One common piece of advice to free up time is to “lower your standards”, usually in relation to housekeeping.
While I agree that lowering standards can save time, a clean, tidy, and nurturing home environment is still important. I prefer the term refine your standards as a more motivating approach.
Refining a standard means finding a simpler, quicker way to get a job done without compromising on the end result.
When we moved to a larger house two years ago, I couldn’t clean everything as often as I did in a smaller home. And I had no desire to do extra housework, so I had to find ways to get similar results for the same amount of time.
Here are a few ways I’ve refined my standards:
- Cut down on stuff. When we moved from a 3- to a 4-bedroom house, and I still managed to fill every shelf, cupboard, and room, I realised we had too many possessions. Boot loads to the op shop later and there is now much less to clean and maintain.
- Set a time limit. I set aside particular mornings for home-related tasks and stop when the time’s up. When I’m getting close to finishing, it’s a good incentive to take a few shortcuts, work more quickly, or simply leave it until next week.
- Concentrate on what gets noticed. If the floors are clean, no one will know I haven’t moved the furniture to clean underneath. If the glass doors are clean, it could be assumed—and wrongly :)—that the windows are clean too. I aim to clean what matters, and get to the rest when I can.
- Take shortcuts that don’t matter. If our tiled floors are not particularly dirty, I'll wipe up a few marks rather than mop the whole house. Let’s face it—the floors are going to look the same within a day or so regardless of how much time I put into them!
- Alternate jobs. I used to try to do several small jobs such as ironing, mending, and weeding the garden every weekend, but it was a lot of setting and packing up of supplies for tasks I didn’t particularly enjoy doing. Now I do one of these tasks per weekend, and rotate through the list. Each job gets done about once a month with no noticeable difference.
- Stretch out the gap between tasks. During colder months, I switched from washing sheets weekly to fortnightly.
- Complete smaller steps. Rather than procrastinating on a large job until I can do it all at once, I do a bit at a time. Instead of decluttering an entire room, I'll do one shelf or cupboard. When I've finished that area, it’s a natural pausing point and I move on to something else. The project still gets done, but without the angst.
- Adapt tasks for my children. I used to put off cleaning skirting boards (baseboards) because I don’t like the hassle of changing vacuum attachments and dragging the vacuum cleaner around furniture to get to every corner. Instead, I send the kids around the house dusting the boards with a cloth (or small dust-broom).
How do you refine your standards to save time and energy but still get good results?