Making up the rules as we go along

Over the Christmas holiday, I went to the movies twice (thus tripling the number of movies I saw in 2012).  On each occasion, I was struck by the sight of my children eating their snacks during the previews.

Who raised these people?

I’m blaming my husband, who was unabashedly eating popcorn during the previews, and my mom, because she used to take them to the movies when they were boys, and I know she is a preview snacker.

I never eat snacks during the previews.  Never.

It’s a self imposed rule that I made up in childhood so my skittles or M&Ms would last longer.

It got me thinking about a book I read last April, Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister.   Among other things, he discussed how these self imposed rules, these non-negotiables, strengthen our willpower.  By reducing the number of decisions we have to make in a day, we save our willpower for the more important decisions.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t consider myself an organized or structured person.  I don’t keep to a cleaning schedule; I don’t set goals or make plans.  I procrastinate; I forget to bring the shopping list to the store.  I’m more haphazard than methodical in getting things done.   Sometimes I put on my socks, then my shoes; other times I put a sock and shoe on one foot, then the other.  (Bonus points for recognizing the reference.)

But, at the movies, I realized that I am also a rule maker.  I have made all sorts of rules over the years.   Some, like No Snacking Until the Movie Starts, have held fast.  Others died an unmourned death.  Some were only for a season of life.  Some I wanted to stick, but they didn’t.

Frustration compelled me to announce a new house rule last week:  the tv does not get turned on at night until the kitchen is clean.  I’ve realized that any rule that requires familial cooperation has a stunningly lower chance of survival, but I’m an optimist.

It’s hard for me to list my rules, because the ones that have stuck are so habitual that I don’t think about them, but here are a few that come to mind.

  1. Put my shoes away when I get home.
  2. Never give in to stop a child from whining or tantrums.
  3. Make my bed every morning.
  4. Change the dishcloth and towel every morning.
  5. No yelling at children in non-emergency situations.

Here are rules that I really liked in theory, but which never became habits.  The failures.

  1. Floss daily.
  2. Don’t say, “I told you so.”
  3. No TV Tuesday.
  4. Fill the gas tank when the gauge reads under half a tank.
  5. No eating after 8:00pm.

What are your small, daily, rules for living?  Your non-negotiables?

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33 thoughts on “Making up the rules as we go along

  1. it is my dream to have my whole life structured with rules like this lol. But in reality, I don’t have the motivation to be the structured person I feel I am on the inside. It is kind of difficult having two totally oppostie characteristics lol. I envy you for even being able to stick to those rules you have 😉

  2. hmmm. I don’t know. my oldest is also a snacks are not for previews person; sadly, since he shares popcorn with the other 4 of us, he has had to break this rule or risk missing out. Poor guy.

    some of my rules…..shoes go in the shoe basket, the minute you walk in the door. Except I do not impose this on guests; it’s about not losing shoes, not keeping the floor clean.

    Use one cup all day long, per person. No one does this but me. Familial cooperation and all that.

    Put the Nintendo remotes away after use, or forfeit your right to a turn the rest of the day. I have become very lax on this one, but now that we have a docking station for them, it’s improving again.

    Can’t think of too many more…..like you, the ones that have stuck are just habits now, and the ones that didn’t……well, we just won’t talk about those.

  3. we are really so alike in this! Absolutely no snacking at previews! One glass per person all day here also! Bed must be made as soon as I’m out of it.

  4. Plug my cell phone in every night on my bedside table so it is always charged.

    Put backpacks, purses, keys, tablets, cell phones, wallets in the same place every day. I’m the only one in my family of 4 that follows this rule, thus invoking the, “Mom, have you seen my…” conversation every. single. day.

    Take my makeup off every night. No excuses.

  5. I love it when a rule works. They don’t always but they can make such a difference in my life. I took the hugest step in overcoming my binge eating by making two rules “No eating in the car” and “No eating anything purchased from a gas station or drug store.” They stuck and it was the first step in my final successful weight loss journey.

    Now I’m trying the rule “write before internet” — I have great optimisim for it! But I always have lots of optimism in the beginning of the year.

    • Those are great rules. My husband’s doctor told him, “It doesn’t count as food if it comes in through your car window,” which I thought was excellent. However, one of the keys seems to be making up your own rules.

