Firm Limits – Why Never and Always May Be Your Friends

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


A few weeks ago, this short article from The Change Blog was a Friday reading, and I’ve been thinking about it on and off ever since. The point of the article was that you might be more successful setting firm, absolute rules for yourself, rather than “trying.”

How can we apply these rules to leading a more decluttered life?

I will ALWAYS put my keys in their proper place when I enter the house.

At the end of each day, I will ALWAYS put the newspaper in the recycling bin.

Each day, I will ALWAYS declutter one item. (Perhaps even, each day immediately after dinner, I will ALWAYS declutter one item.)

Before I check out at the store (any store), I will ALWAYS check my cart to be sure that I am not buying unnecessary, extraneous, or duplicate items.

I will NEVER buy nonconsumable items on impulse, no matter how much of a bargain I think it is.

I will ALWAYS put away the items I get out.

I will NEVER let the potential value of something stop me from decluttering it.

I will NEVER keep something I hate in order to please someone else.

I will NEVER purchase duplicate or triplicates of items I have at home, just in case.

I will ALWAYS consider the environmental impact of my purchases.

What will you ALWAYS or NEVER do? Mine is: I will NEVER start a load of laundry without committing to folding it as soon as it’s dry. Backed up laundry can be a real clutter in the laundry room, and my husband hates it when his clothes are wrinkly.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something you have been undecided about for a while. I sometimes put items aside that I am procrastinating about but after a while I get tired of seeing them in the “maybe” pile and just bite the bullet and get rid of them. These are often the kinds of things I sell on ebay. Selling them makes me feel better about my decision.

Today’s Declutter Item

Here are some procrastination items I finally decided to send to the thrift store last week. Actually I send two of them to the thrift store some months ago but I thought the last four might come in useful in my guest room when we had visitors. In reality the chest of drawers in that room are all but empty anyway so if visitors wish to unpack items from their luggage they can pack them into there. The last four of these have just been wasting space in the garage.

More Storage Solutions

Something to be grateful for today

A good report at my six week post-op doctors check up today. Two more weeks and life can return to normal for me. Yay!

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Cindy, what a fantastic and thought-provoking post, I cannot wait to read what other commentators will add to it. I just love your NEVER.

    Mine is: I will ALWAYS unload dishwasher before I do anything else in the kitchen in the morning.

  2. Mine will be “I will ALWAYS take the last load of clothes out of the dryer, fold it and put it away. I am really bad about leaving the last load in there until “later”. Sometimes, later is three days and then I have to almost rewash them if they are shirts since the wrinkles just will not come out. Boo on me!

  3. Something I have introduced a month ago, and it is working so well, I am thrilled is “Everynight, when I brush my teeth in the bathroom, I will ALWAYS clean the sink” (with new found joy of microfibre cloths, thank you Colleen) and every other night do one other thing: e.g. wipe mirror/sweep floor/wipe skirting board etc. Every Friday I clean the toilet.
    It’s working a treat and the bathroom feels so much cleaner and it takes 2 minutes a night 🙂

  4. Hum! I’m going to have to think on this one awhile. I can’t think of anything right off hand. I’m pretty routine driven due to the way I was raised.

  5. What a great post Cindy, I am jealous I didn’t write it. It is so simple but sends a very plain message that fits well with the one thing a day method and sounds so doable to change bad habits. One could add a new always/never pledge each week or so until they become a more organised and efficient person. It is possible to change bad habits simply by swapping them for and practicing good ones and changing your mindset.

  6. I just had to add a little quote from Yoda, “Do or Do Not, There Is No Try!”

    I think this post brings out a good point. If you make the decision once and stick to it, you don’t have to keep thinking about what you are going to do in the future. This can work for shopping, eating, never drinking alcohol or smoking, or things in regard to relationships, too.

    I think instead of thinking of one particular thing to do, I will just use the motto, “Do it NOW!” That will eliminate a lot of mess and clutter. If we always put things away or wash after we use, or fold right away, it makes it easier to stay caught up then catch up.

    • Ah Yoda. We just watched all the original Star Wars movies again in July.

