I Started Using the TikTok “Timer Method” to Tidy My Apartment and Now I Never Dread Cleaning

published Jan 20, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Liz Calka

Usually, I remember I have to clean in the five minutes before a friend comes over. That’s when I look around and see the jacket still draped over my kitchen chair, the pot I used to make oatmeal still “soaking” in the sink (several hours should do the trick), and the pile of mail that might be important but I haven’t opened yet — with a fresh set of eyes. I live alone and have long described my cleanliness as not dirty, but maybe a little messy. 

I’ve tried different tactics and have always managed to keep my space mostly kempt, but it felt like a chore to fold all of the clothes I had piled onto my bed before sleeping or wash the pot immediately after using it. Then, I scrolled upon a TikTok trend that changed my tidying routine entirely. The idea is this: Decide how much time you are able or willing to spend cleaning. Then set a timer for exactly that amount of time, start cleaning immediately, and stop when the timer goes off. It seemed too straightforward to be effective, but the first time I tried it I ended up with a cleaner apartment and a better mood in less than half an hour. 

Here’s my very simple methodology: I set my oven timer for 25 minutes, put on some music (sometimes a fast-paced playlist made for cleaning, whatever album I’m currently obsessed with, or occasionally a podcast I don’t have to listen too closely to), and then get to cleaning. There are no fixed rules, but I tend to start in my kitchen, dealing with dishes and wiping down large surfaces. Then I’ll head to the bathroom, giving everything a quick pass with a disinfectant wipe and putting away anything I might’ve left on the sink vanity. Next, I might take on the living room, folding the throw blankets and clearing the obligatory three drinking vessels I’ve left on my desk (water, tea, coffee).

Credit: Joe Lingeman

In between each task, I give the clock a quick glance to see how much time I have left. The idea of fighting against the clock and knowing there’s that inevitable pencils down moment when the timer goes off stops me from getting distracted and makes the whole process, dare I say, pretty fun. The 25-minute slot I allot myself is the perfect amount to squeeze into a lunch break, a pre-bedtime routine, or even an early morning cleaning sesh when I’m feeling productive. It’s not enough time to pull everything out of my closet, of course, or reorganize my pantry, but that’s when a more intensive decluttering process like the January Cure comes in handy. 

The timer method gives me a moment to take care of my space, listen to some music and move around, and feel like I’m on a game show of my own making. It’s not enough time to deep clean my entire apartment, but it’s a good reminder that not everything needs to happen at once.