Taking some of the work out of household chores

My house was clean last week
Although I absolutely, positively, 100% adore my job as a homemaker, I will confess that there is one teensy, tiny part of it that I don’t adore so much…

The cleaning!!! (Did I hear an amen, sister?)

In fact, not only do I not love cleaning, but there are a few chores in particular that I just downright dislike. In my world, dislike tends to equal procrastination. Thus, there is a small but significant number of daily or weekly tasks that I just have to really force myself to do.

So, I decided that it was high time I figured out a way to make these chores either more enjoyable or at least learn how to motivate myself to just get them done and over with!

What I realized in the midst of this was that perhaps some of the very chores that I dread doing are actually far faster and easier than I perceive them to be.

Take vacuuming, for instance. Sounds like a monumental task. Lugging the vacuum cleaner upstairs, going through every room of the house to pick stray items up off the floor, then working my way tediously through each room, sometimes removing the hose to run along the edge of a wall or piece of furniture, or to get under something. Sigh… surely a task like that must takes hours, right?

I decided to time myself. I figured that if I knew that in reality this task was not nearly as daunting as I thought, perhaps I would feel more able to just jump right in and get it done, and feel that sense of relief as I checked it off my to-do list (instead of pushing it over on to the next day’s list).

The result? Working at a quick pace it takes 5 minutes to tidy the house, then 16 minutes to vacuum in it’s entirety. Seriously? That’s what I was dreading doing? A 21 minute task?

(To put it in perspective for those of you who fear my house is far more teensy tiny than the list of chores that I loathe, I live in a full sized 3 BR house, with a main floor that is well over 1600 sq. feet and is almost entirely carpet, as well as a large entry staircase, so it’s a fairly decent sized job.)

Feeling more motivated, I decided to time a few of my other least liked chores:

Unloading the dishwasher– less than 3 minutes

Sweep and mop my kitchen and dining room– 13 minutes

Ironing my husband’s work clothes– forever, positively forever, it was not worth timing (thus, we will come back to this one in a minute)

Folding and putting away a load of laundry– approx. 10 minutes or less

The other ones weren’t bad at all, though! Since I realized how little time they truly take, I have been much more willing to just get them over with and move on with the rest of my day.

Since the ironing just cannot be shortened, or so it seems (if you believe otherwise, please let me know your secret!), I decided it needed to become enjoyable at the very least. Since I love to listen to teaching CD’s and sermons on mp3, I’ve made ironing day my time to listen to things that really encourage and challenge me. It helps the time to pass a little faster, and has actually made me look forward to the monotony of the task, simply because I have something I’m eager to listen to!

And my last tip is for all you moms who don’t mind pushing the laundry through the machine, but just dread folding and putting it away. I haven’t timed exactly how long a load takes us (because every load is a bit different), but this is the game that my daughter and I play to make this task both shorter and a whole lot more fun!

The Run Around Game (inspired by this great idea)

I sit on the floor and fold laundry, putting it into appropriate piles (Caden’s shirts, Abbie’s pj’s, Daddy’s socks). As I do this, Abbie helps me put it all away.

When I have a small pile that goes in the same place, I will hand her that pile, and say “Can you please put these away in your pajama drawer?” She will grab the pile, run down the hallway (or sometimes run the short circuit that goes around our kitchen, dining and family room- hence the name, the run around game) and put the pile away in the correct drawer. While she is doing this, I will count out loud how many seconds it takes her to put it away and come back to where I am sitting. She loves to race against the clock.

Now, developing this game requires a couple of things. First, you need to be willing to teach your child where each drawer is. My daughter is 3 1/2 and this was really easy for her, as she already knew where a couple of things belonged, and I can simply remind her that it is the top or bottom or middle drawer. For closet items, her job is to lay them in a pile in front of the correct closet, and I go and put them away as soon as the folding is finished.

The second thing it requires is a willingness to have drawers that are not perfectly tidy. Personally, this doesn’t bother me as I gave up caring when my daughter was 1 and decided how fun it would be to take her pants out of the drawer and put them back in again, then out again, then in again, every day. Seeing as most children’s clothes are fairly wash and wear and don’t easily wrinkle, I just go with the flow. So now you know, my drawers are messy!

But, I no longer have to spend my time folding everything first, and then putting it all away. The bulk of the putting away is done while I am folding, so I am almost twice as efficient! Seriously, this really, really works for me!

There you have it- a few ways that I make my housework feel just a little bit less like work!

What are your best tips for making housework feel less like work? How do you get your kids involved? And just out of curiousity, does anyone actually like the chores that I mentioned? 🙂

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  1. I like your idea for timing housework. It DOES look less intimidating that way!

    Also, for the competitive spirit, a little personal challenge could easily arise from this activity, resulting in even less time spent on work. Which, of course, equals more time for play!

    Have a wonderful week.

