Do you have one of those friends or family members with a home that never seems messy? How can they do it? With children, work, and life in general it can be really hard to keep your home neat and tidy. It’s really just a matter of habit. Most of us have heard it takes 21 (or 28) days to form a habit. While this may not be quite accurate it is possible to start forming habits for a cleaner home.
The European Journal of Social Psychology conducted a study in 2009 where participants chose behavior to carry out daily following a unique cue. An example would be drinking a glass of water after each meal. Participants performed the activity for 12 weeks.
On average the time it took for a behavior to become a habit was 66 days. But the range of the data was surprising! Some participants had adapted their behavior to a habit after just 18 days yet others took up to 254 days!
Should you be discouraged by the results of that study? Heck no! It means that if you start working on forming a new habit you’re not pinned down by a specific number of days! Maybe you’ll make a habit of doing some things very quickly while other chores take longer to become automatic. But you’ll be forming new, cleaner habits that will last.
Here are some of the things that people who seem to have “clean and tidy” on autopilot do on a regular basis:
1. Make the beds every morning. You may have to wait until the husband and kids are out the door or you may be able to do it as soon as you rise but getting the beds made makes you feel like you’ve already accomplished something.
2. Do the dishes after every meal or, if you have a dishwasher, empty it in the morning and run it in the evening. Dirty dishes piled in the sink and on the counters make the whole kitchen look and feel messy.
3. Put things away as soon as you’re done with them. If you’re cooking put the ingredients you’ve used back in the cupboard, refrigerator, or pantry immediately. It’s less clean up after you finish cooking and it makes the chore of clean up feel less daunting. If you use something, no matter what the purpose, put it away as soon as it’s no longer needed. This goes for tools, books, cleaning items, and everything else! If you keep things cleaner while you’re doing other chores you save time.
4. Another tip for cooking is to have a sink full of hot, soapy water ready so you can wash things as you go. By the time you finish cooking you can have almost all the prep items washed! If you have a dishwasher (which you emptied in the morning) you can rinse everything and load it them in the machine.
5. Put clothes away at night. It’s easy to just drop clothing next to the bed after a hard day but putting them away, even if that’s in the hamper, means your room will be tidy and you’ll actually rest better.
6. Have a “no shoes” rule for your home. Keeping dirt from being tracked in will keep things cleaner and save you from vacuuming and/or sweeping and mopping as frequently. It will also save wear and tear on your flooring.
7. Wipe up spills no matter where they happen as soon as they happen! It’s easy to tell ourselves we’ll wipe up the little bit of milk or tomato sauce that spilled on the kitchen floor “in a few minutes.” It’s the same if a spill happens in the living room; for example a plant gets knocked over and there’s a little dirt on the floor. But a few minutes can turn into hours or even days. And those little things can make your home look really dirty!
8. Dust every room regularly. Even if everything else has been cleaned dust will make your home look and actually be dirty! My house is strangely dusty. I’ve had my duct work cleaned which I was told didn’t really need to be cleaned yet I have to dust every couple of days. But if I don’t my home looks neglected and messy. If I dust regularly things look cleaner even if other little things are out of place.
9. Don’t let clutter get the best of you. Throw out junk mail immediately and have a place for the mail you need to keep. Get rid of the knick-knacks. They are dust magnets and make the job longer and harder. Keep magazines only until you’ve read them (and clipped anything you want to keep). Have a place to keep keys, library books that need to be returned, and small items like gloves, hats, and scarves. Not only will your home be neater but you won’t lose those items.
10. Take a quick survey before you go to bed. Did someone leave a glass on a table? Put it in the dishwasher or quickly wash it. Has someone left papers out instead of putting them away? Put them where they belong. Wipe down the kitchen table, counters, and stove top. When you get up you’ll feel better because you’ll be getting up to a cleaner home.
These are a few things to get started on forming habits for a cleaner home. Do you have certain things you always do to keep your home tidier? I’d love to hear them!