Ask UfYH: Building Daily Habits

Q: How do you make keeping tidy a daily habit? Every few weeks I have major cleanups, but I never can keep it clean or develop a habit of doing doing a little each day.

A: There’s no one way that’s going to work for everyone, so you may have to try a few things and see what sticks.

One thing I might suggest is setting a time each day to get some cleaning in. I personally find that it’s easiest for me to do stuff as soon as I get home from work, before I’ve changed out of my work clothes. Some people do well in the morning, some like to make cleaning part of their evening routine. It really depends on you.

I’d say one of the most major ways to develop the habit is not to try to do too much. Aim for 10 or 20 minutes a day to start, hell, even less than that if you have to. If it’s too much of a time commitment, it’s going to be far too easy for you to get overwhelmed or discouraged and not do it.

If you find yourself wanting to just skip it, try to make yourself do at least one small thing: clear off one surface, put ten things away, wash five dishes, whatever. Just enough so that you’re still doing something, but not so much that you feel like it’s taking over your life. In time, those little tiny steps will add up, and will also make it considerably easier for you to build the habit, since you’ll start to get out of the mindset of associating cleaning with major cleanups that involve huge amounts of time and aggravation.

Another thing you can do is to get in the habit of doing one thing to improve a room every time you’re in it. When you walk out of the living room to the kitchen, bring a few dishes with you. When you’re in your bedroom, put a few items of clothes away. When you’re in the bathroom, give the counter a quick wipedown. Nothing that takes more than a few extra seconds, but things that will slowly but surely start to make a difference in the overall cleanliness of your home.

Good luck!

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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

5 thoughts on “Ask UfYH: Building Daily Habits”

  1. I’ve noticed a real change too since I started two simple things from the blog: 1) make your bed and 2) don’t put it down, put it away (I must have said that one out loud 30 times a day). It’s amazing how those two little things give me incentive for doing other things.
    I use the “slogans” a lot. Doing the laundry means washing, drying and putting it away, damn it! Same with the dishes (though I don’t do the put it away as often as I could).
    And that thing about a clear table top. It really feels good. The bathroom now has a disinfectant wipe thing out in the open and I use them every day (and believe me it needs it because the 5 cats drink in the bathroom).
    If someone knocks at the front door, I don’t sit quietly until they go away. I don’t have to spend 3 days cleaning before someone comes over. The house isn’t perfect, but it is becoming more liveable every day.
    I live by myself and have for years. I have a total of 7 cats, 6 of them are in the house most of the time, I knit and sew, draw and make things with paper. Yet, with the help of UFYH, I can cheerfully open the front door and invite people in. They are comfortable and so am I. All because of the little steps I’ve learned here. Thanks. (Did I mention that my bed has been made every morning for 4 months? It’s the only thing I keep track of. I celebrate that small change every month.)

  2. Try to arrange your world so that things are stored near where you use them. I am the world’s laziest person, and this helps SO much. Two illustrative examples:
    1. Husband and I play games during dinner. There is no game storage near where we eat, so we have, like, 3 games piled up on our table.
    2. I decided that my watches should be kept in my jewelry box. However, I would come home and leave my watch on the counter. So, since I was leaving my watches there anyway, I got a pretty bowl, put that on the counter, and put my watches in there. Voila! My watches are in the same spot, but now, they’re not clutter! They’re away!

  3. I am naturally an extremely messy person, and the thing that has helped me the most is creating a beautiful environment for myself. When I was surrounded by clothes I didn’t like that much or wear that often, books I didn’t care about, things that needed repairing, and mismatched furniture I didn’t like all that much but hey, it was cheap/free, I was a mess like you wouldn’t believe. What made me go from an extremely messy person who only tidied and cleaned begrudgingly when absolutely necessary to keeping my space freakishly neat and making my bed every morning was making sure my space was one I was happy to be in.

    This was fairly easy for me, as I moved far away from the city I’d been in with nothing more than a suitcase and a box of books. I made sure that I loved every piece of furniture I bought, even if it meant I had to go a month or so without a dresser or bed frame for money/sourcing reasons. I went through every single thing I owned and threw away/donated the things I didn’t love or absolutely need. Then I started buying (slowly, because I’m broke and living in an expensive city) things that I loved — a cheerful rug, fresh flowers, a fancy candle, comfortable bed linens that make me feel like I’m going to sleep in a luxurious inn every night. And I’m still working on it, budgeting a bit of money every month so I can occasionally buy something small to make my space just a bit happier (right now, I’m on the lookout for some wall art).

    I realize this is easier said than done, and the only reason I followed this path was because of the life circumstances that led me to moving to a new place and essentially starting over with nothing. It’s advice I would have probably scoffed at as I was wallowing in the shame of my impossibly messy room in my old apartment. But it’s a shift in a perspective that has honestly changed my life. I’m a lazy person with attention/focus issues who procrastinates everything, but now I actually ENJOY cleaning. Being in my home makes me happy, so making sure that it is clean and organized is something I love doing because I know it will only make me happier in the future. I used to hate making my bed because my blankets and pillows were mismatched and not pretty. Now, I love it because I know that it will make me smile when I come home after a long and unpleasant day of work.

    Wow, sorry, this got very long and ramble-y! I suppose my point is that, for me, I’m never going to consistently do something unless I can find a way to make it enjoyable (see also: exercise), and this is a way I’ve found to make cleaning enjoyable for me.

    1. This makes me smile. My increased refusal to settle for crappy stuff encourages me to dream about how to improve things.

      Although I will admit sometimes my sentimental attachments get in the way. The other day I firmly shot down my s.o.’s suggestion of getting rid of our couch. I said I was fine with buying a brand-new, well-made couch, but the one we currently have would be kept since my mother bought it when my older sister was born. (Mom needed a place to lounge in the infant’s room.)

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