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Keeping my car clean with a habit loop
Thanks to gas stations, my car stays reasonably non-disgusting.
Some systems and habits are inherited from wise elders in your life. This one, as do so many of mine, comes from my mom.
Ever since I was a kid, whenever we’d pull into a gas station she’d announce Kids, it’s time to throw out the trash. We’d scramble out of our seats and gather the various napkins, wrappers, and whatever else junk had accumulated and toss it into the trash cans that gas stations universally provide next to the pump (so thoughtful of them!).
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I continue this practice to this day, with one added detail. I allow myself to pack untold amounts of trash only in the driver’s side door. If it fits, it gets crammed in. If it doesn’t fit, I have to take it with me when I exit the car. That prevents my car from becoming a trash dump, and lets me stuff small trash without guilt (it’s my secret shame — don’t look too closely when riding with me). I have a hard rule against throwing trash on the floor of the car. That is a slippery slope, friends!
What works about this system is it utilizes a habit loop and cue: something that prompts you to perform the habit you want to build. Cues can be based on time, location, another habit/event, or even an emotion. The gas station cue is location-based. Whenever I’m at the gas station I automatically look to see if there’s trash to throw out in the one spot trash is allowed to be—it’s an easy habit. I don’t have to will myself to do this or remember it in my conscious mind, since I’ve already made the association. Hooray, I’m a robot!
Gas station cues are perfect because they occur regularly, and what the heck else are you going to do while you wait for your tank to fill up? Might as well run your awesome car-cleaning habit system.
What to do if you have an electric car? That, my friends, I do not know. Maybe electric car owners are too virtuous to allow trash accumulation in their vehicles? Who knows. But if not, I urge you to find a cue to stack a car-cleaning habit around.
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