the one-minute rule

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunI’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book on happiness, and making some of her resolutions my own for 2010. I’m not going to excessively linger on my progress here, since Gretchen’s own blog has a page where people are doing just that. I will say that I have found much fodder for thought, and even better, lots of ideas that really work.

Some might consider focusing on one’s own happiness as solipsistic in the extreme. But you know how they say “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?” It’s true. Of course I want to be a happier person for myself, but I also want my kids and my husband to reap the benefits. Rubin says in her book that if one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make others happy, the corollary is also true: one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

I’ve been reflecting on that ever since.

Here’s one tip I’ve found really helpful so far: the One-Minute Rule. If you can do something in a minute or less, do it then– don’t procrastinate. Hang up your coat. Put the phone charger in a drawer. Put a stamp on the letter and put it by the front door. Put your cup in the dishwasher, not in the sink.

I am a fairly neat and organized person, but since I have had three children, the chaos tends to take over. By doing anything now that takes less than a minute, I find I’m still getting everyone out the door by 8 am, but I don’t come home later to as much of a mess. And that is absolutely making me happier.

How do you handle messes in your house? Do you do a once-a-week overhaul? Do you stay on top of it? Do you have a newborn and a 2-year-old and so for you, this is a ridiculous question? I’m not saying mothers should feel guilty about the mess… or even that we should be the ones with primary responsibility for cleaning it up. But, in most of the households I see, we are responsible, and we do feel bad. How about you?