One Minute Rule

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

As I mentioned back in January, I recently read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s full of rules, suggestions, tips, and research on making yourself, and by extension everyone around you, happier. In the very first month of her year-long undertaking, Ms. Rubin cleans and declutters, and she keeps it up throughout the year – helping out friends when she gets desperate for a tidying fix.

One tip I got from her was the One Minute Rule. I doubt this is something she made up; it sounds like something nearly everyone’s parent said to them as they were growing up in some way or another. Basically: if it only takes a minute to do it, then do it. (A couple variations I can think of are “Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today” and “A stitch in time saves nine.”)

Here at 365lessthings, when we talk about clutter, we usually are referring to items in excess of your needs and desires. But clutter also can be the stuff that you use frequently but fail to put away. It’s always out, it’s where it doesn’t belong, and it creates visual clutter. Plus, anything left out draws other things to it. That’s how black holes develop.

Recently I walked into my bedroom and threw my sweater on the bed. As I turned to leave, the rule popped into my head. I walked back into the bedroom, picked up my sweater, and in far less than a minute, I had hung it where it belonged.  I prevented clutter.  One of them sitting on the bed will surely attract another one, likely my husband’s jacket perhaps or maybe his bags from work.

Here are some common clutter pitfalls that can be avoided with the use of the one-minute rule:

  • Lost keys: They belong on your dresser, desk, in your purse, or hanging from a hook. Same place every time.
  • Sweaters, jackets, and coats thrown on a chair or the floor: Hang up your items in the closet or buy a set of hook for near the door.
  • Needed receipts lost, useless receipts found: If you’re going to keep them, find a home for them and put them there every time, as soon as you get home. (Right after you put your keys away, of course.)
  • A messy bedroom: Make the bed in the morning as soon as you get out of bed. This might take 2 minutes, but it sure makes your bedroom look nicer.
  • A visual mess and possibly smacked heads or knees: Close the cabinet doors behind you. It amazes me that there are people who leave the cabinets open and walk away, but I’ve heard it enough times to know it’s true.
  • Mental clutter: Have a place for your notes and reminders, either on paper or electronically. Remembering that there’s something you have to do and what it is takes as much time and mental energy as doing the thing itself. Write it down and free your mind.

Decluttering and organization expert Peter Walsh gave this wise advice that dovetails nicely: Complete the cycle. “If you use it, put it away. If you dirty it, wash it, etc. When a family thinks this way, there no longer is a trail of clutter left throughout the house.”

If it only takes a minute, do it now, do it right.

Today’s Declutter Item

I am not really a flipflop kinda gal but I continued to wear these because it would have been wasteful not to. Now they are beyond repair and I feel quite justified in throwing them away.

I'm not a flipflop kinda galBroken beyond repair

My Gratitude List

  • Something that made be laugh ~ There is an advertisement on television here for a clothing store called Rivers. The lastest promotion is for women’s shoes and I swear the legs in the ad are hairy and I am not even sure they are a woman’s legs. I find this oddly amusing even though I wouldn’t want anyone to see my legs right now either. 😆
  • Something Awesome ~ Homemade chocolate chip muffins warmed up and served with cream. Yumm!
  • Something to be grateful for ~ The Liam’s motorbike only had an air bubble in the fuel line and decided to start after all. He was not a happy boy when it wouldn’t start.
  • Something that made me happy ~ Even though it would be great to wave a magic wand and have the house clean itself I always feel satisfied with a job well done when I am finished the task. I love a clean house.
  • Something I found fascinating ~ Chemistry, alchemy and the elements and the discovery there of.

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

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  1. Colleen, I see your flip flops are in dreadful shape, but I must tell you – I think they’re super cute, and I bet you looked adorable wearing them (even if your legs are in a questionable state of hairiness).

    • Hi Cindy,
      my husband seems to think my legs are great, he has a habit of not wearing his glasses though. How funny, i just remembered that I was dreaming about having to rush to shave my legs last night because I was going swimming somewhere. That often happens with me, something that happened during to day will manifest itself in my dreams. I actually do need to get a nice pair of good walking sandals (Keens preferably) ones that are cute, light and comfortable for taking on vacation. Keen have one called Emerald City but it is very difficult to find Keens here in the land down under so I may have to buy on-line or maybe a trip to Hawaii would solve the problem, Steve keeps suggesting it for November. 💡 😀

  2. Good to know I’m in good company – I adopt both rules (well in my head if not in reality) about one minute (although mine is 2 minutes because I can write a comment or compose a short email in that time too to get rid of my cluttered internet brain!) and finishing cycles.

    Another ‘rule’ I like is the ‘touch it once’ idea; it’s a good materials handling principle. Something I do a lot is move something that needs to go upstairs out of the lounge onto the stairs, but really I should only touch that item once; in other words, why not just head on up the stairs and put that item away?

    I used to think that it was energy efficient to pile things on the stairs and take them all together, but the reality was they stayed there for days or weeks as the pile grew more and more overwhelming. The beauty of this is that I get fitter too with passive exercise built into my day 😉 (and I don’t have to worry about feeling guilty if someone falls over my pile of stuff on the stairs anymore!)

    • The trouble with the stairs! Does everyone in your household happily walk over whatever you leave on the stairs, even if it’s for the use / benefit of everyone, such as toilet paper or a movie? The people I live with are struck mysteriously blind when they reach the staircase.

