Mar 312015
 

When I updated our About page recently, I included a list of the top 10 most popular posts of all time. I wasn’t surprised to learn that 4 of the 10 are about cleaning and organization, because one of the most common searches bringing people to this site is “how do I get motivated to clean?”

I’ve admitted before that I don’t enjoy cleaning. People are sometimes surprised by this because they know me to be a tidy and organized person, therefore they assume that I must love cleaning. Loooove it! In reality, I hate it and do everything I can to put it off.  However, because I’m calmer and more productive when my environment is clean and orderly, I force myself to clean regularly. Happiness is important, and when my house is a mess, I most certainly am not happy.

Some people simply don’t care about cleaning and organization, and if you’re one of them, this post isn’t for you. This post is for those people who want a clean house, but just can’t seem to get motivated enough to achieve this goal. I’ve talked to lots of these people, and do you know what the most common excuse for not cleaning is?

I don’t have time.

Once upon a time, I heard this a lot from my husband, and I hear it a lot from myself, pretty much every day. But this excuse is just a big fat lie.

“I don’t have time” is what procrastinators tell themselves whenever they don’t want to do something, and it’s not a legitimate reason, it’s an avoidance tactic. I know this because I do it myself. Sure, there might be hectic days when you really don’t have time, but we all have those. However, in a typical day most of us could find time to work in small cleaning sessions, but the real truth of the matter is this: we don’t want to.

We live in a world of distractions, and in my opinion the internet is one of the worst. I see it in my children, and in their peers (one of Bee’s classmates is actually failing a class because she spends all of her time on YouTube instead of doing her homework). I see it in nearly every parent at the mall play area, with faces plastered to their phones while their children go unsupervised. I see it in myself. For most people the internet is a significant time-drain, and people can defend it until they’re blue in the face (which some do) but it’s the truth. It’s been my experience that most of the people who tell me they “don’t have time” to clean their houses somehow manage to lurk on Facebook for an hour (or more!) every day, or tweet their every thought and feeling, or take pictures of their dessert for Instagram.

It’s been a year since I deleted my personal Facebook account, and for a long time afterwards people asked me why? Why did I leave Facebook? Well, I had lots of reasons, but the biggest one was time. I felt that I spent an excessive amount of time “keeping up with people” instead of living my life and minding my own business. Why did I need to be involved in pointless melodramas that were none of my concern? Why should I allow myself to be angered and upset by people I hardly knew, running their mouths about anything and everything under the sun? Why should I donate my life to a screen when I could actually be accomplishing something? So I quit.

Since then, I’ve been a much happier person. I’ve tackled my to-do list, lost 15 pounds, completed scrapbooks, organized rooms, painted and remodeled, regained control of my finances, enjoyed my husband and children, prayed. I realized that someday I would have to account for my actions before God, and when He asked me why I didn’t spend more time with Him, what was I going to say? “Oh gee Lord, I wanted to….but I was taking a quiz on Facebook to find out what spice I am?”

The way I see it, life is all about priorities. If you love Facebook, and you don’t care if your house is clean or not, fine. The state of your house is of no concern to me, because I don’t have to live there. But…if you do care about having a clean house, and you’re glued to a smartphone all day, do not complain to me about not having time. Because I will call you on it. Life is a series of choices, and there are trade-offs for everything. If a clean house is genuinely a priority for you, you will have to treat it as such. This means letting go of other activities that aren’t as important/fulfilling/satisfying/necessary/whatever.

Let’s all just be honest with ourselves, okay? Most often, when we say that we don’t have time to clean (or exercise, or anything), what we’re really saying is that we don’t want to clean, because there are other things we’d rather do instead. It’s way more fun to look at pictures of clean houses on Pinterest for 15 minutes than it is to clean our own sink and kitchen counters for 15 minutes (which, in an average home, is about all it takes). The simple truth is that cleaning rarely takes as long as we think it will, and we need to let go of that excuse. To illustrate my point, this is our bedroom and master bathroom, as they looked last Friday morning.

