What if You Can Change Your Habits?
I am not a naturally clean person. My relationship with cleaning is tumultuous. The problem isn’t that I am so chill and relaxed that a little clutter doesn’t bother me. The problem is that I actually like things to be tidy, and struggle to make it happen. It’s like Felix and Oscar are both trapped inside me. My Oscar side will just pile clothes in the corner and leave sticky residue on the counters until one day, in fit of spastic rage (usually before my in-laws visit), my inner Felix will yell, “I can’t take it any more! We can’t live like this!” and run around swiffering like a maniac.
It’s a stressful and unpleasant pattern. For a long time, I resigned myself to the fact that some people are clean and others aren’t, and I am in the unfortunate latter group.
Then I read Charles Duhigg’s book the Power of Habit, and shortly after that Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before, and realized that it is in fact possible to change your habits. It’s not just a, “well some people are better at life but at least I’m creative” situation. Sure, we are all different and some things come more naturally than others; but that doesn’t mean we are determined by our wiring.
It is possible to alter your habits so that you can form healthier patterns in your day-to-day life. Real change is possible; it just takes time and attention. What a revelation!
So before my son Max was born, Joseph and I decided to form the habit of cleaning the kitchen before we went to bed. At the time we didn’t have a dishwasher, and it was easy leave the sink full of grimy dishes before calling it a night. We kept count of how many days in a row we could keep it going on a chalkboard on the wall; if we skipped a night, we’d have to start over. We made the rule that we weren’t allowed to sit down until dishes were put away and counters were wiped down.
We did this for 60 days straight. Then we started realizing we weren’t marking it on the chalkboard anymore, we were just doing it! It had become a habit!
Fast forward two years and two babies later. Now we clean the entire downstairs before bed. Is our house clean all the time? Heck no! Are you kidding me, we live in the land of jam-hands. But at least even if it gets totally destroyed all day long (which it does), we can relax in a clean house at the end of the night and enjoy a fresh start each morning.
Our house is probably never going to be consistently sparkly, and I’m not sure when the last time I vacuumed our bedroom was; but it’s a whole lot better than it used to be. It’s refreshing to know I don’t have to be stuck in my habits. I can change them.
for more on habit formation click here!
Photo by Kaitlyn Huff