  2. Dare I confess? But I actually really enjoy cleaning house. Ever since I was little I’ve loved cleaning, I work so much better when these are tidy, and I find it to be *gasp!* very relaxing. To say the least, this is one trait that my husband loves about me, because I rarely ask him to join in because I really do like it. As for incorporating kids… my daughter is only 7 months old so we haven’t quite gotten to that stage of life yet.

  3. In general, I enjoy housework, but I do strongly dislike the kitchen floor and the bathtubs.

    I haven’t really figured out how to make the kitchen floor more enjoyable. Because I have 2 small children, it requires sweeping daily and sometimes more than once a day…. As far as bathtubs go, I have worked it out where I clean my tub while I’m in it! I usually do it on a Sat. morning when my husband can look after the kids because by the time I get myself showered, the tub clean and then get myself ‘ready’ it can take up to 1.5 hours (I usually go ahead and deep clean the rest of the bathroom while I’m at it).

    I thought I’d also share what I do with laundry. I do not wash anyone’s clothes together. Everyone has their own separate basket (kept in the closets) that dirty clothes go into and when one is full (or someone is running out of clean clothes) I wash only that basket full. This eliminates sock matching confusion and my boys wear only 1-2 sizes different so it also eliminates having to look at tags to determine who the item belongs to (because they have lots of clothes that are the same).

    Oy that was a long comment, sorry….

  4. I have a hard time cleaning the upstairs bathrooms. Because the kids cannot be left alone downstairs this place gets neglected. I now clean it entirely when the kids are playing in the tub and when they get out I quickly fill the tub a bit and let it soak in some homemade cleaning solution. When they are put to bed I simply have to give it a quick scrub, drain and Voila…all done. Luckily the loo is small. Also my hubby and I share chores, he loves to fold laundry but hate to put it away (aka has no idea where it goes) I love to do this so it works. He also empties the dishwasher for me in the morning before I get out of bed. Basically my cleaning schedule involves small things everyday. This way I am not overwhelmed doing it all in one day, the downside is the house is never 100% clean at once…oh well I have come to accept this.

  5. I LOVE your idea about timing chores. I was once amazed when FlyLady insisted that I vacuum for 10 minutes. 10 minutes??? What could I possibly get done in 10 minutes? Can I even get the darn thing out of the closet and set up in 10 minutes? Once I tried the exercise, though, I discovered that I could get most of the main area of my home vacuumed in that time. What a revelation! Nevertheless, I still struggle with this. Cleaning is BY FAR my least favorite part of being a wife. Ugh. I do enjoy having a clean and picked-up home, but getting and keeping it that way does wear on me. If I ever have household help, cleaning will certainly be at the top of my list!

  6. Thanks so much for the laundry tip. I can’t stand putting the clothes away! However, it is going to be a couple more years till I can use this tip. For now I need a tip on how to deal with a screaming 6 month old anytime I decide to do the laundry.

  7. Sarah, you are a rare breed! 🙂

    Laura, I’m with you on having to sweep multiple times a day. It’s hard to keep a kitchen floor clean with little ones! I’ve also done cleaned the shower while using it- works for me too!

    Niki, how sweet that your hubby helps!

    Alison, it really is amazing what you can get done in a short time, isn’t it? I’ve really picked up on Fly Lady’s tips for using a timer to do quick pick ups. We try to do one each morning, and one in the afternoon, for 10-15 minutes (depending how long we have). It makes a HUGE difference in that little bit of time!

    Jennifer, have you tried putting the baby in a laundry basket, with a few toys? My son really loved that (maybe because it’s kind of cozy?)! And even better, if I gave him a basket with some clean towels or clothes that he could pull out and throw on the floor- such fun! I’ve also used the jolly jumper, set up in a door frame right beside where I sat on the floor folding laundry, so the baby could see me. Don’t worry- in just a short time, you’ll have a little helper on your hands! Hang in there! 🙂

  8. My biggest tip is to buy the things you need to make it easier. I finally bought a buckets and duplicate cleaning supplies for each bathroom. I know it is extravagant but if I lived in a two level house I would consider a vaccuum for each floor. It is amazing how your attitude can be overcome by having the tools you need close at hand. It makes the job feel even quicker.

  9. Stephanie,

    I agree with you. I’ve been shocked when I measure how long a task takes-especially one I’ve been putting off for a long time!

  10. I’m chiming in late, but I have to say, my secret to getting the ironing done is air conditioning. I’m cheap, so we don’t run ours all summer. But one the ironing needs to be done, the AC gets turned on! Ironing hot and sweaty work; the AC makes it a little more bearable for me. I still don’t LIKE it, but it’s not as horrible as it could be.

  11. I know what you mean about the ironing. I am looking at the Tobi steam iron commercials and wondering if this would be helpful. It is a bit pricey but if it really works it would be very useful and you wouldn’t have to drag the ironing board out.

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