I think it’s a fair to assume that every one of you reading this has read or, at the very least, heard of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. If you don’t already fold your clothes into neat rectangular parcels and ‘file’ them in your drawers or walk around your home picking up all of your belongings one at a time in anticipation of them sparking joy, then this isn’t going to be the post to convince you to take up the Konmari method.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a home filled only with things that bring you joy; that are, to quote William Morris, either known to be useful or thought to be beautiful. But, I am also for quick wins and baby steps. I have read Marie Kondo’s international bestseller, and I am fully on board with 90% of what she says. We should only have the beautiful and useful in our lives. Of course our belongings should bring us only joy, and not stagnate and clutter up the energy of our day to day lives. In our age of hyper-consumerism, taking the time to consider every object in our homes and decide on a truly conscious and engaged level if it really belongs there is something we should all make time for. But time isn’t something we all have. At least not the amount Kondo suggests we set aside.
I am a messy person by nature. I am lazy, and a terrible procrastinator, and it’s a side of my personality that is at complete odds with my perfectionist aesthetic values and ‘need it done yesterday’ levels of impatience. My home is a minimalists nightmare; there is stuff everywhere. I collect glassware and blue and white china. And plants. And tchotchkes. And cushions. And vintage linen – the list goes on. But my house is also immaculate and there is a very specific place for every single thing. When I buy something new, I know exactly where it’s going to be kept and, in some instances, exactly what needs to go in order to make room for it. BUT, I spend almost 50% 0f my time away from my Devon home, either in London for work, or travelling, and this means that when I am at home, I don’t want to spend what little time I have tidying. I’m already spending too much of it unpacking and repacking my overworked suitcase. So that is why I have the Seven Minute Pick Up.
This isn’t a substitute for a proper clean, it’s an exercise in improving your mental health by quickly improving your surroundings enough to feel a sense of accomplishment and control.
It’s not a radical concept, and it’s certainly not original, but it is a game changer for the lazy at heart. And it’s as simple as setting the timer on your phone for 7 minutes and spending those minutes tidying up. Don’t get hung up on the minutiae of tidying, no need to empty your sock drawer and go through it pair by pair; focus on the bigger picture – pick things up off the floor that shouldn’t be there. Return stray items to the rooms they belong in. Put those last two mugs in the dishwasher. Put away the pile of clothes. You get the idea. No polishing required, leave the toilet duck be, no need for rubber gloves. This isn’t a substitute for a proper clean, it’s an exercise in improving your mental health by quickly improving your surroundings enough to feel a sense of accomplishment and control.
Why seven? There’s something magic about seven minutes. Just a bit longer than five, not as daunting as ten. It’s the time it takes to make a cup of tea (if you’re making it properly!), and it’s long enough to make a difference. Even the most ardent of procrastinators can manage seven minutes. Sometimes, just knowing that you can stop at seven if you want to is enough to kick-start a much longer cleaning and tidying session – and that’s where the magic lies. Every procrastinator knows that starting is the hardest part of any job.
It’s not just tidying that can benefit from the magic of the seven minute rule. It can be applied to almost any task. Need to make more of an effort with your skincare? Give yourself seven minutes before bed. Want to get fitter? There’s a universe of seven minute work outs to be found online. Want to make more time for reading? Give yourself seven minutes to get started on a new book, I guarantee you’ll be silencing your alarm and turning seven into 30. Life admin? Spend seven minutes on the first thing on your to do list. Chronically late? Set all your clocks seven minutes fast, or leave for work seven minutes earlier than you normally would. There is no task too big or too small to benefit from the seven minute rule.
In fact, the only thing better than accomplishing something in seven minutes is the peace that comes from accomplishing nothing in seven minutes. If you’re the kind of person who finds it hard to switch off, and can’t get on board with meditation, I whole heartedly recommend the life-changing magic of doing nothing for seven minutes. Set your timer, lie down or sit quietly, close your eyes and do absolutely nothing. No need to try and meditate if that’s not your thing. No need to contemplate the meaning of life, or force yourself to not contemplate anything. Just be. For seven minutes. It’s magic.