Fifteen Minutes – and GO!

4 Jun 2019
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Last week Cathy posted a blog on housework and this really struck a chord with me.

Several chords really.

The first is that I rate myself pretty low on the scale of "clean and tidy". There is dust on the windowsill – and smears on the glass beyond it. I have heaps of paper and magazines, and a pile of clothes on the floor ready to take to the charity shop. My kitchen floor could do with being swept and mopped and there are usually spiderwebs if you look up. I have random clutter on most surfaces. Oh dear, my house is not what I would call "clean and tidy."

But – there's another thing. A couple of months ago I was exhibiting at an event, with a table right next to the fire service. They had a series of photographs showing the fire service "Clutter Scale", as it relates to a fire risk. You can find a similar image here (you will need to scroll down the page to see it): http://bit.ly/2JXfvrP. I realised that my clutter scale tops out at around 2 out of 9: it is perfectly normal. I judge myself (unrealistically) by full page spreads in House Beautiful or by TV stage sets. Maybe you do too. Normality is where and how normal people live. A certain amount of dirt and clutter is – yes - normal.

I thought about some dear friends of mine. They throw the most amazing parties where you will always meet interesting people. But their home is very far from "show perfect." My husband loves going to them as he says they make him feel tidy. I admire them immensely for their joyful acceptance that people love them and do not care that there is a pile of shoes in the hall or that the kitchen table is covered with stuff. I envy them for their freedom from fear.

The chord that struck most loudly however, was something I read about a woman who has made a career out of teaching people how to clean their homes and keep them tidy. She calls herself "The Flylady". The thing I love most about her is that she teaches self-acceptance first. It's okay to be where you are, and you can only take one baby step at a time. She works with baby steps and fifteen-minute tasks.

Saturday's task was to spend just a few minutes in the hall, sorting out the shoes (I put all the winter boots away: we won't need those until October) and clearing the hall table of the broken pens, leaflets and oddments that collect there. Just having an ordered shoe rack and clear table made me feel much better. And it took ten minutes.

Today's task is to clear just one shelf in a food cupboard. Just one. I can do that in fifteen minutes and feel great.

You can do a lot in fifteen minutes. But set your timer! Then stop.

Mary

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

Maggie May

June 5, 2019, 4:33 a.m.

Hi Mary, I loved this blog and want to thank you. I am constantly castigating myself for not having the perfect house my sister manages to keep like a show home. The effort of starting housework is so daunting I don’t start , especially when depressed. When high, I often exhaust myself cleaning, flitting from cleaning skirting boards to shampooing carpets , etc. Your timed manageable periods will help enormously being mindful that I am not the worse cleaner and there are more important things to be remembered for than having an immaculate house.

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Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:11 p.m.

The phrase I always love is "Dull women have immaculate houses." I'm sure it is not true, but it makes me feel better!

Maggie May

June 5, 2019, 4:36 a.m.

Do the men on this site feel the same guilt?

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MoonandJupiter

June 5, 2019, 4:53 a.m.

He’s not on this site, but I know my husband does.

Rolf

June 5, 2019, 8:12 a.m.

For what it's worth, I do. Guilt and shame because I am not as organized as my wife, even though I only look after the garage and my office, while she takes care of all the rest of the house. Guilt and shame also because most of the clutter represents ambitious projects that somehow never got finished. Getting really angry with myself when I can't find a tool or other thing that's buried in the mess. Constantly scared that something precious will get damaged from falling off an overloaded shelf or getting crushed between other stuff. But I've started to take the baby-steps route and to replace bad habits with good ones -- "see a weed, pick it".

The Gardener

June 5, 2019, 9:41 a.m.

Rolf, I love this. I think all our family houses (lofts in particular) are witnesses to ambitious schemes which went wrong, and as another trait is never to throw anything away, end up like you! Your last phrase, I spend 20 min cutting dandelions out of lawn.

Rolf

June 5, 2019, 10:57 a.m.

