This Is Exactly How Long It Takes to Do Those Chores You’ve Been Putting Off (I Timed It!)

published May 2, 2022
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Credit: Elissa Crowe

Procrastination is a beast. By enticing us to put off tasks we dread, it robs us of our time and joy and loads us with the burden of things undone, which becomes heavier and heavier the longer we carry it. 

Often, when you’re putting off household chores, it can be because you believe that whatever task you’re putting off will require more energy, angst, pain, or time than you have. But like a looming shadow that makes something small look far more scary than it is, these exaggerations are often untrue. 

The only thing that truly eliminates the dread haunting us is doing the thing. We all know this. But how can we help ourselves face the monster? 

One way to de-fang that hovering creature breathing down our necks is to expose the lie that completing a chore is going to take such a long time. In truth, that thing you’ve been putting off might take a mere few minutes. Trading a small amount of time for freedom from the weight of your unfulfilled responsibilities is obviously a worthwhile tradeoff. When it comes to household chores you tend to procrastinate on, I’m about to hand you the sword to slay the beast. 

Bridging that gap between knowing how great we’d feel if we just did the thing and actually doing it might be a matter of simply knowing how long it takes to get to the other side. I actually timed how long it took me to perform many of the home keeping tasks it’s easy to drag my feet on. Realizing the relatively small cost of getting these things done, compared to the inflated cost of a long stint of procrastination, helped me face them and check them off my lists victoriously. 

With the hopes that it might just help you too, here’s exactly how long it took me to do these often-procrastinated tasks: 

Clearing off cluttered kitchen counters.

Dealing with clutter can feel overwhelming, but the impact of cleared-off surfaces on your state of mind at home is huge. Clearing off cluttered kitchen counters transforms the feel of the whole room so you can work in the kitchen in peace. It takes: Five minutes.

Washing the family’s water bottles.

A collection of water bottles waiting to be scrubbed with the bottle brush and scoured in all their grooves and nooks and crannies would make anyone want to turn their back on the job. But making sure water bottles are sanitary is a matter of health and safety. With seven people in our family, my collection is larger than most. To wash them all, thoroughly, straws and all, took me: 11 minutes.

Straightening up a desk.

This one is tricky because straightening up can actually be a way we procrastinate when we have work to do. However, most of us do better work when our environment is orderly. In fact, we might be avoiding work because we recoil at the thought of sitting at a messy desk. To straighten up a relatively disordered desk so that your workspace is clear and calm took me a grand total of: Four minutes.

Putting a load of laundry away.

In a perfect world, every load of laundry would be folded while it’s still warm from the dryer and put away immediately. In real life, laundry often happens in fits and starts: a load gets tossed into the washer here, half the basket gets folded there. One big bottleneck in the whole process is stacks of folded clothes that haven’t been put away. This is one of my biggest sticking points. But putting away an entire load of folded laundry took me a mere:
Two-and-a-half minutes.

Get returns ready to send back.

Returns are the clutter you can’t just send to the donation center and the prospect of processing them (packaging them up, getting the QR code from Amazon, printing return shipping labels, etc.) can make you freeze. But getting them out of the house — and getting your refunds on their way to you! — will be a big weight off. Getting a typical set of returns ready to get shipped back took me about: Two-and-a-half minutes.

Resetting your living areas.

Along with living in our common areas comes a decent amount of mess. And in order to recharge in these same spaces, it’s best to have them picked up and somewhat clean (meaning: no crumbs on the carpet, no film of dust on the end table, etc.). For me, a reset includes putting out-of-place items where they belong, replacing and fluffing pillows, straightening items that belong on surfaces, and performing very light cleaning. To clean a two-room common area inhabited by kids (IYKYK) took me about: 11 minutes.

Vacuuming upholstered furniture.

This is one of those tasks that feels like a deep cleaning chore, one relegated to that far off, unspecified weekend when you’ll clean all those things you rarely clean. But fur and crumbs on furniture look and feel messy. To remove them thoroughly from a huge sectional and a small love seat (and to create those delicious vacuum lines on the velvet one) took me:
Seven-and-a-half minutes.

Folding a load of laundry.

Not all loads of laundry are created equal. A basket full of adult clothes won’t take as long to fold as one full of tiny toddler and baby clothes, which is what I folded when I timed myself. Even still, the amount of time it took was less than the length of a Netflix episode. Moving that laundry train along is always worth the effort and, in this case, took me just:
20 minutes.

Realizing you can check off a bunch of your to-dos in less than half an hour might be precisely the motivation you need to vanquish housekeeping-related procrastination for good.