      It’s amazing how easily things are taken care of one item at a time and quickly they can build up if left scattered about. Good choice.

  7. I ALWAYS make my bed in the mornings. I live with six cats and a dog who like to jump on my bed for a nice nap. I don’t mind it as long as the bed is made. That way any fur/dirt/litter they track onto the bed is on TOP of the comforter and not on my fitted sheet.

    • That motivates my husband to make the bed too, although it’s just one cat who lounges on it. Seven is a lot of animals!

      • We actually have 8. We have an outside dog as well. It wasn’t intentional animal “hoarding”. We’re just suckers for strays and runts. Thankfully the house is large so there is plenty of space for the cats (who are all strictly indoor). But we are at our max capacity for pets.

  8. Great news on your checkup Colleen. Good health is a wonderful thing we take for granted until it disappears.
    Thanks Cindy for todays post I needed it.

  9. Happy you had great news about your health Colleen! As for always and never they are good but get difficult on the day to day life…

  10. Agh I think I live my life by Always and Nevers! hahaha Ok, I’m not that OCD, but still

    I do hate duplicates (mum bought me another HUGE bottle of facewash as it was on sale – no thank-you (but of course I took it) and I bought a replacement toothpaste cause my brand was on a clearance shelf for 99c!)

    Perhaps I should consider what I want to start ALWAYS and NEVER doing (as a change for the better) rather than patting myself on the back? I’d like to say I’ll ALWAYS wash up daily but it seems like a waste with one cereal bowl and a leftovers container or two… hrmmm will ponder this some more

    • Snosie – I buy duplicates of things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and other items that we move through steadily, especially the items that all four of us use daily or near daily. I don’t want to make any panicked trips to the store. Things that are used less than daily or are only used by one person (i.e., my hand lotion), I buy in singles as they run out.

  11. I ALWAYS want to remember that I NEVER was truly happy with having more stuff.

  12. I just had that experience of feeling overwhelmed by clutter at a friend’s house.
    As we’re not living in a new-and-shiny apartment but still have a lot of mis-matched furniture and a few rather old items which belonged to grandma before (we’re in our mid-twenties and still on our way to a “proper household”) as well as many many plants, our home doesn’t really feel spotless (even if it is). I have to admit though, I’m not all for white and shiny surfaces, so I kind of like it our colourful way. However we were at a friend’s home this week and that was the opposite: nice new walls and furniture, all rather neutral colours, it was clean as well, but there were so many knick-knacks that it didn’t feel serene at all. Little figurines about everywhere and not a single empty wall. I didn’t feel too well there and my boyfriend felt the same. Being there made me realize how decluttered our home actually is, despite it being smallish.

    • My Grandfather took me to see my Great Aunt’s house years after she had passed. They live in a small town, and he was quite friendly with the new owners. I loved that house and had great memories of being there with my aunt, but when I saw it…ACK! It was loaded to the rafters with “cozy country” decorations like dried flowers, cutsie ducks, cutsie rabbits, plaques with homey sayings. I didn’t know where to look. I couldn’t even see the house. It was kind of awful.

    • ui Sanna! I just experienced the same with a girl I visited recently, it was a very minimalistic, simple white furniture in this really bright beautiful loft. And then DECORATION all over the place. (even one of those weird hippie-drapes on the wall) All I wanted to do was to take a huge bin and clear off the surfaces with one big sweep. and rip off those horrible carpet/drawing/cloth/paintings from the walls.

      I am now so used to my minimal decorated home that every other place with a lot of deco is making me feel uneasy and I find myself fantasizing about decluttering other peoples homes. 😉

  13. I ALWAYS empty my car out completely after every trip, leaving behind only the things that need to be there permanently. It’s clean and uncluttered and I don’t drive myself mad looking for rain coats or receipts, library books or unopened mail….

    • That’s a good one Wendy. I’ve been much, much better about this recently, and it is nice not to have a unnecessary junk cluttering up the car.

  14. Great post Cindy,

    Mine was ‘I ALWAYS procrastinate and I NEVER get ‘it’ done.’

    Now it’s ‘I ALWAYS get it done (rather quickish) and I NEVER procrastinate anymore’.

