Behind the Scenes of Out of the Box Solutions - A (personal) case of the laundromat
To be honest, the behind-the-scenes of my everyday functioning had become chaos personified with my trusted house help quitting their job (read: abandoning my home!) But as I find myself in a place with new help and some semblance of order, I’ve decided to share with y’all a very interesting discovery I and my family made during this time. So let’s rewind a little and start from the start…
Hats off to homemakers! My no house help situation felt like I almost needed to grow four more arms and be at a minimum of three places all at once. While I somehow managed to get through the rigmarole of all household chores, there was one activity that got me hopping mad: the lovely laundry. Does it feel like laundry is a never-ending battle in your home? Everyone wants clean clothes, but no one wants to spend hours doing back-to-back loads. Well, that’s my house! Now imagine the level of irritation, confusion, and frustration at such a time.
After one such incredibly long and tiring day of getting things and interviewing potential house help candidates, my husband and I found time to sit down for a bit. And what could have otherwise gone off into a terrible argument on duties (‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’), almost miraculously became a solution-oriented discussion that has resulted in our very own personal innovation - A laundromat system for our home! Yes, we are currently in the testing phase with a laundromat service that has us with clearly divided duties, happier laundry, and smiles of success!
How in the world did that happen, do you wonder? Because same! I was about ready to believe that my husband and I had unlocked a new level of emotional intelligence when the aforementioned discussion ended with us giving each other a high five. Would you believe it?
On a serious note…
I pondered over this occurrence (given that I had time now) and I realised how foundational it is and how it easily applies to every situation in life. So let’s decode it. What is the single greatest advantage you can give yourself in life? You’ll find thousands of answers to that question. But I think there’s one that rises above all the rest: Taking action to solve problems by focussing on what you can control. When you’re faced with something you don’t like, you have the power to workto change it. When you become aware of that power, you’ve already done half the thinking outside the box!
Part 1: Zero down on the problem
Our problem statement: Frustration rooted in the fact that we wanted a start-to-end solution for our laundry right from the wash basket back to our closet as clean and ironed clothes. We’d reached a point where we wanted nothing to do with even explaining and showing the works (“here’s the detergent”, “here’s how it needs to be sorted out” etc.) to our new house help even if we got the right one.
As my problem illustrates, we cause ourselves unnecessary frustration when we continue to demand that reality be different from what we want. By recognizing that reality isn't always the way we want it, we can focus on solving the problem, instead of repeating a cycle of frustration and anger.
When we understand—ourselves, and the situation—we are able to accept our reality for what it is. And as I read somewhere: Accepting something doesn’t mean you have to like it! Acceptance is devoid of judgement. It’s saying “This is the way it is. And I’m not resisting it. I accept it to be true.”
Figuring out “what to do next” is a fuzzy, uncertain challenge. However, here’s a reminder: for whatever situation you are trying to tackle, the solution might be very basic like putting things into perspective (and does not require a cutting-edge strategy always.) But the problem-solving approach stays the same.
Our solution statement: The testing stage we are in currently has come after we started out with a business idea of a laundromat! Because we were facing an issue that wasn’t uncommon for sure. Leading with that we searched for door-to-door services that’ll completely help us offload and take care of all the processes including ironing - that’s the blueprint we zeroed in on. But how?
Part 2: Brainstorming and communication
Yes, I’m going to pull a cliche - Communication is key. But wait, higher up in importance is comprehension.
Let's go back to those opening scenarios. We could have remained angry and frustrated, and gone on for days like that. But where would that take us? By reframing expectations and using feelings as a catalyst to take a different approach to solve the problem, we communicated and comprehended. Communication is power and like all power, how you use it matters. Communication can shine a spotlight on problems, making them easier to see and offering a stage to popularize solutions.
Here’s where I draw reference from my Instagram Live conversation about Communication with Smitha Gopalakrishnan - Social Impact, Branding & Communications Lead at 3M. As I was going over the happenings, I remembered a concept that Smitha discussed - Instead of going against the human tendency to communicate to win with “No, but…”, using “Yes, and…” as an instinctive answer to enable and foster meaningful communication. And that’s exactly what led to our laundromat solution.
From the Career perspective
Circling back to where our roots are, part 1 and part 2 as stated above fall into place in every aspect of every career. It’s so basic that it is self-explanatory but it’s so often neglected that you are going “oh, wow!” as you read this now.
Take a typical “brainstorming” phase at work, for example. It’s on you to come up with as many possible solutions as possible. But to truly capture outside-the-box solutions from within the box, it needs open communication and mutually beneficial dialogue filled with respect. Understanding the different components and inputs of the team (the home team in my case!) around the problem will help figure out what approach works best for you. And if you aren’t finding success with one approach, you can try a different one. Or bundle them together.
Point to note: There are many ways to evaluate your options. And it totally depends on your situation. Trust your gut and think through realistic options.
Doing what matters: Take space and make room
General life advice: Make a decision, and stick to it. If you waffle back and forth, you’ll fall back into frustration again. That’s why I made it a point to add that we are in the testing phase of our laundromat prototype, Mindful action is one of the most difficult steps and one of the most important steps. Once you’ve made the commitment to decide on a way to reduce your frustrating situation, take action. Even the smallest steps can make a world of a difference in how things are or at least how everyone feels.
We got through the whole drill and I was set to share that with you when I realised that the phase I’m in right now is just as important as the process itself! That leads us to the part post mindful action - Get it out of your mind. Allow yourself to enjoy being done with what was frustrating you. Think about what you want to do now that the stress is gone (the world is full of endless possibilities, my friend!)
As you are already aware, one of the biggest talking points I’ve touched upon today is: OUT OF BOX THINKING - starts at home. Also, fresh laundry = happy home, yes! But in other news, an approach to ‘thinking’ that seems like unfamiliar territory and that which leads to innovative solutions is powered by mindful intent and communication. I’ve learned it my way and I’m sure you can sense how mindful action has played a role in pushing you to align yourself to the ‘big picture’ as you view it.
While we engage in our busy and demanding days, we can’t forget how to go deeply and intuitively within, to listen, connect with ourselves and those who matter, and to leave space for collaboration and creativity to flourish. So go ahead and try this experiment in your personal space or capacity: Put your cases in point, in perspective. Get deep into the behind-the-scenes of your personal wins - you’d be pleasantly surprised by the self-discovery and the power of basics you unleash. And we can get talking about it!
Does it feel like laundry is a never-ending battle in your home? Everyone wants clean clothes, but no one wants to spend hours doing back-to-back loads. Well, it was the same situation in my house.
Are you thinking: “Sowjanya, are you sure this is what you want to talk about here on AttitudeMakeover today?” YES! Because unlocking the power of growth and great things begin with an Attitude Makeover. And how we (the home team) mindfully acted to discover a solution and a LOT more learning is where the real deal is.