Intent on making 2017 your Best Year Ever? We can help with that, thanks to our 2017 Coach of the Month series. Here, Rachel Hoffman—who authored the just-released book Unfuck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess—shares her no nonsense, uncomplicated tips for decluttering your life…the sane way.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your messy home, and nothing you do seems to be making a difference, it just might be time to re-think how you look at cleaning. Most people, when faced with a messy disaster of a home, usually do one of two things:
1. Wait until it gets to the point of being completely unbearable and then clean everything in a whirlwind marathon and then consider it done; or
2. Decide it’s all too overwhelming and just give up entirely, only cleaning things that are needed for immediate use and ignoring everything else because where do you even begin when everything is so terrible?
Unfortunately, neither one of those approaches is particularly effective or sustainable. With marathon cleaning, your home ends up completely clean for a very short period of time, and then the mess accumulates until you reach your breaking point again. With avoidance, you never make any progress, and you continue to be frustrated and overwhelmed by your home all the time. But there is a better way. Rather than knocking yourself out doing it all at once or pretending the mess isn’t there at all, investing just a little bit of time every day (or, realistically, most days) will get you to a clean home that you can actually enjoy much faster than you’d think.
A 20/10 is 20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break
Using what I call 20/10s, you can wrangle your mess and get your home chaos under control without burning yourself out or wanting to burn your house down. A 20/10 is 20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break, and the work/break cycle just might change the way you look at cleaning from now on. If nothing else has worked for you so far, trying something new just might be worth a shot.
You might think there’s not much that can be accomplished during 20 minutes of work, and that it might be difficult to make any progress in such a short amount of time. You’ll be surprised, though, once you set that timer and get going—you can get way more done in 20 minutes than you might think. And why a break? Well, most of us really don’t enjoy cleaning itself. Sure, we appreciate the result of it, and being able to relax in our newly tidied space, but the cleaning itself is, well, a chore. So by taking a break to do something that you find rewarding—whether that’s messing around on the internet, sitting down to enjoy a podcast, reading a few pages in a new book, whatever—you strike a good balance between what you have to do and what you want to do.
Another benefit to 20/10s is that it’s a lot easier to do something you don’t want to do when you know there’s a definite end to it. Sure, you might not finish your task within that time frame, but not only will you have made a considerable amount of progress, but you can do as many more 20/10s as you need to in order to finish up, and you still avoid the dreaded cleaning marathon.
Strike a good balance between what you have to do and what you want to do.
Let’s look at some of the most often procrastinated household tasks: dishes, laundry, and cleaning the bathroom. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that these are things most of us would rather put off doing. But by setting a timer and committing to one of those tasks for just 20 minutes, you’ll likely be surprised at how much you can get accomplished. In 20 minutes, you can wash most of a sinkload of dishes, unload and reload the dishwasher, fold and put away a laundry basket’s worth of clothes, or make the bathroom significantly less gross. You might not be completely done when the timer goes off, but you’ll absolutely have accomplished more than just putting it off for another day.
So give it a try for the next week. Seven days of at least one 20/10 a day, and let’s see how much better your home can get.