    I ALWAYS hope to live by this and NEVER slip back to being too busy to be organised!!!!

    Great news that you’re well on your way to being 100% Colleen.

  15. Great one Cindy ! I ALWAYS put my keys in a glass bowl on the hall table as soon as I get home, no matter what else is happening. I have been doing this for about a year now and I never lose them or waste time looking for them. I wish I could say the same for “I will ALWAYS put away the items I get out …in the kitchen”. Maybe this will inspire me! Like Wendy B I ALWAYS empty the car out after every trip too.

  16. Hi Colleen and Cindy,

    Great news, Colleen, and many good thoughts coming your way!

    Cindy, I love this post.

    Mine: I will ALWAYS go through the mail each day as it arrives, so it will NEVER again pile up (and possibly result in unpaid bills).

    • Hi Robin and welcome to 365 Less Things. Thank you for the well wishes I am sure they go a long way to ensuring a quick recovery. I like your pledge. Bills that don’t get paid on time can get costly with late fees and aren’t good for your credit rating so there is more than one reason to stick to this pledge. Good luck.

  17. I will ALWAYS unpack my suitcase as soon as I get home from a trip. Otherwise, it will be in the way for days.

    • This is a BIG one for us. We used to dump everything on the guest room bed and some of it would be there for weeks — or months! Now we have everything unpacked, laundered and put away within a day of coming home. It helps that we got rid of the guest room bed!!! but a little effort and discipline helps.

    • same here! I came home yesterday night from a trip from france and my backpack, sleeping bag, toiletbag and other items are already packed away. I will hang the first round of washing in 5 minutes and then I load the second one.

      No sign from recent travels as I ALWAYS pack away as soon as possible.

      my ALWAYS is the: I will ALWAYS find a home for EVERY item in my household. I will NEVER host homeless items again.

  18. Katherine, I read an article a few years ago that said – Go buy 12 washcloths and keep them in the bathroom for wiping out the sink everyday. I immediately went at lunch time and purchased a dozen for $5 at the local dept store. I keep them in a drawer in the cabinet attached to the sink and everyday use a new one. It is ONLY for wiping out the sink. My marble sink looks great everyday. We put our toothbrushes and paste away in the medicine cabinet every morning and I am the last one in the bathroom so I just clean up any water spots. Hate messy toothpaste tubes and water cups all over the place. The microfiber cloths were not available when I started my regimen but I like the washcloths just as well.

  19. Anita, Love your Always statement. We got back from the beach two weeks ago and I just put away the last of the clothes from the “borrowed” suitcase last night. My son needed his suitcase back so really had to scurry to finish unpacking it. I ALWAYS need to work on this chore and return what I have borrowed in a timely manner

  20. Finally came up with one. I will ALWAYS buy only what I absolutely NEED and then only after thinking about it for several days.

    Colleen, I’m glad you are doing well. One thing my Mom’s doctor told us that most docs don’t think of. Do not spend much time doing things with your arms over you head. It stretches the stomach muscles and can cause your organs to drop. My Mom ended up with having to have her bladder tied up because of this. She painted a ceiling.

    • interesting. my mum cant do something above her head because she gets dizzy. something in her balance system in the ear broke when she had a an accident a couple of years back…

      wouldnt it be good to train the muscles in your stomach in order to prevent that organ dropping? I bet that a well trained body can do everything without strange things happening…

      • Lena, you are probably right about training your abdominal muscles and doing it taking care of this problem.

  21. I have a new commitment to the dreaded task of washing up, where I have the disgusting habit of letting dirty dishes pile up.
    I always wash a dirty dish to use rather than getting out a clean one, then I immediately wash it up with one or two others, after I am finished with it and put it away.
    The washing up miraculously disappears without facing this dreaded task in one go.
    I now just have to use my always rule so the dishes never pile up in the first place. Discipline and common sense!!!!
    The dirty dishes miraculously disappear

    • Good for you Jill. This is like Alcoholics Anonymous where one identifies who they are, admit their vice and pledge to never do it again. I find when I commit to something like this it really makes me think twice whenever the situation arises and I usually, out of sheer determination to win over my weakness, do the right thing.