Sometimes, changing your life doesn’t need to be difficult. Sometimes you can make a small, one-time adjustment and it will create a fairly substantial change.
These small adjustments and quick results help to create motivation that powers you through larger improvements that don’t happen overnight. They also make life easier so that you have more time and energy to devote to the things that really matter to you.
Today I come to you with eight small changes that have made my life easier, whether that means I eat healthier, stay more organized, or put less effort into keeping my apartment clean.
1. Hang your keys by the door
Now, I doubt I’m the first person to tell you that your keys need a home. We need them to function, but they're also notoriously difficult to keep track of. They’re small, and they typically aren’t the first thing on our minds when we come home from a busy day, so they end up on a cluttered counter or falling between the couch cushions.
In my last several apartments, horizontal surface space has been limited. For this reason, I didn’t want to designate a bowl on a shelf or some other flat space for key-storage. I also wanted reaching for my keys to be as convenient as possible.
The solution? I stuck one of these little guys* on the wall right beside my front door.
Since doing this, I have never lost my keys. They are always exactly where I expect them to be, and, more importantly, it’s super easy to put them away. The hook is mere inches from the lock on the door, so no matter how full my hands are, I can easily remove the key from the door and move it right over to its home.
This, like many of the items on the list, is about making the ideal action so easy that you can’t not do it. Hanging my keys on their hook is so easy that it would take more effort to lose them than it does to put them away. When you set up your space so that your preferred action takes only a couple of seconds, you’re much more likely to do it.
2. Rethink your snack storage
A few weeks ago, my mom gave me a bag of grapes. I stored the grapes in a drawer at the bottom of my fridge. They weren’t at eye level, and getting to them involved opening a drawer, grabbing a translucent bag, and undoing the tie holding the bag closed. That may not sound terrible, but compare it to the following week:
My mom gave me more grapes. This time, they were in an open box without a lid, and I stored them on the top shelf of the fridge, near eye level.
I ate all of those grapes in a few days. And the grapes in the bag? Well, I did eventually eat most of them, but a few were forgotten about and had to be thrown away.
The grapes that were easily accessible and stored in plain sight became an easy snack for me to eat. I saw them every time I opened the fridge, so when I went scrounging for something to snack on, I often chose the grapes.
It may not seem like storing your healthy snacks in an easily accessible way will make a big difference, but it does. Even just moving them to eye level, rather than at the back of the fridge or in a drawer will make you more likely to choose those snacks.
With this in mind, next time you’re putting away your groceries, put the healthy snacks at the front of the top shelf of the fridge and see if that changes your eating habits. You might be surprised.
3. Contain the floordrobe
I’ve just learned by the lack of red squiggly line that floordrobe, a portmanteau of floor and wardrobe, is, in fact, a real word.
I know very few people who haven’t struggled with the floordrobe at some point. Whether you’re in a rush and struggling to figure out what to wear (may I suggest curating a personal uniform?) or have the habit of taking your socks off once you’ve already crawled into bed and depositing them on the floor (guilty), sometimes, we end up with a pile of clothes on the floor.
And once that pile forms, it tends to grow. Before long, there are clothes everywhere, and it can be quite a battle to reign it back in.
My solution? A basket. Both my fiance and I have small laundry baskets (as seen in this video) that we use to contain clothes that have escaped the closet. Those pants that were only worn for a few hours, that shirt we tried on and decided not to wear, and the sweatpants that we’ve been periodically lounging in all get put into the basket. Any clothes that would normally live in the floordrobe are moved to the basket.
Then, once a week, we each go through our basket to determine where these items should live. Anything dirty goes into the laundry. Anything cleanish is put away (if it’s clean enough to wear again, it’s clean enough to put away). Typically this is done on laundry day.
And thus, we’ve (mostly) prevented the floordrobe.
I apply this idea to other areas as well. I have small bowls on my nightstand and bathroom counter to contain all of the hair ties and lip balms that tend to collect there, and we keep a bowl on the counter to contain granola bars, gum, chocolate, and other small snacks.
Containing the mess goes a long way toward actually keeping things clean and manageable. But these catch-alls work best when they’re emptied regularly which leads me to:
4. Create a schedule for your chores
For a long time, my approach to chores was to do them when I got around to them, typically about five weeks after they probably should’ve been done. This meant that my space was messier than I wanted it to be, it was harder to function in it, and when I finally did the chores, they were much more difficult and time-consuming than they needed to be.
