The real secret

The kitchen of the Tasha Tudor Dollhouse at Colonial Williamsburg, December 2004 -- A perfect example of fitting small things into small spaces!

The kitchen of the Tasha Tudor Dollhouse at Colonial Williamsburg, December 2004 —
A perfect example of fitting small things into small spaces!

“The real secret of how to use time is to pack it as you would a portmanteau, filling up the small spaces with small things.” Sir Henry Haddow

Much has been written about the importance of prioritizing major tasks and important duties first, and fitting everything else in around them.  But sometimes there still does not seem to be enough space for everything.  Haddow is on the right track when he speaks of small spaces, those tiny slivers of time that cumulatively add up to a significant part of the day.

I find that there are quite a few such spaces in an average day, many of which seem to involve waiting on something or someone.  Waiting for the water to boil for tea, waiting in a telephone hold queue,  waiting for the computer to boot up, waiting for a bus or a subway train.  Aside from carrying reading material of a type that can be easily read in short segments, there are probably many things we can do to pack those small spaces with small things.

Since I’ve often found myself in the kitchen while waiting, I have learned to do 60-second cleaning routines: wiping counters, scouring sinks, hand-washing a dish or two.  I can get a lot done this way without feeling as if I’ve worked at all.  In fact, I’ve discovered that it’s helpful, even when I have a long period of time available, to break distasteful chores into steps, so that I don’t feel as if I have a hour or two of drudgery ahead of me.  Sometimes I’ll tell myself that I’ll work on something for ten minutes and then I can stop, but then when I get involved in whatever it is, I often keep working longer.  Getting started really does seem to be half the battle sometimes,

Today, try giving yourself a five or ten minute assignment to work on something you’ve been putting off.  You just might end up finishing a task you’ve been dreading, but even if you don’t, at least you’ve taken a small step, which might make the next ones easier to take.  I wish you a productive day!

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia, and thank you for another truth. I am also one to squeeze in one more task, although sometimes that will cause me to be tardy for the next meeting or appointment on my list. Still, I do think I accomplish quite a bit each day that I follow this practice.
    I started trying to note how long those tasks actually take, so that I could select one of the appropriate length when faced with “a couple minutes.”
    The down side is that I occasionally become absorbed in the new task, and that can set me back quite a time, with respect to my normal daily schedule.
    Cooking and dishes always take longer than I expect them to, and anything that requires me going online is always a hazard.

    • I find that breaking jobs down into small steps is usually the key to allowing me to work in small bits of time. YES, going online is a hazard! I just finished reading this book and I highly recommend it. I’m already doing a lot of what he suggests, but hearing him explain how and why is helpful.

      • Thanks for the Book suggestion! Even just the title speaks good advice!

        • Even though I read it AFTER I cut way back on my use of digital media (including stepping away from blogging), it explains much of why I did. Not that I could have articulated it as well as he does, or was even aware. But reading it explained a lot, in terms of how I was feeling.

  2. Susan

    Good advice for a Monday morning, Julia! Wishing you a good week as we start out with a sunny morning 🙂 .

    • Thank you, Susan! And the same to you. I hope we get just the right blend of sunshine, rain, warm and cool. 🙂

  3. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Your photo of the dollhouse scene fascinates me. I even enlarged my screen view so that I could see the details more easily. So many little objects to appreciate in that cute kitchen! Somebody took a lot of time to collect and assemble everything there. Dollhouse scenes fascinate me but I don’t think I’d have the patience to make one myself. It’s quite a hobby for some people though. I went to one of their supply shows once and was impressed with how many tiny things you can buy for your Lilliputian rooms. I think that if I ever got started, I’d get carried away and want to do a whole dollhouse!

    • That photo is just a tiny bit of the entire display of dollhouses and rooms. Since childhood I was fascinated by miniatures, and in fact my favorite gift in my entire childhood was the dollhouse Mama and Daddy created to give me one Christmas. I still have some of the tiny upholstered furniture and “framed artwork” that hung on the walls. Maybe even the marble-look plastic fireplace. I wish you could see that entire Tasha Tudor display but it left the museum in 2010. I don’t know what became of it.

      • Judy from Pennsylvania

        You must have been totally and happily surprised when you got your dollhouse for Christmas! What a perfect gift for a little girl. It’s great that you still have some of the pieces to remind you of the rooms in it. I imagine that your mom had a good time finding the pieces to furnish it. I had a metal one with plastic furniture, which was ok but the ones with real miniature furniture are lots more interesting.

        I just had to follow your wish, and I googled the name “Tasha Tudor dollhouse”. There’s a book! Pricey though. And then I found this fabulous tour of the dollhouse via photos in the book on Youtube: Did you see the tea set and the doily, with tea in the cups?! Way too cute!

        • Yes, the detail in those dollhouse rooms was quite amazing. Here’s another one I’d love to see in person. I’ve toured Windsor Castle, where it is supposedly on display, twice (once in 1972 and once in 2005) but I don’t remember seeing it there either time. This one features real champagne and readable books! Closer to home, there’s a lovely one in Chicago I’d like to see as well. No doubt about it, in our love for dollhouses we are in good company!

          My own dollhouse was such a happy part of my childhood. I spent countless hours playing in and around it, wishing I could temporarily shrink myself down to a small enough size to fit into the five rooms. In outward appearance its structure resembled my own home, though the dollhouse was much more brightly colored; it was RED with white trim! How I wish I had even a single photograph of it. But photos were not common in those days, and by the time I started using a camera, my dollhouse was probably relegated to the attic.

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