Tag Archives: habits

My Habit of Cleaning for 5 Minutes Every Day

29 Apr

IMG_4035Like I mentioned in my last post, I stumbled across a book at the library called “Better than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits” by Gretchen Rubin. I grabbed it because building better habits has been a desire of mine for a while, and the book delivered!

The three main nuggets I took away from the book were:

1. It’s easiest to create a new habit by tacking it onto an already-existing habit.

The author, Gretchen Rubin, used existing habits in her own life (brushing her teeth at night, eating breakfast, going to work) as cues for the new habits she was trying to adopt. Her goal was always to get to the point where she could do the habit without thinking–because that’s the definition of a habit. You want it to become so routine that you don’t even think twice about whether or not you do it; instead, you do it because x comes after y all the time.

2. The habit of the habit is more important than the habit itself.

Because the goal is for your habit to become something you do without even thinking, there can be no excuses for not doing it. No “Well I had a late night” or “I’ll do it tomorrow” or my favorite (and most often-used) “I just don’t feel like it right now.” The new habit you’re trying to create might be doing a particular something once a week, or three times a week, or every day, but whatever interval you decide said activity should be done, you must keep to that interval. Even if you’re phoning it in, a half-hearted effort is better for habit-keeping than no effort at all.

However, Rubin recognizes that there are days or weeks when your habit might not be appealing/practical or you’re out of your usual routine (like if your habit is exercise but you have the flu or are on vacation). In those instances, she says (1) Anything is better than nothing. If you’re sick and can’t work out, at least do something fitness-related during the time you would’ve spend working out so that you’re not completely getting off course. (2) If you’re going to be out of your usual routine, it would be better to decide ahead of time that you’re going to take a break from your habits, than to half-heartedly attempt to keep your habits up, only to fail miserably. Think about anytime you tried to bring homework on vacation. Did it ever get touched? I’m guessing no.

3. You have to create habits that fit with your personality.

This is the one aspect of creating and keeping habits that has always tripped me up. One area I’ve frequently tried to get better at is cleaning my house on a regular basis. Every so often, I would be inspired by someone who loved cleaning to adopt their overly ambitious Monthly Cleaning Schedule–or to at least create one of my own that was a little more manageable for my I Hate Cleaning personality.

Everything would go well for about a week. My house would be clean, I’d be motivated, and things were looking up. Then that second week, without fail, I’d give up on that plan whenever Bathroom day came along. (I really dislike cleaning bathrooms.)

Was I just doomed to the monthly cycle of letting my house get filthy and then binge cleaning? Was I just a person incapable of establishing any semblance of routine?

Rubin’s book helped me realize that I am a spontaneous person and almost all of my (non-parenting) decisions each day are based on “What I Feel Like Doing.” So then, if I wanted to establish a habit of cleaning my house, I had to devise a habit that would incorporate my spontaneity, instead of work against it.


Which leads me to:

My Habit of Cleaning for 5 Minutes Every Day

After reading Rubin’s book, I decided to make my goal stupid easy, because if I made it harder, it would never get off the ground with my habit-resistant personality. So my habit would be FIVE minutes of cleaning ANYTHING I felt like cleaning. No schedule, no rules, other than I had to clean for five minutes, every single day.

Out of that decision evolved our current morning routine. We had been in a funk where I’d let the girls watch iPad/phone while I drank a cup of coffee when we got up, but starting the day out on that slothful note gave our whole day a slothful feel. As I started to clean for five minutes in the morning, I realized that my cleaning time would be a great time for the girls to watch iPad/phone, so I started having them eat breakfast and get dressed first thing in the morning. They were more motivated for those things because of the reward of technology afterward, and we started our day out on the right foot.

While the girls were watching shows, I’d unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher, load the dirty breakfast dishes, wipe down the counters, and clean for five minutes. I always set a timer. Some days, I don’t feel like cleaning so I choose something super easy (like wiping down the toaster or our stainless steel garbage can), set the timer for 5 minutes, and am down the moment that buzzer goes off. Other days, I work until the buzzer goes off, and then finish the task I’m on. On the rare days I feel motivated or Hubs is watching the kids, I spend 15-45 minutes cleaning (like mopping the floors–can’t do that in five minutes). But I am happy to say that most cleaning chores can be accomplished in 5-10 minutes, even if it means breaking them down into smaller parts (for example, cleaning the bathroom sink and toilet one day, cleaning the tub the next).

The result of this has been two-fold:

My house is cleaner on a more regular basis.

Is everything clean all the time? Nope. But it’s cleaner than it was before AND cleaning no longer stresses me out. Best part? I don’t dread cleaning bathrooms anymore! Because I know that when that 5-minute timer goes off, I can be done cleaning if I want–no guilt.

My daily routine has taken shape.

For a loooong time, I have wanted a more consistent daily routine but was at a complete loss for how to create one that would allow for my spontaneous personality. As I started being consistent with this simple morning routine, I had insight and felt empowered to be more consistent with the rest of our day. I limit the girls’ technology time more, I don’t squander time on Facebook or Instagram as much, and I’m no longer trying to clean during naptime or while the girls are destroying things in another part of the house (seriously, iPad/phone time is the only thing that will immobilize them).

Since my personality is still powered a lot by what I “feel like doing,” I haven’t been 100% consistent with this routine. BUT regardless if I skip a day, I just get back on it the next day, or I find five minutes later in my day to clean. Remember, “the habit of the habit is more important than the habit itself!”

Do I think this routine would work for anyone? Yes and no.

Yes, I think that it’s simple enough anyone could put it into practice. I’m guessing that most people eat breakfast, and probably have an extra 5 minutes to clean something quickly.

No, this isn’t the only way to establish a habit of cleaning more consistently, or of starting your day out. Routines and habits are as plentiful as people, and as I learned reading Rubin’s book, you have to make sure your habits suit you, your personality, and your lifestyle in order for them to last the test of time.

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