What is this, self-discipline?

Skim-reading last night, my eye fell on a random sentence. When you commit yourself to doing something every day that self-enforced discipline spills over into other areas of your life.


In an effort not to be a slob, I committed to making my bed every morning. I forced myself to make it a habit. That led me to KonMari’ing my dresser drawers. I even did all her special folding. Now, the inside of my drawer looks so neat, I can’t just throw my PJ’s in there like I used to do, I have to stop and fold them.

After that, I thought: “I’d like to wake up to a clean kitchen every morning,” so I committed to leaving no unwashed dishes on the counter or in the sink. Having clean counters means I’m less likely to leave crumbs after lunch. The kitchen looks so nice, I thought, “I should extend this to the dining room.” To reduce the amount of “work” involved each evening of “tidying up,” I have put things away during the day. If those rooms look nice, so would the bathroom if I didn’t leave makeup on the sink. Without it there, I have more of an incentive to wipe it off after I brush my teeth at night.

In three weeks, my house has gone from “sometimes neat, sometimes messy” to “almost always neat.” A few rooms are still a problem, like my office where papers and books pile up, but if I find a place for them, that won’t happen. If everything has a place, you can put it back, and have a clean desk. The awareness of all of that happening inside a month has me “shook.” If I maintain these routines, I will rarely have a messy house.


But it goes deeper than that. It took so little to “change” me positively. Just self-discipline. Just forcing myself to do it. I feel so good about the change, I have looked at what else I can achieve. What else could shift if I engaged with a little more self-discipline? My relationships? Work ethic? Attitude?

I have the bad habit of reaching for an electronic devise as soon as I wake up, and the internet provides endless reasons to get annoyed about, before I have even had breakfast. The lazy part of me who loves to lie in bed with her laptop and chat with her friends while watching an hour of Netflix would rather keep my current routine. But the new, excited, self-disciplined part of me wonders, “What if I got up and started my day in a positive, peaceful way instead? Would that correct some of my ‘attitude’ problems?”

This experience has taught me I’m malleable. The effort of change is not as hard as I like to believe. I have had nights where the last thing I wanted to do was get a sponge, wipe out the cat dishes, dry them and put them away so I wake up to a clean kitchen sink, but I made myself do it anyway, to “not break my streak.”

What else can I do if I commit to it?

8 thoughts on “What is this, self-discipline?

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  1. This is quite timely as regards my own life, in a weird way.

    I realized last month that I just hate getting out of bed in the morning most days. And I had fallen drastically behind in things I love like emailing my best friend daily, reading and commenting on blogs, reviewing books in a timely fashion (not weeks after I finish them), and several other things I used to do but somehow lacked time for. I cudgeled my brains trying to figure out what was wrong. Was I depressed? Secretly sick with some terrible malady? Getting old all at once? Going senile?

    And then I realized something. Since July, I’ve been doing daily stretches to heal my achilles tendonitis and exercises to strengthen my bum knee. And when school started back up, I started doing those in the morning before I ever came downstairs to make breakfast. That half hour or so before breakfast used to be my email-and-blogging time that I cherished. But I had replaced it with repetitive drudgery that I faithfully did, but was extremely bored by.

    So I shifted my stretches and exercises to right after lunch. And BAM! Back to bouncing out of bed right away in the morning, back to emailing my bff, back to reading and commenting on blogs, back to blogging more regularly… back to feeling like myself.

    My self-discipline had been misplaced, that’s all. I was using it to make myself care for myself, but at the wrong time of day. Now I do all that right after lunch and I’m peachy.

    Isn’t that odd, now?

    1. You bring up an excellent point here — never start you day doing something you hate, because how can you NOT dread it and then go into the rest of your day with mild resentment? Sometimes they say, do what you hate first to get it out of the way — but that is not always good advice. Sometimes, you have to do something that GETS YOU OUT OF BED in the morning! I have a feeling that I should leave my morning routine alone, to some extent — as an extrovert, I need people first thing in the morning. Getting online, chatting for a little while, makes me happy so I can then go about my day in a pleasant frame of mind.

  2. Hi Charity,

    Hear! Hear! Lovely post! I found it somewhat amusing too. I have also noticed that self-discipline does help keep things going. A couple of years ago, I made a new years resolution to write every day. It has helped keep my story going by being consistent, even if it’s in small amounts. It’s better than sitting down and writing chunks every indeterminate number of weeks. I kind of need to apply it to some other areas, like my drawers, etc. though. Thanks for posting!

    1. Yay! I’m glad your writing is coming along! A little bit each day does help! Not only does it add up, if teaches your brain to be “ready to write” every day. 🙂

  3. Great post! 😀 Recently I found myself doing this too–or more accurately the reverse. The reverse as in looking at the problem from end, not the beginning. (Not the reverse as in becoming messier, haha)

    People often suggest making a minor change for the better if you feel overwhelmed. The problem is that there can be cases where even making a tiny change can be hard. The question you might then have to ask yourself is why? Do you have a serious health problem that makes even a few minutes of cleaning exhausting? Are you in an abusive relationship with a person who won’t let you apply Marie Kondo’s method to the sock drawer because “that’s not MY way”? When you can’t resolve a little problem easily…the truth might be that it conceals a far more serious one.

    You know, I was going to ask if your cats have changed their routines with you, until I realized, wait, they’re perfect, so change is unnecessary for them, unless it’s to further gratify a whim 😉 But you and I are only human. Humans with a life that can be too short, so we shouldn’t waste it.

    Netflix can be awesome (how else would we have seen the Tidying Up show after all?) but the number of people I see talking about their “Netflix addiction” is a bit alarming. Is that really how you want to be look back on your life? Several hours of just passively watching Netflix (or any streaming service) per day, every day, for years?

    I hope this year brings you a lot more amazing changes 😀

    1. I’m glad the reverse isn’t getting messier, the world doesn’t need that. Ha, ha.

      Good thoughts. If you can’t resolve small problems, it’s often a larger underlining issue at work. But sometimes you have to be mentally ready to make a small change, before you can even contemplate a big one.
      The cats very much have their routine, and it’s called “Harass Charity if she changes hers.” Cap was quite cross with me this morning when I got up and wrote for an hour instead of laying around in bed. He resolved the issue by zooming through the house at top speed and attacking the cat tree.

      I don’t find most things worth watching, so binging hours of Netflix won’t happen. I did enjoy “Medici: The Magnificent,” though. I thought their historical take was interesting and somewhat accurate, even though it suffers from being too rushed. They could have stretched events out further and added in some character development.
      Many people work hard and get home tired, and just Netflix until they go to sleep. But I do think our society is rather focused on “entertainment” rather than learning at the moment, and it reflects in the social behaviors.

      You too. 🙂

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