A clean home is something most people want, but many find hard to accomplish. Clutter can be so overwhelming that no matter how badly we want to clear out our unused or unwanted things, we feel paralyzed by the mere thought of it!
If this problem sounds familiar to you, rest assured that you’re not the only one struggling. See, the reason most of us fail to clean out our homes, even when we want to, often comes down to willpower.
And specifically the lack of willpower.
The Psychology of Willpower
Willpower is the ability to control oneself and the decision one makes. And research has shown willpower is like a muscle — it gets fatigued after using it over and over again. This is also known as “decision fatigue.”
We have to will ourselves to follow through on the many decisions we make every day, from getting up when the alarm goes off to tackling that work project. By the time we get around to things like decluttering, our willpower is exhausted (because of decision fatigue).
Don’t feel bad. It’s natural to feel this way. And it won’t take much to break out of this pattern.
Pay Attention to False Starts
Adding decluttering to your to-do list can feel great, except when you keep putting it off and never get around to it. At some point, you’ll start to feel guilty. The more guilt we feel, the more pressure we put on ourselves to follow through next time. This increased pressure leads to more resistance, blame, and eventually becomes a downward spiral of non-completion.
This is how false starts can ruin good intentions.
The Truth: We Are All Cognitive Misers
Being a cognitive miser means that we try to use as little mental energy as possible with each decision we face. And that’s not a bad thing.
Instead of trying to fight it, we should embrace it. And since we have a limited amount of cognition and attention each day, we each have an opportunity to make a conscious decision what to spend it on.
How to Solve the Problem (Hint: Use Deliberate Scheduling)
From decision fatigue to false starts and a lack of energy, it might seem impossible to clear out your home. There is a way to get things done, though. Start by taking an 80/20 assessment of where you are spending most of your time and energy.
(The 80/20 Rule is a principle that says 20% of our efforts are responsible for 80% of our results.)
Then combine two factors: Use the “Eat the Frog” principle (which means do the most important thing first) and carry out tasks when you have the most energy (typically first thing in the morning). If you can do these things at the same time, it will make your success that much more likely!
Deliberate scheduling has the power to pull you out of your willpower slump. Look at your schedule and think honestly about how different times of day impact your energy levels and motivation.Then decide to declutter a very small area of your home. It could be a corner of your kitchen, a bookshelf, or a closet. The main thing is to start.