I tried a concept called the “habit loop,” which is described in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,
the best-selling book by Charles Duhigg. The habit loop consists of three steps: cue, routine and reward. The cue
is a reminder that initiates the new behavior. The routine
is the behavior itself. The reward
is the benefit you get from implementing the new behavior.
Duhigg says that during the first two weeks of developing a new habit, it’s important to give yourself a treat that you really enjoy right after you complete the new behavior. This will teach your brain to enjoy the new routine. While I’m a professional organizer and really do enjoy decluttering and organizing, I also have an extremely busy life and like to do a lot of other things besides organizing my house. Using the habit loop really helped me get into daily, automatic tidying habits. Perhaps this approach could offer a fresh, effective way for you too to conquer clutter in your home. Here’s how I use it.Tackle Your Own Spaces First
If you want to form new no-clutter habits, it’s usually easiest to begin by dealing with your own possessions in spaces you don’t share with all family members. Personally, I live with some wonderful but messy people, so if you’re in the same situation,
I recommend you start with your bedroom and bathroom.
Duhigg says there’s no precise time frame for how long it takes to form a new habit, but other researchers report it takes 21 to 66 days or even longer. Personally, I needed 21 to 45 days of the habit loop to form a new habit, depending on what the routine was. After that, the behavior became automatic.1. Make your bed.
No matter how messy the bedroom is, a made bed
makes it neater. To create a cue for making the bed, pick something you do without fail every day, such as turning off your alarm. It’s best to do the new behavior as soon as possible after the reminder. (I sometimes get distracted if I don’t make my bed right after my cue, and then the bed might remain unmade all day.)
After you make the bed — or, for that matter, after you do any new task you’re trying to make habitual — be sure to reward yourself. Your reward can be as simple as a silent “Good job!” you tell yourself or as ritualistic as brewing your morning cup of coffee and then enjoying sipping it. Just remember to give yourself a compliment or perk for working toward your tidy-house goal.