It’s Day 23 of The 30-Day Sustainable Domesticity Challege. Curse Maxim 2. Curse it all to heck. I mean, stay the course. Stay focused.
If you’re feeling resistant to cleaning up, you are so not alone. You might be wondering what the fastest way is to clean up. Or maybe the most effective, so you can go longer between bouts of tidying. But what if the answer to getting you to actually rise and clean isn’t learning faster or more effective methods? What if more cumbersome and less efficient will actually motivate you? I can hear you gasping in disbelief now. Don’t worry! The answer is Tidying Up Games. They more than make up what they lack in efficientness and quickness with what they contribute in terms of laughter and playfulness.
Tidying up is usually boring. Why would you do boring things? On purpose? (Full disclosure, there are benefits to boredom – which I’ll cover in another post, but that’s not today’s point.) Boring things aren’t inspiring, joyful, or funny. But tidying up can be.
Why is tidying up so boring?
Because the way we usually do it, tidying up is a slog through rote tasks. Make the dishes clean. Pick up the floor. Clear the table. Sweep. Maybe vacuum if you’re feeling ambitious. And each task is usually confronted with an obstacle, like – it’s hard to scrape off the plates so you can do the dishes if the garbage is overflowing.
So not only is tidying up boring, it can be frustrating. And then, once you’ve waded through all of that hip-deep boredom and frustration and gotten your hands smeared in God-knows-what, you come across piles of things. And you don’t know where to put those things. So you just put the things SOMEWHERE without any real plan. Maybe you just shove the things aside in a pile and leave them for later.
So, in the process of tidying up you’ve not only become bored, sticky, and gross, you’ve also made life harder on yourself by encountering decisions that you just can’t handle right now and then deferring them.
Oh, this is where I’ve been so many times. Have you been here? Comment below and tell me I’m not alone.
Tidying up games are the answer.
Because they’re silly. Because they can be competitive. Because they make you laugh, race, and connive. You don’t have to approach tidying up like a chore. You can approach tidying up as if it’s a game. You can be playful instead of funereal. You can goof off instead of being a martyr. In short, you can be happy or you can be miserable.
What are the games anyway?
How can one possibly create a game out the mindless and ever-oncoming chores that demand our time and energy?
I’ll tell you! Let’s start now.
Do your chores with hand behind your back. Do whatever it takes to get the job done without using the help of your second hand. You can switch hands as needed when your arm gets tired.
When I do this, a smile starts to form at the very edges of my mouth. Soon, there’s a fully-formed smile on my face. Sometimes I even laugh at loud.
I do this when I’m alone, so sometimes I end up laughing hysterically, standing by myself in the kitchen with my hands clasped to my aching stomach.
Is this healthy? Whatever. I’m getting the cleaning done.
Sneak your tidying
Sneak in acts of tidying when no one is looking. Become a cleaning fairy. Clean while they’re asleep. Clean while they’re distracted. Clean while they’re out of the house. You’ll be like an mischievous sprite, cleaning unseen, a mysterious benevolent force. And you don’t know how it happened.
Huh? Is the house clean? Didn’t notice.
Who did this cleaning anyway? Anyone? ‘Fess up.
Don’t let anyone see you tidying up
This is where you ninja your way through cleaning when people are in your house. Tiptoe into the kitchen and put away a few dishes quickly and in complete silence. Dart into the bedroom and pull down the blankets to air out the bed – but don’t let anyone see you. Throw a load of laundry into the washer unseen.
This is ninja work with spying methods thrown in.
Hint: pretend to be reading or crocheting or something. Then make your moves.
For added difficulty and delight, let them know what you’re up to. Invite them to try to catch you. Then evade them at every turn. And when you complete projects (for example, cleaning the bathroom), ask them if they can figure out what you did.
This is awesome because it adds a hide-and-go-seek air of mischief and danger to your tidying up, and you also get full credit for everything you do.
Tidy up without ever standing up
Beat the timer
I love this old stand-by. It serves me well every time. Can I unload the dishwasher in five minutes? My record is six minutes. I want to beat that. What can I accomplish if I spend fifteen minutes tidying the living room? What about two minutes?
Set a timer and race to beat the clock. Beat your personal bests.
And stand back and watch as your house becomes almost instantly more peaceful, beautiful, and comfortable.
This works because of Flow
The work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (ME-high Cheek-SENT-me-high) tells us that we achieve a riveting sense of focus and lose all sense of time when we achieve a state of flow. We can deliberately enter a flow state by doing tasks that are just at the very edges of our ability. Think of times when you were learning a new piece of music or a new trade, or doing a job at work that deeply challenged you, but in a way you knew you could meet. That state of reaching for our just-graspable new skill levels puts you into flow.
And tidying up games work not just because they’re fun but because they put you into a flow state. They’re quite amazing. Suddenly you’re laughing, having fun, motivated to clean, and time flies by because you’re so very engrossed and challenged.
Here’s your homework.
Try the games listed above. See how they work for you. Note your experience as you clean. Do you feel morose, un-noticed, doomed to a Sysyphean task? Or are you feeling charmed and amused and focused?
I dunno. I’m not you. But I’m me, and I can tell you straight out that these games work for me.
When you try these games, comment below and tell me how they went! Which game is your favorite?
Devise your own games and tell me about them!
When you want a little extra delight, design your own tidying-up game. Try it out. Then comment here and tell us about it!