Good habits can be life-changing.
Our daily habits are the things we don’t need to think about – at least not anymore.
Maybe we put a lot of thought into our habits, or maybe we didn’t.
Maybe we were intentional about starting them, or maybe they just crept slowly into our lives without even trying.
However we came about our daily habits, we should realize that our habits that make all the difference in the world.
Our habits can help or hurt us.
Our habits are near-automatic responses that can add up to big changes.
Healthy habits are worth forming.
Destructive habits are worth breaking.
I’m starting a little series on habits that have the potential to change your life for the better.
I’ve put a lot of thought into some of my daily habits at home. Granted, we don’t spend every hour of every day at home. We try to get outside as much as possible. But we do spend a lot of time in and around our home. For us, it is more than just a place to sleep at night.
We host guests, small groups, international students, and sometimes touring bands. Many meals are shared here, as we very, very rarely eat out. My goal is for it to be a safe place. A special haven of rest and comfort.
I want my home to have a lightness to it. I also want it to be fun – not a sterile, cold, clean environment but one that fosters creativity and imagination.
I want community, conversation, and a sense of warmth and togetherness to be what people take away from my home. Not weighted down by unnecessarily junk or clutter.
I want my home to be humble, not centered around a state-of-the-art plasma-screen entertainment center with surround sound, but centered around people and connection.
As a minimalist who also has small children, the following are a few of my daily habits. With time, they have become so ingrained that I no longer have to think about them.
If you haven’t already, taking the time to set up little systems throughout your day is an investment that will reap large dividends later.
Do a Daily Purge
Every day, take a few moments to take stock of things that have crept into your home. This only takes about 5-10 minutes.
- Recycle junk mail.
- Respond to letters.
- Read and recycle magazines and newsletters.
- Recycle any boxes and packaging that have invaded your kitchen counters.
- Clean the fridge exterior of old cards, calendars, and invitations.
If there is anything that isn’t serving an important purpose in your home, consider donating it. There is almost always a small donate pile in my basement. I’ll take it and drop it off as soon as it is large enough to justify a trip to the thrift store / charity.
The more I purge, I find the less I actually have to do. Which is kind of a bummer, since I love the feeling of decluttering so much! The only ongoing items are kids clothes because they are always growing. I tackle their dresser about once per season.
Follow the One In / One Out Rule
This rule is simple and is followed by many a minimalist: don’t buy anything new unless you’re willing to part with something else.
You have a finite amount of space in your home. If you’re home is really cluttered, you might even get rid of 2-3 things every time you buy something new. Then you’ll eventually come out ahead of where you started.
Replacing things that are completely spent and on their way to the garbage or recycling bin is also acceptable, of course. When something gets used so often that it wears out, it’s worthwhile to replace it. I do this with my running shoes. Sometimes I even get the exact same style of shoe. This isn’t about expanding my fashion choices. It is about replacing an item that takes a lot of wear and tear because of the life I live.
And if the old one of whatever it is isn‘t worn out enough to fully replace, why are you replacing it, again? You probably don’t need a “spare” crockpot just because this one is on sale. Wait until the old one is ready to go. One in. One out.
Obey Your Spacial Limitations
We all have built-in spacial limitations in our homes. A minimalist will live within those limitations – and then some.
Just because you have a house doesn’t mean you must fill it to the brim with stuff. Why not live apartment-scale in your house? Or studio-scale in your apartment? Etc, etc.
All your clothes should fit into your closet and dresser – no excuses. No rotating seasons in and out of the basement. (Again, kids get a pass because they’re growing!)
All your jewelry should fit in the jewelry hanger or box.
All your books should fit on your bookshelves and your bookshelves should fit in your space.
Don’t justify owning too much by saying to yourself “I just need a bigger house.” No, you probably don’t need a bigger house as much as you need less stuff.
Besides, it’s just as easy to clutter up a big house as it is a small one. Good habits are what make the difference. Not the square footage of your dwelling.
Have a System for Incoming / Outgoing Items
I have a small table in plain sight near the door. This is where we keep things that are leaving the house. The idea is that we’ll see it when we’re headed out the door and bring it with us.
This works for all kinds of things – things that need returned to the store, finished library books, borrowed items, gifts, etc.
In the same way, I like to take care of incoming items as promptly as possible. Things can pile up so quickly if we let them.
As soon as I get the mail, I don’t delay in sorting bills and recycling envelopes.
As soon as we get home from the grocery store, we put the food away and stow the reusable bags by the door.
I like to unpack my suitcase quickly after coming home from a trip – before I can sit down and have a chance to feel tired…okay, maybe this one isn’t for everyone.
But once everything you own has a home, it isn’t that hard to return things to their proper place. It’s even satisfying in a sense.
Return Things to Their Home
It’s cliché but I’ll say it anyway: It helps to have a place for everything and everything in it’s place.
Putting a system in place is honestly the hardest part. Once a rhythm is established, you probably won’t even need to think about it anymore.
I remember investing some time upfront when we moved into our home finding the right place for every item to live. Now that I’ve done that (and I’ve mostly stopped bringing most new things into the home) it is pretty easy to put things back away.
It may not be glamorous or exciting, but this is one of the biggest keys to giving your home a “minimal” feel.
Stuff isn’t out because it has a home. Toys aren’t strewn everywhere because they have a place – unless they’re the two or three my son has chosen to carry around with him all day.
Yes, kids can learn this habit too! The boys’ room is (mostly) clean because they get things out when they’re playing, and clean it up when it’s time to move onto the next thing. It’s what we do when we’re playing at a children’s museum or a friends house, so why shouldn’t they do it in their own home?
The system in their room is pretty easy to maintain – just crates on a shelf that are (sort of) organized into sets. Kids like order too, and get equally annoyed when they can’t find a certain toy!
In addition, young children really tend to really latch onto habits and routines. Starting a habit of cleaning up before moving onto the next thing might not be as difficult as you think.
The Nightly Tidy-Up
Every night after dinner, we hand wash our dishes (I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to start doing their own dishes!) Then I wipe down the counters, Josh will sweep the floor, and we’ll start the dishwasher if it’s full from the day. The kitchen is closed and tidy.
After the kids are in bed, I’ll return any stray library books to the book crate, and fluff the couch cushions so Josh and I can enjoy the living room kid-free. It’s a special ritual that winds me down at the end of the day. There honestly isn’t much to clean up in here, since books are the only “toy” that is stored in the living room.
Here are some more of my minimalist cleaning schedule ideas, if you’re going for that effortlessly clean look in your home.
What kinds of habits do you do on a regular basis that bring order and simplicity to your home? Do you have any decluttering tricks that I should know about?