As 2013 dwindles to a close, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting as is my habit. For the better part of this last year, there’s a particular conversation I had with a friend that has flitted in and out of my mind at regular intervals. It was almost two years ago, this conversation, and it was with a lovely writer friend of mine at a cozy cafe with a distinctly French flair. She, like me, wanted to combat her procrastination tendencies, but unlike me, she took proactive action and hired a life coach. A life coach! I was so curious. What do life coaches do?ย I’ve always wondered that, and here was my chance to find out.

Naturally, every life coach has his or her own “system,” and my friend was actually unimpressed with this particular one’s repertoire. The coach reviewed daily habits, discussed goals, emphasized the importance of just starting. Yawn. Nothing new or revelatory.

Except one thing.

The coach brought up a concept called “tolerations”. Tolerations are basically anything that is part of your life that is mildly to moderately annoying. Nothing severe like a toxic friend or a broken femur. Things like a sporadically drippy faucet, or a pair of shoes that don’t fit quite right that you still continue to wear, or that junk drawer that makes you shudder every time you accidentally open it. The definition of “mild to moderate” is unique to each person as fingerprints, but we all have these tolerations. Aspects that grate on our nerves but aren’t high priority enough to require immediate attention and so we let them fester. The coach explained (to my friend) that individually, these tolerations aren’t a big deal. But collectively, they drain away your mojo, subconsciously adding to your stress and ultimately, you are less productive and more prone to procrastination.


I was fascinated by this. Not surprisingly, most tolerations are related to the home. My friend and her coach went through every room in the house, noting every single annoyance: the overstuffed medicine cabinet in the bathroom, the broken plate that she keeps forgetting to throw out, etc. etc. Together, they created a schedule to take care of all of the tolerations and followed through. She said it was phenomenal. Freed of the niggling daily annoyances, she felt buoyed and energized.

Though I am without a life coach, I’ve successfully interrogated my friend, so I’ve been wanting to create my own list of tolerations (the irony of having procrastinated to make this list has not escaped me). M managed to crack our toilet basin lid eons ago and instead of trying to find a replacement (it’s vintage and hard to replace), I’ve been artfully placing magazines on top to hide the crack. Annoyance level? Mild. I keep purging and purging, but our basement is just not set up efficiently and it’s a holy mess down there. Annoyance level? Moderate to borderline severe, though no one ever sees the basement so I’ve been putting the much-needed overhaul on the backburner. My goal is to have a comprehensive list by the end of this year and to start working on each item starting January 2014. I’m thinking that writing about it here will keep me accountable.

What about you? Do you have a list of tolerations you’d like to tackle?

P.S. The clay house above was version 1.0 for the advent calendar. I quickly realized the error of my ways because making just one tiny house took too long. The thought of making 23 more made me want to hyperventilate.


37 thoughts on “Tolerations

    1. My list is going to be VERY long, I can already tell. I have to figure out how to chronicle it without boring everyone to tears ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Oh this was so timely. Last week when I climbed and crawled into my attic to get my Christmas decorations down I saw how many boxes I have full of decorations. Way too many and due to a move in May they were a mess. I did start to go through some things ( one daughter is getting the Christmas quilt I made years ago, etc. etc.) but to start the new year I promised myself I would go through all of them and there is my start. Not a fun way to send a day (I would rather be sewing). But I bet it is a break for freedom.

    1. I find that I actually enjoy organizing/purging/cleaning once I force myself to start. It’s the starting that’s so hard…I’m also a stickler about owning up to things I declare, so I’m hoping posting it here will jump start the tolerations-busting! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. This is a good reminder… I do like to take care of these things I just tolerate sometimes… but I haven’t done a list in a while. I can think of a few like a curtain rod the kids broke that I haven’t replaced and several holes or patched holes that need to be fixed and painted in the wall. I’m sure there are lots more! I have in past years designated each room/area in the house a month and I try to clean, revamp, fix intolerances and touch up paint. it’s really great for the first two or three rooms. Sadly the others usually don’t get done! ๐Ÿ™‚ Perhaps I’ll start with different rooms this year.

    1. Ah, I remember you mentioning your room-a-month process and was so impressed, Kristi. I definitely want to try something similar!

