Here is a guide to fixing almost any mess you find yourself in. Fixing a mess is like untangling a ball of yarn. The task can feel overwhelming. The tangled ball is messy. The knots are complicated. You don’t know where to start. You wonder whether it’s worth the effort. You want to throw the yarn out and start afresh. But you cannot. You must untangle it.
So this is what you do:
1. Accept the mess.
We’ve already determined that you’re stuck with a tangled ball of yarn that you must untangle. Accept that. Wondering how the yarn got tangled, or wishing that it hadn’t accomplishes nothing. But it does drain you of precious time and energy.
2. Don’t try to do everything at once.
You’re dealing with a messy ball of yarn. You cannot untangle it all at once (if you can, by all means do). Trying to do so by pulling and tugging will make the knots tighter and harder to deal with. So plan to deal with one knot at a time.
If it is obvious that certain knots must be dealt with first in order to avoid tangling the ball further, deal with them before you get to the others. Or, if it is clear that working on a certain knots will make others worse, save those knots for later.
4. Start anywhere.
If you can’t see an obvious priority, pick any place and start there. It doesn’t matter where you start as long as you start somewhere.
5. Do one thing at a time.
Pick one knot and focus on untangling it. Imagine that is the only knot you have to deal with, and untangle it as best as you can. Then move on to the next knot. Repeat.
As you untangle some knots, others may untangle themselves.
6. Remain watchful.
As you’re working on a knot, keep an eye on the rest of the yarn. Your goal is to ensure that you’re not making things any messier than they already are by tangling more of the yarn, or tightening other knots.
7. Deal with the hard knots when you are ready.
If certain knots are not obvious priorities and seem too hard to deal with, don’t deal with them. Focus on the easier knots instead. As you make your way through the yarn, you will gain the confidence to deal with the harder knots. Deal with them then.
Eventually, you will end up with a perfect ball of yarn, or you won’t. But no matter what you end up with, your yarn will be in better shape than when you started. And that is better than the alternative.
As for life’s messes, my mom likes to say: from where you stand, you can’t always see the road ahead. But start walking anyway. Because as you do, the road will reveal itself to you.