I Follow This (Extremely!) Simple Rule — and It’s Completely Changed the Way I Clean

published Nov 8, 2022
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The older I get, the more acutely aware I become that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I need to. And when I find it difficult to juggle my everyday schedule, the last thing i want to do is spend my dwindling energy on cleaning.

But clean, I must. For a long time, I did what my mom did: dedicate a whole Saturday morning and afternoon to putting the house back to order. But when you’re overworked and stretched thin, giving up half of your weekend to rigorous vacuuming and dust-chasing doesn’t sound appealing, especially if you’d rather spend that time with your family. So instead, I invented a new rule that made the task a little more manageable and gave me my weekends back.

Inspired by the Pomodoro Technique, a 25-minute time management method that helps you start tasks you would rather procrastinate into infinity, I created a 20-minute rule (which is more manageable for me) to challenge myself to put 20 minutes on a timer and clean something in a room for that time. While doing it, I usually put on a podcast or “Monk” on the TV, making the time fly by faster. What I tackle looks different each day. Sometimes that means I dust the furniture in three rooms. Other times that means I scrub the toilet and bathtub. On other days I find myself vacuuming and throwing out the trash. By the time the weekend comes, the home is sparkling clean, and I don’t have the daunting task of tackling the whole place in one go. 

I also like this method because I can choose tasks according to my energy level. If I return from work feeling depleted, I’ll do something easy like wipe down counters or water plants. On the other hand, if I have lots of energy, I’ll tackle cleaning the oven or reorganizing the closet. The routine is a little more forgiving and flexible than sticking to a designated afternoon to square away a whole list of chores. This method is great for families, too. Everyone can jump in on a 20-minute task!

Is this cleaning method for everyone? No. I know there’s a certain satisfaction to having the whole home sparkling clean all at once. Usually, the things that I cleaned six days ago need another refresh by the time the week is over, restarting the loop. But if you find yourself putting off the task and cleaning only once a month because you can’t scrounge up enough energy (or time!) to organize your home, this is a helpful alternative.

The 20-minute rule keeps me less frazzled and — most importantly — means we don’t spend our whole weekend cleaning. It’s all about priorities. If you want your days off to be fully dedicated to yourself (or your family!) and not your chore list, this is a pretty good compromise.

This post was originally published on Apartment Therapy. Read it there: I Follow This (Extremely!) Simple Rule — and It’s Completely Changed the Way I Clean