Are We Wasting Our Time Cleaning Our Houses?

Are We Wasting Our Time Cleaning Our Houses?

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I read Laura Vanderkam’s book,  I Know How She Does Itover Thanksgiving break. I’m still processing much of what I read, but the household management portion of the book struck a chord with me. Laura collected hundreds of weekly logs from working mothers. She found the women who followed “cleaning charts and graphs” spent the most time cleaning. Essentially, the time you allocate for household management and cleaning you will fill.

I work part-time, but I do the majority of the household management. Jordan is actually a better cleaner than I am and has his areas of focus (such as plant maintenance), but I am home more and thus I do more cleaning. Lately, as Phoenix is more active and curious, I feel like all I do is clean and yet, have nothing to show for it.

Vanderkam argues spending 20 minutes straightening up toys after bedtime is potentially a waste of time. There is always something to pick-up, but you won’t get those 20 minutes back. Picking up toys three nights a week instead of four might mean the chance to visit a friend or spend an hour reading alone at a coffee shop.

I do believe in taking care of our belongings, which involves cleaning and organizing. But when does this cross the line between busy work and actual maintenance? When do “stay-at-home-moms/part-time-working moms” limit ourselves by spending all of our time cleaning instead of volunteering or finding freelance work?

Are we creating more work for ourselves? I’d love to hear your opinion on this.

8 thoughts on “Are We Wasting Our Time Cleaning Our Houses?”

  1. I struggle with this on all fronts – I hate when the house feels cluttered or unorganized, but I also am not going to spend my whole life cleaning! Every day I set a timer for 10-15min and get as much done as I can – which is a lot more than I imagined I would!

    1. Jordan has a hard time with clutter. I think I also just understand nap time is go-time so if I really need to knock something out I have to leave the dishes. I can put dishes away while he’s awake but I can’t take a photo etc. I love the timer idea.

  2. I think this totally depends on the person! For example, I love cleaning- it’s so therapeutic to me. If I’m stressed out, or if I need me time, I love to put on music or a podcast or audiobook and just clean! For me it takes my mind off of whatever is worrying me, plus the added cleanliness makes things a little easier haha. However, I don’t have children and I totally understand why people who do don’t want to waste the time to constantly be picking up!

    1. I don’t enjoy cleaning but I love organizing! Cleaning out drawers brings me a lot of pleasure. The book mainly discusses the concept that high powered working women don’t see their families or have any personal time. But she found that to actually not be true. Most found the time to do all of those things especially if they were willing to outsource or skip vacuuming for a week.

  3. This is really interesting. I think part of what it comes down to for me is how you feel about the process/results of cleaning. Personally, I get great satisfaction from having a clutter-free and organized space, and I actually enjoy the process of making that happen (now, cleaning showers or toilets? an entirely different matter). I’m also kind of a homebody and fairly introverted, so time spent straightening up can sometimes be kind of a recharger for me, and I’m not feeling like I’d rather be spending time with other people just then (does that make me sound anti-social? ha!). I agree that it can be frustrating to feel like you’re doing this cleaning and it’s not making any difference, thanks to toddler tornadoes, so maybe there are times I should just let it go a bit and just let this slightly chaotic stage in our household just BE. But then that’s not exactly my personality 🙂

    1. I understand the feeling that cleaning/organizing can be recharging. While reading the book I was surprised to discover a revelation about myself — that essentially inadvertently I was brought up to think if you wanted to have a family you couldn’t have a high powered job. How would you be able to see your family and run your house? But, actually sometimes those jobs allow for more flexibility and money allows you to outsource.

      I would much rather spend time playing with Phoenix than clean the toilets. haha. As of right now I can’t exactly knock out much of anything with Phoenix undertow. He’s still rather needy, but when he’s in Kindergarten I could choose to read a book while he’s coloring next to me instead of dusting.

  4. This is really interesting! I do feel like it’s pointless to do much tidying up while Leighton is awake, and I swear the minute I turn my back to switch laundry or empty the dishwasher is when she tumbles trying to go down the steps or colors on the walls (true story). Personally though I can’t relax in the evenings or during nap times if there is clutter out , and I always feel recharged once the house is tidy. I think sometimes women feel like if they are staying at home then they need to prove they are being productive (not the word I am looking for…) and cleaning is part of that. I like the idea of setting a timer. A good mix of keeping a clean house but also keeping your sanity.

  5. I love this! I think that there is definitely a balance to be struck between keeping your home sanitary and livable and still having time to spend with your family or on yourself. I definitely don’t want to live in a pigsty, but it reminds me of that bible story where one sister spends all of her time cleaning her home while the other spends time with Jesus, her guest. There are definitely more important things out there than cleaning your house. My husband and I have also started to become more comfortable with the idea of hiring help to clean our home. When our dog peed on the rug, we realized that I could either spend an hour on my hands and knees scrubbing it out, or we could have a carpet cleaner do it for us while I spend time with the kids. I get that spending more money isn’t an option for everyone but it’s that same idea of sacrificing something for more important things.

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