Objectively, we know that having a daily cleaning habit is a good idea, but where to begin? How do you transition from your natural lifestyle to someone that leaves a spotless house behind them without thinking? The trick is habituation.
People who have clean houses clean without thinking. They clean as a habit, and build cleaning into other basic physical tasks. People with extremely clean houses may clean instead of pacing when they need to think, or like to square-off everything instead of tapping a pen. In fact, even naturally messy people can use the power of habit to build a rock-solid cleaning routine. Who doesn’t like to wake up in the morning and realise they left the house spotless the night before?
It’s possible, if you know how to trick yourself into cleaning by habit. Here’s what we know:
Elements of a Habit
- Initiating the task without planning
- Performing the task while paying attention to other things
- Doing the task without realising
1. Square One: Teach Yourself to Clean
Let’s face it: most of us didn’t learn how to clean that thoroughly as children. Sure, we can pick up clutter and wipe a countertop – but all those baking-soda best practices? Hardly. So start by teaching yourself to clean all the stuff in your house. Pick one or two cleaning tasks per weekend, open up Youtube guides, and actually learn each cleaning task. This can be unexpectedly fun, and your house gets a progressive deep-clean weekend-by-weekend.
Once you know the method, it’ll be easier to teach your muscles to do it while you think about other stuff – which is a big part of building a daily habit. You’ll probably develop two different methods – your daily-maintenance style and your deep-cleaning style for weekends and spring cleaning days.
2. Listen While You Clean
Start listening to interesting audio while you clean. Get your mind paying attention to a talk show or audio book while your hands do the work. This is the first step to learning to think while you clean. Like taking a walk, cleaning gives your body something to do and makes it easier to spin your mental gears. So pick a cool podcast or put on a television show that you don’t have to look at. For brief cleaning sessions, rock out to lyric-heavy music.
Once your hands and your brain are disconnected, you are fast-tracking that habitual muscle-memory that will turn cleaning into a habit.
3. Replace an Existing Habit
Making and breaking habits are closely linked. The best way to break a habit is to replace it. This is also a great way to introduce a new habit. Do you tend to pace or snap or chew your hair when nervous? Start grabbing a sponge or a broom instead. Tend to wander into the kitchen for a snack while studying? Turn that desire to walk away from your desk into a single cleaning task instead of a snack, then refocus back on work.
Pick little habits that don’t matter or you’d like to get rid of and replace them with cleaning tasks. You’ll start cleaning mindlessly instead of tapping, pacing, or any from dozens of common meaningless habits.
4. Delay Rewards
It can be tough to motivate yourself to clean, so provide a little incentive. Build your cleaning routine out of very small delays in what you want. Don’t let yourself settle in for streamed TV until your bed is made and your desk is tidy. Always pick up floor-laundry and hang up towels before your shower.
A full kitchen-maintenance routine might look like this:
- Clean the kitchen before starting to cook
- Stove and counters eat-off-it clean
- Cook a Meal
- Stack pans to soak before serving plates
- Wipe counters and stove quickly
- Sit and Eat with housemates
- Clean up and load dishwasher before dessert
- Detail stove, counters, and sink
- Load and start the dishwasher
- Enjoy Tasty Desert
Do this for all sorts of daily tasks and things you like. Pair it with the space, like making the bed before lying on it. The neat part about this is after a few weeks of practice, you’ll start to do the cleaning tasks as soon as you start looking forward to the meal, show, game, shower, or whatever.
5. Do the Same Things Every Day
Finally, if you want to build a daily routine you need to practice daily. Start with each cleaning task you teach yourself or take a weekend to perfect. Then build those tasks into your everyday routine in any way you can. The more things you can teach yourself to do everyday, without thinking, the more of your daily cleaning routine will happen while you think about/watch/listen to other stuff.
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