When it comes to de-cluttering your home . . . helping your home shed some unwanted pounds . . . one of the best tips I’ve run across is this one: set a timer.
My family does this on a regular basis and it helps to solve what I think is the biggest problem we face when it comes to cleaning, organizing and de-cluttering: the paralysis we feel when our brain begins to fully comprehend the amount of work we need to do!
Here are 3 reasons why:
There’s An End In Sight
Setting a timer gives your project a definite ENDING POINT. If your “ending point” is the end of the project, it’s easy to get overwhelmed–especially when those projects are big. When you tell your kids (or yourself) “we’re all going to clean the basement and we’re not calling it quits until the walls have been scrubbed, the floors have been bleached and all the toys have been sorted by color, size, type and age-group . . .” well, you’re unlikely to find many happy people in your little work crew.
The job is too big. When you look at your basement, with that goal in mind–utter cleanliness–you realize how much work is ahead of you. For me, that’s a real buzz-kill because it A) makes me depressed, and; B) makes me angry, which; C) makes everybody else depressed.
However, when we set a timer, it no longer matters how BIG the job is. What matters is only the amount of time I programmed into that little timer. If I set it for 1/2 an hour, we all work knowing that after 30 minutes, we’re done. If I set it for 1 hour, we all know we’ve got 60 minutes and we’ll quit.
It doesn’t matter if we finish the room tonight or not. The finish line is no longer a flawlessly clean room. The finish line is much easier to reach–it’s that 30 or 60 minute mark.
When we do that as a family, we’ve found it takes the edge off the project. It doesn’t feel hopeless anymore. It doesn’t feel enormous. It doesn’t depress me, doesn’t make me angry. I know that I can jump in, start working and, in 30 minutes or so, pack it all in for the night.
The Guilt is Gone
Another benefit of setting a timer is the almost magical removal of guilt. See, if I tackle a project and set as my goal the completion of that project, I tend to feel guilty if I quit short of reaching that goal. I feel like I failed–that I should have worked harder or a little longer.
However, when we set a timer, we remove that guilt because we’ve changed our goals. As we mentioned above, we’re not working for a clean room per se–we’re working for a set amount of time. When we reach that set amount of time, we’ve accomplished our goal for the night. It doesn’t matter that the room isn’t finished yet. As long as the timer’s gone off, we’ve accomplished our goal and can call it quits for the night without even an ounce of guilt.
Cleaning Becomes a Race Against Time
A third benefit of setting a timer when you clean is that the timer–just the fact that it’s in the background, like a bomb, ticking away–gives everybody working a bit of a “we’re in a race” mentality. You work a little faster because you know that the timer’s ticking. You move a little quicker, you grab two or three things and sprint rather than picking up a single item and trudging dejectedly across the room to put it away.
You know the timer’s ticking down and you want to have as much work done as possible before it goes off. Instead of looking at the mountain of work and thinking “we’ll be doing this forever,” you’ll find yourself looking at it and thinking “we’ve only got 10 more minutes . . . go! Go! Go!”
When we do this as a family, we’ve actually found ourselves having fun while cleaning. It’s insane. It defies logic. But it’s true. Try it for yourself and find out.