By Leo Babauta
Personal blogger Mrs. Ronk posted about trying to keep her house clean:
“I’ve just been frustrated (once again) by the fact that my house doesn’t stay clean longer than five minutes. I don’t have a system set up, and I also have bad habits such as putting my clothes in a pile by the side of my bed at night instead of hanging them up or putting them in the laundry hamper.
I’m tired of it. The clutter gets to me and I feel unsettled. And I feel like I can’t start a new project or do anything fun until I get the house in order. But my house is never fully in order, so I never really get any projects done.”
I totally understand where she’s coming from. A messy house can be overwhelming, and the habits required not only to get it cleaned but to keep it that way can seem like too much to tackle.
But here’s the key: I’ve found that it’s best to use small steps in getting where you want to go.
Try these habits for at least two weeks each before going onto the next:
- hang your clothes up or put them in hamper immediately
- put all papers (including school papers, post-in notes, bills, etc) in one in basket, and process at the end of each day (use the steps in Clearing Your Desk)
- keep you sink clean and shiny (wash dishes immediately, clean sink after)
- pick up before you go to bed and before you leave the house
- empty your trash daily
- 15 minutes decluttering sessions each day (see How to Declutter)
- clean your shower, toilet and bathroom sink after each use (only takes a couple minutes!)
- have a place for everything, and put everything in its place immediately
- make your bed each morning
- keep flat surfaces (counters, tables, desks) clear of clutter
- put away your stuff as soon as you get home
Now, these are a lot of habits, and it might seem overwhelming, but if you tackle one at a time (in whatever order you like), it won’t be that hard. Give yourself several months to get there – don’t expect overnight change!
Here’s how to tackle each habit:
- Write down your goal.
- Post it up somewhere visible.
- Keep a log and make sure you write in it each day, noting whether you were successful or not for that day.
- Post your daily results on your blog or on an online forum, or email to family and friends.
- Reward yourself for each day of success.
- Give yourself electric shocks if you fail that day (just kidding!).
- Actually, if you fail that day, take a minute to see what went wrong, and how to correct it. Now forgive yourself for failing, and tell yourself that you will do better starting now!
- Find a way to keep yourself focused on this goal for at least 2-3 weeks.
- Celebrate when you’re done.
If you can conquer that habit (and it may take a month or more), then move on to the next. Do not try to do them all at once! Take baby steps, and you’ll get there.