≡ Menu

Clean Faster by Timing Yourself

During a recent Hometalk chat, I mentioned that I time myself when I clean. I didn’t think anything about it until I started getting all kinds of feedback from you guys. I’ve talked about it briefly in posts like Clean Your Kitchen in 5 Minutes or Less4 Things You Can Clean in 4 Minutes or Less, and 3 Things You Can Clean in 3 Minutes or Less, but I’ve never thought to talk specifically about the art of competing against the clock.

overestimate time

You see, we tend to underestimate things we enjoy:

Have you noticed that when you’re chatting it up with friends, time flies! You might tell your family you’ll be back in 5 minutes, but it doesn’t happen because you get so engrossed in the conversation. Before you know it,  30 minutes has gone by in a flash!

If we get the chance to go shopping (grocery, clothes or otherwise) by OURSELVES – you know, without kids pulling at our legs and asking for everything they see – a few hours can seem like a blink of an eye!

Contrast that with the things that don’t excite us…

We usually overestimate the time it takes to complete the things we don’t enjoy:

Very few people admit they find enjoyment in cleaning. In fact, most people say they don’t like it at all! But the fact that cleaning isn’t fun, doesn’t mean it should take all day.

Let’s take laundry for example. The thought of washing clothes for an entire family can seem overwhelming. But, when you break down the time it takes to complete the task, it’s really not all that time consuming. Separating the clothes may take a couple of minutes and then another couple of minutes to load them in the washing machine. Then…you just wait. A little while later you take 30 seconds to transfer the clothes to the dryer. And then…wait again. Folding takes the longest of course, but if you time yourself, it probably only takes about 5 minutes. So, a total of 10 active minutes and one load of laundry is finished!

I’m sure there are a few of you thinking to yourself, “Yeah right. Laundry takes a lot longer than 10 minutes!” And maybe it does. Maybe it takes you 12 minutes. Maybe it takes you 8 minute total. But how will you ever know if you don’t time yourself?

There’s a few reasons to time yourself when you clean (or actually when you do anything you don’t like):

  • It gives you an end time. If you only have 5 minutes to clean, set your timer and work as fast as you can until your time is up. Then quit!
  • You work faster! Knowing that you can quit at the end of your time often gives you motivation to work harder and faster than you would if you had all day to complete the task.
  • It’s exact. When you time yourself, you find out exactly how long it takes you to complete a certain task. Once you know that a chore can be finished in 3 minutes, you will dread it less. You’ll also quit procrastinating so it will get clean more often.

It may seem a little silly at first, but try timing yourself when you clean. It works!

Question: How long does it take you to clean the bathrooms, vacuum the house, clean the kitchen, (you fill in the blank)?


  • Brigitte August 10, 2013, 4:34 pm

    It takes my mister three hours to clean the bathrooms if he just goes to clean them. But if he has 45 minutes to do them before he has to get ready for work, they still get done in 45 minutes. We started setting the timer for 20 minutes per bathroom, and it means they actually get done in about an hour without cutting corners. 20 minutes to clean, then 10 minutes to “just finish up really quick.” Otherwise it would be 30 minutes to clean and 10 minutes to “just finish up really quick.”

    • Brigitte August 10, 2013, 4:34 pm

      Oh also? Apparently if you empty and refill the dishwasher when you have 5 minutes to kill before you walk out the door to work, it can get done in 5 minutes. Otherwise, it takes 30. Hmmm

  • Bethany August 29, 2013, 6:06 am

    This is SO true. Once I realized it only took me 15
    Minutes to clean the kitchen I stopped dreading it so much. I can do pretty much anything for 15 minutes!!