Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Tag: Gretchen Rubin

Power Hour (Quick Tip)

I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, in which Rubin dissects the art of forming habits to give you a toolbox for forming good habits and breaking bad habits. She splits the population into four types of people (Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels) and describes how to approach habit-forming with each one. It’s a fascinating read! Along the way, Rubin talks about a lot of specific habits and one of those caught my attention. She calls it Power Hour.

Power Hour

Each week, set aside one hour for those annoying tasks you know you need to just get done, but never have time for. This is Power Hour.

Make a list of the tasks you want to get done and focus on them, starting with the first one until the hour is up.

Power Hour Tasks

Rubin suggests you fill your list with one-time tasks; those things that aren’t recurring that you need to get done (like scheduling appointments and figuring out how to use a new tool). They shouldn’t be things with tight deadlines because those will get done naturally over the course of the week. Use this hour for things that you never seem to get to.

That advice got me thinking about something I, personally, never have time for: cleaning. I hate cleaning. I hate it so much that I never make time for it. I can’t justify spending a lot of time cleaning, because, with two kids in the house, all of my work is undone in milliseconds. I can’t justify paying someone else to clean for exactly the same reason. So, I tend to let things get really dirty. Cleaning isn’t officially a non-recurring task, but I thought Power Hour was the perfect solution to motivate me to actually clean.

Power Hour in Practice

Last weekend, I officially repurposed Power Hour for cleaning. I made a backlog (bathrooms, tubs, random stuff lying in the living room, floors, windows) and got as much done as I could in an hour. In my first hour, I cleaned both bathrooms (including the tub) and picked up the living room. It was a good start.

This weekend, I tried it again. I skipped the tub (it’s still clean!) and was able to clean both bathrooms, all floors, and pick-up the living room. Things look really good! I turn on some music, I focus on my backlog of cleaning tasks and stuff gets done.

Why Power Hour Rocks

At the end of one hour, I’ve gotten a lot done and I really, truly feel done. Time-boxing allows me to set aside the time for a specific task and forgive myself for what didn’t get done. If I hold Power Hour every week, I can pick-up the unfinished tasks the following week.

What tasks would you work on during Power Hour?

October Challenge: Throw Out 10 Things a Day

Between work, commuting two hours and taking care of the kids my weekdays are already packed.  To jump-start my de-owning adventure, I needed a lightweight method that fit into my current routine.  Based on Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness book, I know that habits are much easier to form when you perform them every day and so I’m going to spend October getting into the minimalist mindset by throwing out 10 things every day.  I can’t remember where I first heard this tip, but some people do this for a whole year.  The rules are simple:

Gather 10 things – anything – including trash, items you don’t need, recyclables, etc and get rid of them.

Over the past week I’ve basically ended up with two kinds of refuse:
1.     Things I can trash/recycle.
2.     Things I can donate.

At first it was really easy to walk around and find junk mail and old magazines to throw out (why didn’t I do this sooner?!), but then I had to start digging through drawers and getting to some tougher decisions.  The first week was fairly easy and required zero input from my family.  I suspect that will change quickly.

Day 1 DeclutteringDay 1: I threw out mostly garbage: an empty oatmeal container, receipts, shoeboxes, and an old craft project. The most substantial thing in the pile is my Badger aluminum water bottle. This was a sacrifice. I love you, Bucky, but this water bottle is too small to be useful, so it’s got to go.  I will donate it to a good family.

Day 2: More trash: a gift box, old menus, a broken coaster, congealed honey, random junk I got in the mail. The Bucky bib will go to my sister and the other bib I’ll donate.
Day 2 Decluttering
 Day 5 - Decluttering
Day 3: I found few old books, birthday cards (although I definitely appreciate having received them!), a pair of magnets, a sticker, and a plastic princess ring.
Day 4: An old highchair drop cloth, two ice packs, some plastic bags, dozens of sauce packets from Chinese take-out, and some old plastic utensils, probably from the same place.
Day 4 Decluttering
Day 5 Decluttering
Day 5: I raided a table in the basement and discovered several old, used-up note pads, two shards of tissue paper, plastic cups, a tiny owl pot, and some random pamphlets.
Day 6: I started to pick through the hall closet and found a bunch of old samples, a stain pen that I know for a fact doesn’t work, and a tiny comb.
Day 6 Decluttering
Day 7 Decluttering
Day 7: I decided to come to grips with the fact that I may never use 20 pairs of hotel shampoo/conditioner bottles.  Plus, I found some dirty kid toothbrushes, lotion, a broken barrette, and broken thermometer.
I feel like this is only just the tip of the iceberg.  By the end of October, I will have eliminated at least 380 items.  A good start, but will it be nearly enough?

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