One Minute Manager of Spoons

Have you heard of the Spoon theory? It’s an analogy to explain to healthy, buzzing people how people with less energy have to manage life. Where the buzzing people have a kitchen full of cutlery to bang around with, we ‘chronies’ only have a limited amount of spoons to spend. Each spoon is filled with energy, you could say. We have to chose how we distribute them across our desires, wants and needs.

Me, for example, I have 5 spoons every day. This is my total amount of energy that I can spend. I have to choose my activities. I can never do all the things I want (this is a problem almost all people know although most people are restricted by the 24 hours we have in a day, not by their amount of energy).

5 spoons. please choose:

  • get up, get out of bed, get dressed, get yourself downstairs = 1 spoon
  • shower = 1 spoon
  • make a phonecall = ¬†spoon
  • do the laundry = 1 spoon
  • go mail a lettre = 1 spoon
  • visit a friend = 2 spoons
  • vacuum the house = 1 spoon
  • have people drop by unexpectedly = 2 spoons
  • grocery shopping = 2 spoons
  • travel for 1 hour = 1 spoon
  • bake a cake = 1 spoon
  • yell at someone = 1 spoon
  • cook dinner = 1 spoon
  • worry = 1 spoon
  • brush teeth, get upstairs, undress, get into bed = 1 spoon

I spy, with my little eye, a problem starting with an s…

Living with 5 spoons a day makes your world pretty small pretty fast. It is not a problem though, because there is no choice. You make do. Within your little world you make some choices (no phonecalls, no daily showers etc) and you do fine. Dept of life is found on other planes such as marveling at a butterfly outside the window or musing over the influence media have over the peace of mind of people. Who cares if the house is full of clutter?

There was a time when I was so ill I barely had two spoons. That’s a spoon for getting up in the morning and a spoon for getting to bed at night. In between I laid on the couch, passing the day marinating in my cerebral juice. Not being very unhappy, to be honest.

These days, I have slightly more than 5 spoons. It’s what sparked this blog, it’s what sparked a slightly better organized household and it’s what makes it possible to visit with my fiber loving friends a bit more often. I’m so happy I could sing! (I won’t)(singing = 0,5 spoon)

Of course there was a period (lasting about 16 months) in which I wanted to make good on all the things that had fallen through the cracks while I was managing daily life with only 5 spoons. There was the house that had gone into disarray. My clothes had grown into a state my friends would call ‘curious’. Speaking of friends: I had lost a lot of them. A few other areas of life had fallen of the map, too. And I wanted to enjoy some nice day outs. So I ran around for a while, fixing this, organizing that.

But now, since I started this blog, I want to distribute my energy willfully. It’s why I started this blog, honestly. To make clear to myself where I want to spend my energy. Because you can spend all your spoons into perfecting a house, a lifestyle, clothes and having good times with friends. But I also want some intellectual satisfaction. Because that’s who I am.

Today, October 28th, I have found that again life is running away from me. Presenting all these opportunities to spend my energy and feel good about it I have been running around the last few days, being perfect and making my surroundings perfect. A spotless house; a nice cake; a day out; sewing clothes; felting a bag. I can do these things (one every week). But then I’ll never get to the other things: write a book; illustrate a story; design a house; think up a theory; make marvelous art. Which are the kind of things I want to steer towards with this blog. (one of these every 5 years)(which one now, that is the main question)

So….. time to prioritize. Chose carefully which spoon to spend on which thing. But how?? How do I manage my spoons??


Back in the ’80s, when we were all young and thought that life could be formed just by sheer willpower and gelled hair, I read a book called The One Minute Manager. It’s about this imaginary happy chap who’s able to float through his business days by reminding himself of his priorities often. He made a (very) short list and this helped him in deciding what things should get his attention.

Each day started with looking at a piece of paper on which he had written the five most important things (for that day).

I have started working through my days with a piece of paper like that. First of all because I had a colander for a brain and forgot many basic things (‘have I peed today?’). Then because you have to plan ahead (‘get groceries today so you can cook tomorrow (and eat for the next 4 days)’)

Then my list starting featuring just two things every day. Two things to do. I taught myself to be satisfied when I had done them. Even if there are a million more things that should be done, two is what I can handle on 5 spoons a day. There are always three silent items on the list: getting up; cooking or showering; getting to bed at night. But I don’t need to list those anymore because my noodle is no longer resembling a colander.

These days I think I may have 7 spoons. Not all days so don’t let me get too exited, but on some days I do. And when I have a bad day like the other week when a friend fed me lots of gluten and raw vegetables ans onion and my tummy was out of commission for two days, it was better the third day! (it did not take two weeks to recuperate)

So here’s the plan: ¬†put two things on the list marked ‘to do and be glad about them’. vacuuming, administration, laundry. That kind of thing. Don’t get up hopes to run a more structured life. That is for people in advertisements.

PUT ONE THING ON THE LIST FROM THE ‘BIG DREAM’ PILE (writing, illustrating, designing, philosfying)

because we know me, I get lost in all the little stuff and I’ll keep dreaming and not doing it if I do not give it a place.

For example, today my list was

  1. do laundry
  2. tape up that box to have it picked up by the post tomorrow
Over the course of the day I did those and I was happy with myself.Then there were a million little things I might do and I did a lot of them even though I had not planned them: raked some leaves in the garden; made a stew; vacuumed two rooms; paid a bill online; showered; took a valerian; washed some pots I need the coming days; write this blog post. But the two numbered things are the things I feel good about. The rest is bonus.
for comparison, yesterday my list was:
  1. fill box with wool for a friend
  2. make sure there’s a grocery list when husband goes to town.

I did those and then on top of them I did some decluttering and some felting. Emptied the dishwasher; aired the bedlinnens; made pictures of knitting; found charger and recharged phone. All very responsible activities but also tiresome and done without structure. It made me lose the plot because I forgot to wash my face or brush my teeth untill it was time to go to bed. And when you don’t wash your face the day never really started. And when I don’t brush my teeth I get very cranky (the bacteria build up becomes a body burden for me). Like most people with Asperger, I do not notice bodily inconveniences and am better off with a reminder to check for them. Like on a list.

So, tomorrow my list is this:

  1. take pictures of items to post in store Tuesday
  2. something from the Might Do List (there are some felting projects on there)
  3. doodle for an illustration for a story

and in small letters there is this: wake up, wash face, brush teeth, put on central heating, check if you need to take any supplements, rest around noon. Because those are the things I forget when I get exited and dive into a new routine ;)


now where did I leave my hair gel?


ps. see, I forgot to heat up the central heating after I shut it off for vacuuming and opened all the windows around noon. It’s evening now here and 13 degrees celcius indoors. I didn’t notice untill I wrote about it.




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