Thank you! There's a subject -- dandelions! I went and read up on them because I hoped to learn how to eradicate them. What can I say -- I've now gone from fighting them to cultivating them. Not another stalling project I think, because it's not too ambitious and has a defined endpoint (harvest all of the plants whole before they throw seeds). They really are the most wonderfully versatile plants, from green manure to nutritious food to coffee substitute to source of latex (no joke -- http://www.scienceprojectideas.co.uk/make-rubber-band-from-dandelion.html; https://www.continentaltire.com/news/continental-constructing-tires-dandelions).

The Gardener

June 5, 2019, 12:21 p.m.

Rolf, I don't 'cultivate' them - I know you can have a camomile lawn, but not dandelions. I would have to use a very strong chemical to deal with the roots of dandelions and coltsfoot, much better to potter about and prise them out with a knife.

Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:12 p.m.

I know they are weeds, but they are so pretty - and our guinea-pigs like them!

helen

June 5, 2019, 4:43 a.m.

Thank you for this. Love the image, very useful

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MoonandJupiter

June 5, 2019, 4:52 a.m.

I love this. I’m a fan of The Organised Mum Method. Very similar principals with certain jobs categorised into 15 minutes and 30 minutes. I can’t claim to keep to what is a fairly strict routine but I certainly use the principals of sticking to those short time limits.

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Katie

June 5, 2019, 5:49 a.m.

Hi moon. I'm the same with FlyLady. I don't follow her routine, it's beyond me. But I've picked up loads of her tips and they all help. Xx

Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:13 p.m.

I think she'd be happy with that: she seems to be positive and accepting. I could never live my life as she does, but love her tips.

MoonandJupiter

June 5, 2019, 4:52 a.m.

I love this. I’m a fan of The Organised Mum Method. Very similar principals with certain jobs categorised into 15 minutes and 30 minutes. I can’t claim to keep to what is a fairly strict routine but I certainly use the principals of sticking to those short time limits.

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Orangeblossom

June 5, 2019, 5:15 a.m.

Hi Mary thanks for a great blog which fully resonated for me. I am not great at housework and household chores. Now that it is the end of the term & the academic year, I have no excuse for not fulfilling the tasks set our for me. Also, I know that cleaning our kitchen cupboards are well overdue.

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Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:15 p.m.

I had a mouse in one of mine last night. I heard it when I came down for a drink and so opened the cupboard door and left it. My wonderful cats did the rest. But now I must clean the cupboard to find what damage the little creature did.

Hopeful One

June 5, 2019, 5:26 a.m.

Hi Mary-thank you for a thought provoking blog .Kath asks if men feel guilty in the same way as women do. I can’t speak for all men but in my case well not really ( I gather from MoonandJupiter that other men do) At least not in the sense that women do in that women feel the guilt but then go on to beat themselves up for it . They make it worse by comparing themselves with others who they perceive are doing better than themselves -setting up a negative loop that feeds the guilt. I just rank it as another job that needs doing and find a slot for doing it. And Mary you hit the nail on the head. A little and often is far better than all at once. I use this strategy when I don’t feel like practising my guitar for example .I aim to do half an hour each day. On those days when I lack enthusiasm I will talk myself into practicing for say 10 minutes. I then congratulate myself for doing that despite how I felt . And have a laugh in the process. Warning: this joke has adult content which some readers may find offensive. After 35 years of marriage, a husband and wife came for counseling. When asked what the problem was, the wife went into a tirade listing every problem they had ever had in the years they had been married. On and on and on: neglect, lack of intimacy, emptiness, loneliness, feeling unloved and unlovable, an entire laundry list of unmet needs she had endured. Finally, after allowing this for a sufficient length of time, the therapist got up, walked around the desk and after asking the wife to stand, he embraced and kissed her long and passionately as her husband watched -a little surprised . The woman became quiet stopped talking sat down as though in a daze. The therapist turned to the husband and said, "This is what your wife needs at least 3 times a week. Can you do this?" "Well, I can drop her off here on Mondays and Wednesdays, but on Fridays, I golf."

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The Gardener

June 5, 2019, 6:04 a.m.

