Many years ago I was given a business card by an acquaintance that featured the “Golden Rules for Living” on the back. Since then, these rules have meant a great deal to me, explaining some of the missing habits in my family as a child, additional opportunities relating to childrearing or teaching in a classroom and some of the perennial problems encountered in daily life.

The rules are simple, sensible and few in number, yet their power to make life easier and more harmonious in the home, the classroom and the workplace is undeniable. How many times have I become angry and frustrated to see a tube of toothpaste drying out and becoming impossible to cap because someone simply did not see the need to replace the top after removing it? How often have I wondered about the child, family member or colleague that leaves a spill or a pile of crumbs and doesn’t clean up? How many times have I shaken my head in wonder or rolled my eyes in disbelief when someone has taken something out of a desk or cupboard and did not put it back or left an appliance or light turned on that should have been turned off? How many hours have I wasted looking for something that someone took, used and did not put back? These are but a few of the frustrations that could be readily eased by simply following these simple “rules for living”.

This little set of rules to live by comes with some small variations in how they are written. Sometimes the list is 10 items long, sometimes 12 or more, but the lists are basically the same. They are simple, they are sensible and they are powerful. Parents should teach them to their children and teachers should teach them to their students.

Golden Rules for Living

If you open it, close it.

If you turn it on, turn it off.

If you unlock it, lock it.

If you break it, repair it.

If you cannot fix it, find someone who can.

If you borrow it, return it.

If you use it, take care of it.

If you make a mess, clean it up.

If you move it, put it back.

If it belongs to someone else and you want to use it, get permission.

If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.

If it does not concern you, mind your own business.

And a little addendum:

If you want to be liked, leave things as you found them.

If you want to be admired, leave things better than you found them.

If you want to be respected, do things without having to be told.


However, upon considering issues in my life and the various versions of this list, I would like to suggest four more “rules for living” which would make the list more comprehensive. These are:

If you start it, finish it.

If you commit to doing a task, do it well.

If you don’t need it or don’t plan to use it, don’t buy it.

And finally:

If it has no utility or value, get rid of it.