Take a long, hard look at your shelf. And then go for a long, hard walk

You can overindulge in grit advice, but if it doesn’t turn into action, it’s not true grit

Q I've been reading "Cut the Crap", and I'm so motivated to get started. I loved "Run, Fat B!tch, Run" but never made it up off the sofa. I'm feeling motivated but, to be honest, I don't know where to begin. My house is a mess, I am a messy, overweight woman aged 34, and love nothing more than scoffing a takeaway meal in front of the TV after a hard day at the office. I am the person you talk about in your books but I feel completely stuck and don't know where to start. I think my inner grit doctor is dead. Help. Ellie

A I'm impressed you had the gumption to write in, Ellie, given how Run, Fat B!tch, Run, in no uncertain terms – and many times over – instructs you to stop reading and get up off your bum and go out for a walk. Similarly, Get Your Sh*t Together recommends when unsure of what to do and "in a mess", as you say, that the first action to take is to clean one shelf of one kitchen cupboard until it is pristine.

That aside, the numerous other grit grenades offered in all three books should have had the combined effect of a rocket.

I can only conclude that the reason you are not firing on all cylinders is because you are suffering from a very unusual condition called “gritinertia”. Fear not; it is but a temporary stasis brought about by too much grit too soon. Too much grit that is, of the reading-about-it-on-the-sofa variety, and not enough of the meat and gravy of grit which is “being in action”.


Simple remedy

The remedy, you will be relieved to hear, is very simple. It begins with putting on your trainers and taking yourself outside for a long walk. Now is not the time to complain about the lack of adequate footwear; if you don’t own a pair of trainers, any old shoes will do.

So, nothing more than that, a brisk walk outside in the fresh air, getting your heart rate up for a good 45 minutes, or even an hour, right now, and while you are walking, I want you to have a structured think about your life and what it is that really needs tackling first in order for you to get on top of all this "mess".

If, when you return from said walk, you are none the wiser as to what that is, tackle a kitchen cupboard shelf as instructed in Get Your Sh*t Together. I want you to go completely nuts about this task, scrubbing that shelf and ordering its contents so thoroughly and to the best of your ability: tweet or email me a pic if that helps motivate you into doing it better, because that shelf is your life.

What on earth does she mean? "The shelf" represents the first action step that must be taken in order to begin any project. It may be literal and/or metaphorical, because if a messy home is part of the problem – as it was for me when I wrote GYST – cleaning that shelf marks the beginning of Project Clean Home.

If a messy home is not part of the problem, fine, the shelf exercise will help instil the principle that everything – and I mean everything – begins with taking that first action step and then continuing to take the relevant action until the job is done.

For example, I get a whiff from your letter that you may be verging on crap-aholism? A first action step for you in Project Cut the Crap might be to give up takeaways, or reduce their frequency by half if the prospect of giving them up entirely seems too drastic. And to stick with this commitment until the absence of regular takeaways is the new norm.

Tackle your lifestyle

Back to the present, Ellie; while scrubbing the mess from that first shelf, try again to consider what else it is you need to tackle lifestyle-wise. Is it your job? Is it really that bad or is it your attitude to it that needs a revamp? Is it your relationship, or lack of one? Are there any Ikea shelves gathering dust under beds that need putting up? All of the above? Still no answers? Then tackle the next kitchen cupboard.

And the following day, go for another walk. On those daily walks and during all this manic shelf-cleaning, think hard about what it is that you want from your life, and watch how your thinking starts to take shape, structure and gain momentum just from the simple act of committing to those two things – regular exercise and cleaning shelves – and taking the relevant actions each day.

Keep repeating those actions daily, because even if you never work out what it was that needed sorting, the regular exercise will help you lose weight. All that walking may inspire you to turn into a running fiend (you have permission to reread RFBR when in bed after a long walk or shelf-cleaning session for motivation).

Plus, the endorphins generated from your regular exercise will make all that shelf-cleaning infinitely more pleasurable and hopefully spur you on to cut more crap from your diet, one habit at a time. A clean home, a fitter, healthier body, and a stronger heart. With bags of energy you never knew you had. Maybe that’s all you needed anyway. And, if not, it’s a hell of a place from which to relaunch yourself.

The Grit Doctor says: 

Your inner grit doctor is not dead, Ellie. She has been hibernating. Use spring to wake her up.

If you have a question for Ruth Field, please email gritdoctor@hotmail.co.uk

Ruth Field is the author of Run, Fat B!tch, Run, Get your Sh*t Together and Cut the Crap.