Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Count the Mintues

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


Last week, I wrote a post praising the wonderful feeling of getting old to-dos done. As I suspected, I was not alone in 1) having pletny of old to-dos that needed to be done and 2) in being overjoyed at how quickly many of them could be accomplished. That made me wonder: How long does (fill in the blank unpleasant chore) really take to do. Here are some of my results:

  1. 1 second – Time to put keys in the same place every time I enter the house.
  2. 7 seconds – Time to put shoes into shoe cubby and close closet door.
  3. 17 seconds – Time to hang sweater on hanger, with one button fastened so it won’t fall off, and close the closet door.
  4. 30 seconds to 2 minutes – Time to process the mail upon retrieving it from the post box. I immediately recycle the junk, shred the private, and put any bills or to-dos on the top of my in-box.
  5. 1 minute – Time to make the bed, poorly OR 1 min, 40 seconds – time to make the bed well.
  6. 1 minute – Time it takes to get more hangers from the bedroom, rather than stacking the laundry neatly on the side of the basket to be hung later.
  7. 2 minutes – The time it took me to get the broom and dustpan, quickly sweep the kitchen, and return the tools to the laundry room. ALSO the time it takes for a cup of tea to heat.
  8. 5 minutes – The time it took my daughter to floss and brush her teeth and me to clean one shelf in the medicine cabinet. Times 3 nights and the whole cabinet was cleaned and organized.
  9. 11 minutes – Time to fold a mixed load of laundry: half folded, half hanging.
  10. 17 minutes – Time to fold a basket of laundry that was mostly small things: socks, panties, and napkins.

I challenge you to do something that you’ve been putting off and see how long it really takes for your “boring” / “nasty” / “overwhelming” to-do to get done.

Today’s Mini Mission

This one is a no-brainer really. Even less perishable food has some sort of used by date. So if you have something in the pantry or freezer that hasn’t been used in a long time find a recipe to use it up on. You never know you might just stumble upon a recipe that will end up in your regular rotation this way.

Eco Tip for the Day

Secondhand clothes aren’t just for those who can’t afford new. Daily Lime reminded their readers yesterday that it is a good idea to source secondhand school uniforms. Kids often grow out of their clothes before they wear them out so why not circulate them. Consider organising a uniform swap at your school at the beginning of the school year.

It matters not how fast I go I hurry faster when I’m slow


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  1. Cindy, I have to copy this for my friend, S. I try to tell people that many things they don’t do really take little time if they try. This will be just the thing to show her. I have said before that I absolutely hate anything to do with housework. I’d rather read a book, make a card, play a game, take a walk, ……! I have found that if I have a place for everything it is SOOOO much easier to put things away or whatever needs done and do it quickly.

    • A place for everything really does help in quickly cleaning up. The girls and I cleaned the island, which had gotten trashed, in just 5 minutes because we didn’t have to figure out where anything went; we just had to take it there.

  2. Decluttering an old to-do itself (by decluttering a cd storage box with little hanging files that has been sitting around empty for about 7 years by freecycling it): 1 minute.
    okay, okay, I know, that’s not what you meant, so I might have to throw in another 5 to 10 minutes to finally retighten the sagged shower curtain rod that’s been annoying me for weeks …
    Getting rid of the filing system felt great though. I still have the huge task of organizing and weeding out cds lying ahead of me but at least I won’t have to deal with that finicky thing that upon buying seemed like such a perfect idea but then only became looming aspiration clutter …

    • That’s awesome that you got rid of a thorn in your side in just a minute. That is what I meant – after all, it had been sitting around waiting to be valued by someone else for SEVEN years!

  3. It’s so funny that this subject came in my email today. I too, kept putting off a project – washing the shower curtain lining. I finally took it down this weekend, put it will a load of towels using hot water and it came out perfectly clean. The actual time it took? 15 minutes of hands-on time. It amused me to think I spent more time complaining about how ucky the thing was then the actual time it took to clean it!

  4. Great reminders for us today, Cindy. It truly does take little time to do the simple things, like hang the coat up or put your cup into the dishwasher or sink. It is just a matter of doing it. I agree with Deb J, having a place for everything helps too. Having less stuff makes it that much easier too to realize if something is out of place or not. Putting things back where they belong helps us eliminate, mostly, not being able to find something when we need it also. Once you start, it becomes a habit worth your time.

    • Today after I dropped the kids at school, I picked up my shoes at the repair store. (I must say – paying to have them redyed was such a better choice than throwing them out or continuing to wear them scuffed. [Yes, I’ve polished them repeatedly, but the color wasn’t holding any longer.]) I had to make a brief stop at the house before heading to work, and I thought about leaving my shoes on the kitchen island. Instead I marched them right back to my closet where they belong. 1 minute now = a lot less aggravation later.

