The Five-Minute Pickup
The FlyLady offers this simple directive. Instead of trying to tackle all household chores in one fell swoop, try a five-minute pickup. This means that you set a timer for five minutes, or another short, realistic time span, and then rush around the house picking up things as quickly as you possibly can. This technique is fun and fast and will help alleviate some of the drudgery of cleaning and organizing.
It can become a race against the clock as you seek to restore order in a minimal amount of time. It can also help curb the perfectionism that so often haunts household projects, because you just can't afford to demand perfection from yourself when you're trying to beat the clock.
The other great benefit of a quick pickup is that it can show you how simple it can be to tidy up. Finally, this method frees us from one of the great temptations that can sabotage our efforts — nostalgia.
A variation on the five-minute pickup game is to play it with your children and let them each have a bag or basket. You set the timer and they race around the house collecting as many items that need to be put away as they can. When the timer goes off, whoever has the most items “wins.” Then the timer is set again and everyone scrambles to get everything in their baskets put away before the next ding.
Often, when you begin to tackle a pile of paper you come across things that you want to study and read — old letters, old photos, and ancient report cards. While these items can be fun to peruse, you need to remember that during the five-minute pickup, nostalgia is your enemy. It will slow you down and prevent you from being objective about clutter.
How can I keep myself from sifting through all those nostalgic items I find?
If decluttering puts you in a nostalgic mood and you want to pick up the pace instead of reading all those old letters and cards, create a box for items to go through before bed or over coffee in the morning. Promise yourself that you'll eventually give these items the time they deserve, but for now you'll simply focus on organizing.
As you go through your possessions, make sure that you remain focused on your goals. Professional housekeepers are able to make a living because they are not emotionally invested in the items they clean. They don't stop to write back to a long-lost friend in the middle of the workday or to peruse old photo albums.
Because they know that the clock is ticking, they don't waste time. If you only allow yourself to work for a predetermined amount of time, you might be better able to focus on the work at hand and to accomplish your goals.
Julie Morgenstern recommends using before and after photos as a way to celebrate a job well done. These photos will help you to remember how far you've come and what is possible if you just devote some time and energy to each room in your home.
Another way to increase the fun of this activity is to introduce some kind of reward. You might consider putting a pot of coffee on to brew. As the aromatic coffee sputters in the pot, you rush around trying to create order. You promise yourself that as soon as the coffee is ready, you can sit and relax with a steaming cup of coffee in your orderly home.
Eventually, you might find that order has it own rewards, but when you're trying to develop positive habits, it can be helpful to attach rewards to the tasks you dread, so that instead of thinking “No pain, no gain,” you will be more inclined to think of your tasks in a positive way.