Modules of time

Image from here.

This post is inspired by a FB friend’s status – she doesn’t comment here so I won’t go into detail. She mentions dealing with work and housework in twenty minute modules. I also often use her advice which came from her Mum to never leave a room empty handed if there is something that needs to go to a different room. I find this stuff fascinating [see also Bluemilk’s post on other people negotiating their relationships].

I’m not quite as structured as twenty minute modules. I might start picking things up because having detritus all over the floor irritates me but I don’t necessarily do it in twenty minute lots. I do have a system for picking things up though – I will go through and pick up the shoes and put them away or give them to their owner to be put away, I will pick up everything that needs to be washed up, then everything that needs to be recycled, then everything that needs to go in the bin and so on. Sometimes when I’m ironing I will do three things that take some care, then one quick thing or something like that. Often when I’m using housework to avoid doing something else I will set myself a limit – vacuum one floor before starting the thing I’m avoiding, or read one chapter before starting the housework I’m avoiding.

I do enjoy the benefit of not having to count my energy in spoons, so at the moment the only limiting factor is time and my willingness to do something. So what’s your preference? Do you have a system? What makes your life easier? What have you done in the past but don’t do anymore?*

SotBO – this is just to satisfy my curiosity.

*This is from the old joke where a young woman cuts the end off the rolled roast before putting it in the oven. When her partner asks why she says because it’s the way her Mum always did it. So she asks her Mum why and she responds that it was the way her Mum always did it. So she asks her grandmother who replies “Because the roast was always too big for the baking dish”.



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18 replies

  1. The advice about never leaving a room empty-handed if there is something to go another room is good, and makes for efficient use of time/energy. A friend told me a long time ago that good floor staff in a restaurant do that too. Ever since, I have been watching them when I go out for dinner, and ‘tut-tut’ when I see someone without something in their hands.

  2. As a bit of a disclaimer – I currently live in a two adult, no kids house, so the amount of effort required to keep the place livable is less than for others, and standard day to day, week to week .
    We have a list of tasks, and we negotiate who does what whenever the situation changes (who is working, how much, etc). It has evolved over time, and is now very specific to us.
    Mr does the things that matter to him (he has a shiny surface fetish and like to make sure the bin isn’t over flowing) and things I prefer not to/struggle to do (bring in washing which is too high for me in our temp place, dealing with bananas – he like em i hate em). I do the same, toilets matter to me, so they’re mine, food matters to me so I cook.
    We also have days written down for most tasks, because it means the less tasky person (most other work hours) doesn’t then feel the need to bug the most tasky person (least other work hours). Compromise was to agree days for tasks, and agree to a no bagging rule.
    It works well so far. We used to have constant tension over housework, but this seems to have cleared it up.

  3. p.s. I have the same floor clearing habit as you do 🙂 But I don’t always leave the room with something.

  4. We have a system, in theory. It involves a rotating roster of daily chores spread out among all the family members along with a weekly list of certain jobs to be done on certain days by certain people. It works REALLY well when we actually stick to it. In reality we crisis clean and live with a slightly discomforting level of chaos most of the time. We’re working on it.
    On the up side, my husband and I are as bad as each other and there’s a remarkable lack on recriminations over the whole situation.

  5. I have a procrastination rule that helps me get annoying jobs done. I have to do whatever it is for 30mins that day. No more, no less. If I discover it’s going quite well at the end of that 30minutes, I can do another 30minutes. Unless it’s something that’s making me really anxious (even though it feels like it’s going well), then I have to STOP.
    I mostly do this for poopy writing jobs, but it’s just as good for working through correspondence or other dumb jobs.
    When it comes to cleaning, though, I tend to be a bit obcon, and once I’ve started I find it very difficult to stop. In that case, it’s really important to do share the cleaning with my partner and have us both do our share at the same time. Otherwise I hassle him to do stuff faster/better, or I just take over. Which is a badnaughtywrong.

