If you’re an avid reader of my blog (thanks!) or you know me well, you know that I have a bit of OCD when it comes to organizing my life. I like to plan things down to the last minute detail, I tend to store certain items only in particular areas, and I want everything to be in perfect order because, well, I think everything should be like me.
But sometimes life can get in the way of my oft-misguided pursuit of perfection, and I thought this week I would try out a technique that would bring me closer to my goal of being hyper-organized all of the time, in all aspects of my life. From enjoying a clutter-free apartment to keeping tabs of all of my work deadlines to planning an awesome bachelorette party for my sister this past weekend, this technique has been helping me achieve goals in various aspects of my life.
If you’re reading this and getting nauseous at the extent of my OCD, that’s okay. I forgive you. But seriously, the technique I tried to keep my life organized works miracles, regardless of whether your personality is Type-A or Type-B, organized or spontaneous, intelligent or dummy. That’s because this tip is incredibly easy to follow and doesn’t require you to make to-do lists within to-do lists (so meta) or adopt a meticulous filing system.
Now that I’ve promised you a panacea to cure your cluttering and disorganization ills, I have to admit that I didn’t devise this technique on my own.
The One-Minute Rule
This technique, the “one minute rule,” was devised by happiness guru and author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin. In this video from her blog, she describes the one-minute rule in the following way:
If there’s something that you can do in a minute or less, you should do it right away without procrastinating. If you can open a letter, scan it, and toss it in the trash. If you can take the lid, put it on the jar of peanut butter, put the jar of peanut butter in the cabinet, and close the cabinet door. Go ahead and do it.
Not postponing any task that can be completed in one minute, Rubin explains in her book, helped diminish the clutter in her home and made her feel more organized and happier. And it’s not something that requires Herculean efforts. It’s the opposite of devoting an entire weekend to “spring cleaning”–it’s literally just devoting a single minute here and there to keeping your life organized.
Admittedly, with the one-minute rule, you can’t move mountains or upend your entire life. However, what you can do is quickly take care of nagging tasks and gradually get control over the clutter in your life in a meaningful way. And if you are a bit OCD like me, you can use this rule to successfully complete your many to-do lists!
My Experience with the One-Minute Rule
I started the first day of this week with the one-minute rule, but I quickly found that I wanted more than just one minute to complete these boring tasks. For instance, on Monday nights, I collect all of the recycling that our wasteful, First World household has accumulated throughout the week and sort it into plastic bags. I wouldn’t say I dread this task but I certainly do not look forward to it and sometimes postpone it until the end of the night. On Monday night of last week, though, I eagerly strutted into the kitchen and started tossing wine bottles in one bag and boxes of eaten cookies in another bag. But it took me more than just one minute to complete the recycling. It took a whole two minutes to get the job done.
After completing the recycling, I realized that if I gave myself only one minute to complete tasks that I wasn’t otherwise motivated to complete, I wouldn’t be able to actually finish most of these tasks. And as someone who does not like to start things without finishing them (i.e., I do not like to leave desserts half-eaten), I was not happy about this prospect. So I expanded Rubin’s “one-minute rule” to Nisha’s “two-minute rule.”
Organize Your Life with the Two-Minute Rule
If a task would take only two minutes or less, I had to complete it immediately. Practically speaking, this meant my apartment had less clutter and things got put back in their proper place more often than not. In the mornings, our bed was made, our bath towels were daintily hung up on our towel rack, and I treated myself to a hot cup of tea with lemon instead of skipping out on this routine. At work, I made those pestering phone calls that I usually dread, I wrote short-and-not-so-sweet letters to clients that had gone A-WOL, and I updated my never-ending to-do list before I left work each evening (ironic, no?). After returning home, I neatly hung up my coat and purse, cleared our dining table, and disposed of the enormous amount of junk mail that we receive on a daily basis. I’m looking at you, U.S. Postal Service.
I know what you’re thinking. How does a drag of endless chores contribute to happiness and health? Well, first, for many people, having a tidier house or a clutter-free life spark happiness, even if not in the same way that going on a tropical vacation sparks happiness. It can also help your brain focus and process information better. And, second, the two-minute rule isn’t just for lame household chores. It also lends itself to getting fun things done.
The Two-Minute Rule Leads to Fun!
This past weekend, we celebrated my sister Puja’s bachelorette party in Napa, California. As maid of honor, I was tasked with planning the party, from the boring (coordinating shuttle transportation and rental car logistics) to the fun (selecting vineyards for our wine tasting tour and planning a spa day) to the ridiculous (picking out phallic-shaped party favors). In the week leading up to the party, there were many last-minute items to confirm, none of which I actually wanted to do or thought I could fit into my schedule. But I made the quick phone calls to confirm our accommodations and itinerary, sent out the annoying reminder emails to the ladiez attending the party, and placed a last-minute order of raunchy party decorations. And guess what? Everyone had a fabulous time! Or so they told me. I suspect no one would actually tell me if they had a shit time, but if you saw the deets on Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, I think you’d agree that her party was the opposite of a shit time.
My one word of caution on the two-minute rule (or one-minute rule) is that if you take it too seriously, it can drive you a little crazy, especially if you are a perfectionist. Occasionally, I would find myself arriving late to work in the morning because I had done so many two-minute tasks, or I would extend my two-minute tasks into 10-minute tasks because I so greatly enjoyed the process of watching clutter disappear. So my advice to those of us who are wound a little tightly is to practice the two-minute rule in moderation. Everything in moderation. Except cupcakes.
Some of the techniques I’ve tried out for this blog did improve my health and happiness in some capacity but were not sustainable on a regular basis (i.e., wearing those super dorky orange glasses every night after sundown). In contrast, this two-minute rule is probably the easiest, most sustainable technique I’ve tried so far. That and the six-second hugs. Unlike the six-second hugs, this two-minute rule does not even require willing participation from anyone else!
Let me know if you try out this easy trick! For this next week, I’ll be working on my positivity and trying to not complain about anything for a week. I know, that sounds realllllly hard, but that’s why I wrote the word “try.” All I can do is try!