How To: Build A Habit

How To: Build A Habit

Laure Joliet
Apr 1, 2009

Sure, when things get messy and/or overflowing enough we can all stop what we're doing and go on a cleaning binge to finally get that closet/cupboard/landing strip sorted out, donated, recycled or put away and organized. But what can be much much harder is the self discipline it takes to keep things organized daily. Since I've been living with someone for whom this does not come naturally I've been aware of what a pain it can be to seemingly have to be cleaning up all the time. It comes more easily to me because I know that once it's a habit I don't have to think about it:

When building a habit, it's important to start small and set manageable goals. Websites like fly lady help to reinforce these habits one month at a time by sending out daily emails. This is how I first started the habit of cleaning the kitchen up every night before bed. I've gone on to start that load of laundry each morning (there are a lot of us at home now), vacuum/mop once a week, clean the tub weekly and make the bed every day. Because they're habits, I just do them, I don't think about it so it isn't a struggle, but it took some time to build them. The benefits are that although I still need to do a deep cleaning every once in a while, the place is generally 'company ready'. I've had some challenges recently since there are 3 other people living with me, but I'm trying to keep my habits going. Here are some tips for building new, healthy habits for your home:

1. Commit for 3 weeks. According to scientific researchers, it takes approximately 21 days to build a habit, so choose your habit and commit to doing it every day (or the best you can) for 3 weeks.

2. Reward yourself. Of course in long term, the habit will be the reward because your place will be cleaner, but in the short term give yourself gold stars on the calendar or a some kind of special treat to keep you motivated.

3. Keep it Simple. Just pick one thing, or one series of things to start with. This way you're much more likely to do it successfully. So maybe start with making your bed every morning.

4. Be consistent. the bed is a good example because you can build the habit of just doing it when you get up. If you build your habit by doing it at the same time every day it's easier to do it on autopilot.

5. Tell Someone. It will keep you accountable.

6. Know why you're doing it. If, like in my case, my bf just does this because I'm nagging, it will never stick, you have to want to build the habit in order for the habit to stick. Have a vision of what your landing strip/bedroom/kitchen will look like when you've integrated the habit of keeping it tidy. Have a clear picture in your mind and imagine what it will feel like when things are organized and tidy.

Leo over at Zen Habits has written extensively on building habits that sustain us throughout our lives. From exercise to keeping house to accomplishing a life's goals.

Do you have tips for building better habits?

Image from Houzz.

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