Since January I have been working with my family on having a clear dining room table and kitchen counter. We went through the usual steps of organizing these spaces: purging the trash, finding alternate places for papers (like bills and kids’ artwork) to live, and even moving our dining table so that it is not the first surface we encounter when coming through the door.
All of these steps have lessoned the amount of stuff piling up on the tables and counters but we have not reached the Holy Grail. Why not?
Habits are hard to change overnight. Life gets busy and we don’t always have the two minutes to put things in their appropriate homes right away (especially when you are chasing after a four and two year old).
In his book, “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg discusses writing a plan for each new habit that includes a cue, routine, and reward. We know that the reward is having a clear dining room table and kitchen counter. So my husband and I recently agreed upon the following new cues and routines to ebb the flow of paper:
• On Sunday night, we will remove the Sunday newspaper from the table and put it in its designated spot on the bookshelf.
• Before going to bed, all school papers and artwork need to be moved to the school/art tray.
• Anytime between Friday and Sunday night, I have to go through the school papers/artwork tray recycling what I don’t need and filing away the “keepers.”
• If we find ourselves leaving paper next to our spots as visual reminders to do something, we will put the task on our to-do list and store the document in our individual folders located just off the dining room table.
By going that extra step to write out our family’s new habits, we created specific cues and routines for insuring that the paper moves off the table/counter so that we can achieve the Holy Grail. “Getting organized” is more than throwing out stuff and buying new containers or systems. It is about changing our habits so that we achieve a clutter free and peaceful environment.
Achieving the Holy Grail Series:
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