Once the hockey season gets rolling, the schedule starts getting a bit chaotic, and it can be hard to keep up on running the house in all that craziness. Back in the “old days,” I used to clean on Saturday mornings. Of course, I would do some cleaning every day, but the focused vacuum, dust, mop the floors, clean the whole house time was early Saturday morning. It usually resulted in my then 6-year-old having a complete meltdown, and sometimes this would lead to an all out screaming match.
I realized that he was only 6 and didn’t really know what “clean your room” actually meant, so maybe I should dial it back a bit. I started with making a checklist for him. Cleaning your room means to pick up all the dirty clothes and put them in the clothes hamper. All the books go back on the bookshelf. Legos and action figures go in their bins. You get the idea, and that helped for a few weeks. I broke down cleaning his room into something manageable for a child. We still ended up arguing every Saturday morning, though.
Then I got frustrated, and I told him that I was going to set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes, and he had to do nothing but clean for the full 15 minutes, and once the timer went off, he was done cleaning for the day, but the kicker was we were going to do that every single day. That first 15 minutes went really well. He thought of it like a game or contest which was what I wanted. I cleaned during that 15 minutes, too, and we shouted back and forth what we were doing. The first couple of times he needed a few suggestions for what to do next, but when the timer went off, he took great joy in telling me all that he had accomplished, comparing it to what I did, and realizing he “won” because he “got more done” than I did.
Now, I hadn’t anticipated him comparing himself to me, so for a while, I needed to lump a few tasks together so he could feel like he “won” more, but it worked, and it worked well. After about a week, the house was pretty clean.
We both learned that 15 minutes is actually a long time, and you can get a lot done. The impact on my thinking can not be understated here. There used to be many times I would have 10 minutes here and there and think to myself that wasn’t enough time to do anything so I wouldn’t do anything. He used to avoid tasks because he thought they would take a long time. Literally everything we did during those 15 minute sessions took a LOT less time than we thought they did. I realized that when I had just a couple minutes, it was, indeed, enough time to unload the dishwasher quick or toss in that next load of laundry and set the timer on the washing machine. Not only that, I probably had time leftover to do a few more quick cleaning tasks.
Fifteen minutes every day ends up being 91 hours over the course of a year. That is two full-time work weeks. No matter how crazy your schedule is, I promise you have 15 minutes every day. You don’t even have to have those 15 minutes all at once, though I would suggest it. The main point here is that you don’t need hours. You can make progress to a cleaner house, or any goal really, in just 15 minutes a day.
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