At the same time, my fiance and I created a system for doing the dishes every time we went on vacation. We’d alternate who did them and try to do them once every day or two so that they never piled up. Somehow, it took us several years before we realized we could bring that system into our normal lives.
Now, we have schedules for who does which chores and when they are to be done. This keeps us on top of the mess and means that we only have to spend a few minutes each day working on them, rather than doing 45 minutes of dishes once every six days (ew). When you do your chores regularly, they’re so much easier to do because there’s less work.
Chores are also one of those things that can be done at any time—until company is coming over, and then they have to be done now. And, as Gretchen Rubin says, something that can be done at any time is often done at no time. Creating a schedule removes that “this can be done at any time” issue.
Don’t overthink your schedule. Pick something that sounds reasonable to you and try it for a bit. If you find yourself doing the chores too often or not enough, adjust the schedule.
I also recommend finding a way to keep track of your schedule. We keep our main chores written on our monthly whiteboard (see this post), and I put my own personal chores on my Todoist.
5. Stock your kitchen with these dudes*
These 4-cup pyrex containers are great. They’re the perfect size to hold leftovers and then eat out of. They’re microwave and oven safe, sturdy and stackable.
As much as I love cooking and eating great food, I don’t always have time to break out the pots and pans. Sometimes I meal prep lunches, and I’m often storing leftovers to eat later.
Rather than storing my leftovers in one large container, I prepackage them into individual servings so I can pull one out and heat it up whenever I’m in a rush.
If you want to get extra fancy, you can rotate these into your freezer as well. If you add one or two containers of leftovers into the freezer each time you cook, (label them!) before long, you’ll have an entire buffet at your fingertips.
6. Never leave home without a water bottle
One of my personal mottos (and I have many) is that I’ve never regretting bringing water with me, but I have regretted not having it. So I’ve vowed to bring my water bottle with me everywhere I go.
I bring water grocery shopping, on long drives, to visit friends and relatives, wherever.
I love my 32 oz Nalgenes* but you can choose anything that works for you—reusable, please! Since the Nalgene has a loop, I can clip it to my backpack strap with a carabiner or attach my keys to it while I’m at the gym.
Carrying a water bottle goes a long way toward keeping you hydrated. You could even fill two Nalgenes in the morning and sip them throughout the day as an easy way to track your water intake.
As I mentioned earlier, making the good habits that you’d like to adopt as convenient as possible is the best way to facilitate success. By keeping your water within arm’s reach all day, you remove all the barriers between yourself and hydration. Don't bother putting the lid on if you want to make it even easier.
7. Store your dry goods in jars
You’ve probably seen those cute pantry photos floating around Pinterest and Instagram. They’ve got perfectly labeled, matchy-matchy jars arranged in neat rows, and we all know we’d mess up that perfect organization in a day or two.
But recently, my fiance and I took an afternoon to totally clean out and jar-ify our kitchen. All the grains, flours, sugars, beans, pastas, and random powders for cooking were transferred into jars.
We used an assortment of unmatched jars that we got cheap, and we labeled them with duct tape, so it’s not Pinterest-perfect, but it has made my life so much easier.
Unlike all of the boxes and bags that the food had previously been stored in, the jars are stackable, easy to locate, and much less likely to spill everywhere. Not to mention, the process of going through all of our food to move it into jars also meant we got rid of anything that was no longer edible.
I hadn’t realized before that the jar trend was more functional than aesthetic, but now that I know how much easier this makes my life in the kitchen, I’ll be keeping much of my food in jars even after we’ve moved on to the next kitchen storage trend.
8. Stick a whiteboard on the door
I’ve been a long-time proponent of the door whiteboard. This probably stems from my love of the locker door whiteboard in middle school.
How many times have you left home in the morning without something that you really needed to bring with you? Or how many times have you needed to tell something to your partner who is still sleeping? Or how many times have you written a reminder for yourself, only to forget to do the thing because you didn’t see the note in time (or ever again)?
The door whiteboard solves all of these issues. Our door is one location in the house that we look at on a very regular basis. Even better, we see it, well, right as we’re headed out the door, making it great for those last-minute “don’t forget this!” reminders.
(You can also write on your bathroom mirror, though sometimes I forget things in the four minutes between brushing my teeth and walking out the door.)
You could even write a reminder on your door to hang your keys on their hook so that you see it right as you’re coming home, keys still in hand.