Would you define your home as restful, restorative, and tidy?
The environment we are in has a huge impact on our stress levels, how we feel about ourselves, and how we treat those around us.
I don’t know about you, but it truly throws me off when my home feels dirty or cluttered. I can’t think. I can’t relax. And I am more easily upset.
Jeanne Arnold, UCLA professor of anthropology conducted a study in which she found that women were greatly affected by their surroundings. She said “women who characterize their homes as restful, restorative, or tidy had lower stress levels.”
Restful. Restorative. Tidy. Sounds so spa-like and wonderful right? It makes me envision pinterest perfect living rooms full of inviting comfy couches and perfectly plumped pillows, or a glossy magazine featuring a sunlit white kitchen, thoughtfully adorned with a bowl of bright yellow lemons. Not a toy to step on or a dirty dish in sight.
But our homes don’t need to resemble a photo shoot for us to benefit from a peaceful environment. We have control over our homes and we can make new habits to keep it a place that feels calming. Even the simplest habits can make a big difference.
7 Simple Habits for a Tidy, Less Stressful Home
1. Empty sink
An overflowing sink is one of the easiest ways to feel like you have an overwhelming task ahead of you and it will stress you out. Not to mention with all the open floor plans today, the sink will likely be visible from a good portion of the house.
When the sink is empty and gleaming, doesn’t it just make you feel so much lighter?
Make it a goal to have an empty sink at least once every day. I like to wash all the dishes in the afternoon while I listen to my podcasts. You could wash them every evening after dinner and be rewarded with a clean kitchen each morning. Or you could make a habit of cleaning the dishes after each meal.
Whatever it is you think will work best for your family, stick to it. It can mean a huge difference in the feeling of your home.
2. Laundry routine
I talked in detail about my laundry routine here with 18 sanity-saving laundry tips. Whether you adopt some of those tips or not, the important thing is that you find a routine that you can stick to week after week. Like dirty dishes, dirty laundry has a huge impact on the home environment.
And let’s be honest, it doesn’t even have to be dirty laundry. Clean laundry sitting around in baskets, doomed to be rummaged through for all eternity, can be detrimental to the peace of a home.
Find a fun way to get it done. I like to reward myself with TV (the only time I allow myself to watch my favorite shows) when I fold the laundry. It has turned a chore I used to loathe into one of my favorite afternoons of the week… Is that sad?
3. Timed clean up
This little trick is amazing. It helps you conquer that perfection paralysis that says “I don’t have time right now to do it perfectly, so I’m just not going to do it.” Set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and race against the clock to see how much you can get done. By the time the timer goes off you will probably have conquered a good bit of work and that small win may keep you motivated to keep going. Lately I’ve been listening to 30 minute podcasts everyday and I clean the whole time I am listening. This is always enough time to get the dishwasher unloaded, reloaded, and the kitchen table and counters wiped down. Not only is my kitchen clean, but I was entertained while doing it.
Kids also love the timed cleanup. When I need to motivate my kids to clean up their toys, I will reward them if they get so much done before a timer goes off. I will say something like “I’ll take you to the park if you get all the toys from the floor put away before this 10 minute timer goes off.” It really gets my five year old bustling! And when she is doing it, her younger brothers (ages 2 and 1) tend to pitch in more.
To really get a lot done, imagine someone you barely know is popping over for a visit in 20 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how tidy your house feels afterward!
4. Daily De-cluttering
If your home is overwhelming you because you have too much stuff, don’t worry about trying to tackle the house, or even one whole room at a time. Try taking just 3 things out of your home everyday that you don’t need or want any longer.
You could post the items for sale on Craigslist or in a Facebook online garage sale. Or you could keep a box by your entry or in your garage and place 3 things in the box every day. When the box is full, donate it.
As my family and I are embracing minimalism, I am loving our home more and more. The less we own the more peace I feel. If someone had told me that two years ago, I would have thought they were nuts, but it has been so true for me.
5. Touch it once
Put things back where they go when you are finished using them. Also, go through and sort the mail only once- right after bringing it in. When you develop the habit of touching things only once, you will be blessed with clear counters and tables which can make a huge difference in how a room feels.
