Doing Life, Ministry

Cultivating Faithfulness by Building Good Habits

Last time, we looked at Psalm 37:3 and its many varying translations. One of those translations tells us to “cultivate faithfulness,” which is something I’ve been led to focus on this year.

I already talked about my own struggles with faithfulness, especially in the mundane, day-to-day tasks involved with good stewardship.  The big area where this has been particularly challenging for me is housekeeping, and I feel like this is an area where the Lord’s been nudging me to improve. So before I close out this topic, I thought I’d share what that looks like in my own life.

Basically, it comes down to two things: rhythms and habits.

I’ve talked before about establishing rhythms, so I won’t get detailed about that here. But establishing rhythms for my days and weeks is essential to my ability to get anything done, and figuring out how to fit cleaning and house work into those rhythms has gone a long way toward making me feel like an actual grownup person. And the way I’ve done that is to focus on building habits, one new habit at a time.

The key to this is to connect the new habit you want to build to an existing habit. I kind of figured this out on my own after a lot of trial and error, but apparently, it’s actual science. The old habit acts as a trigger to help you remember and launch into the new habit. For me, this looks like wiping down the bathroom sink and mirror every time I brush my teeth. I don’t have to think about brushing my teeth. I just do it. Okay, truth time–sometimes my husband has to remind me to do it. But still, I do it, and when I do, I remember (helped largely by seeing the toothpaste splatters on the mirror) that when I’m done I need to go ahead and wipe the mirror and sink.

The other key to successful habit-building is to set yourself up for success–i.e., make it as easy to do for yourself and eliminate as many barriers to actually doing the new thing as possible. In my sink/mirror cleaning example, this means I keep a spray bottle of cleaner under the sink and a roll of paper towels beside it. So once I’m done brushing, I don’t have to go hunt up the necessary cleaning supplies and risk that I’ll get distracted and forget all about it. I just put my toothbrush up, grab the bottle and a wad of paper towels and get to wipin’. The whole thing takes about two minutes.

This was my starting point, and the thing I always make a point to remain consistent in no matter how hectic my life gets and no matter what other habits fall by the wayside. Since we moved, I’m having to re-build some additional cleaning habits that I had developed in our former residence. These include things like doing the dishes once I’m finished eating and remembering to grab a baby wipe and spend five minutes dusting surfaces each day after my lunch. I’m also working on establishing a morning each week to run the vacuum and swiffer the hardwood floors–a task that takes about 20 minutes, which is a fraction of the time it took just to vacuum our old house.

Have I mentioned that I’m kind of loving living in a small apartment?

And here’s the other thing: my biggest hang up BY FAR when it came to this sort of thing was that I always built it up in my head to be a major chore that would consume so much of my time and energy that there was no way I could fit it in. This is because I would put it off for so long that once I finally got around to cleaning it WAS a major chore that ate up all my time and energy. I would go weeks without cleaning more than absolutely necessary, not really noticing that things were getting bad until they were too awful to ignore (side note: I should mention here that my husband does what he can to clean. Because of his physical limitations there are tasks that he can’t do, or that are a lot more difficult for him than they are for me, so that’s pretty much how we divide the household labor–he does what he can and I do the rest. But God bless him, he doesn’t complain when I don’t step up and do my part on a consistent basis. This man, y’all. I am richly blessed). So then I’d have to devote an entire weekend to cleaning, and be so wiped out by the experience that I wouldn’t want to  even look at a cleaning product again for weeks, if not months.

If this sounds a little too familiar, I recommend checking out A Slob Comes Clean, where Dana has all kinds of things to say about Cleaning Brain and how some people (like me) just aren’t wired that way (I still really need to check out her book).

But the thing is, you guys, that when I do these things habitually? They usually take a couple of minutes. Two minutes here, five there for the daily chores, and 20 minutes once a week or so for the bigger chores. Cleaning is not actually a big deal. I just blew it up into one in my mind, and I had to break myself of the habit of seeing it as this impossible chore and retrain my mind to see the reality. And the reality is that it just isn’t that hard.

I’ve been talking specifically about cleaning, but I think these principles have broader application to a lot of different areas of our lives. If there’s an area where you’re struggling to be a good steward, I hope this helps.

Another thing that helps is figuring out why you want to be faithful in this area. Of course, as Christians, the big one is obvious–we want to be obedient stewards of the things we’re blessed with and honor God by taking good care of them. Also, we’re promised that if we’re faithful in the little things, we’ll be entrusted with bigger things. That’s pretty motivating all by itself. But it helps to identify more personal motivating factors. For me, I want my home to be a place where my husband feels loved and cared for and anyone who comes to visit can feel welcome and relaxed. Since my home is also my workplace, I also want it to be a place where I can feel relaxed and inspired instead of distracted by messes and guilt.

Do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about how you cultivate faithfulness in your own life, or share your own tips on building good habits and staying motivated!

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PS: Find more encouragement for your soul at these linkups:

Holley Gerth’s Coffee For Your Heart

Missional Women’s Faith Filled Fridays

#DreamTogether at God-Sized Dreams

PPS: Looking for some a-MAZ-ing tools and resources to help you be more productive, write better and/or generally do life while keeping your sanity? I’ve got the goods — sign up to receive Daydreamer Dispatches, a once- or twice-a-month newsletter from yours truly, and you’ll automatically receive a super-sekrit link to My Absolute Must-Have, Can’t Live Without Tools and Resources list! Click here to get your link!

JeanA Jesus girl through and through, Jean Marie Bauhaus is on a journey of healing and rediscovering who God purposefully created her to be and figuring out how to do life within that context. She’s the wife of Matt and mom to a crew of four-legged dependents, all of whom make their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jean counts coffee, dark chocolate and a yarn addiction among her vices. She’s the author of Restless Spirits, a family-friendly paranormal romance/mystery now available from Vinspire Publishing. You can learn more about her novels and short fiction at jeanmariebauhaus.com.
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5 thoughts on “Cultivating Faithfulness by Building Good Habits”

  1. Ah. This is so true, and you are so right. If we’re faithful in the little things, God will trust us with the big things. I read (can’t remember where. UfYH?) That if a chore can be done in under two minutes, just do it. Taking a bowl to the sink? Spend thirty seconds washing it. Socks on the floor? Pick them up. It’s the small maintenance steps that keep things from going out of control.

    I’m on a massive office clean up right now. Have been working on it on and off for weeks. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I feel so accomplished. I do feel calmer in a clean place (although this is a lived-in house). Have you listened to Dana White’s podcasts? They really helped me focus when I was packing the house last year.

    So glad you’re writing this series. 🙂

    1. I read about the two-minute rule on Lazy Genius and it literally changed my life. I’m not even exaggerating or using literally incorrectly.

      I haven’t listened to Dana’s podcast but I’ve seen some of her Youtube videos on decluttering. I’m going to have to make time to either watch or listen to more of her stuff because she inspires me. Good luck with your office project!

    1. Yay! And thanks for reminding me that I need to update my sidebar. The sequel comes out tomorrow.

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