How often during the day do I do a 5 second chore? Put the torn scrap on the floor next to the garbage in the can. Wipe the spots off the counter. Put the milk in the fridge. Close the door. Turn off the light. You know.. those 2-5 seconds that straighten, clean and generally try to create orderliness out of the chaos left by forgetful careless children.
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I have always struggled with time awareness. It's been my biggest issue surrounding housework. I overestimate how much time smaller chores will take ... and underestimate the time I need for projects. I turn the small things into huge endeavors and thus procrastinate. I jump into the projects, and get sucked in until all of a sudden hours have disappeared and it's time to make dinner and I have to leave the job half-finished, and a bigger mess than I started with.
It wasn't until I started my list of chores and had to put realistic times on them. (See here for details on my organization a-ha moment.) Then I realized that some of those things that I had put off and put off and avoided and dreaded and mentally made a huge fuss over -- they really weren't that big a deal. It wasn't until I timed myself that I figured out it takes less than 5 minutes to clean a toilet.. and only 2 minutes to wipe down the sink. I could wash the dishes from an entire day in about 20 min. It was a moment of shock to realize that the dreaded daily chores necessary for a basically functional home didn't take more than an hour.
All of a sudden, I was able to do some of those chores that I'd never paid attention to before. The ones that turn a basically functional home into a restful, clean space you want to stay in -- like dusting, vacuuming furniture, washing windows and wiping away smears on the walls -- now became not only possible but on my radar. I'd ignored them before, thinking I was drowning in just the minimum maintenance.
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I'm sure it helped that I was no longer pregnant or breastfeeding, and I had children finally old enough to at least play without me in the same room, if not old enough to help. I do recognize that where I may have been ignorant over time it takes to do things, I was also up to my ears in babies, diapers, feeding and cleaning up poop. And sleeping whenever I got the time.
To those of you blessed with the genes and/or childhood training of daily chores and automatic neatness, you may find my revelation a "duh" moment. But I am not an automatically neat person. I have had to train my eyes to notice the clutter and to actually do something about it. I swear it is a genetic thing --my oldest daughter doesn't notice her room disorder until we clean it out together. So this epiphany was like a turning the light on. Housework seriously doesn't take that long, even when you have lots of littles!
Since then, I have been slowly teaching myself to first notice the issues. I now see the smudges by the light switch in the bathroom. I look for the finger- and nose - prints on my patio door. I am becoming aware of the dust bunnies in the corners and under the furniture. And now, slowly, I'm training myself to do something about it.
It's the 5 second rule with a twist. If I can do something that will make my home look nicer, smell nicer, feel nicer, without going out of my way to do it, and without really stopping, I do it. It's straightening the picture on the wall in the hallway on my way to use the bathroom. It's putting the ketchup in its spot in the door while I'm looking for cheese in the fridge. It's picking up the toys that didn't quite make it into their box on my way past the toyshelf to my office. I'm not deliberately setting out to organize, declutter or pick up. I'm in the middle of something else, but on my way from one to the next, I can smooth out the books, tuck the cushion in, or pick up the paper. 5 seconds. And instantly my home looks and feels better.
The side benefit has been that my children are noticing more too. They see me pick up and put away without pausing long, and suddenly they take the extra step to put the trash in the can, the toy in its box, or the bowl in the sink. It's becoming a ripple effect. Who knew 5 seconds could make such a difference?