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This simple technique breaks household chores into manageable chunks.

By Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme
April 04, 2021
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I've been known to get distracted when I'm supposed to be doing household chores. When I was a kid, I would be cleaning my room, only to discover some long-disappeared book or game. And 45 minutes later, my parents would find me deep in my reading, bedroom still completely unkempt.

My adult cleaning routines have followed a similar trajectory: cleaning the kitchen turns into eating a snack, mopping the bathroom turns into reorganizing the linen closet — the list goes on. Until I saw someone on Instagram recommending a method she herself used for cleaning: Setting a timer.

It's so simple, but the idea is that by creating a discrete amount of time that you're going to spend on a task, it helps you stay focused. When I set a 10-minute timer, I find that I clean much faster because it feels like a race against the clock. It also helps me be more intentional about what I'm actually trying to accomplish. I'm certainly not going to clean the entire house in 10 minutes, so I have to decide what I'm going to focus on, whether that's washing dishes, picking up the living room, or vacuuming the bedroom.

It's also been a helpful way for my partner and I to divide cleaning. Instead of having a list of chores each day, we both commit to doing two 10-minute cleaning sessions each day. Typically we do one in the morning and one in the evening, but those intervals are also a convenient break from working. It's a way to stop looking at a screen for a few minutes, move our bodies a little, and help combat the constant parade of dirty dishes and mess that accumulate now that we are spending basically 100 percent of our time at home.

Kitchen timer on counter
Credit: fstop123/getty

My partner and I often treat the 10-minute segments like a race, a tactic I suspect would also help children participate in the tidying up of their bedrooms and shared spaces. Put on music, tell them to keep cleaning until it ends, and see how much they can get done. Even a single song is sometimes long enough to make a real difference in the chaos of your home.

Thinking about chores in time chunks rather than in individual tasks makes everything feel far more manageable. The list might seem overwhelming, but I can definitely find 10 minutes to get a few things done. Plus, as a procrastinator who often uses cleaning as a way to put off other tasks (like, for example, work tasks) the end of that 10-minute session signals that it's time to get back to my desk, or maybe just back to relaxing on the couch.

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