I have a confession. I’m a terrible housekeeper. Really bad. I hate cleaning. If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is hire someone to clean my house. Actually, once, when I was in the process of selling our 2nd house, I did hire a cleaning person and it was the greatest thing I’ve ever done. Except for one thing. The cleaning person would come clean and the house would sparkle and by the next dang day, it would be a mess again.
I think I mostly hate cleaning because I get so totally overwhelmed by it. Cleaning is a thing that is never done. Laundry is the same. It’s never, ever done. Til I’m dead, I will have laundry to do. See?? Overwhelming. I’m actually getting anxiety just thinking about it. I needed to change my mindset. Because the worst part of this dilemma is that I actually REALLY want to live in a house that is always tidy and clean. I WANT to live in a house where the clothes are washed, dried, folded and put away in a timely fashion. I don’t want to live out of a laundry basket.
My old plan for cleaning the house was this. Monday, do basically nothing except maybe dishes. Tuesday, same. Wednesday, same. Thursday, same. Friday, same. Saturday, spend 8 hours cleaning the entire house and curse myself for letting the house get so nasty over the course of the week. Sunday, oh crap, now I have to do laundry or we will all be naked next week. Do you see how I have destroyed my weekend? And you don’t want to know me on Saturday at about 1:30 when I’m in the midst of a cleaning frenzy. I’m not a happy person. At all. There are so many things I want to be doing on the weekends. I want to play with my kids, go to the movies, make some stuff, visit with family, take a nap or two. I knew I could do it. I just had to manage my time better.
So I came up with a plan. It’s simple, really.
15 Minute Interval Cleaning
I’ve discovered that I can do almost anything for 15 minutes at a time. If I set a timer for 15 minutes and I know that when that timer goes off that I will allow myself to stop doing whatever thing I’m doing, then I’ll spend those 15 minutes working efficiently and diligently. I now what you’re wondering, though. How much cleaning can a person really do in 15 minutes?
You would be surprised. I’ve been working on 15 minute interval cleaning and I can do a lot more than I imagined. Here’s how I spend my first 15 minute interval.
Interval 1 : Zone 1
You think I’m crazy and that can’t all be done. It can. I usually spend the first 7-8 minutes in the kitchen and then quickly run through the rest of the house. I have a trash bag and a laundry basket. I fill the trash bag with whatever trash I find and the laundry basket gets the stuff from each room that isn’t where it’s supposed to be. I don’t go for perfection, I go for consistency. If I do this little routine every day, then every day I can do a little bit more with my 15 minutes.
You may have noticed that this is Interval 1 : Zone 1. I broke my house down into zones (basically upstairs and downstairs) to help keep myself on track. I have a two level house, so the downstairs rooms are the rooms that require the most consistent cleaning. Our bedrooms are on the second floor and they tend to not need the same daily cleaning that the living spaces do. The bathroom, DOES need daily cleaning, so I include that in one of the intervals, as you’ll see below. I definitely recommend breaking your house down into zones, unless your house is small enough to do the bedrooms at the same time as the living spaces.
Interval 2 : Zone 1
I’m not about to tell you that I can keep my house clean with just 15 minutes a day. The second interval includes the same tasks as the first. I do the first interval usually in the morning or right after I get the kids from school. That gives me at least a few hours before I even think about doing the second interval which should happen right after dinner. The key to these two intervals is the dishwasher. If I’m not keeping up on the dishwasher, then I’m in trouble. I’ll get hung up emptying it and I’ll end up with not enough time to finish the rest of my tasks.
I’ve been playing around with this system for a few months and I’ve found that it keeps the house liveable if I do two intervals a day. Actually, it keeps the downstairs liveable if I do two a day. Liveable isn’t particularly clean, though. A good clean home requires more time. So. The third interval.
The third 15 minute interval is 15 minutes of focused cleaning in one room. I’ve set up a rotation of rooms that works well for me. The kitchen is first, then the dining room/living room/family room/bathroom & hallway. That’s five zones that each get 15 minutes of cleaning. My head tells me that the best way to do this is to add another 15 minute interval to each day. Truthfully, that doesn’t really work for me though. I usually save this third set of intervals for the weekend. Sometimes that’s Friday afternoon, sometimes it’s Saturday morning. It takes an hour and 15 minutes to get through the downstairs. Here’s how I typically spend those 15 minutes.
Interval 3 : Zone 1 Targeted Cleaning
I don’t necessarily do all of the tasks listed for each room, but if I miss one, I make sure to start with that one the next time I’m cleaning that room. This list usually takes about an hour and 15 minutes, but I don’t start until I’ve completed my first interval of the day so that things are already sort of straightened up and I’m not trying to empty the dishwasher or collect stray dishes or trash. Things aren’t “perfect”, but they never will be and I’m fine with that. This gets the downstairs to a comfortable overall cleanliness and I wouldn’t be utterly embarrassed if someone popped in.
That leaves me with the upstairs part of the house. I break down the upstairs into two more 15 minute intervals. I usually tackle the first one, the bedrooms and bathrooms, at the end of each day, before I go to bed.
Interval 4 : Zone 2
I leave the last interval, the laundry interval, for Sundays. I’m usually in and out all day on Sunday, but I try my best to keep the washer and dryer going all day and then at the end of the day I’ll fold everything, sort it per person and put it all away. I can’t lie. If there is a LOT of laundry, this can take more than 15 minutes. Sometimes I do as much as I can in 15 minutes and stop and sometimes I’ll work a little longer than my 15 minute rule. If I don’t finish, I work on the leftovers while I’m doing Interval 4.
Interval 5 : Zone 2
I don’t do weekly targeted cleaning upstairs because if I keep up with it during the week, then things are usually clean enough. The only thing I find myself stealing a few minutes for weekly is scrubbing the tub. I actually usually do it right at the end of my shower on a weekend day. I swear, it’s so much easier to clean the tub while you’re actually in it instead of reaching around from the outside. Otherwise, if the bedrooms need some serious dusting or the upstairs floors need a scrubbing, I work it into my routine, but I try not to add too much additional time to my 15 minutes.
So, that’s my plan. It’s saving my sanity and making my weekends far more enjoyable. I still spend time cleaning and doing laundry on Saturdays and Sundays, but it’s way less time than I used to spend. And I am a much more pleasant person on Saturday morning when I’ve spent a relatively quick 1.25 hours cleaning. I can sit down with a cup of coffee and look around the house and admire how basically clean it is. If you’re struggling to keep the house in order, give this a try! I promise, you can do anything for 15 minutes!