My bedroom was a wreck. Again.
I might make my bed consistently, but I just can’t keep my room clean. Maybe I should not sigh so much at the children’s bedrooms.
Usually, when faced with this situation, I set aside a morning or an afternoon and dig in. I take care of everything and get the room back in order.
Then, inevitably, begins the slide all over again.
But this time was different.
I did not finish the “clean the bedroom” job. I did tidy up for 10 minutes, but then I moved on.
The next morning, I spent 5 minutes. In 5 minutes, it was as good as it had been after my previous 10 minutes.
The next morning, I spent 7 minutes. I was able to take care of the pile on my dresser, so it looked neater than the day before.
The next morning, I spent 4 or 5 minutes. I cleared the dresser again, but that took a minute or less, so I grabbed as many bits of garbage and random bits off the floor as I could and also actually hung up all my clothes.
By the end of the week, my room was clean and to fill the 5 minutes I actually resorted to dusting.
And here’s the real kicker: The next week it stayed clean.
Instead of treating “cleaning my room” as a project, going all in, and then falling back into my normal habits, I had built a new habit: a morning routine of tidying a single space for a seemingly insignificant amount of time.
And with that habit, with that routine, my room not only gradually became clean, it also stayed cleaner.
My behavior outside the 5 minute routine began to change, too. I chose not to set something on the dresser that I knew I’d just clear again in the morning. I hung my clothes up in the evening so I wouldn’t have to use my tidying time on that. Picking something up off the floor didn’t seem like a big deal. I actually noticed what was out of place and did something about it. I knew it doesn’t take long, and I knew I’d do it soon anyway – why not now?
This is the magic of a morning and an evening routine: 3 tasks in the morning and 3 tasks in the evening that keep your home ready for the action of life, of the day.
There are no secret 3 things everyone should do every morning to have a wonderful day. But when you find your own 3, the magic is in the doing of them, every morning, without fail.
Suddenly, we have traction. We have momentum. We have consistency. Instead of barely keeping our heads above water, we start to see progress – without accomplishing all that’s on our list.
Perhaps you already have a morning or an evening routine, but you’re not giving yourself credit for it.
Washing the dishes and sweeping the floor in the evening is all we’re talking about here.
Clearing the counters and getting the laundry going and making your bed might make up your morning three. 5 minutes for getting myself ready, 5 minutes for tidying my bedroom, and 5 minutes for giving the bathrooms a quick swipe make up my own 15 minute morning routine.
Yes, it’s important what those 3 tasks are. Choose tasks that have a big impact on the day ahead. Choose tasks that need to happen to make your home ready for action. We’re talking basics, not extras.
However, it’s more important that they’re short. Five minutes each should get you far – not because it’s enough to make things sparkling, but because you can get more done in a time pinch, you can get started more readily with a deadline and a clear stopping point, and you’ll see progress build over the course of your consistency rather than trying to reach perfection the first day.
The real value is in the dailiness of it.
In my live program, Sweep and Smile, the first week is dedicated to choosing and practicing a morning and evening routine – a short, simple, straightforward set of tasks that get the day and our energy moving in a positive direction.
We practice it not only for that one week, but for all 6 weeks of the program.
I know that the morning and evening routine is magic not only because of my own experience, but because I’ve heard from so many others who said the same thing:
“I must say that the morning routine and evening routine habit from Sweep and Smile has really stuck, and is making a huge difference in my housekeeping. It seems that just being aware of those small actions every day (make the bed, wipe down the bathroom, put away the dishes) has turned into a habit that I can see tangible results from, which is a great motivator for getting it done the next day. Not to say that I get it done every day, but I am aware of the habit, and am also very aware of when I have slipped out of the habit! But, since they are small actions, it’s very easy to get back on track, which is very rewarding.” – Terri Simpson
The consistency is the magic.
Lindsay, another Sweep and Smile grad, agrees:
“I just wanted to let you know that I was able to check off ALL my hearts this week. For me, the morning and evening routines (plus EHAP) make all the difference in the world. The kitchen got cleaned too. My husband is ecstatic.”
It’s so easy to have a long list of what must be done. But we all know a long list is not all going to get done, so when faced with such a list, we’re asking ourselves to make decisions and judgment calls on the fly instead of merely reminding ourselves of what’s next.
With a “top 3” task list that takes less than 30 minutes, there are no decisions to be made. We can get started right away.
The truth is that my bedroom does not stay tidy 100% of the time now. I fall off my own routine bandwagon, and then entropy gains the upper hand.
But now I know two secrets, two magic tricks, that help me get off my whiny rear and just start:
1) I don’t need to start by “catching up” and making it exactly what I want to maintain. Daily dedication, in short bursts, will get me where I should be.
2) I can do this. I have done it. I have seen it work. I have practiced these practices and they aren’t difficult.
Kristen has learned the same secrets:
This week has actually gone really well! I kept my 3 things terribly simple, but powerful. Each morning I start a load of laundry, make breakfast, and get myself ready. Those are tiny things, but they get the day MOVING. Each evening I clear off my kitchen table, clear a section of counter space in the kitchen, and I either sweep the kitchen OR fold a load of laundry. When those things are finished it’s a signal that my day is over and rest begins. I didn’t realize how helpful it would be to have ‘official’ points that begin and end each day.
What will your 6 daily magic tricks be? Perhaps you already know what they are, you just need to commit to consistency. Perhaps you need to cut back what you expect so you can build consistency rather than perfection. Perhaps you need to start small (we all do) and trust the process.
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