Cerebral Homemaking Part 5 – Time Matters

All this thinking about thinking about our work as homemakers may have left you thinking: well that’s great, Lori, to decide that I need to improve my job skills and develop a vision for my home and set my aim higher than the level of my goal, but the thing is, I have a life and I just don’t have time to keep a clean and orderly house.
My answer, Darling Person, is that we don’t have time not to.
If I really want to save time and have a life, I don’t have time to not care for my home.

Think of the amount of frustration, aggravation, and unpleasantness you feel when things get out of control and you put things off (but they keep nagging at you) and you try to get somebody else to do the work (and they resent that) and you tell yourself you don’t care (but you do) and the job gets bigger and bigger and harder and harder and you are running away from it (but you can’t really get away because you live here!). Think of the time you waste not caring for your home. I feel stressed just writing about it, because I have lived it too many times. Thankfully, I knew there was another way, because I grew up with a good example (Hi, Mom), but I know people who don’t even realize another way of being is possible.
The first step, as you may have guessed, is to change our thinking about homemaking time:
1. If I want to have a life and save time, I don’t have time to not care for my home.
2. Caring for my home takes less time if I do things promptly and regularly.
3. Most jobs take less time than I think.
4. My life is more pleasant if I learn to think of the time I spend on homekeeping as pleasant.
Here is the big secret to my changed thinking about homemaking time: I only truly embraced the truthof the first two thoughts after I discovered the third and the fourth, and I only discovered the third and the fourth thoughts after I accepted and lived the first two on faith for awhile.
New Thought #2: Caring for my home takes less time if I do things promptly and regularly. Undone work multiplies exponentially. I suppose not every job gets harder the longer it goes undone, but most of the weekly or daily ones do. The biggies in my house involve dishes, laundry, and bathroom cleaning. It is vital to do these jobs promptly and regularly. It is just as vital to embrace thinking of these as jobs that must be done promptly and regularly:
Promptly – The work just goes so much faster because the dishes aren’t crusty with dried-on food, the laundry folds more easily when it is warm from the sun or dryer (Why is that? I wish somebody would explain that to me scientifically, but it is true – try it and see.), and the spill comes up with one swipe because nobody walked through it and tracked it all over.
Regularly – It is easy to manage three or four loads of laundry in a day, but it is misery to be faced with ten. Which is more likely to be completed serenely? It is easy to do a quick disinfectant wipe-down of the bathroom every morning, but is misery to clean one neglected for a few weeks and impossible to clean one neglected for years. It only takes a few minutes to restore order to the kitchen after one meal (especially if the cook practices “clean as you go” during meal prep), but it can take hours if we put it off until every counter is full and nobody can fit a glass under the faucet to get a drink of water.
New Thought #3: Most jobs take less time than I think. This one was life-changing for me. Quick! Name the regular homemaking jobs you tend to avoid. Making the bed? Changing the sheets? Cleaning the tub? Folding a load of laundry? Unloading the dishwasher or putting away the dry dishes? Will you believe me if I tell you that all of those jobs take under ten minutes each? It’s true! Isn’t that exciting? Ten minutes! Actually, a few of them take less than five. Of course, some of them are only quick if they are done regularly and promptly, or if work related to them is done. For example, you can’t unload the dishwasher quickly if your cupboards are so full of junk that you can’t easily put away the dishes; likewise if the counters are so full or crumby/sticky that you can’t set anything down as you work. You can’t clean the tub quickly if you can’t remember the last time you did it. Regularly and promptly = easy and fast.

New Thought #4: My life is more pleasant if I learn to think of the time I spend on homekeeping as pleasant. Household cleaning and organizing is never going to be my favorite way to spend my time, but with some effort over the years I have taught myself not to mind most jobs nearly as much as I used to. (Realizing how little time many of them take was a big boost!) I guess this may be different for everyone, but I have learned to take time to enjoy the sensations of doing my work, both the process and the result. While I am working, I try to be aware of and take pleasure in using my muscles or my mind to do something productive that blesses my family and myself. As I finish a job, I inhale the clean smells, I run my hand over the smooth quilt on the bed, I listen to the sound of the quietly swishing dishwasher or washing machine, and I enjoy the sight of an orderly space. That is the pay-off I have taught myself to find pleasurable, and frankly it is very helpful to remember when I am having to talk myself into getting started on a particular job.
Putting My Thinking Into Practice:
1. Time yourself performing some common household jobs. Don’t race through it – just work at an upbeat and steady pace. Share in the comments how long it takes you to:
Put away clean dishes: _________
Put away _____ loads of folded laundry: _________
Change the linens on a bed: __________
Clean a bathroom: ________
2. Pick a job you normally dislike. Try to do it mindfully. Work to have a good attitude about it and look for what is pleasant about doing it or completing it. For me, honestly the best thing about many household jobs is how quickly I can finish them! Share your results here.
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  1. Anonymous
    Posted August 8, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Unloading the dishwasher is one of those things I dread. Why? When I started ‘racing’ the microwave, I realized I can do it in about the amount of time (2 min) that it takes to cook a bowl of oatmeal. Why dread something so short, and not so un-sweet either, with such calming and pleasant results???

    You hit the nail on the head … again…. Soooo true about regular and prompt cleaning/upkeep! It is so much easier, and more pleasant for everyone in the household. But someone *read me* gets tired, cranky, and overwhelmed and I loose focus; then I have to keep reminding myself about housework, “This is my job. Do it.” But when care of sick people are involved, and other life stuff happens, I lose focus again … and again.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this series; it is helping me to re-focus! (The series earlier in the year did too – keep writing!!)


