I Used to Feel Overwhelmed by Housework — Until This Time-Management Hack Saved Me

Photographer: Julia SperlingNo RestrictionsOK for Native and co-branded use
POPSUGAR Photography | Julia Sperling
POPSUGAR Photography | Julia Sperling

Nothing makes me feel more zen than a clean home, but as a mom who works full time, I've learned the hard way that housework can't always be the priority. I used to binge-clean like it was a competition, spending hours dishwashing, folding, and vacuuming with marathon intensity. When everything was done, I'd feel accomplished but exhausted and slightly resentful. The all-or-nothing mindset was a trap, but I didn't know how to get myself out of it. It wasn't until I discovered a simple time-management hack that my relationship with housework finally changed.

In Unf*ck Your Habitat: You're Better Than Your Mess, author Rachel Hoffman suggests setting a time limit for being productive and following it up with a period of rest, such as a 20:10 ratio of work and relaxation. I know it sounds almost childish to adopt the adult equivalent of a chore timer, but the benefits of this system are twofold.

First, I've realized that just 20 minutes of cleaning time on a busy weeknight can be good enough. The intention switches from perfection to improvement. On those nights, that 20-minute timer helps me stay on top of the must dos, accept help for the things I didn't get to (your turn, husband), and let go of the tasks that can wait. The other way it helps? Forcing me to resist the temptation to multitask, which for me is half the battle. On the nights I want to power through another 20-minute session, that 10-minute window is enough time to flip through the magazine I picked up from the floor while cleaning, scroll through my Instagram feed, or respond to that group text that lit up my screen while my hands were covered in dish soap.

I'm able to spend less time cleaning and more time living because the 20:10 method separates them. I'm more productive during my 20-minute spurts, more mindful of the time I am dedicating to housework, and more likely to ask myself, "What really needs to be done now and what can wait?" When my husband and I tag-team using the 20:10 method, it's also easier to knock out less immediate chores like mopping, dusting, toilet scrubbing, and fridge cleaning. We can switch off between spending more focused quality time with our toddler instead of one person taking care of the house while the other person takes care of him. Overall, it's helped create more balance, which, really, is the ultimate reward.