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Monday, 18 February 2008

A Little Bit Every Day

One of the interesting things I learned from my excrutiatingly tidy/clean/houseproud mother is that all it takes is a little bit a day.

Instead of doing the laundry once a week (there is only two of them) they put their dirty clothes in the washing machine when they get ready for bed and then run the washer while they are asleep. Next morning mum hangs out the washing first thing and then folds it and puts it away in the afternoon. There is no huge pile of washing that requires several loads on the weekend and then the interminable pile of folding.

She also has the same approach to the kitchen and the bathroom. After every meal, the dishes are done and the sink/benches/stove top wiped down and everything put away. After using the bathroom the shower is given a quick spray and wipe down and the basin is cleaned. Things just don't have a chance to get dirty.

I have been applying the kitchen principle since I got home and will progress to the bathroom and laundry soon. It does make it easier to keep on top of things this way (it also prevents late night snacking because you don't want to mess up the clean kitchen and have to clean everything again!).

This approach also works with fitness. I have always preferred to exercise for a shorter amount of time every day, rather than have longer sessions 3 or 4 times a week. Every morning when the alarm goes off, I get up and workout. No thought, no choice, automatic pilot.

The benefit is that by doing something every day you develop a habit very quickly - it takes just 21 days -
Did you know it takes 21 Days to Make or Break a Habit? -

Dr Maxwell Maltz wrote the bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics. Originally a Plastic Surgeon, Maltz noticed that it took 21 days for amputees to cease feeling phantom sensations in the amputated limb. From further observations he found it took 21 days to create a new habit. Since then the '21 Day Habit Theory' has become an accepted part of self-help programs.

Brain circuits take engrams (memory traces), and produce neuroconnections and neuropathways only if they are bombarded for 21 days in a row. This means that our brain does not accept ‘new’ data for a change of habit unless it is repeated each day for 21 days (without missing a day).

Imagine that all you need to do is spend the next three weeks consciously choosing to do a good thing and then after that it will be physically imprinted on your brain as a habit. You will move from "doing" the behaviour to "being" a person who has the behaviour ingrained into part of your brain in a mere 21 days.

Think about the possibilities - drinking your water (start with drinking a large glass water when you get up, when you eat and before you go to bed and you'll be well on your way to getting 8 cups a day), stretching, meditating, writing, cleaning, anything can become a habit. It is even easier if you associate with something you do already (like the water with eating example).

Try it with bad habits too. If you always need something sweet after dinner, stop having dessert or that piece of chocolate for just 21 days. You could replace dessert with something positive (situps, taking a bath or cleaning the makeup off your face) and you get two for one! Bad habit gone, good habit replacing it.

To keep you on track you could start a goal chart like Zanna does or check out these free web based programs:

Joe's Goals (only shows a week at a time but has reports and a blog link)

or What's Your Habit (for a month view).

Start today and by 10th March you will have created something great and automatic in your life!


  1. i do the dishes every day and always make sure the bathroom and kitchen are clean but i am sorry, doing a load of washing every day is water wasting! at least wait til there is a full load!!! maybe don't go to the extreme of waiting til you have 3 loads to do, but do one load a FULL one. water is precious. x

  2. Our (and mum's) washing machine is electronic and only puts in enough water to cover the clothes that are in the machine. And besides with workout clothes, work clothes, Mr K's uniform, relaxing clothes, teatowels and towels, there is at least 1/2 a load.
    Of course water wasting is BAD!!

  3. Don't talk to me about cleaning up all the time! HUMPH!!!
    New habits... hmmmm wonder what I can do, any ideas babe?

  4. I have done the middle of the night washing thing for years and years. I am always up at least once in the middle of the night - and switch loads then. There are 5 of us - full loads are never a problem - and as you point out - it is easy to adjust the water level to any range needed.

  5. OMG as I was reading your post, my sister walked into my room and said she needed to start washing more often instead of letting a huge pile of clothes build up - how freaky is that!

    Can you come around and teach your mum's method of cleaning to my housemates?

  6. My parents are the same, they wash everyday and always wash up after a meal. I've started in the past year to doing the washing daily but with 2 kids I have a full wash and I try and make sure the dishwasher is unpacked every morning so that dishes can get put in there throughout the course of the day. My house still looks like a bombs hit it but I guess every little bit helps.