The In-Out Rule
Pick a small number. Start with 1. Whenever you enter or exit the given room, you need to put one item away. If your room gets very messy or you’re getting the hang of it you can increase your item count to 2 or 3. I recommend sticking to 1 or 2, however, because you want this task to be so simple that there is no reason not to do it. If you increase the amount of items then you will start making excuses not to keep up with the habit.
What if I leave the room and forget to put an item away?
I am quite strict with myself so if I forget to put an item away that gets tacked onto the count. So say, if I forgot once when I left that room and I come back in, I put two items away upon entering. This is another reason why a 3 item count gets crazy because if you forget, you have to put 6 items away and then you may think that you might as well give up entirely.
What about when I run out of items to put away?
Congratulations! Now for your “counts” you can dust one surface or vacuum one part of the room. If you continue being so diligent and nothing has piled up yet then use items on your person as part of your count. For example, if I enter my bedroom and everything is immaculate, I take off my sweater and hang it up properly and that counts as 1. Therefore, this technique also helps you learn to put things away right away.
What if I really need to focus now and the room is too messy for me to concentrate?
Enter the 5 minute dash…
5 Minute Dash
Set a kitchen timer for 5 minutes. You can buy them cheap at the dollar store if you don’t already have one. You can also set a timer on your phone. Put on some boss music. I recommend Beyoncé. Then in those 5 minutes you do nothing but clean. Challenge yourself to get as much put away as possible within those 5 minutes. Once the timer goes off, you stop. Don’t continue because you don’t want to get overwhelmed. This technique allows you to clean without stressing about how much you have to clean or where to put things. You are forced into a situation where you focus on the activity, rather than the outcome. Plus, Beyoncé helps to make this cleaning fun!
I have been practicing these techniques since I was a child (clearly I was not a normal child) and they have really helped me to develop habits of cleanliness. I still struggle, and when I do, I simply increase my item count to 2 or 3. I hope that you benefit from trying out these techniques as well!