Saturday, March 21, 2009

Weekly Rhythm and the 10-Minute Tasks

There is something about the combination of Lent and Spring that gives me a surge of gusto when it comes to caring for our home. I try to spend Lent banishing excess worry, guilt, self-centeredness, impatience, and other negatives that hold me back from fully embracing God and finding inner peace. I think it's this spiritual cleansing during the Lenten season that inspires me to cleanse our dwelling of excess clutter, disorder, and other obstacles that infringe upon the harmony I seek for our home.

*Warning* This post is a bit long-winded. It involves two things I love: lists and organizing!

I have scheduled days on which I try to accomplish certain home cleaning tasks. I am constantly tweaking my weekly schedule, or rhythm, as I call it. The season, out-of-town guests, holidays, the constantly changing nap schedule of my youngest, etc. There is a revolving door of reasons that my daily to-do list changes. Currently, I am following this daily cleaning rhythm:

-Church (if we didn't go on Saturday afternoon--we often have family gatherings on Saturdays, so we attend church on Sunday morning instead)
-Family activity or outing

-Strip beds and launder bedding
-Open windows and air out rooms
-Dust/neaten surfaces in bedroom
-Vacuum upstairs
-Remake beds with fresh linens
-Do laundry: linens first, then diapers and wipes

-Clean guest bathroom
-Clean living room:
-wipe down coffee table
-neaten/declutter surfaces
-straighten books/toy cubbies
-wipe down phone/light switches/door knobs
-vacuum floor and stairs
-Febreeze couch cushions and throw pillows
-Do laundry: Mark's and my clothes

-Clean upstairs bathroom while Roo takes a bath:
-empty trash
-launder towels/mats
-wash counters, walls, medicine cabinet door and shelves
-clean toilet
-clean sinks
-clean tub (before popping Roo in it, of course!)
-sweep/mop floor
-Check linen closet for supplies
-Hang fresh towels/lay out fresh mats
-Do laundry: towels first, then diapers and wipes
-Look over grocery store flyers, begin shopping list

-Clean kitchen:
-neaten/wash down countertops
-wash sink, flush with boiling water and then bleach
-wipe down stovetop and vent hood
-wipe down appliances
-clean inside of microwave
-wipe down refrigerator shelves, toss old food
-Do laundry: Children's clothes, Mark and my clothes
-Finish grocery list

-Do laundry: tablecloth/napkins/dish towels first, then diapers and wipes
-Bathe children
-Go grocery shopping

-Family fun/outing in the morning
-Misc. home, garden, auto
-Trip to the bread store (2x per month)
-Church in the late afternoon

While the weekly rhythm includes the major cleaning, there are little tasks that don't have to be done weekly. But if they are not scheduled in at some point, they will be overlooked. And while these little to-do's aren't glaringly obvious to anyone but me, they nevertheless need to be done as part of keeping a clean and organized home.

The challenge I face is not finding time to do these little cleaning jobs, as the bigger and more obvious jobs call my name. Plus, some of them are so tedious that I find myself avoiding doing them at all. I came up with a plan to address both of these problems.

My 10-Minute Tasks are just that: tasks that are broken down so that I can complete each one in only 10 minutes. Additionally, I've set it up so that I can't conveniently skip over the tasks I don't feel like doing. Here's why:

I wrote each task (I chose to write 30 of them, so they run on a monthly basis) on a slip of paper (pretty scrapbook paper, by the way! I thought it might add a little cheer to the drudgery), folded it up and put it in a bowl. Each day I pick a piece of paper from the bowl and see what task I've drawn for the day.

I have to tell you, there is something...exciting (?) about picking from the bowl. You know, the whole, "Gee, I wonder which one I'm going to get today?" I know, I'm easily thrilled. ;) But, it takes the whole decision-making process out of the equation. For me, that's often what holds me back from doing things that need doing. I waste so much time debating what I should clean, that I lose all motivation and time (two things that are in seriously short supply to begin with) to do it once I decide on something. This way, I pick it and I do it. Luck of the draw. Eventually, everything in the bowl will be picked and therefore, done.

The second thing that makes it work is the 10-minute limit. I know it's only for 10 minutes--who can't stick with something for 10 measly minutes? But, even more important, I wrote the tasks in such a way that I know the job is one that can be completed in 10 minutes. I hate the feeling of working on something and feeling like I'm not making any headway. The jobs that look the same 10 minutes later as they did when I first started. I like instant gratification. I want to feel accomplished and I want to be able to say, "That's finished for another month."