  6. The system that works best for me is to send Mrs Bryan and young Bryan away on a holiday. House stays spotless.

    Otherwise my system is to keep th ekitchen free for me only and to clean the house for 30 nmins each day after they have gone to work/school. Weekends are a challenge and I find the best strategy is to just ignore everything until Monday morning. Weekend sleepovers are more of a challenge as a house full of 8 year old boys cannot be left for two days.

  7. What Mim said, except with varying levels of recrimination, depending on outside stressors. Variables that have kept the house cleaner(er) in the past include one person working substantially less and not doing a PhD, knowing that visitors will be along shortly, a mother-in-law visting who is bored bored bored and having one or more members of the family away for an extended period of time. All of these are lovely things in themselves, but hardly sustainable over the long term, because one of us always seems to be doing a PhD and we quite like living together.

  8. Oh lordy, the picking up thing is on its way to ruining both my back and my frontal lobes. It’s like following Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs: you think “I’ll just pick up this thing at my feet”, then when you bend down to do it you see something else one pace further along, and so on until you have an armful of things which you distribute around the house, ready for them to be re-distributed back on the floor again. Wee fella is three, so still being trained.
    August Strindberg once took a day off from being an evil misogynist to write a play about the “daughter of Indra” coming down to earth and having a shot at living a human life. She marries a chap, then after a bit wanders off. He finds her and says “you need to come home and do the washing and cleaning and feed the baby”. She says “oh, but I did all that” and he says “you did it yesterday. Now you have to do it all again today”, and she is completely unable to grasp that it could be like that. Girl, I HEAR YOU.

  9. Well, this is in the context of a two-adult household, where neither of us are fond of housework, and both of us will leave things to pile up if we can possibly get away with it. In addition, I have chronic depression, which makes me even less inspired to do something as unrewarding as housework on a regular basis.
    So what happens is everything gets done on an “as and when” basis. As and when either of us feels like doing something, that thing gets done. One of us will wash a load of dishes when we find the round tuit. The other one will put them away once they’ve dried. Himself usually organises washing the clothes. We do have a few solid rules about when things can and can’t happen (for example, if I’m trying to fall asleep, he isn’t allowed to do anything noisy – washing dishes and setting the clothes washer going both count in this category). Vacuuming the carpets generally only happens when there’s going to be a rent inspection. The floors get swept and washed when we notice them getting gritty and/or sticky. I’ll tend to scrub the inside of my shower when I notice it needs it (generally as an adjunct to my shower) and dust down the bath and the benches once in a while.
    Basically, the house tends to spend most of its time looking like a bomb hit a few months back. If either of us really gets twitchy about the whole situation, that one will tend to go into a cleaning frenzy. But aside from that, about the only set jobs are that he takes out the bins, I deal with the gardens and the lawns, and I’m the one who descales the kettle once a year. Oh, and every three months there’s a rent inspection which means the place gets scrubbed to within an inch of its collective life, and the whole cycle starts over.

  10. In our house, it’s 2 adults and 2 cats and DH is pretty relaxed about cleaning. Dusting gets done when you can write your name on the shelves – he dusts his die-cast car collection, I dust my wolf/unicorn/dragon/wizard/book collection. He’s the one who watches the majority of TV so he dusts the TV screen as needed. The carpet gets vacuumed once a month whether it needs it or not – he might do it or I might, depending on whether I have the teaspoons. I cook the meals, but the dishes don’t get done until the next day (I usually do the previous day’s dishes while I’m cooking that day’s dinner). I clean the toilet and sink, he cleans the shower in the bathroom. He works a staggered schedule – Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat, Sun one week and Wed Thurs the next week, 12-hour days. So I don’t expect him to do anything on the days he works. If he helps in the house on his days off, that’s great. He does all the yard work and the snow-blowing/shoveling in the winter. He also does his own laundry and I do mine. We pick up after ourselves, so there usually isn’t much mess, other than cat toys on the floor. We both feed and water the cats, I clean the cat box, he cleans up when the cats barf. It works for us. The house isn’t spotless, but it’s clean enough, and since he owns it, we don’t have to worry about landlords or inspections.

