Not Just Fifteen Minutes

I got bored yesterday and did something impossibly geeky.  I timed myself doing every single task on my Flylady routine.  Including cooking and making bento, it came to about ten minutes under two hours.  (Take away the cooking and bento and you’re looking at 1:16:10)

Now, in Real Life, I don’t do every chore myself.   That fifteen minutes it takes to do the evening routine is generally cut in half because the whole household helps clean up after dinner, set up the coffee pot for the next day and all that.  Call eight minutes at the outside.  I don’t clean every bathroom in the house, nor do I generally fold the laundry or take out the trash.

So the idea that you can keep your house clean in fifteen minutes a day is a little inaccurate.   It’d be fair to say I spend about an hour and a half, if I include meal preparation.

But it’s not like I spend that whole hour at once.  The routines really do average out to just under fifteen minutes for each of them.

What I don’t do:

Make the bed perfectly.  Good lord, what a waste of time.  Spread it up, toss the pillow shams at the head, you’re good.

Spend hours cleaning the bathroom.   Swish-n-swipe daily.  Hit it once a month with some serious detail cleaning over a week.  Good enough.

Let things pile up.  This is the biggie.  I hate to do things right away, I really do.  The problem is, if things do pile up, I’m less likely to touch them.  It gets overwhelming.  But dusting around piles, or trying to vacuum around stacks?  Who does that?  That’s too much to deal with!

Let the dishes sit overnight.  If I do that, the kitchen will look like a bomb went off in it inside of a week.

I try to obey the thirty second rule.  Basically, if it takes less than thirty seconds, do it right away.  The thing I’m worst about for this is coming home from a long day teaching, and I’m tired.  I often don’t put my materials away right away.  If I have more than one class in the week, this means by the end of the week I’ll have a pile of materials that have become part of the background.  They don’t jump out at me any more, so it may be another week before they’re put away.  This includes things like letting mail I need to deal with piled up “for later”, dropping my gym bag in the corner when I come back tired from a workout, instead of emptying the damn thing and throwing stinky towels in the wash and hanging up a wet bathing suit.  If I do it right away, the house stays clean.  If I don’t, oh my word, the clutter plies.

Is my house “perfect”?  God no!  There’s cat hair on the sofa, the shelves in the kitchen cabinets could do with a good wash,  I can see dust on the piano, there’s a catnip mousie in the middle of the living room floor, the entryway could use a mopping, and the floor of my bedroom closet,would cause me my mother to use the express “rat’s nest”.   Since I do Flylady, I have routines to take care of all those things in the proper time.  She breaks the house into zones for detailed cleaning.  I’ll get to the cathair when we’re in the living room zone, I’ll spend some times on the shelves when we get to the kitchen, I’ll dust tomorrow (I dust on Mondays), I’ll pick up the mousie the next time I get up to go to the bathroom (and drop my coffee cup into the dishwasher along the way), the entryway floor will get mopped when we’re in the zone to do that, and I’ll be spending fifteen minutes a day decluttering the bottom of my closet when we’re in the zone to work on that.

I’ll feel free to follow the maintenance schedule because clutter’s picked up and I don’t feel all stressed about it.  I don’t feel guilty that these things are dirty, either.  Things need to be attended to and a maintenance schedule works just fine.

But, keeping the house clean isn’t about going for that perfect look.  When you keep the house orderly, you rarely get that “OMG, I’ve worked so hard and now the house is all clean and shiny” feeling.   What I do have is a house that doesn’t embarrass me if someone drops by.

And yes, my sink is shiny.

The Power of Fifteen Minutes

One of my favorite working tools is actually an iPod.  No, it’s not that I like to listen to music or an audiobook while I’m doing something (thought I do), but that it has a sleep timer.  It has intervals from fifteen to one hundred twenty minutes, though I only use the fifteen minute option.

I love that thing.  I love it because I’m a busy woman.  I have a lot going on – I’m self-employed, have a part-time job, have a household with people going in and out, and a schedule that’s always changing.

There are times when I look at a task and I feel overwhelmed with it.  At those times, it’s really hard to get myself going.  I am a champion procrastinator.  Remember that self-employed bit?  I can only procrastinate so much before I’m procrastinating my son out of food[1].

That’s when the timer comes in.  You’d be amazed at how much you can get done in fifteen minutes of focus.  Now while I got the idea from Flylady[2], I don’t only use it for housework.  I use the idea to work.  When I’m feeling daunted, I just set my timer for fifteen minutes and work.  That sounds goofy, trivial and dumb, but there’s many a project I’ve gotten done fifteen minutes at a time.  The time sounds like such a small amount, I know.  That’s the beauty of it.  You can force yourself to do almost anything for fifteen mintues.  If you do that a few times a day, you’re actually accomplishing a great deal.   Things often don’t take as much time as we think they will when we focu—

Ah, music stopped.  Break’s over and I have to get back to work.  For those of you writers who go for word count, I’d written 320 words before the music went off.  Now imagine four or five sessions of fifteen minutes while writing.  That’s an adequate word count for a day’s work, innit?

[1] And I have a teenaged boy with a teenaged appetite.  Oy!


[2] To be honest, except for cooking dinner, no one task ever takes a whole fifteen minutes.

And You Can Work in Your Underwear!

Whenever those “work at home” scams hit my inbox, working at home in your underwear is often one of the “selling points” of the scam.

I won’t say I’ve never worked in a state of dishabille. I do sometimes.

But you know, Flylady has a point when she talks about “dressing to your shoes”. You do need a mental cue that says, “Okay, this is worktime![1]

Do I ever work sitting propped up in bed? Goodness me, yes, I do! Finished my last project exactly that way. Sounds pretty cool, dunnit? I’m not saying it isn’t fun. It’s a lot of fun. Knowing that my “office” is my laptop, and can go anywhere is really, really cool. I’m not gonna lie to you.

But friends, work is still work. I might be working naked,[2] but I’m still working. The project still has to get done. If I take off to flit around all day because no-one is staring over my shoulder and my deadline isn’t for another week, work doesn’t get done. Cyberloafing in a formal office? Dandy. Go for it. Work isn’t getting done there, either.

But there’s a big difference between me and the person who practices the 5 Habits of the Highly Successful Slacker. He’s figured out a way to get paid without producing much.

I can’t.

I get paid when the job is done[3]. How I did it, when I did it,[4] what I was wearing when I did it… None of that matters. All that matters is “Did you finish?” and “Was it of good quality?”

Sure, sure, ideally you’ll treat your office job like that. If you do, you’ll probably have a really good, successful career and that’s awesome. The reality is that it’s awfully easy not to.

I like being my own boss and working to the job rather than to the clock.

But those “Work at home in your underwear” scams just make me roll my eyes. It makes it sound like you’ll be making a lot of money, but you won’t be working.

Don’t fall for that nonsense. You know, TANSTAAFL and all that smack.

[1] Mine is turning off my email, getting off the social networking sites, and closing chat.


[2] Though living as I do in Northern New England, it really hasn’t warmed up enough that I want to do that!

[3] Or more likely at specific milestones of the job.

[4] Providing I meet the deadline.