Ha ha HO HO. This is NOT sexist. I have received loads of criticism, insults, for many things which have been mine AND Mr B's responsibility. I get the flak, nobody would dare have insulted him. Is it because women WILL react and be upset? Which gives the tormentor pleasuree

The Gardener

June 5, 2019, 6:06 a.m.

PS, I've known at least three men who insisted on impeccable houses - one, local mayor, whose wives legged it - anyone here who suffers from a fastidious male? Inhuman!

Tutti Frutti

June 5, 2019, 6:37 a.m.

My husband is much tidier than me. It has advantages and disadvantages. I don't like having a small pile of unsorted stuff referred to as 'all your ****' or having my stuff just swept up and dumped on my chair in my study. I do appreciate the fact that my husband does the cleaning as he knows it will be really irritating him before I think the house needs cleaning. Love TF x

Katie

June 5, 2019, 7:31 a.m.

Agree, inhuman!

Lexi

June 5, 2019, 12:55 p.m.

HO, laughed out loud. Thank you!

Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:19 p.m.

I loved the joke, HO! I know that it would be difficult for me to share quarters with my best friend Raz, as he is minimalist and tidy to the point of clinical obsession. No matter how hard I try, the piles of paper keep on growing. I fear we would fall out very soon.

The Gardener

June 5, 2019, 5:58 a.m.

Good morning all - just having breakfast and reading yesterday's posts and today's. Mary, I've been following this pattern for years - not saying it's 'old hat' at all, but the only way I have found to 'cope'. Down and out, for many reasons, I look at the house, desk, heaps books,papers, and I would 'flip' if I had not discovered how much you can do in 15 minutes. If I have a task I loathe, sewing, or ironing, I put on lovely music, or a radio programme, and find the task is finished before the programme. I'd spent days fretting about a 20 minute job. Going to buy plants, no time limit!! xx

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Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:20 p.m.

Buying plants - if you like that job, wonderful. I always end up frustrated to the point of tears. But then, one of the reasons I love our beach house is - no garden!

Tutti Frutti

June 5, 2019, 6:31 a.m.

Hi Mary Just googled fire service clutter scales and unfortunately my study is more like a 4 out of 9 which is into the Amber zone. The rest of the house. Is fine - partly because my tidy husband gets fed up and dumps any pile I haven't dealt with into my study after a while. I think part of the problem is that I am also trying to serve too many purposes in one small room. Like I have a load of things which may come in useful for presents (which made sense when my daughter was younger and constantly getting invited to parties but not now that she is old enough to want to get the presents herself). I have a saxophone that I should sell. (I have accepted that my hands are too small and my elbows are consequently too ******ed to be able to play it again but my husband who bought it for me hasn't accepted it yet.) There are things like my sewing box and art equipment which could surely live elsewhere in the house again. And there are 3 obsolete computers two of which ought to go back to work for disposal (but I think have been forgotten) and I have a mental block about it because I used them to back up some family photos including one really embarrassing one of me feeding my baby daughter and I have no idea where that particular photo is or how to ensure that it is permanently deleted. If I could get through those issues then I would then merely be faced with a daunting load of paper work., general indecision about throwing things out and a bit of a hoarding instinct. I make some progress occasionally but it takes mamy, many 1/4 hours and I tend to run out of steam before it is done. Love TF x

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Holly

June 5, 2019, 9 a.m.

Just wanted to drop by and say that the majority of my house is around 3 or 4 out of 9 but years ago it would've been a solid 4. It takes a lot of hard work to reduce the clutter, especially when there are hoarding tendencies. But it's doable with small steps, patience and being gentle with yourself :)

Katie

June 5, 2019, 9:30 a.m.

Well done Holly xx

Tutti Frutti

June 5, 2019, 6:15 p.m.

Thanks for the encouragement Holly

Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:22 p.m.

TF - a couple of years ago my study too, would have been in the 4 zone. I had a huge blitz and threw away a lot of crafting stuff I knew I would never use and reorganised what was left. It took me a week of evenings, but the result was an area which, while it does get cluttered (as it is now), I know that in 15 minutes it will be clear again.