    • Posted August 8, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      You know the big secret, I imagine — writing about it helps me to re-focus, too. 🙂 Being a bear of very little brain sometimes, I need it just as much as you say you do.

  2. Posted August 8, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Good post! As you know, I highly recommend practicing what I call “preventive maintenance” – when cooking if you drip something on the floor use a wet paper towel and wipe it up right then (easier before it dries) – same for things like drips down the front of ovens, refrigerators, cabinets, etc.

    Preventive maintenance works for all parts of the house – keeping clothes put away (or in the hamper), keeping rooms tidy, etc.

    Like Sylvia (above), I often unload the dishwasher while making breakfast – I can usually put away a full load in the time it takes to microwave the cup of water for Wilson’s green tea and cook his oatmeal – total time 4 minutes!

    • Posted August 8, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      I unload the DW while I make coffee first thing after washing my hands when I come downstairs in the morning. I like to get it done so it’s ready to receive the dirty dishes that seem to flow all day sometimes. Our family of five usually runs the DW twice/day (sometimes only once). We used to handwash more large dishes so as to only run it 1x/day, but when we got a new DW a few years ago and read that it uses less water than hand washing, we started putting more things in it. If we have clean dishes in it later in the day, I make myself unload it before doing something fun or starting work in the kitchen. It usually takes me 3-4 minutes.

  3. Posted August 8, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Ok – big breakthrough here for me reading this post. I remember in college, if my roomates came home and saw me cleaning the house, they knew I was upset. Not angry at them, and not even angry at the condition of the house, but just letting off steam. Because when I was angry, I would have all this energy and I figured, hey I might as well do something productive. But, of course, cleaning and anger started to become synonymous. Even if I wasn’t angry, if I started cleaning, I would feel angry. I’ve figured out better ways to handle my anger since then – but I think there is still the residual connection … and it makes housekeeping VERY unpleasant. I think step 4, to think of housekeeping as pleasant, will be a huuuuge step for me if I can realy get myself into that mindset. Will be ruminating on this, thank you Lori!!

    • Posted August 8, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      It’s so strange how odd connections like housework = anger can happen without our even realizing it, and then we keep playing those out again and again without realizing it. I plan to write in a future Cerebral article about a similar mindset I’ve realized I brought into my adult-self-as-homemaker from my childhood. It has taken real work to change that thinking, but it’s very worth doing. I’m glad what you read here gave YOU a breakthrough!

  4. Posted August 8, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    I have totally found that things don’t take nearly as long as I think. I use to look at a job and get overwhelmed, like when Tilly’s room gets to be a mess, or after we have a big group over for diner and the counter is piled with dishes. a trick my mom taught me wars to set the timer for 15 minutes and get to work, it is AMAZING how much you can get done in just 15 minutes!!! I also found that for big jobs like reorganising cabinets or the garage or things like that that I had made so much progress after just 15 minutes that it really motivated me to keep going. I’ll do the timing thing and let you know.
    Thanks for the great post.

    • Posted August 9, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      This is a great way to kickstart ourselves, Melaine. I often comfort myself when I have to do something “big,” either because I have put if off for too long or just because it is a naturally bigger job, like the ones you mentioned about cleaning up after a gathering or tackling a large decluttering job, by saying to myself, “Just work for 15 minutes. Then you can stop if you want to.” I think I actually HAVE stopped a time or two, but I laughed at myself when I did and then got back to it very soon.

      For me, the huge revelation of how quickly most jobs get done eventually led me to look at the ones that DIDN’T get done fast and ask myself why. I realized that most of the time it was because I wasn’t doing them regularly or promptly enough, and because I was motivated to finish jobs faster and make housework as pleasant as possible, I gradually trained myself in habits that accomplished that — preventing messes, figuring out “homes” for our stuff and training myself to put things away quickly, and so on. That is the kind of thing I was referring to in this article about how discovering the third and fourth new thoughts only happened for me after I had been trying to live the first two on faith for awhile. Only THEN did I really accept the first two thoughts as basic truths of my life and fully embrace them as truth. I have a hard time explaining that. Hope it makes some sense.

  5. Posted August 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for this post! I am feeling some motivation now to go put some dishes into the dishwasher. Ha! So glad you addressed the part about the time it takes to do things. I overwhelm myself thinking it will take forever to do the tasks I need to do, when really it’s not that bad. So glad I found your blog via The Flourishing Abode’s post today.
    Blessings, Shonda

    • Posted August 17, 2012 at 5:11 am | Permalink

      I know what you mean, Shonda, about getting overwhelmed. I have found myself spending more time dreading doing work in front of me than the time it takes to just DO it. 🙂 Thank you for coming my way! There will be another Cerebral Homemaking installment soon.

  6. Posted August 14, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Visiting from the Flourishing Abode and I just have to say, the truth of What a great, honest post! #4 is coming home to me finally. Somewhere over the past 6 months, I have started saying different things to myself as I get my housework done, like “I’m glad I have dishes to wash” (even though I don’t have a dishwasher and sometimes do 3-4 loads a day) or “I’m thankful for the easy exercise this housework is providing.” I’m noticing it makes all the difference what I’m telling myself as I do things. In recent months, my husband has been sidelined due to a knee injury, and so I’ve even found energy to cut the grass and paint our fence – pretty sure it has to do with my attitude changing.

    • Posted August 17, 2012 at 5:13 am | Permalink

      Dianne, I love how you say “it makes all the difference what I’m telling myself as I do things.” That nails it! Good for you for taking positive steps — even when your husband’s injury gives you extra work. Thanks for coming over from April’s excellent blog and thanks for COMMENTING — it makes my day!

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