  5. this is an amazing post.

    I learned from the November challenge that it takes 2-5 minutes for me to do the dishes. its usually that time that I wait for my tea by doing somthing else, so I am now more likely to do the dishes. Dusting takes also less than 10 minutes for my whole flat… Its so incredible what you can do in less than one minute. I learned that now, and somehow it doesnt bother me that much anymore. I always have a spare minute, so I can do things easily. I should monitor the time when hoovering, because that is something I still push over the limits. Maybe it would help me getting over this weird resistance…

    • If you can dust in 10 minutes, you can certainly vacuum almost as quickly. Put a timer on it and see what you learn.

  6. Great Eco-Tip Colleen. Years ago, I organized a uniform swap at the school. It has morphed into an always open clothes closet. I just brought home 6 pairs of pants for Clara to try. Those that don’t fit her will go right back. What a blessing to not have to buy new.

    • Hi Cindy,
      that was very clever of you. One of the schools I worked in years ago had a book room. Aside from doing all the photocopying there and holding stationary for the school we also sold some stationary items for the children when they ran out and secondhand school uniforms. These uniforms also came in handy if someone had and “accident” if you know what I mean. At the time I didn’t think of it as sustainable just sensible but now I reflect back and think how eco friendly it was.

      This eco tip, of course, will be not so helpful to many Americans because their children don’t wear school uniforms but most schools in Australia have them and it is almost back to school time here.

  7. Cindy, I’m very glad you wrote a related (or reinforcement) article to last weeks. I can’t recall if I actively commented but I thought it was great – right up there with the one on ‘black holes’ you wrote last year, I still quote from that.

    (I am reading posts and comments every day, but am currently working on the first draft budget forecasts for the new financial year starting in April – which sends me cross eyed)

    Sorry I digress. Last week’s and this week’s topic really resounded with me – in my past (not recent past) I tended to underestimate the time a task would take and would get frustrated with how little I got done judged by my time perception and to-do list. Then about five years ago I went to the other extreme and decided to allow myself extra-to-double amount of time. The problem was that even though one part of my brain knew I’d scheduled it that way, another part of my brain would pounce and declare there wasn’t enough time to get that particular job done. Crazy I know! Especially that I have just admitted that I have arguments with myself!!

    So I am trying to re-train myself to be realistic about how much time a chore actually takes. And using phrases such as “the sooner I start, the sooner I am finished” and “just do it!” (sorry Nike)

    I got several tasks done last week that I’d been dithering about doing ie spending more time procastinating than it took to do in the end. I have one I didn’t get to – the hem has come down on one of the curtains at the French doors off the lounge – when I first noticed it, it was about 15cm to do, because I left it so long, it is about 50cm worth. I will do it tonight!

    • What! Other people don’t argue with themselves? 😆 😕

    • My mother always says, “Why do things always take three times longer than I think they will?” So you’re definitely not alone Moni. However, I have also discovered that things we moan and whine and stall on often take a lot less time than we’ve built it up to in our minds.

      • Cindy – yes moaning and groaning takes up valuable time, I’m trying to tell myself that procastinating and complaining about the job actually lengthens the amount of time I spend on the that particular job.

  8. Hi Cindy, great post as usual and as Moni said a good follow up from last week. I love that you timed every task just to prove the point that it isn’t so hard to get things done there and then . If you look at each task separately you have to wonder why you just don’t get on with it. And when you add all those times up and factor in some extra time to locate the things you put down and can’t find and the extra trip back to that place it makes a lot of time spent faffing around at the end of the day. Then there is the higher stress levels involved in not being able to find those keys, or where you kicked off your shoes and feeling tired at the end of the day when you have to play catch up. It doesn’t bode well for those around you who end up in the firing line of your frustrations.

    Some of the readers last week mentioned that they like suggestions of quantities and you have certainly given them some numbers to think about this week. Well done.

  9. I can’t believe that you wrote this post today. I had some granola bars cooking in the oven and I couldn’t believe how many things I got done while they cooked. I emptied and filled the dishes, read a short chapter in a book, did some laundry, etc. I was amazed at how much can be done in such a short time. So much of housework and decluttering is emotional. It really doesn’t take that long to do things when you time it.

    • Spendwisemom – I just googled ‘granola bars’. Have heard the term a number of times and safely assumed it was a food thing – it is what we call a muesli bar. I’ve been trawling thru a number of online recipe sites and have come across a few little things like that. The great moment was when I queried how much coffee to put into the raspberry coffee cake and discovered coffee cake is what we call a cake. 🙂

      • I enjoyed hearing your response! I am in America. Where do you live? If you call our coffee cake a cake, then what do you call a cake? Coffee cake is more of a breakfast cake and cake is a dessert here.