  6. With four little kids in the house I have almost no non-negotiables. Obviously I think way too much! But look forward to some day regaining a few! 🙂

  7. When I was in 11th grade my algebra II teacher challenged us to stay focused. He said he decided that he would ignore anyone walking by in the hall and would keep his eyes on us during class. I tried it out. When someone walked by in the hall I did not look. As strange as it sounds this lesson has stuck with me all of these years and has served me well. I have learned to keep my focus on what I want it on and to ignore distractions. Now, I am not perfect at this, but when I choose to do it I usually can. So, yes, I think these rules do strengthen our willpower. Pretty cool topic for a post.

    I am in love with those drawings. My favorite is the one with your dog…so much like home!

  8. I love rules. Hmm, I have bunches, just ask anyone who lives with me for more than 2 days. Let me think. Don’t put plastic on the bottom of the dishwasher. Always look ahead to the end of a book. Clean as you go in the kitchen. The holder rack thingy for the k-cups has to always be full.

    I eat popcorn during previews, I don’t go to movies often. On a related note, I hate previews as they are loud, feature scantily clad women, music I don’t like, things blowing up, sometimes bad words and other non-Jan friendly things.

    Track all my food in my WW tracker before I eat it (I’m mostly 99% on track with this one)
    Only use paper towels in situations where it’s way too goopy to use a proper kitchen towel.
    Keep the ledge between living room and kitchen cleared off, it’s not a place to “store things for later” (unless later is under 4 minutes)
    Unload the dishwasher in a timely manner. If you can’t put dishes in the dishwasher because it’s clean, unload it, don’t dump your dishes int he sink and hope the dishwasher fairy will come along and unload it when you’re not looking.

  9. I’m a use different glasses person, but I put mine in the dishwasher when I’m done. I go through 2-3 coffee cups a day (granted one is in the car with me when I go to work and the other is for my after school/work coffee.

    Felicia when she was here TRIED to insist on the “one glass per day thing” as she likes it, but I’m a compulsive put empty glasses in the dishwasher person, so when we had people living with us, everyone was continually looking for their cups, and they were in the dishwasher. My rule is if it’s empty put it in the dishwasher. If it’s full only have one out at a time.

    I probably use 3-5 glasses a day, and often have 2-3 at a time (1 water/crystal light, 1 diet pepsi, 1 coffee)

    Another, put your shoes in the shoe area when coming in the house.

    • My water glass is never empty. So I’d be safe at your house. If I do have a glass of milk or orange juice, I will put those glasses in the dishwasher right away.

    • Jan, my reason for 1 glass per person/per day is that we do not have a dishwasher, so makes sense for them to rinse & reuse right then rather than leave in the sink until later. If I had a dishwasher, I would be okay with them putting the dirty cup in the dishwasher, probably.

  10. I am not very focused on domestic duties right now (even though I have a husband, a tween, a teen and a dog). So I tell myself that I should do 3 things a day: wash/dry one load of laundry, cook one meal, wash one sink full of dishes. Some days I don’t get that done, but at least I have stated the intent!

    • Honestly, that sounds like enough. I don’t do laundry for people tall enough to use the machine, and I don’t cook every night, so you sound like an overachiever to me.

  11. Oh, my husband and I definitely munch on popcorn during previews. I love the previews, so they are much like the movie to me, part of the whole experience.
    Hmmm…I tend to have lots of rules. Well, I used to have more. One that you’d think wouldn’t work but did was that my daughters were not allowed (as teens) to work on Sundays because dinner as a family was a must. Their bosses always went along with it, surprisingly. One now is that there’s no texting allowed at the dinner table. Another: We always clean up after a dinner party no matter how tired we may be—no going to bed without getting the dishes done, etc.

    • That last one is excellent. We formed the very bad habit early on of letting dirty dishes sit in the sink. It’s gross, and I never wake up feeling like washing dishes.

  12. For me: Make my bed! Fill the coffee machine the night before, then push the button and savor my first cup of coffee as soon as I come back in from walking The Dog. Fold the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. Unpack my suitcase as soon as I come home. (Or three weeks later it will still be half-unpacked.)
    For them: Say ‘Hello’ when you walk in the door. No dishes in the sink – straight into the dishwasher. I have given up on the glasses thing – they hide them everywhere… And I have imposed a technology-free zone at the dinner table and in the bedroom.
    Wow – do I sound strict?!

    • I would say orderly, not strict. I like the tech-free dinners. All our little devices are such a distraction and temptation. It’s important to learn to be with the people we are with, and not feel pulled in multiple directions. Good social skills, good lesson in attentiveness and manners. I like it!

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