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They don’t really look that bad do they? There are a couple of baskets of folded laundry to be put away, and a small clutter pile (on my side of the bed – always). The bed needs making, surfaces need a quick wipe-down, and the bathroom trash can is full, but overall, not a big deal. But. Guess how long this room had looked like this? 3 weeks. And do you know why? Because I told myself, over and over, that cleaning it would take so much time.

The real reason is that I didn’t feel like doing it…and I knew it. To prove to myself that I knew it, I decided to use the stopwatch app on my Kindle to see how long it actually took for me to clean up these two rooms. I purposely worked at the same pace I normally do (I wasn’t trying to beat the clock), and I didn’t even stop the clock when I got interrupted twice by DJ. I started by sorting out and putting away all the folded laundry:

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This left me with two empty laundry baskets. I emptied the dirty clothes hamper into one, and used the other to gather up any items that didn’t belong in our room and needed to be put away. I put both baskets outside the door, so they were out of my way.

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Then I gathered up my cleaning supplies and went to work.

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This is all I use to clean my entire house – a bottle of homemade all-purpose cleaner, a bottle of homemade glass cleaner, a stack of microfiber cloths, an old toothbrush, a plastic scrubbie sponge, and lemon oil for polishing furniture. Plus a Swiffer, dustpan, mop, and vacuum for floors, and baking soda for the inside of toilets. My cleaning supply closet is very small.

I always clean bedrooms in this order:
1) Clutter and laundry out first! You don’t want to clean around stuff – it’s not efficient at all.
2) Make the bed. I always tackle the largest item in the room first and get it out of the way.

(Just as an aside, have I ever mentioned that I hate throw pillows? They look pretty, but they’re so impractical. Our bedding set came with a few, and I’m simply too no-nonsense to deal with arranging them and moving them off the bed every time I want to get into it, so they spend most of their lives on the floor of the closet. In magazines, I sometimes see pictures of sofas with 50 tiny decorative pillows artfully arranged all over them, and I think “Ha ha ha ha ha! Yeah, right. Like I want to be picking those up off the floor 25 times a day?”)

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Done!

3) Dust all surfaces, including ceiling fan.
4) Floors last.

In the bathroom, I follow the same routine. Clutter and laundry out first. Next, I spray all surfaces with all-purpose cleaner, and let it sit while I empty the trash. Then I come back and wipe everything down. I swish the toilet and polish the mirror, and I clean the floor last. I usually clean bathroom floors on my hands and knees with a microfiber cloth (especially the master bath, because it’s so tiny). This ensures that all the nooks and corners get cleaned and disinfected.

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Now the moment of truth: how long did it take for me to clean both of these rooms?

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Yep. Just over a half hour to clean two rooms, and what an eye-opener for me! I can waste a half hour on the internet in what seems like a blink, so in the future, when I start thinking that I don’t have time to clean the bedroom, I’ll remind myself that yes…I actually do.

Chances are, so do you. So, the next time you catch yourself googling, “how do I get motivated to clean” STOP. Come back here and read this post (unless doing so will lead you down a rabbit-hole of mindless internet surfing, in which case DON’T). Then, just get up and do it! A body in motion tends to stay in motion, so take my advice – just start. Anywhere. You’ll feel so much better if you do.

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  12 Responses to “Cleaning and the “I Don’t Have Time” Excuse”

  1. As usual you are right on! I am procrastinating cleaning right now! I think I will use the timer today to prove to myself I have time!

  2. Heather as usual your post is so spot on for me. I have concluded I am addicted to my smartphone. It is horrible. I think I am just going to spend the money on an old flip phone. It isn’t facebook but I am always reading the news or researching something instead of doing. Thanks for calling it out!!!

  3. Timing myself has really helped me motivate myself to get things done. I had the worst time getting laundry folded and put away. So I timed folding and putting away a basket full of clothes/towels, etc. A typical load, at my typical speed, using some efficiency hacks*. Less than 5 minutes. Now that I know this, if I ever just want to leave it, I literally think to myself “it’s just 5 minutes” and I get it done.