        • Spendwisemom – I’m in New Zealand – a cake is well, all cakes and dessert is dessert, though not usually a cake unless it is something spectacular and accompanied by ice cream.

          Oh and cookies are biscuits here, or bikkies (bick-keys not bikeys as in Hells Angels) is a cutesey version usually used around little children.
          I understand biscuits are something else altogether in America, but I havn’t got to the bottom of that one – all I have deduced is that biscuits and gravy isn’t on the healthy eating list.

          Oh and I didn’t know what Pillsbury Dough was or Pillsbury Crescents. We don’t have Pillsbury here, but a crescent looks like what we call a croissant.

          • An American or Canadian biscuit is called a scone in Britain. Might you know them by that name?

          • I love how we are learning about the various names for things. In the US a biscuit is usually a round form of flaky dough that is baked and we put jam, gravy or such on it. The English make scones that are similar but more dense and sometimes sweet. We have so many sweets here: cookies, cakes, sweet breads, pies, cheesecakes (cross between pie and cake), truffles, hard candies, chewy candies, candy bars, cookie bars, protein bars, granola bars,tarts, etc. It goes on and on and on.

    • You’re right about much of housework being about attitude. Now, how to cultivate a positive one????

  10. Hi Cindy! Following up on my November keep it tidy challenge and mirroing what someone else wrote above about dishes: I decluttered a lot of unused china and cutlery back in November and have challenged myself never to go to bed leaving dishes in the sink and the kitchen untidy. I have timed how much time it takes me and it takes me 15 minutes to put food away, swept the kitchen floor, wash dishes, dry dishes and put them away. In just 15 minutes I have a clean kitchen. Makes the next meal very easy. So I will apply the timing technique you taught in this post to other areas I am cleaning/decluttering.

  11. I have picked up a habit of timed cleaning about when I started decluttering. There is one “emergency plan” (I’m happy I don’t need it that often anymore) which I also work by when I do the whole cleaning of the apartment on my own – I’m at the moment trying to follow Colleen’s habit of weekly cleaning. Often I’m cleaning together with my boyfriend though, it’s faster, it’s more motivating to know someone else is working as well and we can share the tasks according to our preferences.
    However this plan works in 15-minutes blocks. I set the washing mashine, work for 15 minutes in the kitchen, then 15 minutes living room and bed room, 15 minutes bathroom and hallway – and 15 minutes tea break. After that I’ll start again: 15 minutes laundry, 15 more minutes in the kitchen or wherever needed etc.
    The plan itself is infinite, but even in the worst “emergency” I haven’t needed more than three hours to clean the whole flat and that’s including 45 minutes of break time and thus a well-fed, rather relaxed and happy me.
    I learnt much about what you can get done in 15 minutes and what the real time consumers are in my household: laundry really takes 15 minutes – putting a load in hardly takes 2 minutes and in 15 minutes I can fold one dry load and put it in the closet as well as hang the wet laundry. Cleaning the bathroom takes 15 minutes by itself usually, Sweeping floors and hovering is about 15 minutes for the whole apartment. The kitchen however is the real time eater. Even though cleaning can be done in 15 minutes, the amount of dishes to wash (by hand) is it. That’s why I’m really happy that I’m on top of dishes since the November challenge. It’s become a routine to do dishes either in the evening or in the morning as well as while cooking and that leaves a nice kitchen to work on while cleaning.

    • Oh my – this is SO true! Small apartments are great. But I realise, with staying at the bfs, and some busy nights, it’s easy to let it slip and it annoys me! But I love your summaries of how long tasks take!

    • you got me thinking, Sanna. Because for me everything is done by tasks, not by rooms. I usually start preparing my flat for cleaning by taking things back to their right spot (sports bag somehow found a new place, now that the drawer is gone), that takes max of 5 minutes. then dusting less than 10 minutes, bathroom 10 minutes max. Hoovering – dont know yet, but cant be more than 10 minutes either, except I start wasting my youth in every little corner… I usually clean if I dont like the dirt anymore, which is about every two weeks. My laundry however, is totally independent from the cleaning, but probably also around a two week cycle. I will see if I can bring that together. But for today I will go and clean and take the time I am hoovering.

      I notice that almost everyone is better with dishes since November. what a difference that makes, doesnt it?!?

      • Haha, that’s probably my background of shared flats for a couple of years. We’d always have turns in “bathroom cleaning”, “kitchen cleaning” etc. – always by rooms. Now, living on my own, setting a time limit has helped a lot as I tend to “get lost” in details and that prevents myself from wasting time on fiddly bits. It doesn’t matter whether I’m done with that room in 15 minutes (though usually I am), so if something takes only 10 minutes to clean I can do some “extras” like dusting or polishing or rearranging stacks or whatever for the other 5 minutes, but if I just manage a quick clean within 15 minutes that’s okay, too.
        It stops me from having shiny windows and immaculate bathroom floors but stacks of dirty dishes and heaps of laundry as I ran out of time or energy – as was the case a couple of years back. However, decluttering helped a lot with the whole cleaning problem, so it’s not that much of a problem anymore anyway.

