I Tried “Bare Minimum Mondays” to Get Through My Chores — Here’s How It Went

published Apr 24, 2023
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Basket with dirty laundry on floor in bathroom
Credit: Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

I’m no stranger to the Sunday scaries. Monday is the busiest day of my week, filled with domestic tasks left undone over the weekend, a backlog of work emails, and an entire week’s worth of assignments, as yet untouched. By the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, all these looming tasks weigh heavily on my brain, and it’s hard to enjoy the final hours of my weekend. 

I accepted the Sunday scaries as an unavoidable part of adulthood until I discovered TikToker Marisa Jo Mayes (@itsmarisajo)’s strategy, called “Bare Minimum Mondays.” Mayes argues against a manic Monday pace and offers a kinder alternative. She suggests throwing out the idealistic and unattainable Monday to-do list, and only doing what must be done — no more. 

To do a “Bare Minimum Monday,” Mayes will spend Sunday night thinking of the very “bare minimum” tasks she needs to do the following day and will only hold herself accountable to them. Then, you are free to decide how you’ll spend the rest of your Monday, such as self-care or doing something good to set yourself up for a great week ahead.

In this video, she applies “Bare Minimum Mondays” to her chores. First, she prepares herself by addressing the most important email and making a coffee before jumping into “cleaning mode.” She makes a list, starts a podcast, sets a timer, and gets to work — only doing the “bare minimum” things she listed in the hour she set aside.

I admit I was skeptical at first. Wouldn’t I just be transferring the Sunday scaries to Monday moodies or some equivalent? But I decided to give it a shot.

My first change was a bare-minimum breakfast. Because my husband works late, breakfast is our family dinner. This means that our typical Monday morning includes making a fairly involved breakfast, plus cleanup. No more! On our first bare-minimum Monday, we ate Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants. Was it the most filling? Absolutely not. Was it effortless and delightful? One hundred percent.

As soon as I had the house to myself, I made a list of must-do chores, following Mayes’ suggestion of “When in doubt, I always give myself less than I think I can handle.” This was difficult for me, but I prioritized tasks that I needed to do to function and gave myself a limit of one hour, which kept me from getting lost in the weeds. I needed to wash and dry clothes, but folding was unnecessary; it’s the one task that disappears if I don’t do it. The dishwasher needed to be emptied and reloaded, but I didn’t have to clear the drying rack. I also nixed tidying any room I wouldn’t be actively working in that day, which meant I only had to tidy the kitchen and our bedroom/office. 

When I sat down at my desk at around 8:30 a.m., I answered urgent emails and did necessary tasks, but I didn’t try to get ahead. When I hit a wall, I moved the clothes to the dryer and took a luxurious coffee and lunch break. The part of Bare Minimum Monday that I hadn’t anticipated is Mayes’ insistence on comfort and pleasure. She eats good food, snuggles under a blanket at her desk, and listens to a fun podcast while she cleans. My Monday listens are typically the news or a nonfiction audiobook, but on this Monday I turned on a Curtis Sittenfeld novel and saved self-improvement for Tuesday. 

As the kids walked in from the bus, I considered what a bare-minimum dinner would look like for us. In one of her TikToks, Mayes orders pizza at the end of her Monday. Initially, I thought this could work for us; Mondays could just be take-out days. But the truth is, our dining-out budget is limited by the joy of paying off student loans just in time to start saving for college for our now-teenage children. I opted for a kids’ choice dinner, knowing my children would choose something easy like bagels with cream cheese or a smoothie. I made avocado toast for myself, and my daughter and I snuggled under a blanket to watch a show before bed.

And now, for the moment of truth: Did I feel the Sunday scaries on Monday night? To my surprise, I did not. I suppose I accomplished enough to know that Tuesday wouldn’t be overwhelming, even if it would likely be faster-paced. It turns out that being kind to myself is a great way to ease into the week. 

What does your Monday look like? Let us know in the comments!