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How the “one minute rule” can create a tidy home

Stop clutter and start calm. You too can have a tidy home with ease when you apply Gretchen Rubin’s one minute rule.

a tidy kitchen with the text overlay how just one minute can create a tidy home

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If you’re anything like me, you have a few piles dotted around the house.

Cups on the benches.

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Clothes on the floor.

Mail on the counter-tops.

These piles add up until the house is a mess.

This mess has an impact.

If you constantly feel frazzled and stressed in your own home, have you ever stopped to think about the connection between the state of your house and your own mental state?

Because there IS a connection. In fact, research suggests that there are eight ways in which clutter creates stress.

The quick and easy solution to most of these causes? A solution that anyone can use? Gretchen Rubin’s one minute rule.

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What is the one minute rule?

The one minute rule is not new by any means – Gretchen Rubin first talked about it back in 2006, and you can watch a later explanation of it here:

If you didn’t watch the video, the rule works like this: if you’re looking at something which would take less than a minute to deal with, do it now.

It’s so simple, anyone can do it. And the best thing? Sticking to the one minute rule has made my house clutter-free.

The one minute rule applied to your home

The one minute rule really comes into its own when it is applied to your home.

Here’s some examples:

Get home from work, and put your handbag away- under a minute.

Take your shoes off and put them in the wardrobe – under a minute.

Skim through the mail and discard / put in paper filing system – under a minute.

Make a hot drink and put the supplies away – under a minute.

Now instead of your kitchen bench looking like a dumping ground within minutes of getting home, it stays clean and tidy.

There’s a mantra I use to make following the one minute rule easier. Instead of saying, “I’ll do that later,” say, “This will take less than a minute.”

Who doesn’t have a minute?

And that’s another important aspect of the one minute rule: it has an incredible flow-on effect.

If you run the dishwasher every night (less than a minute to turn on), and empty it either that night or in the morning (again not long to do), then every time you finish with a dish, it can go straight into the dishwasher – again in under a minute.

Then when you want to start cooking your evening meal, you’re not spending the first 15 minutes getting the kitchen to the point where you have space for food prep.

As well, the beauty of the one minute rule is it stops what I call crap-magnets from even forming.

Crap magnets are when you start off with just one thing out of place, then it pulls in another, and another.

It’s as though once you’ve indicated it’s okay to not put one thing away, it’s easier to not put the next thing away, and the next.

And that doesn’t just go for you – it’s true for other members of the family.

If you put your dirty plate in the dishwasher, your husband is more likely to follow your lead.

Leave it on the bench, he leaves it on the bench (this is based on a totally unscientific observation of how it works in our family).

So by following the one-minute rule, even if it’s just you doing so, you can lead by example to other members of the family – which we know is much better than nagging.

What not to do with the one minute rule

Warning: I like to keep the one minute rule organic.

To me, that means making it a natural part of what you’re doing- the next step you often feel like you can’t take, for whatever reason.

In the beginning, focus on this. Otherwise, you might push yourself by tackling a bunch of extras which, when added up, take a lot longer than a minute and are best sorted at a later time.

Phone calls and emails are one example of things which are often better batched up than spread out.

The one minute rule made easier

To make the one-minute rule even easier to follow, purchase some baskets.

Click here for the top rated selection from Amazon or check out the post below.

Have one for each child in the house, and one for the master bedroom.

Keep them in your main living area.

When your kids come home from school and unpack their bags, they can put the things destined for their rooms into the basket.

Likewise, at the end of the night they can put their toys or other items into them.

You can time them: one minute to put their things away into the basket and then five minutes to put them away in their room.

You can also use their baskets to put in their clothes after you have folded them, and they can put them away.

If you have a multi-story house, keep one at the base of the stairs to save having to walk up and down them all the time.

It’s amazing what a psychological difference it makes to follow the one minute rule and to live without clutter.

Having a clean and tidy house makes you feel more on top of life. It stops the anxiety caused by the mess and removes the fear of unexpected visitors.

Have you tried the one minute rule? Let me know how you got on in the comments!

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Diane Speed

Friday 12th of July 2019

There is also "little minutes". When you are waiting for a kettle to boil,oven to warm up etc, use those little minutes to brush the floor, clear the drainer, wipe down cupboard fronts and so on.


Monday 15th of July 2019

Exactly Diane- there's so much you can do in those small pockets of time!


Wednesday 12th of June 2019

My rule is only touch things once! Works like a charm.


Wednesday 12th of June 2019

That is such a good rule and makes everything else so much easier. Unfortunately I am still inclined to dump stuff on the counter when I know I should just put it away!

Stefanie Williams

Monday 30th of January 2017

Great post! I'm definitely going to give the "One minute rule" a try. I also love the basket idea for each kid.


Monday 30th of January 2017

Thanks Stefanie- I hope it works for you!

Jessica Schneider

Wednesday 25th of January 2017

I haven't tried the one minute rule, but I'm thinking that I definitely should to keep everything tidy and in order. Thanks for the great advice!


Thursday 26th of January 2017

Thanks Jessica- let me know how you get on!

Lisa | The Merry Momma

Wednesday 25th of January 2017

I love this!! I have been trying to break my habit of procrastination and develop the discipline of dealing with things right away. But I love this concept of the minute rule. Genius! I'm reading The House That Cleans Itself right now, and it is revolutionizing how I organize my house to make it easier to put things in their home right away. If any of you struggle with housekeeping, it's definitely a must-read!


Thursday 26th of January 2017

Thanks Lisa, I'm always looking to improve so will check it out!

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