  3. Last week the sofas were annoying me as usual . They were never the ones I originally wanted. The store made them up with a SINGLE sofa bed in the smaller one (why?) instead of the double in the larger one. They have been recovered once. Repaired at the same time. The cats have clawed the fabric , the kids have bounced on them, the joints in the arms are weakening, they were wearing cheap covers that were ripped, and were not comfy. They are 17 years old and have been to 5 countries. It suddenly occurred to me to just have them taken away. 2 hours later- GONE. It felt SO FREAKING GOOD. (My husband and kids were a little surprised but are rolling with it ) Ok- now we don’t have anywhere to sit but I can ‘tolerate” that for awhile ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Awesome! You go, Corina! I feel that way about some of my curtains. So many are in sorry shape and I just haven’t had the energy to replace them. Good thing I just wrote that – that’s going on my list! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I totally know what you mean. One of my tolerances is unfinished projects. The niggle in the back of my mind and sour the experience of starting something new. Same for messy fabric stash (suprizingly, it is very nicely organized at this moment), scrap stash (I have a huge tub full of scraps and I think I might bag it up without sorting and take it to the Children’s Museum since I know they happily take and use scraps), and yarn mess. Then there is a door with peeling paint (we are renters so it is a hassle to fix it) and couple storage areas in my daughter’s room. Generally I try to tackle most of my annoyances before or around new year, I like to start the year with a clean slate. At least mostly clean ๐Ÿ™‚

    Actually, even having my sewing desk piled with stuff would be the worst. When it is clean I love to sit down and sew, when it is messy I procrastinate because it takes a whole twenty minutes to clean and them the moment has passed and I’d rather read or do something else.. And yet I use it as a temporary place for things that should be put away.

    1. I hear you on the sewing space mess peeve. It drives me batty when everything starts getting out of control in my sewing space. I like the idea of starting with a blank slate, but knowing myself, I’ll have to take baby steps throughout the year. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I grew up in a family with a high tolerance for tolerations – overflowing storage, freezer drawer shelves with bars that flap open and drop the shelf contents (usually a jar with one crust of bread!) onto the floor, clutter. I could go on! Since I’ve left home, I’ve tried harder every year to make my home clean and functional, and leave less projects unfinished. When I’m doing a good job, I feel like my life gets more streamlined and I’m more creative. I’m excited to read about what tolerations you tackle and how you go about it! How inspiring!

    1. I grew up in a similar environment (think leaping over canvases and paint supplies!). I do love that sense of everything in its place – clearing up physical clutter does definitely free up mental space too and totally helps with creativity!

  6. What a thoughtful helpful observation and reflection. Your thinking
    on the presence and life of tolerations brings to mind pruning and weeding
    with trees, bushes, and gardens. One by one the weeds accumulate and
    we learn to ignore them until they are the ones in control.

    Not that a perfect sterile garden or house is the vision. But paying attention,
    choosing, selecting, thinning, and clearing. All this is related to a more freeing
    focused stance that makes life more possible.

    Thanks ~

    1. I love the gardening analogy; I wholeheartedly agree that paying attention and being consciously selective and active is at the root of keeping the overgrowth at bay.

  7. Good idea, I might join you, I fear my list will be enormous… From freezer that needs defrosting to the colour on one living room wall, I hardly dare begin…

    1. My list is going to be enormous too, Pienkel! It’s a bit daunting to think about starting it, but I derive a twisted pleasure from seeing all the things that need to be done. I have less than three weeks to complete my list so I better get cracking!

  8. Mental clutter! Almost as bad as physical clutter, really.

    I’ve never been a procrastinator, so you might find my suggestions annoying, but have you tried the Flylady 15-minute way or the Pomodoro 25-min way…? I am temperamentally better suited to chipping away daily at a mountain than toppling it in an explosive effort

    I have (always) a grand list of To-Dos that I rarely look at, but in truth, I don’t need to because the items on the front of my mind and I chip chip chip away at it. When I do pull up the list every few months, I’m delighted to cross out X number of things, but then I add Y new things to the list, so the number of items never really dwindles.

    1. YES, mental clutter! And lucky you to have never been a procrastinator. I’m intrigued with the Flylady and Pomodoro ways – I’ve not heard of these! Thanks as always for the helpful tips, June!

  9. So interesting! It reminds me of the “nagging task” concept that Gretchen Rubin talks about in one of her books. I’ve since kept a list of five nagging tasks as part of my daily/weekly to-do lists. Things that need to get done, but probably won’t happen today, or even this week. For a while I was trying to accomplish one of these tasks every week. I’m not sure if making a huge list of everything (we have oh so many house projects from an unfinished remodel) would be a relief or would be totally overwhelming. Maybe I’ll give it a try. And I want to know more about this schedule and how your friend was able to follow through on all these tasks. Thanks for getting me thinking!