Now, regarding the 10-minute limit, I tell you this: use a timer! I've done these tasks with a timer and I've done them without. The timer is the way to go. That "tick tick tick" really gets me focused and moving. It's like having your Mom stand over you while doing a chore. Being "watched" makes you do a better job. You can't mess around or dilly-dally because you are on the clock. When I don't set a timer, I sometimes get sidetracked, pause to get a drink, or whatever. I tell myself, "Well, I can always start my 10 minutes over again," if I feel like I haven't used my time wisely. But the thing is, I don't have the time to start over again, nor do I want to -- so I don't and the task doesn't get completed.

So, in summary:

1. Keep the tasks manageable (baby steps). Even small tasks, done consistently, will make a huge difference in the cleanliness and order of your home.

2. Do that task and only that task, for 10 minutes.

3. Set a timer!

Let's say you're having an off day and don't finish the task in the 10-minute allotment. That's okay. You are that much closer to having it done. And 10 minutes toward its completion is better than no minutes at all, right? Take comfort in knowing that the task will show up again in the bowl next month. ;)

Thought you might like a peek at a partial list of my 10-minute tasks:

*Clean silverware drawer (I'm always finding specks of this and that in the wooden divider we have in there. For some reason, this drawer is a crumb receptacle)

*Clean out purse (it's where my receipts go to die. I have had receipts in my purse dating back months! I also have a knack for carrying around pens that don't work and old lip gloss)

*Use tool to vacuum room edges (I vacuum every other day, but I rarely get the narrow attachment out to do the crevice where the carpet meets the wall)

*Clean/organize top of bedroom dresser (a spot where random things gather)

*Wipe down the tiled kitchen back splash

*Clean stove burners

*Organize spices, toss old ones or ones I haven't used in ages (even if I did pay almost $9 for that organic candied ginger -- I used it once and didn't care for it at all. So, rather than rummaging around it, out it goes!)

*Wipe down the inside of the freezer

*Vacuum couch

*Declutter/organize kitchen junk drawer (Sure, there are organizing gurus that will tell you there is no reason to have a junk drawer since everything in your home should have its designated place. For the most part, I would agree. But, I do keep a junk drawer of misc. stuff we use regularly: batteries, tape, paper clips, rubber bands, pens/pencils, etc. However, I do keep little boxes and baskets in that drawer to group like items. So, in essence, it is a tidy junk drawer)

*Clean exterior and interior of washing machine and dryer (I run a hot water/bleach cycle in the washer and use my special brushes to clean the vents for the dryer)

*Declutter/organize linen closet (I have seriously pared down the number of bath towels and bed sheets we own, which makes this task much easier. No matter how many times I clean out the linen closet, I always find newly expired medicines, sunscreens, and other items I couldn't bring myself to toss the previous month, but now I am ready to say goodbye to)

*Wipe down banisters (ours our white, so they show the dirt/grease from the sometimes grubby little hands of our little ones)

*Shred old documents

*Put articles into page protectors and file into binders (I have an insane number of pages printed off the internet regarding information/ideas I want to be able to refer to without turning on the computer. I have binders for the following categories: Homeschooling; Homemaking/Decorating; Faith; Crafts/Sewing; Health/Beauty; Inspirational Poems, Quotes & Articles; Kids; Family Travel; Scrapbooking; Gift Ideas; Christmas; Other Holidays; Feed the Freezer; SCD recipes

*Wipe down the fronts of kitchen cabinets

*Clean glass on front and back door

*Clean kitchen window, take down curtain and shake it out/spray with linen spray and rehang. When the mood strikes, I actually wash the window curtain.

*Wash shower curtain and plastic liner (the taking down and the putting up takes 10 minutes. The actual wash time is longer: run a short cycle in the washing machine on hot)

*Wipe down baseboards (we live in a small house, so in 10 minutes I can do the baseboards downstairs, the next month I'll do the ones upstairs)

*Sweep back porch

*Clean around kitchen sink (I wrap a rag around the end of a butter knife and run it along the edge where the sink meets the kitchen counter. The nasty gunk that accumulates there is astonishing!)

*Organize (as in refold clothes to keep and put aside clothes that are outgrown, stained/looking too worn) Roo & Rascal's dressers

*Wipe down exterior of refrigerator (don't forget the top)

*Wipe down tops of door frames ("out of sight" really is "out of mind" on this one. I went a long time without doing this one until one day I noticed the top of the one in the bathroom had some fuzzy humid-dust on it. Yikes! I immediately went around the house wiping them all down. I couldn't believe I had overlooked this one for so long)

*Fold and re-stack fabric stash in the craft room (the added benefit of this one is coming across fabric I had forgotten about and feeling newly inspired to use it!)

*Choose 1 drawer of the scrapbooking dresser to organize. Purge old/unwanted items and move new ones I want to try to the top of my scrapping table.

Well, if anyone is still reading this, "Thank you" and I think that's all I have for today! I'm off to "haven" my home! :)

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