Why I Refused to Change My Ratty Old Cleaning Cloth

Why did I keep using my disgustingly ratty old cleaning cloth, when I had a perfectly good one in the linen closet?

I use a small chamois cloth to clean my kitchen counter. It does a great job of absorbing the liquids that collect as I cook and clean. Not long ago I looked at that cloth, noticed the holes and the stains, and said, “Gross!” Right then and there I fished a brand new one out of the linen closet.

(c) Kathleen Thompson - who else would admit this was theirs? :)

(c) Kathleen Thompson – who else would admit this was theirs? :)

That cloth had been disgusting for a while. I had noticed it before, but never did anything about it. Why did I choose that day to replace it? What kept me from doing it before? What can we all learn from my ratty cleaning cloth?

3 Reasons Why We Don’t Change

  1. Our desire for the familiar is stronger than the desire to change. Sometimes we know exactly what to do and simply can’t bring ourselves to do it. It feels too hard. Getting started is often the most difficult part about making change.
  2. We don’t see the possibilities. This was true with my ratty cloth. I didn’t know I had another one sitting in the closet. I thought I would have to try and search for something similar to what I had. I didn’t know how easy or difficult that would be, so I ignored the situation.
  3. We don’t even see the problem in the first place. As we talked about in Podcast Episode 021, we find it challenging to focus on the present. For me, it’s especially true when I am cleaning. Rather than being fully present, I use that time to listen to podcasts or music, or otherwise occupy my mind.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can contribute to situational blindness. It clearly did with my cleaning cloth. I saw it, but I didn’t really “see” it.

What can we do about this? How can we see what needs changing and then do it? Here are 6 Steps to Effective Change.

Live in the Present

Oddly enough, designing your future requires a good handle on the present. Live here. Be fully present – practice mindfulness. If you don’t know how, listen to Episode 021.   Focusing on the present gives you a clearer vision.

Notice a Pain Point

Once we are present with ourselves and our surroundings, we will start to notice things that aren’t quite right. Something we want to adjust. It could be a small adjustment, or a scary big one. For me this time it was a ratty cloth. At other times it has been a life-changing issue.

Explore Possibilities

It is not yet time to settle on a solution. Now is the time to play with the situation. First, decide what the opposite of the pain would look like. In my case, it was a clean, solid, germ-free cloth. As you describe this new & improved state, make it precise and emotionally compelling.

Then comes the fun. Think of possibilities – as many as you can. You don’t have to do it all at once. Make it a game. Even purposely think of the worst ideas you can come up with. It’s amazing how that frees up your mind to think of great solutions that otherwise would have eluded you.

Record your list. You can write, type, or dictate. Once you have them listed, play further. Play them out. Try them on for size. Keep in mind that you are going past your comfort zone. Thus, don’t look for a perfect fit. It might just be a bit too comfortable, and prevent the change you’re trying to make.


The time has come. Exploration turns to decision, which will become action. Set a time limit on exploration. It is easy to stay in the exploration stage because it doesn’t require a commitment. It isn’t as scary. There’s no resistance when it’s a game. There are no consequences….except the reminder of the pain that nags at you. The feeling that you want to do something. That it’s important.

Use a trigger

Simply deciding to change isn’t enough. We have to do it. Reminding ourselves is a great start, but we often forget to do that. Just this morning I wrote down something I wanted to make a point to do throughout the day. The day is half over, and I’ve only done it twice. I got involved with what I was doing and completely forgot to stop and take one simple action.

It might be as simple as an automated reminder. It may need to be something stronger, like using a habit or pattern we already have established to trigger the new action.

Here’s an example: If I want to do 50 jumping jacks before I take a shower in the morning, I tie this to the activity I normally do just before getting in the shower. For me, that’s taking some supplements and drinking 1-2 glasses of water. So I use the water as a trigger to do the jumping jacks. At first it feels unnatural. Very quickly it becomes part of my habit.

Create accountability

It is difficult to persist when resistance is high. When what we want to change feels unnatural or wrong. Our brains try to keep the status quo, because that feels safer. The best chance for success is to add accountability into the mix.

You can do it alone by creating a tracking system. A habit tracker app on your phone, a spreadsheet, a checklist. Something on the fridge.

It helps to have a partner. A family member, friend, co-worker, coach, on-line community – any of these can work. The key is that they are supportive, encouraging, and push you to greater growth.

Change isn’t easy

If it was, we’d all do it. And there wouldn’t be such a huge industry of people helping others to change. Knowing what to change doesn’t do it. Even knowing HOW to change doesn’t do it. It takes focusing, noticing, exploring, choosing, triggers, and accountability.

You Can Do It

If you know someone who wants to make a change, why don’t you try it together? Share this post via the e-mail or any of the social media buttons, and change your old ratty cleaning cloth for a new one.