Feb 042016

As I told you before the concept of mini-habits has really helped me in the past months. They always seem rather ridiculous and small but they’re easier to stick to. And then I have this neat little app where I track my progress with them, and it’s really nice to see the long chain of uninterrupted habit execution.

So the things I try to teach myself consistently at the moment (apart from the things I’ve been working to do every day for months or weeks now like exercise and going to bed on time) are:

  1. Clear to neutral.
  2. Do the dishes after every meal if possible.
  3. Every day after breakfast I take all the recycling (that is collected in a bin in the hallway) down to the basement, sort it and fetch any beverages we’ll want with lunch or dinner and put those in the fridge.

“Clear to neutral” is something I picked up from the Asian Efficiency Blog via Unclutterer. Every time you do something you only considered it finished when everything is back where it belongs. Like doing the dishes becomes part of the meal routine, like every time I fold laundry I then put it back where it belongs, every time I use the scissors I put them back in the drawer.

I’ve been doing something like this for years now but I started slacking off. And at the moment I pay more attention to it, and also try to not leave the empty hamper in the hallway when I have put the clean laundry away but take the 30 seconds to actually go downstairs into the basement and put it next to the washing machine. This has the added bonus of making me move more.

“Clear to neutral” in my life usually means small steps. Putting the knitting back in the bag even if I think I’ll knit some more in the next hour or two. Putting the spinning wheel back in its bag and into my studio even though I know I will be spinning again the next day. Having everything where it belongs, and having the feeling of a tidy space totally makes up for the few minutes a day I put everything back.

You can see in our son’s room how things change when you do not clear to neutral. There are dozens of used tissues, candy wrappers, and miscellaneous papers on the floor and on his desk. There are piles and piles of books and all kind of things, and when he wants to cut his fingernails he has to borrow my nailclippers because he can’t find his. He did find the pouch for his nail things but not one single tool was in it.

“Do the dishes after every meal.” For quite some time now I’ve been trying very hard to do the dishes some time after breakfast so that my husband has a clean kitchen for cooking lunch, and I’ve making it a firm rule never to go to bed without doing the dishes first but I was pretty convinced that it didn’t make much of a difference if I did dishes after lunch, and also I thought I didn’t have the time.

Then some weeks ago I tried to squeeze sewing time out of every day in addition to what I was doing every day anyway, and in order to find 30 to 60 minutes of uninterrupted time in the evening for making a dress I decided to do the lunch dishes right before teaching instead of sitting down surfing the web at that time.

Turns out those dishes only take about ten minutes, and also doing that has the added bonus of getting me to bed on time at night.

Why’s that?

Well, if there was a lot of washing up to do in the evening I’d often sit in the kitchen reading or playing computer games instead of tackling the dirty dishes. Because the task seemed so overwhelming. Because of the strict rule to do the dishes before going to bed I’d sometimes sit there procrastinating for an hour or two before tackling the huge pile of dirty pots.

But if I do the lunch dishes right after lunch the dinner dishes seem much less intimidating. And I am making it a habit to not start reading or playing games after dinner. Instead I get up right away, wash three dishes and a bit of cutlery, and then I’m done for the day. Much better.

This practice also has the added bonus that my husband often helps me and dries everything which means it goes even faster. Sometimes I can even get out son to wield a dishtowel.

The habit of taking all the recycling stuff to the basement once a day, and using that trip to the basement to fetch anything I want nice and cold to drink for lunch is rather self-explanatory. The hallway is the first thing visitors see when they enter our house. Having a very overflowing recycling bin spewing its contents over half the floor and all the shoes is not a nice thing to see.

And as with other things it only takes a minute or two to do it every day, and is way less dreadful than sorting recycling for ten minutes in a row on Friday.

I am always amazed at what difference it makes to change small things but by now I really shouldn’t be. I’ve seen it over and over.

I’m really excited where all this changing things around will lead me. Right now life seems full of possibilities.


  One Response to “New small habits I’m trying to establish”

  1. Hallo Susanne,
    magst Du mal erzählen, mit welcher App Du Deine Habits trackst? (was für ein “Deutsch”)
    “Clear to neutral” hört sich auch super an. Doch dafür müssen die Sachen alle erstmal einen Platz haben. Daran arbeite ich schon ein Weilchen, aber komme noch nicht so richtig voran. Gerade habe ich mal wieder einen Ordnungsschub. Vielleicht schaffe ich es ja mal, dass die Dinge, die ich täglich brauche, an Stellen kommen, die leicht zugänglich sind und nicht in den Schrank, bei dem ich immer Probleme habe, ihn wieder zuzusperren.

    Alles Liebe,

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