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The secret: why little routines make life easier
“Be a little neater” – this is a resolution made by many people. A study by the Zurich-based research center Sotomo in 2017 revealed that one in three people in Switzerland suffers from everyday stress – and around 52 percent of respondents claimed that housework was one of the biggest stress factors. The problem is that the more stressed we feel, the lower our life satisfaction.
Precisely to prevent this feeling of dissatisfaction and to make sure that tidying our home doesn’t become an exhausting feat, tidiness coach and home stylist Dagmar Schäfer from Wallisellen recommends setting up daily habits, i.e. small routines that guide us through our daily lives: “By adopting regular routines and habits, the clutter will never get out of control again”, explains the expert. “Your home will be permanently tidy and always presentable for visitors – putting an end to the stress of tidying up.”
1. Make your bed right away each morning and air the room
A freshly made bed with a bedspread and nicely arranged pillows – what could be cozier? But it doesn’t just look inviting: according to a US study in 2017, researchers found that people who make their beds in the morning are happier and more successful. A survey by the National Sleep Foundation also shows that we fall asleep more easily in a made bed.
While you are shaking out the pillows and covers and folding them carefully, you can open the windows and air the room thoroughly: “Regular ventilation is about more than just renewing the air – it gives the occupants more energy and creates a pleasant feeling in the room,” explains tidiness coach Dagmar Schäfer.
2. Introduce “if-then” habits
The following principle applies: “If you break down household chores into smaller tasks, the household stress won’t get to you.” “If-then plan” is a term that has appeared more and more often in recent years in psychology guides and therapist interviews in connection with overcoming inner weakness. Establishing new habits is most successful if you set yourself little “if-then” rules.
Here are three examples:
- If I’m waiting for the pasta water to boil, then I wipe down the countertops in the kitchen.
- If I’m walking through my home, then in passing I automatically pick up anything that hasn’t been put away properly.
- If I’m leaving the house, then I always take the trash out with me.
3. Always have resources at hand
Be it a shower, a bathtub, a washbasin or a sink, it’s best to dry everything immediately after use with a cloth that’s kept close by. This only takes a few seconds, looks cleaner right away, and also prevents annoying lime deposits, bacteria and mold from building up in the grout lines: say farewell to major cleaning sessions with aggressive products and brushes.
“These are very useful routines that can easily be integrated into everyday life,” the tidiness specialist says. “If you always have a cloth at the ready, even the laziest family members will soon become accustomed to using it – and everyone can help to keep things looking clean.”
4. Use machines as tidying wonders
Whether it’s a dishwasher or a washing machine – both inventions make everyday life easier and are real tidying wonders. The most important thing is to always use them immediately. “If you put your machine on regularly as soon as a pile of dirty laundry has formed, you will prevent large mountains of dirty laundry from building up,” advises the tidiness expert. What’s more, you should put clothes back in the closet as soon as they are dry. “Who likes living out of laundry baskets standing around all over the place?”
The same applies to the dishwasher: are dirty pans and plates from lunch piling up in the kitchen? “Always empty the machine right away,” Schäfer says. “Then not only will you always have clean dishes in the cupboards, but you can stack dirty dishes right back in the machine – and the kitchen will always look neat and inviting.”
5. Complete a set household task each day
There are also bigger tasks that take up lots of time and are not much fun. Weekday habits can prevent Saturday or Sunday from turning into a big cleaning day. For example, plan to scrub the toilets on Mondays, make the beds on Tuesdays, iron shirts on Wednesdays, tend to the houseplants on Thursdays, and mop the floors on Fridays. “According to studies, this becomes a routine after one to two months and automatically represents less effort and creates less inner resistance,” the tidiness expert explains.
And give yourself a treat in the process: “Turning your favorite music up loud, listening to an exciting mystery audiobook, or watching your favorite show as you iron can sweeten even the most tedious tasks!” An alternative, she says, is to offer rewards after completing tasks, such as a coffee break, a sweet treat, or watching your favorite daily series in peace and quiet.
6. Carry out the smallest tasks immediately
“If you always complete little tasks right away, you will prevent a growing mountain of tasks from building up, which would otherwise trigger stress and give you a mental block by making you feel overwhelmed,” advises the expert. This includes wiping down the kitchen table after every meal, putting every piece of used crockery or cutlery into the dishwasher immediately, and cleaning work surfaces as you pass by, for example.
“But even paperwork can get to us,” Schäfer says. That’s why she recommends always opening and sorting incoming letters and invoices as soon as they arrive, instead of allowing envelopes to pile up all over the place. Her tip: “Depending on the category, either dispose of it, file it, or put it in a to-do pile.” This way, you will only ever have one pile, which grows in a controlled manner and clearly symbolizes a to-do list. Bills should be paid at once so that you can get them right out of your head – this ensures inner peace.
7. Spend ten minutes clearing up before bedtime
Basically, each item should have its own permanent place, that is to say its own home inside your home. This should be chosen clearly, logically and unambiguously: “You should always keep things of the same category all together in one place – usually where they are needed.” Organization aids such as boxes, baskets and cartons can help keep everything neatly tidied away.
The good news is that once everything has been sorted out and allocated a proper place, ten minutes of tidying up before bedtime works wonders. Schäfer recommends going through your home with an empty basket and collecting up anything that isn’t where it belongs, then putting everything away properly in one go at the end. “This saves us from having to run up and down the stairs three times, for example,” she says. “With this method, daily clutter can be cleared away in no time each evening.”
Conclusion: your home can almost tidy itself
You don’t always have to devote the weekend to having a big clean. “Useful habits and simple daily routines are the key,” says Schäfer. “Once we get used to them, we do things automatically.” So if you integrate daily habits into your everyday routine and become accustomed to them, you’ll be sure to have a presentable home. And not only that: you’ll have less household stress, more time on the weekend for other things, and a home you feel completely comfortable in!