        I’m amazed that most of us managed to improve through Colleen’s challenge – although I thought at the time that I didn’t do well. Which makes me look forward to new challenges (I make my bed for more than two years without fail, so this month is easy for me 😉 )

        • I was surprised that cleaning the bathtub only took 5 minutes, too. It’s kind of amazing what we can accomplish when we get to it.

      • “Wasting your youth in every little corner” Ha! I love it!

        • my mum used to say this a lot – thats what I love about her, she is so pragmatic and nowhere near perfectionism (at least regarding some areas). so especially with cleaning and sorting and chores that you can get lost in – I often heard that phrase from her. it always pulls you out into the right perspective again.

          I just cleaned my place. took around 30 minutes. hoovering (not perfectionistic) takes exactly 9 minutes. I also found out that I have cleaning themes in my kitchen. today I did, besides the normal cleaning an extra “top-surface” (you know standing on a chair more scrubbing than wiping), last time I did “vertical surfaces”, next time I will do “inside foodshelf”, then “inside dishes”, etc. This way I dont have to clean the kitchen from top to bottom (because once you get started there is no end!!), but I get a properly clean kitchen in baby steps…

  12. Oh this is SO true – recently I severed the pull of the unfinished jigsaw (oh I’m an exciting 27 yo!) to get on some chores, setting some time limits – like 10mins. I needed to fold some washing, wash up and make some brownies (from memory there might have been more tasks). Only took about 30 minutes, and I felt SO much better for having done them! Work’s much the same – there’s a form that annoys me to complete, but it takes maybe 2mins from start to printed and signed. Why do I put it off and get annoyed with the invoices on my desk? Furthermore, why don’t I just ‘outsource’ to my work experience student? Sometimes, all it takes is the decision and momentum to START!

  13. Jo H – yes we call them scones. I can’t imagine them covered in gravy but I’ll see if I can hunt out a recipe and give it a go.

    • I disagree. Biscuits aren’t the same as scones. Scones are slightly sweet; in fact, I made chocolate chip ones last night. Biscuits are quick bread, either rolled and cut into a circle or dropped. They are typically bland, fluffy, and sometimes buttery, which is why they’re nice (and fattening) with gravy, which is how they’re sometimes eaten for breakfast.

      Pillsbury crescent rolls look like little croissants, but are much less buttery and flaky. They are used as dinner rolls, or wrapped around small sausages to make a treat called Pigs in a Blanket.

      • Brilliant, love all these different names, pigs in blankets to me are small sausages wrapped in bacon and roasted – usually with the Xmas turkey. Being Scottish, scones and pancakes are completely different again cos we cook ’em on a griddle – I think pancakes translate as drop scones….

      • Brilliant, love all these different names, pigs in blankets to me are small sausages wrapped in bacon and roasted – usually with the Xmas turkey. What you described is a sausage roll here which is different from a roll and sausage, and sausages for that can be links or square, haha. Being Scottish, scones and pancakes are completely different again cos we cook ’em on a griddle – I think pancakes translate as drop scones….

      • Hi Cindy – scones have a number of variations (along with pronunciation) depending on whether you talk to the descendants of English settlers or descendants of Scottish settlers, at least here in NZ. Hot fresh scones with jam and whipped cream are divine, but savoury scones are scrummy too, I guess it just depends on which Granny you inherited a cookbook from.

        Australia has Damper – kind of distant relative recipe – but as far as I am concerned the BEST recipe to ever come out Australia.

        Pig In A Blanket – its more or less what we call a sausage roll.

  14. Ok whilst there is talk of food and such can someone please explain ‘GRITS’ ?????
    Thanks 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • According to The Food Lover’s Companion, the word “grits” is really a shortened way of saying what it really means, “hominy grits.” Grits are derived from hominy. Hominy is dried corn kernels with the hull and germ removed. When this dried hominy is ground, it turns into what we know as grits. You cook the grits in water or milk, like you would oatmeal or porridge, and get a grain-based bowl of yumminess, which is typically eaten for breakfast in the Southern United States.

      • Cindy – thank you for explaining that, I have always wondered what ‘grits’ are. I’m pretty sure we don’t have anything by that description here ie by another name, I guess the Scottish settlers brought their oats and cornered the market early on.

      • Hi Cindy,
        Cool thanks for that, I often heard this term used on a TV Show and it always piqued my interest but I never really found out. I dare say every country has their version of ‘Grits’. 🙂 🙂 🙂