I recently moved into a house after nearly 20 years of apartment living. At the outset, I had blissful visions of moving into a space that would be so sparsely decorated with furniture that it would appeal to my minimalism. The only thing more exciting was the seemingly endless amount of storage that could finally be meticulously organized rather than crammed into too deep cupboards and forgotten. In reality though, the extra space has sometimes felt empty, and it’s been more challenging than I expected to get comfortable with the new routines required in our house.
You get used to what you know, and I have realized that I know and love apartment living, especially small places where I can see everything that is happening and where almost everything is within reach or only a few steps away.
But with two step daughters and an active dog, it was time to find a place more suitable for sleepovers and an outdoor game of fetch.
And then we fell in love with a big, old, historic house that "has lots of potential" and lots of stairs. I was hesitant to leave the known comfort and relative ease of apartment living, but there was something about the wrap-around porch, the beautifully decorated office, and the unfinished attic with the high-pitched ceiling that I couldn’t resist.
After a few weeks of living in our house, and spending our mornings frantically running from one end to the other and up and down the stairs trying to leave for school and work on-time without forgetting lunches, backpacks, water bottles, keys, and shoes, I realized that I was completely out of my element in our house. Everything seemed to take longer and be far less efficient than I remembered from apartment living. The routines that were so practiced in our compact apartment, seemed to completely fall apart in our house.
It was most obvious in the kitchen, when my husband kept asking me to direct him to bread, peanut butter, apples, knives, and pots and pans. Many of those things were in the same place as before (i.e., the refrigerator!), while others, like knives, were completely relocated. He had grown so accustomed to his routine of making lunches in our apartment with our old kitchen layout, and it was frustrating for him to not know immediately where to find his tools.
And then it hit me, because these are the things I think about while hauling laundry up and down stairs: settling into a new house is a surprisingly similar process to switching to a new grants management system, and it takes practice and time to find your new routines and feel comfortable again.
After months or years of working in one grants management system, you undoubtedly have routines that you rely upon even if you don’t realize it. You know what buttons to push to find your grantee’s contact information and how to quickly find out when their next report is due. You know exactly how to mark a payment as “Paid” or amend a grant. You have likely built reports that pull together past grantmaking, and the report displays the grant information just as you prefer to see it.
When you switch to a new grants management system, you have to re-learn how to do all of these things and more. You will likely need to learn how to navigate in a new system with new menus and icons. You may need to become familiar with new terms and then figure out how to translate them to your foundation’s vocabulary. With some systems, you might even be adding new users, like program officers, directors and senior management--staff who have previously not been active users of the grants management system. All of this is a lot of change, and it can be frustrating, especially when you had previously been in such a comfortable place.
You are missing those old, familiar routines, and it takes patience, practice and time to develop new routines and new tricks in your new grants management system. You may even find that things are more organized in your new system, and that you have better visibility to where the pending grants are rather than having to spend time hunting for an e-mail approval chain.
That’s what has happened in our house. Slowly, the house has become more familiar. I know where to set my keys so I can find them when I’m walking out the door, and I usually remember my socks before walking downstairs to put on my shoes. Eventually, the basement may get organized.
Plenty of things are still not ideal about our house, and it is likely that any grants management system you adopt will also not solve all of your foundation’s problems.
Still, you are certain to get some features that will greatly improve your grantmaking approval process and others that could help you finally tame those overdue reports. Our new house has a fireplace that keeps us warm and cozy. The girls have their own bedrooms and plenty of hiding places for enduring games of hide and seek. I have even started to wonder how I managed to live in 700 square feet for so many years.
And then there are some routines that take a little longer to break: I still stutter when I give someone my address, and they ask for an apartment number. I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to that routine.
Have you had to learn new routines? What have you done to make it easier to adjust to new routines?