You have probably heard of the 80/20 Rule. Twenty percent of effort will get you 80% of the way there. Or, basically, effort is not linear. Some effort produces an outsized effect.
In day-to-day life, you have to make choices about how to spend your time. So is there a way you can get 80% of the work done in 20% of the time?
Like: make your bed and your whole room looks so much better in just a few seconds.
Like: take a box or laundry basket around and put in everything that doesn't belong in the room (all those migrating toys or school books picked up in one fell swoop). Just a few minutes to gather, and then distribute at your convenience. (There have been times I've put a box of the odds and ends into a closet for a week or two. "Convenience" is a fluid concept.)
Like: work in your own rhythms.
What does this mean?
In The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman describes how the body has rhythms. You may have heard about the circadian rhythm, which is what makes you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night.
Fascinating, though: there's also an ultradian rhythm, a shorter cycle that repeats through the day, in which your energy naturally waxes and wanes.
This means that if you feel tired at a particular time of day, you're not actually broken. Your body needs some rest and recovery. As Kaufman says: "Taking a break isn't a sign of laziness or weakness—it's a recognition of a fundamental human need" (289).
How to use the ultradian rhythm to your advantage?
Kaufamn recommends that you pay attention to your body. Note when you're more energetic, and when you're less. (A little self-awareness can go a long way.)
When you're in a peak cycle, plan to work hard. Do math with the children, do the dishes, whatever it may be.
And when you're in a down period, let your body recover. Take a nap. Do the Read-Alouds. Take a walk when the weather is good. When you rest when your body wishes, you can get more done on the next up cycle.
How does this apply to housekeeping?
Here's an example from my life. I know that for me, the ideal of "I go to bed with a clean kitchen" is mentally right up there next to "And I don't murder or commit adultery." And so then I can feel really distressed if I go to bed with a dirty kitchen.
Sure, maybe I homeschooled all day, dealt with character issues in a couple of children, prepared three meals and some snacks, enjoyed my husband's company . . . but that messy kitchen. Despite all the wins, I feel like a failure.
But that's my own construct! Especially if my husband isn't bothered or inconvenienced, I can do the dishes when I am ready to do the dishes!
For me, once dinner is over, I am mentally and emotionally done. I like to spend my evenings reading to the boys, writing, reading for myself.
In the morning, I find it less daunting to get the dishes done. (Or, let's be honest, to do some dishes, even if they aren't done). Doing the dishes in the morning feels like a minor inconvenience, instead of an impossible challenge.
I am content with this pattern. It fits my life.
Make housekeeping fit your life, too.
And, by the way: it is much easier to keep a clean house when the children are old enough to help! When my oldest hit their teens, we could all work together to get the house clean in just a couple of hours on Saturday. No big deal! But when I had only young children—I had little tornados stirring up messes, and very little help in putting things back.
If that's your season right now, realize that this is, truly, just a season, and it won't last for long. This is both a promise (this, too, shall pass!) and a caution (treasure today!).
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Homeschooling mom to five