  4. Another trap I fall into regarding “not having time” is when I legitimately don’t have time to do ALL of something, so I don’t even start, when I certainly could do a little bit – probably more than I realize. I’m always telling myself that I need these huge blocks of uninterrupted time (which I’m not EVER going to get with three kids) to accomplish stuff in the house, or there’s no point in even starting. I’ve been doing better with this since I realized what I was doing and called myself on it.

    And yes, I can also waste time on the internet with the best of them. People wonder why I’m not on facebook and pinterest, but I am so much happier when i spend less time online. It is incredibly easy to get sucked in and waste time, even so. Thank you for addressing this, most bloggers won’t!

  5. A tip to go along with this– I just found these timers called “Time Timers.” As a person who has suffered from issues with time ALL my life- I am in love with them because they give me a concrete visualization of the passage of time. Digital clocks show nimbers that disapear after yhey pass, but these timers are like analog clocks that have this red disc that you turn to the alloted time l, say half an hour, and then you can actually see the red slice of time getting smaller as you work on whatever… I found these when looking into helping children with ADD and realized it would help me sooo much! I had heard your advice before, of just getting up and Doing something, but for some reason the concept of the time it would take still eluded me. I am very excited to try this new strategy of associating the visual image of time passing with how long it actually takes me to do tasks. It has already greatly helped my stress level in the busy mornings getting the kiddo off to school! Thanks for the reminder post that taking the time to get stuff done always feels better than waiting time!

  6. You are a genius! I never thought of using a timer! This post was written about me…I ALWAYS waste time on nonsense! Even though I gave up Facebook for Lent (and I didn’t even have a hard time giving it up) I didn’t spend as much time with the Lord as I would have liked, and this saddens me. This post was a real wake-up call and I appreciate you taking the time to share it with us! Have a Blessed Easter Heather! xo

  7. So inspirational, thank you! I have been off Facebook for a few years & once you’re away from it, it seems so silly. I’m not super religious, but I feel like it does encourage the 7 deadly sins…sloth, pride, lust, envy, etc…perhaps a tool of the devil haha 😉

  8. Heather, you are such a great writer! I have been reading for a long time but never comment. I look forward to your posts, and you have such a great way of just saying things like they are! “Because I will call you on it”…ha ha ha. This made me think about just how much time I spend on Facebook. Why? Who cares what everyone else is doing! While my house is dirty and I have laundry everywhere that needs to be folded…and I haven’t had time to clean out my car, or make a hair appt. or take a walk with my husband. Thanks again for making me take a moment to think about things. xoxoxo

    • Thank you for the compliment 🙂 Also, I can relate! I felt much the same about the time I spent on Facebook, and that’s why I quit. I did have some withdrawal right after I left, but I don’t miss it all anymore. It’s more fun to spend time in the real world with the three-dimensional people!

      Anyway, if you take a Facebook sabbatical, I’ll be interested to hear how it goes!

  9. Update! I have been off Facebook since you wrote this post, 6 days. I took the app off of my phone. Surprisingly, I don’t miss it. I’m not going through any kind of Facebook withdrawal. I find I am less distracted, and able to focus on my To Do list. I still take computer breaks, and check my e-mail and the blogs that I follow, but I was spending WAY too much time following what everyone else was doing. One day I had 45 minutes to kill in my car while waiting for an appt. and normally I would have gone on Facebook. Instead I made a phone call I had been procrastinating with, I paid a bill online, and I cleaned out my purse! Was able to cross all 3 of these off of my list when I got home! Yay! I plan to continue…

    • That’s awesome! I’m happy for you, and PROUD Of you too! It’s hard to take that plunge. Good for you 🙂

  10. You are amazing! I love your tips! They are great help for me! I appreciate that you are honest about that you don’t like cleaning! I also don’t but it is something that needs to be done! I feel relaxed when I’m cleaning and organizing but I definitely would prefer to do something else! Thank you for the wonderful tips! Greets! <3

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