The rule of three. Bad luck comes in threes. Many religions believe in some divinity form of the number three. Two is company; three is a crowd. A hat trick in hockey is three goals by the same player in one game. Stories are told in terms of three: a beginning, middle, and an end. Races are run in thirds: with your body, your mind, and your heart. A triangle has three sides; a pyramid is one of the more stable structures. In baseball, three strikes and you are out. Three is an arbitrary number, really. I don’t even particularly care for the number three. It is not my favorite number. It is, however, quite significant for a number of reasons.
Since I have begun my slowdown, I have started living my life by the rule of three. It is going pretty well so far. My house is less cluttered, my anxiety levels have decreased, and I am able to accomplish more in a day. This is how the rule of three has affected my life:
- Less clutter. It is really overwhelming to come home after a long day at work, and to see surfaces covered. Maybe it’s the stand when you first walk in the door that is covered with keys, coins, and umbrellas. Maybe it is your kitchen table full of the kid’s homework, leftover dinner dishes, the day’s mail. I have gradually gone through my house and cleaned off every surface. COMPLETELY. So it is empty. Then, I find the three things I love the most in the pile in front of me and put those three things on the table/shelf whatever. Not only does this make it easier to clean, but also I feel more relaxed now that my surfaces and shelves are less cluttered. What to do with the stuff you have removed? If you don’t love it enough to look at it everyday or to clean it or clean around it, it leaves. Yes, this is hard. Put it in a donation box for a month. If you forget about it in that month, it wasn’t that important, was it?
- Shorter to-do list. I have a honey-do list. Everyone does. Unfortunately, I have no honey, and I have a lot of do. When I was working 60+ hours a week, I was always running around trying to do something. Even though I love Wonder Woman, and sometimes wear the t-shirt with the big bright W on my chest, I finally realized I can’t do it all. Nor should you. Unless you are going to be naked for the day, sometimes laundry can wait. I have cut down my to-do list from 15-17 things per day to 3 things per day. I now have time for the important things, like my family, and am less stressed when I do spend time with them. Sure, it may have been three days since I’ve mopped, but you need to create those memories with your family that give you a reason to mop.
- Three weeks, or 21 days, is how long it takes to make a lasting change in your life that is going to stick. You hear three weeks about anything from starting a new exercise routine to a new sleep schedule, or basically anything you want to become a habitual form of your behavior. All change is hard, but if it sticks for three weeks, it is probably permanent. I have used this to accomplish goals, such as spending more time at the parks and beaches relaxing. Chose your goal, write it down, and circle a date on the calendar 3 weeks from now. If you do not meet your goal, that does not mean that you failed. Look for progress. My goal for these three weeks was to go to a different beach each week. Did I make it to three beaches? No, I only made it to two. While I may not have met my goal of three, the fact that I made it to two is progress towards my goal of spending more time outside. I am changing my behavior gradually and marking progress.
Can you do it? Can you shorten your to-do list to three things per day? What will really be missed if you do? Focus on the important things and not the minutia so that you can enjoy the moments of your life.
Can you downsize your surfaces so that they only contain three items? Start with one area – one shelf or table. Can you keep that one shelf from becoming cluttered with more than three things on it for three weeks? If so, that’s progress. Choose another surface and do it again.
Three is not my favorite number. Eight is actually my favorite number. It’s all part of slowing down. I’m going from eight to three and freeing myself for what is important in life – family, friends, and experiences.