Laura Vanderkam often mentions that one way to reduce the amount of time you need to spend on household maintenance is to reduce your standards.
If you decide that surfaces don’t have to be dust-free, you can dust less often (or never!).
Or if you decide that fingerprints on walls and mirrors aren’t a deal-killer, you can skip cleaning those regularly.
I subscribe to this style of thinking to an extent.
For example, I usually know it’s time to clean my shower when I happen to step in with my contacts still in place and notice the pink slime growing on the floor.
(Usually I shower without my contacts in, which means I can’t really see the floor. Or the pink slime.)
I dust my ceiling fans only when they’re blanketed with dust, I rarely wash my floors (we do sweep every day!), I change our bed sheets pretty infrequently, and I’m not sure I’ve ever washed the outsides of my windows.
(This works best with jobs that don’t get incrementally harder the longer you put them off. If you clean your bathroom mirror once a month, the job doesn’t take four times as long as if you cleaned it once a week. You still have to spray the whole surface and wipe the whole surface down. It’s not really any more overwhelming!)
Anyway, there are a lot of household jobs that can be put off/done less frequently without having serious consequences for your lifestyle.
So, if you’ve got to pick and choose what you can do, let those jobs go, especially if you’re in an unusually stressful or busy season of life.
Then you can focus your energy on the tasks that really will become problematic if they’re left undone.
For me, those are the following:
It’s true: ten loads of laundry take the same amount of time no matter when you do them.
But unless you’ve got an enormous wardrobe, you can’t put this task off indefinitely without experiencing some unhappy consequence.
You’ll eventually run out of clothes (this is inconvenient when you’re trying to get out the door!), and a huge pile of laundry is very overwhelming.
So, when I’m short on time for household tasks, I almost always prioritize laundry. People need clean clothes. And towels.
(A bonus of having a smallish wardrobe is that you are forced to A) prioritize this task or B) face going starkers.)
2. Paper Clutter/Mail
This is another one of those things that has a tendency to pile up and become overwhelming.
Plus, disorganized piles of papers often have important stuff hiding in them (bills, appointment reminders, tax papers, checks, etc.), and it’s easy to lose track of that stuff if you haven’t separated them from the junk.
These can be expensive papers to lose!
So, no matter what else is going on, I try to deal with paper clutter daily.
I immediately recycle any and all junk mail so that the only papers that stay in the house are important ones.
And then the important ones usually go on the fridge with a chip clip. I have a chip clip for bills to pay, a chip clip for coupons, and I have a chip clip for checks that need to be deposited.
It’s not fancy, but it works for me.
Cooking isn’t a task that piles up over time, but there are a lot of reasons I prioritize this task anyway.
First of all, people need to eat every day. You can clean your mirror once a month, but you can’t just feed people once a month!
Secondly, eating out instead of cooking has some pretty serious negative financial consequences. I can feed my family at home for several days on what it costs us to get one fast food meal, so eating out is kind of a dumb choice for us to make regularly.
Thirdly, eating out is almost always less healthy than eating what I cook at home.
So! Even if I don’t always do a rock star job at other household tasks, I really, really try to cook at home almost all of the time.
It’s not like I feel compelled to make gourmet meals every night. I just need to get something that’s reasonably healthy onto the table.
What are your top three tasks?
I’d love to hear in the comments!