  11. I’m the at home parent, so i do most of it. To my standard, not Dr Honey’s. We have uneven standards, which can lead to occasional moments of hilarity and exasperation. Dr Honey generally spends between two and three months away from home a year in two to twenty day stretches, so i have to be fairly self sufficient. the only task that is her’s and her’s alone is banking and bills, she earns the dosh and there is a history of men in my family being quite darsdedly, so i keep my distance.
    I am in a quandary about the girls, 2 and 4. on the one hand i want to avoid the Vygotskian social learning thang, i.e. engage them as i do the chores and model appropriate cleaning, cooking etc behaviour, as illustrated by TT’s joke above, that could so easily prepare them for a life of cleaning up after boys, on the other, i wish they would take responsibility for the mess that they make and clean it up. currently working on positive reinforcement (praise for putting things away), boundaries (no tv/computer until the lounge/study is tidy) and am just about to start a token economy. When youth workers become parents, the horror the horror 😉

  12. DA, I don’t think you need to worry that teaching them to clean will teach them to clean up after boys. Children learn most about their behaviour (as opposed to their skills), not from what they are told or made to do, but from what they see modeled. If you’re a bloke, and they see you clean up after yourself, that is what they will go on to expect from their own households.

  13. You are prob right orlando, i have been told that i am a bit too sensitive around this. that said, we get a bit of grief from the more conservative side of the family who place a lot of emphasis on trad roles and behaviours. it has been suggested that i am ruining these girls and that they won’t know what to do in a ‘proper’ domestic situation, i guess that i’m a bit pleased with that verdict.
    I am also well aware that the gender divisions at kinder, for the eldest, are are really starting to kick in and this appears to be reflected in their play. and in talking to other parents at kinder, i’m seeing that divisions of domestic labour in the households of many of my eldest’s age-mates wouldn’t surprise many. so i don’t want to discount the influence of the modelling of peers.
    Obviously this isn’t the only area where i am aiming for behaviour governed by responsibility rather than socially assigned role, but like a lot of works in progress you spend a lot of time worrying how it will turn out.

  14. Ah! If only all the little girls in the whole wide world would go out there NOT knowing what to do in a ‘proper’ domestic situation. That would be fab.
    My domestic arrangements are so weird right now, ironically because they are so conventional. Man has found job. Woman can’t find job. So because I’m contributing zilch to the household income right now, I feel it’s my obligation to treat the housework as my job, and find myself putting a lot of energy into trying to make our home a haven of peace and nourishment. Which is so very not who I am. I just hope that last year’s arrangement of mum goes to work while dad looks after the toddler was enough to have some kind of shaping influence on the wee fella, despite him being too little at the time to remember most of it.

  15. *looks up from assignments*

    What house? I live in a house?

    *back to assignments*

  16. I think that Allie Brosh sums up my partner’s and mine attitude to housework (though we try to use less ableist language).

  17. These days the DD has assumed responsibility for household cleaning and reckons spending money to get someone else to do it is worth while (hates cleaning anything though she knows how). I do the cooking and ironing, DH does the laundry, and DD does the kitty litter mostly because it’s right by her bedroom door *looks innocent about good planning*

  18. Oh well, two adult household, I’m the only one with the paid employment at the moment. Problem is, I’m also the one with the higher cleanliness expectations. Things will get messy, I’ll get tired of it, and start cleaning up. Nigel sez “Don’t do that, I’ll do that. You shouldn’t have to do that, you worked all week” Great. Fine. In fact, I agree! But when will you do it? You’ve had all week and it’s driving me mad now!
    We’re having great difficulties with that. I’m trying to teach him that I shouldn’t have to remind him, because if I do it too soon, I’m perceived as nagging but if I do it too late it is already pissing me off. We’ve had a “just do it on a regular schedule!!11!!” conversation but it has not taken hold. 😦

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