Ach UK

June 5, 2019, 11:56 p.m.

Holly, Thank you so much for your comment here, very helpful for me who is nibbling away at a big baggage of excess belongings. :))

Cathy

June 5, 2019, 6:48 a.m.

I loved this idea so thanks so much for posting it. I had a similar feeling when I polished the hall table with a really aromatic polish. Great smell, really clean and polished table which took about fifteen minutes and the effect was magical. I was so buoyed up by this that I cleaned the Baal, kitchen, downstairs loo and stairs. Thanks again for cheering me up and I’ll look at your link soon. Cheers Cathy

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Cathy

June 5, 2019, 6:49 a.m.

Hall not Baal!!!!

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Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:23 p.m.

Oh, I loved the Baal - I had visions of a golden calf dominating your whole hall!

Ach UK

June 5, 2019, 11:59 p.m.

Ha ha ha Mary, that's a funny picture !!

Johanna

June 5, 2019, 8:49 a.m.

Very helpful blog, thank you. I love the bit at the end about focusing on doing just one thing and timing yourself and doing no more. We need to be active to stay healthy and housework can be part of our activities, but we also need ‘me’ time, to relax- That is important too.

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Maggie May

June 5, 2019, 9:28 a.m.

Thanks to the men who replied , and women on behalf of husbands. It triggered a shameful realisation that I had been really sexist recently about housework and cleanliness without realising. My sons house is a tip and filthy since moving in with a new girlfriend. Instead of blaming him for the drop in standards of hygiene I immediately attached the blame to her even though they both work . Old predudices and beliefs are hard to drop. Also , maybe I am not alone and that is why men don’t often feel guilt, because they are not ‘blamed ‘ .

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Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:24 p.m.

Shamefully, housework is still seen as "women's work".

Vivien

June 5, 2019, 9:43 a.m.

Hi Mary, Brilliant blog. Living on my own, it is very easy to SHUT THE DOOR on rubbish/clutter. However, I now try and divide things up into manageable chunks, 15 minutes is a good amount of time, and add in a Radio turned on, and the job clears very quickly. One tip I got from my sister was if you have a pile of 'stuff' to clear or put away, you do 5 items at a time - again the pile is reduced a lot quicker! Oh well, best go and tackle the spare room. ***

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The Gardener

June 5, 2019, 9:50 a.m.

I start in the corner of the kitchen, or the end of my very long desk, and clear till I get fed up - at least it's OK behind me. I did a timed 20 minutes - kitchen, bedroom, flowers for church, plants for garden, greeted 8 people. It's revealing, Mary.

Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:25 p.m.

Ooh, I like that five things, Vivien! I might try that with the pile of paper to my right, just as soon as I have finished preparing my talk for tomorrow night. I'll let you know how I get on.

The Gardener

June 5, 2019, 9:47 a.m.

When my husband changed from self-employed (never home) to employed (home by 6 p.m. and week-ends) he started to take a share in running the house. Only snag, biting tongue at the inference that the house had not been run properly until he was involved. I don't think he ever mowed the lawn, but basked in the endless parties held in what were, usually, impeccable gardens. He took a liking to ironing - and got stuck with it, he could be as perfect as he wished!!

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Mary Wednesday

June 5, 2019, 7:28 p.m.

Sorry (shakes head in an attempt to clear it). I think I must have misheard you. He - "took a liking to ironing"??? Surely you jest. Nobody, but nobody, likes ironing, surely!

The Gardener

June 6, 2019, 5:25 a.m.

Just checking mails before watching the D-day programme - I am 10 kms from major American and German cemeteries. Ironing? I avoided it, then Mr G, took a liking to good cotton shirts, wanted them impeccable. Iron them yourself. He did the lot, liked it!

Ach UK

June 6, 2019, 12:15 a.m.

Hi Mary, Wow, I'm late reading your blog, but how lovely to read it and all the comments which give so many helpful hints and wrinkles on chunking and junking. And insights into people's feelings and reasonings about " housekeepings". Thank you to the gentlemen who gave input too. XX Ach.

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