The painting pushed against the wall, still standing up on the floor, stares at me with a question, “When are you going to hang me up already?” The few boxes in the closets, the ones with photo albums and miscellaneous items—items that youBy our first Shabbat, we were 95 percent unpacked don’t really need, but don’t want to give away or throw out in case one day you will need them—those boxes, they glare at me each time I open the closet, “Nu, what are you going to do with me?”

We moved a few months ago. That day, I worked in a blissful frenzy. Driven by a desire to want to be settled without chaos, I unpacked as much as I could. That first week was a whirlwind of doing and buying and fixing. I knew that we had no choice in the matter. I knew that with our busy lives, it was a situation of “now or never.” Each day we did something for our new home; by our first Shabbat, we were actually settled in and 95 percent unpacked. Just a few things were left on the “To Do” list.

The list. The list of buying and fixing and organizing. The list that is still, months later, lying on my desk, not much shorter than it was after the first week of moving in.

The list. What is going on with my list?

I tell you what is going on . . . life is going on. The pile of laundry stares at me more than the painting against the wall. A child needs new pants, and the hour spent shopping takes precedence over an hour of organizing photos. There’s work and there’s a million things that keep us busy throughout the day. All good things, but busy things. And so, what didn’t get hung that first week stays unhung. What didn’t get unpacked that first week stays unpacked. The little things left to fix, they stay broken—they stay that way until the motivation to make them a priority bumps them onto the current list marked “today.”

We hear over and over as the New Year and season of holidays approaches: “Make changes! Get moving! It’s the time to do, to fix, to improve!” The time from the month of Elul (the month preceding Rosh Hashanah) until Simchat Torah is like the first week after a move. It’s the time of year when G‑d tells us: “Open up for me an opening like the eye of a needle, and in turn, I will enlarge it to be an opening through which wagons can enter (Midrash on Song of Songs 5:2).”

You start with a long list in the beginning of Elul—a list of so many things that you want to improve and things that you want to make better in your life. There’s a list, and you have a desire to change, and with that list and that desire G‑d says to you: “Just do as much as you can now and I will help you. Grab as many good deeds now as you can. Little ones, big ones. Whatever is on your list, grab it! Do it! Now you have the motivation and the focus and the energy.” He tells us: “I’m so close. I will help you.” And He does.

What happens if we don’t take advantage of this time? Is change impossible? Never!Is change impossible? But it’s so much harder. We don’t have the motivation, and it feels like we don’t have the time. We get caught up in our daily routines, our busy lives, our numerous commitments. We say we’ll get to it, but the days pass and nothing changes. The painting stays on the floor, and those last boxes stay unpacked.

The list. I look at the list. The list of buying and fixing and organizing. The list that is still, months later, lying on my desk, not much shorter than it was after the first week of moving in. What is going on with my list? But then I look up at my walls, at all the paintings hung, the books on their bookshelves, the clothes and linens in their place. I think of all that we got done that first week, and how the list was initially so long. I think back to all the work done that first week—work that enabled us to settle in so quickly and make the apartment into a home.