Resetting (and Setting) the Room

While reading Atomic Habits by James Clear – a manifesto of sorts on how to make actionable progress on self-improvement goals – I was struck by his description of someone’s habit of “resetting the room.”

For example, when this friend finished watching television, he would place the remote back on the TV stand, arrange the pillows on the couch, and fold the blanket.

Clear expands on this idea:

“The purpose of resetting each room is not simply to clean up after the last action, but to prepare for the next action” [emphasis mine].

I love this description. Resetting goes beyond tidying and describes a deliberate set of decisions that set up future success.

My husband and I like to reset our living room at the end of the day. After the kids are settled in the bed we’ll fluff the pillows, move footstools back in place, push in the chairs around the dining room table. It’s a calming habit and one that brings much-needed serenity in the busy mornings (…until my 6-year-old sets up for online school at the table and the space becomes a jumble of glue sticks and worksheets).

When I’ve finished prepping for bed at the night, an extra minute spent in the bathroom means I can leave it in a state of readiness for the morning – my toothbrush in its place, the garbage can stowed neatly, a towel hung by the sink.

Perhaps the most famous reset is making your bed in the morning, but opportunities abound:

  • Before you leave the office: clear off your desk (or at least straighten existing piles of paper), push in your chair, remove coffee mugs and other food remnants
  • You arrive home from work: clear out any garbage that accumulated from the day, put your travel mug in the dishwasher, hang up your coat and laptop bag, and put your keys in their designated spot
  • You leave your hotel room for a day of sightseeing: put valuables in the safe, close suitcase lids, put dirty laundry in a designated travel cube
  • Your kids finish outside play for the day: stow bikes and scooters, bring in helmets, and straighten shoes in the entry way

I realize, in retrospect, that I grew up with this mentality. In particular I remember a daily “reset” performed by my mother every evening of my childhood. After we had cleared the table of supper dishes, she would immediately arrange clean placements, utensils, cups, and dishes on the table for the upcoming breakfast. The room was reset and ready for the next activity. In essence, my mom took the concept of resetting a space one step further – going from resetting (clearing the table and leaving a blank slate) to setting (preparing in advance).

And the bonus, intuitive bit. The less clutter and mess we have in our living spaces, the easier it is to reset a room. If chaos causes chaos, order tends toward…lesser chaos.

Go ahead. Try it.

2 thoughts on “Resetting (and Setting) the Room”

  1. I’m reading your archives because I was confident I’d missed some posts. Thanks to you I decided to unload the dishwasher tonight instead of leaving it for morning. 😉

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