“Small changes, over time, can make a big difference.” -Jonathan and Susan Clark
Those of us living on the East Coast have waited a looonnnnggg time for spring to get here. Mother Nature teased us a few times with warm sunny days, only to follow it up a few days later with snow and freezing temperatures. But, I think we can finally, safely say, that spring has arrived.
Spring is a much different experience in Annapolis, Maryland, as compared to where I grew up in Southern California. Seasons are often hard to distinguish there. However, in Annapolis, after a long, hard, winter, spring is nothing short of miraculous. Brilliant colors return to the bleak city and all the plants, bulbs and trees that were dormant all winter come to life again. It’s my favorite season of year.
I can understand why “Spring Cleaning” is such a big thing. After being stuck inside all winter, you really do want to throw open every window and door and make everything inside fresh and new again. It makes me want to spring clean my LIFE! That monumental task is far too overwhelming for me to tackle at once, so I’ve decided to instead take the approach of making small changes, developing a few new habits at a time, and hoping that they will result in big differences. I’m trusting Sandra Felton, author of “Winning the Clutter War,” when she says, “You don’t have to do everything at once. Just determine the direction you want to go, make significant small changes to start, and keep going in that direction.”
Perfectionism is usually my biggest obstacle, so I’ve already decided that if I fail miserably one day, I’ll start fresh the next. That’s what spring is all about, right?
If you are eager to turn over a new leaf in your life, then start by making small changes. These habits are nothing new. In fact, highly organized people already DO all these things naturally. I, however, do not, and have to work at it every step of the way. Maybe you can relate. If so, I hope you’ll join me on this journey. I'll give you one easy habit that you can start implementing right away. I guarantee that committing to small changes in habits will result in very BIG differences in your life.
Small Change #1 - Don't Put It Down, Put It Away.
Christi, a good friend of mine and mom-extraordinaire, told me that her mantra when her husband deploys with the Marines is, “Instead of putting it down, put it away.” Simple and yet brilliant! One of the fastest ways my house spirals out of control is that clutter builds up. Shoes left in the living room, papers stacked on the counter, toys in the kitchen…you know what I mean.
When my own husband deployed, I was surprised to find that my home was far more organized too. I could attribute it to my husband not being around to make messes, but the truth of it was that I couldn’t wait for someone else to clean up for me. There was no one else (besides the three little ones whose only job seemed to be taking out every single toy and leaving them out). If I left something out, it stayed out. If I didn’t do the dishes, they were still there in the morning. It was a total drag, to be honest. It’s so much easier thinking that someone else might come along and do it for you. So, this idea of not just putting things down, but putting things away where they belong was pretty revolutionary. It usually doesn’t take that much more time either. Why not give it a try?
What this new habit looks like: When you get dressed, instead of leaving your clothes on the floor or bed, hang them up or put them where they belong right then. Instead of leaving a dirty dish on the counter, rinse it and put it right in the dishwasher. After unpacking your kid’s backpacks, put their papers and lunch boxes where they belong right away. Why delay the inevitable? Just touch the item once and instead of putting it down, put it away.
If you need a visual reminder for yourself (I usually do!) then you can write the mantra, "DON'T PUT IT DOWN, PUT IT AWAY!" on a sticky note, and put it wherever clutter tends to accumulate most. Post it wherever your “hot spot” is: your bedroom, bathroom, mudroom, kitchen, etc. It's kind of like nagging yourself. But, having a visual cue can really help when trying to establish new habits.
The reward for implementing this small change in your life will be HUGE. No more piles of clothes in your bedroom to contend with at the end of the day, no more stacks of papers on your kitchen counters, and no more clutter left around your house. Can you imagine how great that will feel?
Good luck and stick with it!