I Follow the “One Touch Rule” to Keep My Home in Order — and It’s Been Such a Game Changer

published Dec 7, 2022
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Credit: Lula Poggi

Picture this: An impromptu guest says they’re in the area and asks to swing by. There’s enough time to quickly put a few things away, but rather, you pick them up and lock it in another room for another time. “I’ll deal with it later,” was what I’d say in this situation. That was until I came across the “one touch rule,” and since then, I’ve never looked back. 

The “one touch rule” is a concept of only touching an item once. Let’s use clean laundry for example. You’ve done the hard work — you’ve washed, dried, and maybe even folded the clothes — and all you need to do is put them in the drawers, yet exhaustion has forced you to leave them on the chair to deal with later. Because you didn’t finish the task, you’ll have to use a second touch to put them away.  

Or, say you take your coat off and drop it on the couch when you come home. Now you’ll have to pick it up later to put it away, equalling two touches, when you could’ve had one seamless motion off just hanging it up in place when you walked in. 

Committing to this rule goes beyond cleaning and clutter. Following the concept also limits half-done tasks and projects, as it builds the habit of only starting things you know you’re able to complete. For instance, if you only have two minutes before having to run out the door, opening up 30 unread emails probably isn’t the greatest use of time. You may get to one, but you’ve still left 29 to deal with and that one probably didn’t even get the time and energy it needed.

While the “one touch rule” won’t fit into every sector of your life, much of our disorganization and clutter comes down to procrastination and holding out things that require action. Having a mindset of this strategy has changed the way I schedule my time and organize my life. While I may want to just leave the plate on the coffee table, my subconscious kicks in, and a little voice says, “pick it up and deal with it now,” fighting nothing but pure laziness. 

It’s also helped with my decisiveness. When I’m editing or decluttering a space, I pick up the item and have to decide which pile it goes in. There’s no “maybe later pile” as that creates an extra touch. It’s about making a decision then and there, and moving forward.

Following this method takes some time to get used to, especially if you’re known to live a two- and three-touch life. But trust me, once you do, it’s a game changer. The way you look at and complete tasks will save you time and energy as soon as you start.