I’ve always heard it takes 21 days to create a habit. My inner skeptic told me this might be a myth, so, naturally, I googled it. Turns out, there isn’t a clear consensus on this topic (the opinions ranged from 18 to 254 days).
Here’s what I did learn: The habit-forming process is highly situational and singular. A number of factors come into play, such as consistency, frequency, and complexity of the behavior. Also, if a new action disrupts your other routines, it’s harder to make it a habit.
Tips to Form A Habit
- Though the first days of the habit-forming process are important, don’t get discouraged if you slip up a few times. Get back on track instead of giving up. The important thing is to keep going. Even baby steps move you forward.
- A habit is a behavior that’s practically second nature. So, when you start to feel burned out from a new practice, remember this: It won’t always be such a chore. For those of you who wake up at the same time each morning–ever notice how difficult it becomes to sleep in? Your body becomes accustomed to waking at a certain hour and begins to do so naturally. Keep at something long enough, and it will become easier.
- Instead of disrupting your life with a new behavior, incorporate it into something you already do. If you want to start flossing, try it in the shower. Want to start exercising more? Do leg lifts during the commercials of your favorite television show. Want a cleaner house? Do 20 minute speed clean while dinner is in the oven. The less intrusive the habit feels, the more likely you are to keep it up.
- Set yourself up for success. Going back to the flossing example…keep some flossers on a shelf in the shower to make it as easy as possible. If you want to eat healthier, do a weekly meal prep to have nutritious foods at the ready. Convenience is key.
With these tips in mind, I wanted to share some of my cleaning habits that give me the biggest bang for my buck. These are small practices (most take only a few minutes) that allow me to stay on top of the mess.
I believe that God wants us to open our homes in ministry to others. Shared meals and community within the walls of a home can speak volumes to one’s soul. But if your house is a disaster, you’re probably less apt to host get-togethers.
Don’t let mess and clutter hinder your ministry. If you’re tired of passing up opportunities to host, if you’re sick of that mad scramble to tidy up for unexpected guests, if you’re ready to have a company ready house, read on for some simple habits to adopt.
1. Everything has a home.
I can’t stand piles–piles of papers, piles of toys, piles of laundry. Piles are the gateway drug to total chaos. Ban piles from your household by giving everything a home (even the smallest of items). Don’t let stuff accumulate.
When I get something new, I immediately assign a place for it. If no home is found, then I give myself two choices: Declutter to create space or get rid of the item.
2. Clean up after yourself.
It’s not enough to simply give everything a home–you must be diligent about returning the items to their proper places. If you tidy as you go, the mess never becomes unmanageable.
If you get it out, put it back. If you knock it down, pick it up. If you spill it, wipe it up. If you dirty it, wash it.
You also might consider storing a small caddy of cleaning supplies in each bathroom cabinet. After you get ready in the mornings, quickly clean the counters and mirrors. Another handy idea: keep a squeegee in the shower to wipe the tile and glass after each use (prevents soap scum and hard water buildup).
3. Don’t procrastinate.
When I don’t want to do something, a small, but insistent, voice
tells hisses at me to do it now. Don’t waste energy putting it off and dreading it. Just get it over with.
I try to fold laundry as soon as it dries. I wash pot and pans immediately after using them. If I spot toothpaste caked onto the kids’ bathroom counter, I clean it up then and there. This habit prevents those niggling chores from piling up. (And you know how I feel about piles…)
4. Create daily non-negotiables.
It’s a given–I make my bed every morning. I also wipe down the kitchen counters after lunch and dinner each day. There’s no waffling or hesitation. I just do it.
These small practices give me a boost and make me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I mean, if nothing else, my bed is made, and my counters are crumb-free. That’s got to count for something, right?! A few daily non-negotiables will help keep discouragement at bay on those less than stellar days.
5. Declutter regularly.
Though I do “planned” decluttering sessions, most of my decluttering is spontaneous. It may happen while cooking, and I come across a utensil I haven’t used in ages. Or while getting dressed, I unearth a shirt I no longer wear. When I find something I don’t need/want/use, I immediately put it in my car to donate.
Don’t wait until your neighborhood’s annual garage sale to get rid of your junk. Make decluttering a regular part of your routine. This includes the refrigerator and paper clutter, such as junk mail and school papers.
6. Deep clean seasonally.
I do a deep clean in the fall and spring. This includes my “planned” decluttering sessions (every drawer, closet, shelf, basket, etc.), as well as other chores like window washing, scrubbing deck furniture, and cleaning behind heavy appliances.
7. Invest in door mats.
I don’t know if this truly qualifies as a habit, but I swear by door mats. I keep a rug at every entrance to our home. What better way to keep your house clean than by blocking the dirt in the first place?! When shopping for your front porch mat, I suggest finding one with an abrasive or textured surface to scrape off even the most stubborn mud.
8. Do a load of laundry every other day.
Our family of five generates a lot of laundry. I’d drown in dirty clothes if I didn’t stay on top of it. A load every other day prevents those exhausting, marathon laundry days.
9. Perform a nightly straighten up.
I’ve harped on the nightly straighten up before, so I’ll keep this one brief. I repeat it only because it’s one of my most effective cleaning habits. Before bed every night, I pick up clutter, put away dishes, straighten the pillows, and finish up any undone chores. A quick, nightly freshen up = a better tomorrow.
Try incorporating at least one of these habits into your routine and see how it works for you. Sometimes the smallest tweaks make all the difference in the world. Before you know it, your house will be the place to be!
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” -1 Peter 4:9, ESV