One Way Your Cleaning Checklist Could be Working Against You

published Sep 28, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Some of my most dreaded (and therefore put-off) tasks are actually not that big of a deal at all, especially time-wise. It’s as if I look at these chores through a fish-eye lens and they appear far bigger than they are in real life. My natural procrastination magnifies the picture even further, until my tiny to-do costs me far more time and energy thinking about it and avoiding it than it would have been to just do it in the first place.

That’s why, when faced with a boring chore, I overcome my inertia by being mindful about one thing: How long a task actually takes to finish. For me, putting the folded laundry away is a big one. But when I remember that it only takes all of about two minutes max, it’s just the nudge I need to get ‘er done.

Since committing to a set amount of time to get something accomplished seems to be so much more productive than getting up the gumption to do it, I’m trying out something new with my cleaning schedule

Why I’m Adding Time-Boxes to My Cleaning Checklist

I use a checklist to stay on top of my house cleaning. But rather than a mere list of items like “clean the bathroom” or “pick up the mudroom and laundry room,” I’m going to start adding my own little time slot, so the chore will read “clean the bathroom for 15 minutes” or “deep clean the kitchen for 30 minutes.” With this small addition, I have the flexibility to either clean out the fridge or pull out and sweep and mop under my appliances.

The key, I think, is that the amount of time is finite, no matter the size of the project or even the (reasonable) length of time. Whether it’s going through your closet for an hour or clearing out the garage for four, with an end point in sight, no undone task has the power to feel like it’s going to take over all of nap time or the whole Saturday.

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

A time-based checklist isn’t an easy way out, either. If you slate 15 minutes for cleaning the bathroom, you’ll almost for sure be able to fit in a deeper cleaning task, such as going through the medicine cabinet, straightening out the cleaning supplies you keep under the sink, or taking down the shower curtain so so you can wash it.

So rather than giving tasks short-shrift, you end up going above and beyond. I have six more minutes on the timer. What else can I clean in here? Painlessly, you’re sneaking in bites of the deep cleaning elephant all over the house. Over time, you’ll have an even cleaner house because you’ve been chipping away at bigger tasks every time you do your regular chores.