      I like your positive attitude that it’s exercise, Mrs, Green.

      • The only rooms upstairs in our house are the master bedroom and the parents retreat. If I leave things on the stairs that belong to my husband they often disappear before I get back to them.

  3. I agree, things that pile up are mostly things that only take a minute. I also make my bed up in the morning, because I rather be lazy in the afternoon, than in the morning 😉

    • I have to confess that in my entire life, I never made my bed until this year. It was a New Year’s resolution my husband and I made together: Last person out of the bed makes it. Lucky for me, 6 days out of 7, it’s him!

  4. My husband used to leave cabinet doors open. He doesn’t anymore. I think part of it was “it’s so messy anyway, it doesn’t matter”. I think I started to leave them open too, because they’d end up open anyway.. Now that everything is relatively tidy all the time, a cabinet door left open sticks out like a sore thumb – and gets closed immediately 😀

    I also stick to the “if it takes less than a minute, just do it now”.

    • I laughed this morning. I came out in the kitchen, and Dan had opened a cabinet door and walked away. I wondered if I drew that to me by writing about it.

  5. I love the one minute rule and like Mrs Green I use it as passive exercise. It is amazing how lazy one can be about putting things away, sometimes. Quite often it takes only a fraction of that one minute to actually achieve this when something has been used and it is counterproductive to just walk away and leave it cluttering up the home. Tidying up a big mess is never necessary if this rule is followed all the time. A place for everything and everything in its place.

    • No matter how easy something is to put away, it’s even easier to leave it out, I guess. Sure seems that way.

  6. Hi Cindy! I am doing the one minute rule without noticing it. I go into my bedroom, when I get home, and put things immediatly away. I started doing it because I was kind of tired of picking up a BIG stack of clothes every single weekend, because by monday it would be all scattered again. So I made a decision: either it goes back to the wardrobe or it goes to the laundry basket. I started nagging my husband to do the same and on seeing the bedroom so clean he started doing it. (I led by example 😀 ). Whenever I leave the kitchen, I have to clean it up, even if it is just giving a quick tidiyng up on the table. It makes a big difference and it only takes five minutes.

    • I trained my husband to stop leaving his clothes on the chair by repeatedly hanging them on the hook inside his closet door. After I’d done this for a week or two, I know he noticed and appreciated it. Then I sweetly asked him if having an additional set of hooks on his door would help him to put things away. (I’d found an extra set while decluttering.) He said yes, we hung it up, and he’s been 100% with putting his clothes away.

      I can’t remember how old your kids are, but beware about telling them to either hang it up or throw it in the laundry basket. If they’re anything like my kids (and most kids), they’ll pick the basket every time.

  7. Guilty as charged. I shall endeavor to change my behavior, your honor.

    Passive exercise: I like that. I’ve begun doing a little standing core exercise while I’m waiting for my espresso maker to do its job on my coffee grounds. I’m investing 30 seconds wisely on my fitness.

    • Hi Willow,
      30 seconds ~ don’t you be overdoing it now my darling. 😆 Actually I may be laughing as I right this but 30 seconds is 30 seconds and better than no seconds at all. Just like decluttering, ten minutes of exercise a day can make a big difference in your life. The beauty is you can combine the two and still only use up ten minutes. Sometimes multitasking is effective.

    • Willow – Not following the 1 minute rule? I wouldn’t have thought that about you! I know you’re on it now, though.

      Good job exercising while your waiting for coffee. I’m sure there are plenty of little extras we could do all day long if we thought about it.

      • If I know I am unlikely to get out for a walk during the day I often make up for it doing doing an extra lap up and down the stairs when I go up there for something just for the exercise. More often though I have to do it twice anyway because I go up there to do something, get sidetracked, come back down then realise I forget to do or get the thing I went up there for. My brain may be fading but I am staying trim and fit. 😆

  8. I’ve definitely been following the 1 minute rule much better since decluttering so much. I hang my clothes up straight away now there is plenty of room and every evening before I go to bed, I clear the sofa seat besides me where the stuff I have been dealing with accumulates through the day (and I am using while on laptop in the evening).

    Our living room is upstairs from the kitchen so it’s easy to take things up and down regularly. I have a ‘nothing on the stairs rule’, as I never fancied breaking my neck:) And as I have lodgers so we all need to keep communal passageways clear.

    My OH and I have a duvet each, as I’m a bit of a thrasher at night, lol, and he’d have no duvet left if we shared. He is a fantastic folder of duvets/towels and clothes so his side of the bed is always precision neat. He folds his up when he gets up and I do mine when I get up later, but it never looks as neat.
    Putting things away doesn’t come naturally to me though but everything having a home does make a difference.

    We’re having glorious weather here in the UK. I’m off out for the day :O)

  9. I think from personal experience, like Katharine says, once the decluttering is done, at least to a certain point, it is so much easier to follow this rule. I’m good at putting things away if it’s easy to do so. If I’m facing one of the bursting-at-the-seams cupboards or closets, though, I’m not nearly as likely to do it.


  1. […] Living this way can be more stressful than making the effort to stay tidy. Cindy’s post ~ One minute rule ~ has some fine examples how spending one minute now can save you countless minutes of […]