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Use The Word "Don't" To Help You Reach Your Organizing Goals

Use The Word "Don't" To Help You Reach Your Organizing Goals

I recently read this article: A Scientific Guide to Saying "No:" How to Avoid Temptation and Distraction by James Clear. It was posted in an on-line clutter support FB group that I belong to. It really struck a cord with me about the powerful influence language can have on our thoughts and actions. 


In case you don't want to read the article, allow me to give you just a snippet to digest. It highlights a study done by the Journal of Consumer Research which included 30 working women who were asked to participate in a health and wellness seminar. The women had to come up with a goal to keep in mind over the course of 10 days.

The first group was given the recommendation to "just say no" if they were tempted to lapse on their goal.

The second group was told to employ the "can't" method when posed with the temptation to lapse - ie: I can't have dessert.

The third group was told to use the "don't" method when posed with the temptation to lapse - ie: I don't have dessert after dinner.


After the 10 days the results were as follows;

In the first group, 3 out of the 10 women persisted with their goals over the 10 days.

In the second group, 1 out of the 10 women persisted with their goals over the 10 days. 

In the third group, 8 out of the 10 women persisted with their goals over the 10 days.


Talk about the influence of words on your decision making! In this instance, you can see how using "can't" seems like a restriction, whereas using "don't" seems like a choice and is empowering.


Here are some DON'T statements that I've come up with to help you persist with your organizing goals:

I don't buy things I don't need.

I don't pile up my belongings.

I don't let junk mail in my house.

I don't allow expired food in my kitchen.

I don't make excuses for keeping things I haven't used in years.

I don't procrastinate on tasks that take less than 3 minutes.

I don't drive donations around in my car for more than a week.

I don't misplace my car keys because they have a designated home.

I don't save newspapers for more than a week.

I don't invent projects to justify keeping things I haven't used.

I don't leave used dishes around my home.

I don't leave a room without taking things to be put away.

I don't need to keep every book/movie/cd I've ever read/watched/listened to.

I don't start my day without making a to-do list.


Share your "don't" statements in the comments!




Categories: Motivation


  • So many times we think our inner dialogue has to be straight-forward thinking, but sometimes backwards thinking - such as don't instead of do - can actually be better for us. Love this post and the freedom it can bring to people on their organizing journeys!
    5/3/2017 4:22:30 PM Reply
    • @Liana George: I love your sentiment about "backwards thinking." It's like we're pulling a Jedi mind trick on ourselves to get us to do what we know we ought to do.
      5/5/2017 12:44:50 PM Reply
  • Wow, interesting study. I find that the word "don't" is more firm that can't or even no. No doesn't really do much in explaining one's stand on something. Though some "don't" phrase need to be used with discretion because people may take offense to the statement and may think you are judging them for asking. Thanks for sharing the study.
    4/24/2017 9:45:20 AM Reply
    • @Sabrina Quairoli: I agree with your point that "don't" does sound more firm than no! And I appreciate your feedback on my example phrases. Not to worry, this is a judgment-free zone.
      4/24/2017 10:12:47 AM Reply
  • Wow - that was very interesting! I am a believer in the power of our words. After all, we listen to our own voice more than any other. "Don't" is a word that implies a choice, which is empowering, while "can't" implies a lack of control. Excellent!
    4/22/2017 7:23:54 AM Reply
    • @Seana Turner: I love your comment that 'we listen to our own voice more than any other.' It's so true that if we change our internal dialogue it'll shape our actions and behaviors.
      4/23/2017 9:53:24 AM Reply

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