And yes, that means doing laundry.
|A freshly laundered and well-ironed shirt attests to the upstanding character of its wearer.|
|8. Take Care of Your Shoes
Shoes are the first thing that most people look at when sizing up their wearer, and nothing says "slob" more than badly cared for, unpolished shoes, worn down at the heel. Good leather shoes are expensive, so take care of them! Also, please put your sneakers through a wash cycle every now and then, and replace them when they are worn out.
|It is important to inculcate our children with good habits when they are young.|
|9. Keep Your Car Clean
A dirty, ill-kempt car full of trash, detritus, and junk does not reflect well on its driver, to put it mildly. I take pride in taking care of our cars, and that means keeping them clean and tidy. I have ours washed and vacuumed regularly, and I don’t allow their interiors to become filled with empty water bottles, food wrappers, or refuse. A clean and neat car—whatever its age, make, or model—says that its driver is in control of his life; a dirty one announces that he is not.
|This man knows that when it comes to his automobile, appearances speak volumes about its owner.|
|10. Be on Time
I make a point of aiming to arrive on time for my appointments, both professional and personal. That doesn't mean that I seek to arrive early or am weirdly obsessed with being punctual, but I do make the effort to arrive when I say I will.
That's because I believe it is a sign of respect for the person I am meeting with and the commitment I have made. It's okay to be five or ten minutes late from time to time—life happens—but people who are chronically late are in one of two camps: those not in control of their lives or selfish souls lost in their own worlds, oblivious to the lack of respect that such tardiness shows for the persons they have agreed to meet.
And if I know I'm going to be more than five minutes behind schedule I call the person I'm meeting to let them know I'm running late—it's the least I can do. (Note: this rule does not apply to attending most private parties where it is acceptable—if not actually preferred—to arrive fifteen-to-thirty minutes after the appointed start time.)
And so, Dear Reader, you have Reggie's Top Ten (Little) Rules for Keeping It Together, which he endeavors to follow to the best of his abilities in his routine daily life. Of course Reggie is human and slips up on some of them, and some more often than he cares to admit.
But I do try and stay on top of them, and I do stay at it. For I find that when I am successful in keeping on top of these "little" tasks—such as doing the dishes or keeping up with the mail—I am better equipped to meet the bigger challenges in my life as they come along. And I cut myself some slack when they do.
There are, of course, other (and more important) rules that Reggie strongly believes in, such as cherishing one's loved ones, following through on one's promises, and living within one's means—just to name a few. However, those are not the subject of today's essay.
|All photographs, except of woman holding shirt, from LIFE Archives; photograph of woman holding shirt courtesy of Getty Images.|