Just Start - Become Who You Want to Be With New Habits

Many of us have good habits that were taught to us (okay – nagged into us) when we were small, such as "wash your hands" and "brush your teeth" and "turn off the lights when you leave a room."  (My dad was a stickler for that last one!)

And there are habits that every minimalist should practice to help keep clutter at bay.  Maybe you also learned some of these habits when you were young.  "Don't just put it down, put it away" is something my mom often said, and it started with toys and clothes and wet towels and went on from there.  If that's not a habit for you, you might want to learn it now.

Practice new, beneficial habits to replace old, harmful habits.

"It's a lot easier to keep up than to catch up" is a catchy way of saying that procrastination is not your friend.  When you have routines for household chores and maintain regular cleaning and tidying, your home will be beautiful, spacious, and inviting.  If you put those things off, you'll wind up with lots of clutter and unfinished jobs – a huge mess, instead of one that can be managed with ease day by day.

If you haven't developed daily and weekly routines, or if you've thought about them but aren't practicing them regularly, these are habits you want to learn.  Start with one, such as cleaning up the kitchen every night after dinner (it really only takes a few minutes), or dealing with mail as soon as it comes into the house (this can take as little as one minute).

"One in, one out" is a habit that helps maintain the decluttered state.  If you've done the work of removing the excess from your home, don't waste your efforts by hanging onto old, unused, or unusable stuff when you replace or upgrade it.  Donate, recycle, or discard a comparable item so that new purchases don't cause your containers to overflow.

If you're trying to reduce debt, there are habits that can help you to do that.  First, "buy less," which might require the development of several smaller habits to finally make that big change a reality.  Again, picking one, such as tracking your spending in a problem area (providing motivation to get that area under control) or using the seven day rule (to curb impulse buying), and focusing your efforts, will be more effective than just having a general desire to stop shopping.

A second habit I recommend for reducing debt is Dave Ramsey's debt snowball.  Millions of people have used this method to get out of debt, and it works because it's about behavior modification.  In other words, it creates a new habit to replace your old habit of acquiring debt, and it does it with the built-in reward of seeing each debt, from smallest to largest, disappear.

I've been practicing the habit of getting out of my chair every hour to do some stretching, jogging in place, or a household chore -- anything to break my habit of sitting for hours at a stretch, which researchers are saying is as bad for you as smoking.

Maybe this habit isn't an issue for you, but instead you want to develop a bedtime ritual along with an earlier sleep time, or you want to replace sugary, fatty snacks with fresh fruit and veggies, or you want to take an internet intermission once a week.  These are fantastic habits!

Start small.

Changes are easier to make when you begin with small steps.  It's hard to tell yourself you're too tired or too busy if your new habit is tiny.

You know sudden huge changes tend to fail.  Remember those "whole new you" plans that lasted less than a week?  (Believe me, I've done it too!)  Take smaller steps.  Choose just one or two tiny changes to start, and allow those to become firm habits before you try more.

I've started with one minute of stretching or jogging in place for every hour I sit at my desk or on the couch (I usually do more than one minute).  My husband was inspired last summer to start with five push-ups first thing every morning.  He now does 50, and never misses a day.

When you do a tiny habit every day, you enjoy immediate success, find it easy to meet or exceed your goal, and continuously move forward.  Your motivation grows as you achieve those small wins, and you develop confidence and momentum.  You control your behavior by completing a very simple task, and over time this practice creates new, better habits.  

Don't try to be impressive, just be consistent.

Consistency is key, because every time you do your new habit, you're making a statement about your identity.  You are now a person who writes every day, or practices the flute each day, or rides your bicycle.  You're a weight lifter, a reader, a declutterer.  You're becoming the person you want to be.

So go for it!  Decide and commit to a new habit.  Make the habit so tiny to begin with that it's impossible not to do it.  Tell a friend and ask her to be an accountability partner.  Make a calendar, and give yourself a star each day that you accomplish the new habit.  Try to keep that row of stars growing for 30, 40, or 60 days, until the new habit feels natural.

It will be as if you're nagging yourself, and that's how your new habit will eventually become second nature.

Just start.

Updated February 2023


  1. Hi Karen,
    I love this article and your suggestions for successful habit changes. Will refer to it in my next LinkedIn and Facebook posts.

    1. Hi Margo,
      Thank you for your kind words! I'm so glad you found the post inspiring, and I'm flattered you want to share it with your followers.

      All the best,


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