    1. Another great idea with the “nagging tasks”. Thanks Elizabeth! I’m a big list maker so I’m not intimidated by the thought of having another massive to-do list, but I can see how that might be overwhelming. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

  10. Thank you for such an inspirational post. As usual I loved reading through all the comments and also found inspiration here. Thank you, ladies, as well!
    For me the key to dealing with my “unfinished business” is to find the fine line, or balance between ignoring and tolerating. And for me this is also about accepting and letting go. I know I am very good at ignoring and very bad at tolerating. In both cases, things donยดt get done. And in both cases, I feel bad about myself. What I want to learn better is to stop “using”unfinished business to make me feel bad about myself. To get the things done, that need to be done – the mental clutter and the everyday-life-clutter. And to tolerate, that some things will stay unfinished for awhile or maybe even will never get done. And then to let go.
    But with one thing I am great: I love to throw away and get rid of stuff I donยดt need anymore or donยดt wear anymore!

    1. So many good points, Ute! I agree that certain things should simply be let go – it’s all about feeling less encumbered and more clear-headed, right? And that’s wonderful that you’re excellent at purging and eliminating things no longer needed or worn!

  11. I love this idea, and such a great term, ‘tolerations’. I must be a person with a ton of tolerations because your post today resonated immediately and I find I constantly struggle with my own procrastination. Thanks for the inspiration, it sounds like a great thing to tackle.

    1. I like the term tolerations too! It’s handy to have a blog and to feel significantly more accountable by announcing things like this. Very motivating!

  12. This is a fascinating idea. I believe I will spend some time making a list of my own and tackle it over the next year ๐Ÿ™‚ Are you supposed to deal with the tolerations in a certain order, like most to least annoying, or perhaps time required to complete?

    1. Oh, good question, Teri! You know, I think it’s entirely up to you. For me, I would probably try to group them into similar categories (like thing that need to be donated, thrown out, replaced, fixed, organized) and then start with easiest/least amount of time to complete. But I’ll keep you in the loop how things shake out!

  13. WOW. This is just so good. I’ve had a sense that these Tolerances are there but not put a name to them. Especially in the morning when I wake up, I feel so blissful and peaceful and then one by one the Tolerances seep into my head, overwhelm me and then by 9am I am exhausted, even after a great sleep. So I know it must be them….going to investigate further. Thanks for the fodder!

    1. Thanks Sophie! I completely know what you’re talking about – that fog of fatigue in the morning…I didn’t tie that together with the niggling stuff, but I think you’re onto something!

  14. oh i totally relate to this, and i have the added motivation of pregnancy nesting so i’ve been tackling a bunch of these lately and it feels AMAZING. over the summer, we cleaned out our tuff shed (acts as our garage) which had junk in their from TWO owners ago. and we’ve been in our house 10 years! our whole yard was filled with stuff to take to the dump, and now we can walk in there again!! hallelujah. lately i’ve been working on cupboards and clutter piles inside. it just feels great to take care of things and clear stuff out – sometimes all those little tolerances add up and i start feeling really claustrophobic and irritated. anyway, good luck!!

    1. Huzzah, Kristin, you are accomplishing mountain loads! Very impressive and I’m inspired. I can only imagine how good it must’ve felt to get your shed cleared out. My equivalent is the basement – maybe I’ll try to wrestle with that first!

  15. Hi Sanae. I read this post with interest (but truth be told I read mostly all your posts with interest…) but I am somewhat inclined to go in the opposite direction. So when you mentioned the word “toleration” I was kind of curious to see where you would go with. I am like you a major procrastinator (and one perpetually aware of this fault in mine) but I increasingly wonder that if is there a way to accept what I don’t do, and just let things “be.” I mean yes, it would be great to tackle those annoyances, but is there a way also to live with those things but re-work on the mental framework to not only think of that thing as an annoyance? i don’t know. I guess some combination of both things of “letting be” and tackling is what is needed i guess. Anyway. Just a thought. Thanks as always for a insightful post. Enjoyed reading it.

    Oh I thought that the houses that you did make look lovely. I like it more than this one.

    1. Great comment, Asmita! Ute made a similar point and I’m with you two on finding the balance between being a taskmaster and learning how to let go and tolerate in a different way. Thoughts to ponder, for sure, and I love these discussions!

  16. I love this idea. I am such a procrastinator, and I also get paralysed by clutter and unfinished projects. Having a list of tolerations to tackle, and a specific time to tackle them, is a fantastic idea. I’m looking forward to reading your progress and what you learn along the way!

    1. Let’s hope I don’t procrastinate too much longer on the list ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m looking forward to sharing my progress!

  17. I always feel so much better when I tackle one of those annoying little things. I have never thought about making a list, but am sure it would cut my stress quite a bit to get it all taken care of. thank you for the suggestion.

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