On Puttering


I guess you could say that I’m a driven person.

Too much to do, not enough time. I keep lists, I pack my schedule, I look for more efficient ways to organize myself- – and I can get an amazing amount of work done in a day! Heck, even my leisure time is planned and focused!

But every now and then there comes a time for puttering. Well… that’s what I’ve been told anyway. Right now it’s been so long since I’ve spent a day just puttering around the house that I’ve almost forgotten what puttering is like. Almost…but not quite. It was shortly after our last Quilt Festival in November (of 2019) that I had my knee replaced. It was a planned surgery that I often tell people was 45 years in the making, and I planned very carefully for the inevitable downtime that would come along with the recovery from this major surgery.

But here’s the deal… what I didn’t and couldn’t possibly anticipate was the demotivating effect this surgery would have on me. I don’t know… maybe this is a side-effect of all major surgery, but for me this was confusing and very unexpected. I’d get up, eat my breakfast and before I knew it, it was time for lunch. So what was I doing? Oh, a little reading… and a little surfing on the Internet, just passively letting one activity lead to the next and the next etc. But mostly….  I was puttering… kinda like my cat does on a daily basis!

So… just so we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about what puttering really is!

You can’t schedule “puttering” into your planner ahead of time.  No one intends to putter. You simply discover in a brief moment of self-awareness, that you have been puttering. It often starts with a lost object. Oh, not the infuriating kind of lost object that makes you turn the house upside down while looking at your watch in a panic, but the speculative kind. “Hmmm, I wonder where that could be.”

You start looking but your attention is diverted almost immediately and then diverted again. You move through the morning in calm oblivion, taking on tasks–incidental ones–in the order they present themselves, which is to say no order at all.  The day passes, and you’ve long since forgotten what you were looking for– or that you ever started out looking for anything at all. You feel as though you’ve accomplished a lot, though you have no idea what! It’s like a holiday from “purpose”!

But… what you might ask, is the difference between puttering and multi-tasking?!

Multi-taskers (myself included) are equipped with Internet connections and other communication devices and the majority of our tasks take place in the virtual world. Our days are marked by flitting, fractured attention and a sustained sense of urgency.

Puttering on the other hand is grounded in the actual, physical world and is marked by a gentle, even leisurely rhythm. The putterer moves from one chore to another at a sedate pace. There’s always time for breaks, a cup of tea or even a burst of play.

So… in summary…

Even though I found the idea of endless  “puttering”, day-after-day-after-day to be a bit wasteful, it really didn’t bother me a whole lot that I had nothing to show for my time, and that work was piling up downstairs and there were show deadlines approaching. As a matter of fact I have to admit that eventually it felt kinda good… like I’d “gone off the grid” and was free to just think and contemplate and concentrate on healing and getting well again.

Of course it didn’t last. A few weeks later when I was getting around better (and the brain fog had worn off) I began hearing the siren call of the studio downstairs. That’s when I decided that having a season of puttering should maybe instead be called… having a “holiday from purpose”, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing now and then afterall!

But next time, it’s my hope that my “season of puttering” doesn’t have to be accompanied by a joint replacement!

And now…. it’s YOUR turn!

Would you call yourself a driven person? I’d love to hear your thoughts on puttering, or multi-tasking, or BOTH!  And remember, we love reading your comments and answering your questions too, so please feel free to leave either or both in the space provided below.

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  1. Vicki on May 29, 2021 at 7:23 am

    I wish I could putter more often but I multi-task. Sometimes I will set goals for myself, when I get a job finished I can sit and read or check e-mail for a few minutes before I move on to the next project. I guess I like to know I have accomplished something at the end of the day.

    • Kat on May 29, 2021 at 7:30 am

      I’m with you! That’s why it usually takes an “outside intervention” to make me slow down, change course or relax! Traveling is the best way for me to relax, and I think that’s why this pandemic has frustrated me so! 🙂

  2. Sharon Mckinney on May 29, 2021 at 1:40 pm

    I always start off MULTI-TASKING but it quickly evolves into PUTTERING. I’ve definitely refined PUTTERING to an art form! I will go down in history as “she who puttered best”! No need to join putterers anonymous here. I wonder … is there’s a Facebook group for Putterers? I’ll add that to my list of things to putter!

    • Kat on May 29, 2021 at 1:49 pm

      Funny! 🙂

  3. Barbara Ballard on May 30, 2021 at 3:56 am

    OH, My! No way can I compete with your drive! I’m Retired, so I think that entitles me to putter whenever I want. Yes, when company is coming, or I have a meeting to get to, I can get things done, but most days, I just have 1 or 2 things to accomplish, and if a good book, or my knitting, gets in the way? It’ll get done tomorrow. Relax and enjoy life!

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