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Home Rule

Postponements Lead to Pileups

March 27, 1986|BONNIE McCULLOUGH

Little things can bind you to chaos forever, or free you from a mess. Little motions are subtle actions that cause extra work or free you to do other things.

Habits are so natural that it takes conscious effort to notice and change them. Take note if you make a transition from one activity to another. After soccer practice do you drop the bag of balls in the living room or take a minute to hang them on a hook in the garage? When you get home from the grocery store do you put away all of the groceries? And what about the laundry? Are last week's clean clothes still waiting to be put in drawers?

Each of these postponements increases the number of items out of circulation. And it doesn't take very many things to be out before you are in the mess category.

Do you have little piles here and there? Some people have an inner compulsion to take care of things as soon as possible. Should you come home with an armload of goods and need to set it down to deal with an immediate problem, you will come back and put it away as soon as possible. If that trait isn't found in your nature, it can be developed. Don't work behind yourself. Take care of today's messes now.

Put things away as soon as possible. Pretend each item has a rubber band attached to it and is just waiting to be snapped back into the closet or drawer where it belongs.

It is worth the effort to create the pickup habit. Every time you go in a room, make it just a little bit better. Give each room a five-minute pickup every day. Take a few seconds when you stop or finish a project to gather things together and straighten the work area. Wrap it up.

Take care of little things as you notice they need attention. Let it become second nature, and you'll save yourself a lot of stress.

Acquire the do-it-now habit and the house won't need as much cleaning. For example, when you see crumbs in the silverware drawer, get them out. If you notice a smudge on the wall and you take a second to wipe it, that room is better than it was. This habit will keep what you have cleaned, clean longer. If you put off the job by thinking, "This area needs a good cleaning, but I don't have time right now," and walk away from it, the mess will get progressively worse. When you eventually do take time to clean it, the job will take longer. Little minutes can do miracles.

Look at life in a new way. How can you save work?

I am trying to convert several of my children to the possibility of taking their underwear into the bathroom when they go for a shower instead of wrapping up in the wet towel and taking it to their bedrooms. Why not dry off in the bathroom, dress to modesty and leave the towel where it can dry? The solution is so simple. Is it such a big request?

Look at my side of the issue. We wouldn't need as many towels. Money would be saved on soap, water and heat. That person could easily find his/her towel again for the next time. No drips on carpet all the way to the bedroom. No need to gather damp towels from every room of house. The varnish on the chests would shine rather than ripple from being wet.

I do have a plan, though I know it won't help. I must carry it through. Next week I am going to bake a cherry pie and buy some vanilla ice cream. I know this will get the children's attention since it is the unanimous favorite of everyone here. On Sunday afternoon after our family meeting to correlate the calendar, I will declare: "This is a training session, and anyone who can perform the sequence of activities will be rewarded with a large serving of this wonderful dessert."

This will be a dry drill with clothes on, but no water. As I have thought this strategy through ahead of time, I will prepare a list and run off six copies: Enter bathroom with clean underclothes and robe in hand, take towel off rod and set it near the stall, get in, wash, while standing on drip-rug wipe body and hair, turn around and wipe down shower walls (don't forget soap dish), make sure faucet is not dripping, rehang towel, put on clothes, double-check for any equipment like razor or shampoo used, exit with all personal belongings, but not towel. Would you do that once for a piece of your favorite pie? My children are immune to my tricks. But it will get their attention.

Little actions done at the right time can save work later. Wiping down the shower every time will save hours of scrubbing. It is very difficult to motivate someone else to change; but at least you can improve your own habits.

Before you start an activity, stop to ask yourself: "How can I do this project and end up with the least amount of mess?" If you hate to clean the stove or wash pots and pans, you can learn to cook with care.

Watch your work processes to see if you can save motions. Is the trash basket near the sink as you cook? Can you wash, dry and put away dishes by traveling in one direction or do you have to zigzag back and forth behind the sink?

Whenever you try to initiate a new habit, it takes great effort and concentration but you will glean the rewards every day.

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