Efficiency 101: No Wasted Effort (or Do A Little A Lot)

Mini-G.I.T. update: Down a pound and a half (YEEHA!  Thank you God, I needed that); went back to doing New U sans balance board.  Much more stable.  I can do several poses PROPERLY since I can actually use a proper STANCE without the board.  It doesn’t seem to limit your exercises, but rather than being able to measure it for you, at the end it will ask you how you think you did based on a 6 or 7 point scale from “couldn’t to it at all” to “very well”.  It is in your best interest not to lie…  But hey, I even did modified crane pose this morning!  Crane on! (a la Denise).

And now back to our regularly scheduled post.

Sisyphus by Titian, 1549
Image via Wikipedia

The thing about housework is that it makes you feel like Sisyphus.  Because as soon as you’re done, the rock falls back down to the bottom of that mountain and you have to freaking start over again.  Because laundry is NEVER done. Floors always get dirty again.  Dishes keep piling up.  Pick a chore.  It has to be done EVERY WEEK.  There is nothing in the world more exhausting than realizing you have to do it AGAIN.  When you JUST did it, didn’t you?  Like…last week.  If you have kids or pets or spouses…it just gets worse.  So much so that you might feel like you spend HALF YOUR WAKING LIFE cleaning.  Blah.

You ever hear the saying “A stitch in time saves nine?”  This popular (and really friggin old) aphorism is all about prevention and maintenance (at least that’s how I interpret it).  If you put things off until the last minute and wait until it’s AWFUL to tackle a chore, then doing it is going to take FOREVER.

THERE IS A BETTER WAY (which you knew already or you wouldn’t be reading this).

See, once you’ve DONE the blitz cleaning or whatever (and we’ve been doing this a LOT lately to keep our house ready to show at any moment), the clean tends to last a lot longer if you make an effort to MAINTAIN and clean up as you GO rather than waiting until the next week to do it again.

But Kait, doesn’t that take just as much time?

Well I can’t say for sure, as I have not actually put a clock to it, but it at least spreads the time out over many days and makes the effort required smaller.

Here’s how I do it.  Every single time I get up, for whatever reason–to get a drink, go to the bathroom, turn on the fan, adjust the AC, whatever– or whenever I have a natural break–while waiting for water to boil, on a commercial break, etc.–I do something productive.  It doesn’t have to be a huge thing.  Loading the dishes from the sink into the dishwasher.  Emptying the clean dishes.  Wiping down counters.  Making the bed.  Sorting laundry.  Starting a load or switching a load to the dryer.  Folding a basketful of laundry.  Put something away.  Taking out the garbage.  There are a hundred small things that are part of that big weekly blitz clean that can be done during these mini-breaks or when I’ve gotten up.  It takes 5 or 10 minutes (sometimes less) and it means that my BIG effort (whenever that was) gets maintained a LOT longer.

Example: I am a creature of habit.  Every morning I make tea.  It takes approximately 8 minutes for my kettle to boil, during which time I wash last night’s dinner dishes, empty or load the dishwasher (whichever needs doing), getting my eggs ready to go into the skillet and the toast ready to go into the toaster oven.  Once the water boils, I pour it into my teapot, turn on the stove and the toaster oven, and I cook my breakfast for the 5 minutes it takes for my tea to steep.  And I wipe down my counters.  Once breakfast and my dark and early session is finished, the plate goes in the dishwasher, I take 30 seconds to scrub up the skillet and voila, I start my day with a clean kitchen.  That’s fifteen minutes or so of actual action during a stretch of time I would otherwise just be standing around doing nothing.

My challenge to you this week: Every time you get up or every time you have a commercial break (you DVR lovers like me, actually LET the commercials RUN for this purpose), DO SOMETHING productive.  Put something away.  Start a load of laundry.  Load your dishwasher.  Whatever.  Do some small thing toward getting or keeping your house CLEAN.  Make it a habit and I promise you’ll thank yourself.  And if you’re really bold…train all the OTHER members of your family to do the same.

12 thoughts on “Efficiency 101: No Wasted Effort (or Do A Little A Lot)

  1. LOVE this post, K!

    I have a bad habit of putting things off that I don’t want to do, in some sort of deluded subconscious hope that these things will magically disappear if I don’t pay attention to them. DUMB. But I’ve been trying to get better with this lately, and the philosophy “do a little a lot” is SO helpful. You’re absolutely right — making yourself do little bits and pieces of chores here and there helps maintain the work you’ve already done longer and more effectively.

    MMM I love your efficiency posts. It’s like walking into the Container Store. Or gazing at my freshly spotless bathroom for like five minutes because the clean bathtub was so BEAUTIFUL. (I totally did not do this on Saturday, nope, no way, stop looking at me like that.)

  2. Hah! I do the same thing. And I think it is a great strategy because you don’t fell like you spend a lot of time.

    Claire: Ohh Container Store. That addictive place…

  3. Great post. FlyLady talks about 5 minute Hot Spot cleaning which is very much like what you’re talking about here, you’ve just taken it that extra step. Love it!

  4. And here I was just thinking this morning that I basically follow my boyfriend around the house, picking up after him?! 😉

    It’s a constant cleaning over here…..

    In fact, earlier, I took a plate out of the fridge (Yes, a plate. Uncovered.) with two bits of leftover nachos on it, and threw it away….

    And……he was all, “WTF are you doing?”

    …………………………………….. meh……………………………

  5. I always – okay, usually – try to do this but your last point is a good one – training other family members to do the same! I wonder if it’s a gender thing – do women multi task more than men?

    1. At the risk of sounding sexist, I’d say we’re more socialized to do so. I know that as much as I’ve tried to train my husband, doing something else when he gets up NEVER crosses his mind unless he’s asked, and certainly there’s an Oh Squirrel! quality that often means multitasking for him is a total fail.

  6. This was another great post Kait.

    This is a practice that I realized – only after reading this post – that I do. It has become second nature to me that If I stand up I do something else. Not with the conscious intention of tidying and saving time but rather an automatic setting shall we say.

    This week I have been making the effort to remember your post and have made my advert break shufflings more proactive and have seen a vast improvement in not only the tidiness of the house ( which with three kids aged 4 and under is chaotic at best) but also in my overall mood and productivity. The house looks better I feel more relaxed, my mind is clearer and so I work quicker on my writing and have more time at the end of the day.

    I would have never thought it possible but it is true, just do one small thing everytime you stand or are waiting for the kettle to boil or the baby’s bottle to warm and you make serious savings later on in the day.

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