Keeping a clutter-free home takes a change of habits, a lifestyle shift and anytime we make habit changes, it takes time to establish those changes. There are steps we can take to reinforce them and make them more concrete in our lives, and one of those reinforcement techniques is reward.
First when changing habits, you can’t just give yourself a new habit. You have to replace an old one. After reading The Power Of Habit, I had a much better grasp on how to actually accomplish that.
To change, one has to recognize the “cue, routine & reward”: for example, when you want to make doing dishes a regular habit you have to look at what you are currently doing. The cue would be “finish eating”, the routine is to take the plate into the kitchen and the reward may be avoiding the work of doing the dishes.
So when you decide to implement clean dishes, you have to give yourself a reward that trumps “not having to do the dishes”.
You really will have more free time when the dishes are done, because you won’t be spending mental energy avoiding the dishes.
Now, you can reward your dish-washing efforts with chocolate or dessert, which, to be honest, for me, would be very effective. My body would start to crave that regular dose of sugar, so I would excitedly do the dishes after every meal! But that wouldn’t be a very health option for me, would it?
Treat yourself in a way that reinforces the clutter free routines you want to keep without adding to your waistline or stressing your family budget. These rewards will stimulate the dopamine center of your brain <source> through the excitement of a new purchase and pleasant feelings of “spoiling” yourself, which will help you cement those decluttering and cleaning routines as habits.
Possible Cleaning Rewards:
- Setting out a clean dish towel and cloth each night, (or investing in a high quality set from Norwex so you only need 3 towels & 3 dishcloths total for your kitchen). It’s so fulfilling to finish the dishes and have a pretty fresh towel hanging near the sink.
- Upgrading your pots and pans so they are a joy to use. This is not purchasing new ones and keeping the old ones “just in case”, this is replacing low quality with high quality equipment that functions better for you and is easier to clean.
- New bedding to replace past fads after decluttering the kids’ toys. Letting the kids pick out a new sheet set and bedspread can be a great incentive to getting rid of more things. In fact, many kids are up for an experiment of seriously limiting the toys, especially if there is a reward to look forward to. To avoid buying into fads that children will outgrow in a year, have them pick out their favorite color or give them a choice of a couple designs you know will last for the at least the next 5 years (generally, this means avoiding charactor sets).
- Big fluffy towels for the bathroom after you junk your medicine cabinet. How long has it been since you spoiled yourself with nice towels? If you’re like me, the towels that we got as a wedding gift 14 years ago, just aren’t that nice anymore and certainly didn’t match the decor. Getting a matching towel and shower curtain set made the bathroom so much more enjoyable to be in and maintain.
- Time to yourself. How often do you go, go, go! and not take time to sit and enjoy things without guilt? Giving yourself 5-10 minutes of downtime where you can do whatever you want without guilt. This might be enjoying a cup of coffee, glass of wine, or just letting yourself scroll through Facebook knowing that you earned a break.