Beating Housework Overwhelm.
Do you want to know how to get your housework back on track quickly? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the mess in your home? Here’s my favourite trick for getting my home back in order when I don’t even know where to start.
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I’ve been battling all week, trying to write a post on coping with mothering when you’re depressed. I’ve got loads written, and the idea’s been rolling around my head for a while now, but it’s just not coming together in the way I hoped it would. I’d planned for it to go out on Wednesday, so I’ve been feeling annoyed with myself for not sticking to the schedule (a schedule that I only made up last weekend, so it’s a pretty epic failure really). Anyway, the post wasn’t coming together, no matter how much time I put into it.
This week has been hard work generally, for no particular reason. The laundry has been piling up (because I don’t always take my own advice, and the kitchen was a wreck. Every morning this week I’ve spent most of my morning pages moaning about the state of the home, and my inability to keep up with my housework.
The magic of morning pages is that you just can’t keep moaning about the same stuff for too long before your brain feels compelled to work on a solution. This morning, before I got out of bed, it was obvious. I can’t write properly about mothering and depression right now, because I’m living it. It’s not a serious slump, but that black dog is definitely too close for comfort. Over time I’ve got better at recognising the signs and taking action to pull myself back up again before it goes too far.
So, today I’m going to share how I pull my house back together quickly when I’ve been neglecting my housework, and when I really don’t feel like doing anything.
I’ve had a week of not sticking to my routines. I’d love to say that’s because I’ve been out enjoying the sunshine, or because I’ve been busy working on some exciting project. The truth involves rather more Facebook scrolling than is good for me, and a whole lot of milling around the house doing not a lot.
I’ve got a choice at this point. Having noticed what’s going on, I can carry on as I have been, knowing that the longer it keeps on, the worse the house will get, and the harder it’s going to be to get back on track with my housework. Or, I can get a grip and do something about it now. (I do know that it’s not always as easy as just deciding to do something about it, but, right now, for me, this is what’s working).
Trying to tackle everything would be just too much. There’s an enormous list in my head of things I should be doing, but none of them really appeal. It’s hot, I’m tired, I’m not sleeping well, and it would be much easier to default back to Facebook scrolling and aimless wandering. Not today though.
Using a Timer to Get Housework Back on Track Fast.
A kitchen timer is my secret weapon. It sounds silly, but it’s much easier to obey a timer than it is to just decide to do something. There are lots of variations on using a timer, Flylady tells you that you can do anything for fifteen minutes, the Pomodoro Technique breaks time up into 25-minute slots. Don’t get hung up on the specifics, any of those methods work really. The important thing is to set an amount of time that’s achievable for you, so that you can spend the whole time on a focused burst of housework (or any kind of work), and then have a specific amount of rest time afterwards.
In any home, there will be certain tasks that will make the biggest impact on how things look, and, more importantly, how they feel. Take a few minutes to think about what’s going to make the biggest difference in your home.
For me, it’s laundry, the kitchen, and the living room, in that order.
Everything else can wait, but those are the things that make me feel overwhelmed with everything. The laundry and the kitchen are also the things that have the biggest effect on the running of our home.
So, my blitzing day started at 10:00 this morning. I’m doing half-hour time slots today because that feels okay. Sometimes I work for fifteen minutes and then rest for half an hour. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about how long you spend working, it’s just about making a commitment to keeping going with the housework until the timer tells you to stop.
The UK’s heatwave continues, and it’s perfect line-drying weather, so I started with laundry. I suggest you start with whichever area is going to give you the biggest sense of achievement.
It’s a simple process. Set the timer for your chosen amount of time, and just work on surface stuff until the timer goes off. Don’t start trying to clean out a kitchen cupboard! Surface stuff only.
The goal of your blitz day is to make things look and feel better when you’re overwhelmed. All the other housework – skirting boards, cleaning out the fridge – can wait.
Keep going until the timer goes, and then stop, immediately, and re-set the timer for your rest period. If I’m really struggling, I’ll set the rest periods to be much longer than the work periods. The trick is simply to set the timer and to hold yourself to it. Once that timer goes, it’s back to housework, no excuses.
Rotate through work and rest sessions until you come to lunch time. Then, make yourself something to eat, and take a full hour of rest time while you eat it. Your afternoon’s work will be much more productive if you’re well-nourished and properly rested. Set the timer for your lunch break too – and stick to it!
That’s all there is to it. You keep going for as long as you want to – I’ll stop when my older children come home from school at around three.
Need some help figuring out what to actually do in those time slots? Underneath this post you’ll find a summary of my method, and some suggestions for those surface housework tasks that will help you move out of overwhelm and back into control.
Has this Housework Blitz plan helped you feel less overwhelmed? Or, do you have a different way of tackling things? I’d love for you to share in the comments.
Housework Blitz Summary
A quick fix for when you’re feeling overwhelmed by housework.
- Choose three areas to focus your attention on. I suggest kitchen, laundry, and living room.
- Decide on a length of time for your work sessions, and a length of time for rest sessions. Not sure what to choose? Try 30 minutes work followed by 15 minutes rest.
- Set a kitchen timer, or use the one on your phone.
- Work in one area until the timer goes off.
- Set the timer for a rest session. Have something to drink, and rest until the timer goes.
- Re-set the timer for work, and move on to a different area.
- Repeat, rotating through the areas until lunchtime.
- Take a full hour for lunch – use the timer. Then go back to alternating work and rest sessions.
What to do in your time slots?
Stick to surface stuff only, and don’t get sidetracked into cleaning out kitchen cabinets or pulling out the sofa to clean under it.
- Dishes – get them cleaned, dried, and away as fast as you can.
- Remove work surface clutter and put it where it belongs.
- Clean work surfaces.
- Clean floor.
- See my laundry system post if you need help here.
- Just focus on moving stuff through the system – wash, dry, fold, put away.
- If you’ve got dead time because all your laundry’s still drying and there’s nothing to sort and fold yet, go back to the kitchen and carry on in there.
- Pick up obvious rubbish.
- Return dirty dishes to the kitchen – and wash them, or load them into the dishwasher, so as not to undo your hard work in the kitchen!
- Tidy up stuff from the floor and sofas.
- Make your sofas look nice – plump up the cushions, or straighten the throw, whatever it takes.