Achieving the Holy Grail Series: Creating Family Habits

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:

A New Year Challenge! Achieving the Holy Grail: Keeping My Dining & Kitchen Table Clear in 2016

Achieving the Holy Grail Part 2: Figuring it out… What is Covering my Counter and WHY?

Achieving the Holy Grail: Managing the Paperwork Trifecta – Living Peace Tuesday Tip

Achieving the Holy Grail Part 3: Finding Homes for the Homeless Clutter Living on my Counters

Achieving the Holy Grail Series: The Missed Step – Living Peace Tuesday Tip


Image used under licence agreement: (c) Andrei Shumskiy /Stockfresh

About Gabriela Burgman

Gabriela's mission is to empower her clients with the tools and motivation they need to get and stay organized. Prior to becoming a Professional Organizer, Gabriela worked in a photograph archive as well as several university archives, assisting offices, administrators, and retiring academics to sort through their files for preservation or disposal. She became a professional organizer in 2007 working as an independent consultant before joining Living Peace. When Gabriela is not learning new ways to organize photos or paper both physically and electronically, she is spending time on what matters most to her: visiting with family and friends, reading a good mystery book, or cooking a tasty meal.

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