We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
This quote by Aristotle is probably my very favorite because it perfectly captures a simple yet powerful idea: that we have the power to set ourselves up for success by simply developing good habits. Each day we’re forced to make countless choices from the time we get up until we go to sleep at night. All of this activity takes energy and will power. It’s no wonder that we sometimes neglect the things that are important for our well-being. The problem with allowing bad habits to take root is that minor lapses can quickly become larger problems that can seem insurmountable.
Never is this more apparent to me than when it comes to clutter. I tend to be a pretty visual person. I love art, color, and beauty. I’m also extremely sensitive to a messy environment. To me, internal calm cannot exist in external chaos, and I immediately feel anxious when surrounded by too much “stuff.” In fact, at some point it becomes easy to lose site of the individual issues contributing to a mess and the surroundings can become an overwhelming mass of disorganization.
One of the easiest and most helpful ways that I’ve found to counteract this issue is by practicing the One Minute Rule which Gretchen Rubin outlines in her book, The Happiness Project. (GretchenRubin.com) The basic premise of this principle is to complete any task that will take you one minute or less to accomplish. The result is that this seriously cuts down on the severity of any disorganization without a ton of effort.
This rule has even helped my relationship since I live with a partner that is somewhat less senstive to clutter than I am. I used to nag about things such as dirty laundry on the floor or opened junk mail on the counter. To her, it just seemed easier to leave things where they naturally fell if she was in the middle of a task. To me, it seemed that I was always wading through junk that had the sole purpose of making me angry. The problem is that those minor messes add up quickly. So I agreed to stop nagging (the struggle is real) if she would agree to start practicing the One Minute Rule, and it’s been so helpful.
Here are some examples that I try to set in my own home:
1) Process all mail as soon as I get home. I put all junk mail into the recycling right away rather than let it linger.
2) Pick up and put away Asher’s toys (seriously…..why does that dog want ALL of his toys to be tripping hazards?)
3) Rinse the dishes after dinner and put them in the dishwasher. This one is so hard for me because I usually just want to veg out and watch The Walking Dead after dinner, but it’s a lot easier than trying to scrub the dishes the next morning.
4) Take the time to put things away properly, even if it goes upstairs. Trust me, the extra exercise won’t hurt you any.
Try the One Minute Rule in your life and see what happens. I bet you’ll find that it’s much easier to break down your efforts into the smallest tasks.