6. Declare a clutter-free zone
You know how tables, counters, and shelves are magnets for clutter? If your family doesn’t have the touch it once habit down (and we definitely don’t yet), pretty soon all the flat surfaces in the home are covered with knick-knacks, magazines, tissue boxes, crumpled coupons, hair brushes, bobby pins, keys, (and with my toddler around, a collection of half-eaten apples). So to put an end to that, I have declared the living room in our home a clutter-free zone.
No, I don’t stand guard and yell at anyone who puts things in there, all I did was get rid of all the flat surfaces.
Yup. There are no end tables, entertainment centers, shelves, or coffee tables in our living room. It is simply a humble, clutter-free sanctuary adorned with only a floor lamp, comfy couch and a chair. It is great place to sit together and visit, snuggle up and read, or to even steal a little nap. Even if the rest of the house is cluttered, I can gain a respite there.
Sometimes toys find their way in there, but not very frequently. When they do, we just remind our kids the living room is not a toy zone. They clean it up quickly because they know if they are not responsible for their toys, we will donate them. It’s a threat we haven’t had to act on yet, but for sanity’s sake we will if the time ever came. They have plenty of space in their bedrooms to sprawl out and play and we think it’s important for them to learn to respect boundaries and be responsible for their own things.
7. No Spend
When you stop buying things (other than basic necessities) you will not only be able to stop dwindling your finances, but you won’t be cluttering your home with stuff you don’t need.
If it’s on sale and you want to buy it, ask yourself if you would still think you need it at full price.
You could also make a wish list and only allow yourself to purchase something on the wish list if it has been there for so many days. The desire and the expectation of feeling fulfilled by a new item will dwindle with time whether you purchase is or not.
I used to desperately want a cute bookshelf for my children’s room that could double as a place to display toys. We were challenging ourselves to not spend at the time, so I had to wait.
I wanted that bookshelf for 2 months, but by the 3rd month I had found ways to organize the books and toys with simple bins and things we already had.
I love the way the toys are organized now because they can be put away– not constantly being taken out of the shelves and tossed around. Now, I am so glad I did not purchase that bookshelf. No matter how cute it may have been, it just wouldn’t have stayed tidy with little kids.
You could also curb your spending and cluttering with a one in, two out rule. For instance, when you buy one new shirt, donate two. If you aren’t prepared to get rid of two, don’t buy anything new.
How to implement these habits
Please, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to adopt all these habits at once. That would defeat the purpose of having less stress! Pick one that you think will make a big difference in your life and start there.
I personally recommend you start with habits that help you keep on top of laundry and dishes as these tend to pile up the fastest in every home, but when you get that under control, move on to the rest and before you know it, you will be describing your home as restful, restorative, and tidy (most days).
It’s easy to forget to do new habits, so I created a free printable habit tracker that serves as a reminder and motivation. In the left column you write down the daily habits you strive to do, and then every day that you accomplish it, you color in the square for that day.
The habit tracker printable is free for subscribers. Sign up below to gain access to the free printables library:
To learn more about how to incorporate new habits in your life, don’t miss the other posts in this Habits that Last series.
This Post is Part of the Habits that Last Series:
Create a new life for yourself with less stress.
- Habits that Last: Less Mom Stress is Possible (Series Beginning)
- 7 Tips on How to Make New Habits Last (and Change Your Life)
- 4 Steps to Breaking a Bad Habit For Good
- How a Habit Tracker Can Keep You Motivated to Reach Your Goals (Free Printable)
- 5 Stress-Causing Habits No Mom Has Time For (and How to Stop Doing Them)
- Keystone Habits: Transforming Your Life by Changing the Way you Define Yourself
- 7 Simple Habits for a Tidy, Less Stressful Home
- How to Find Time for New, Good Habits (and Finally Reach your Goals)
- How I Changed My Unhealthy Habits as an Overwhelmed Mom (and You Can Too)
- How Busy Moms Create Balance with Weekly and Daily Routines
- A Morning and Evening Routine that Will Change Your Life
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