The 30-Day Sustainable Domesticity Challenge: Tidying Up Games (Day 23)

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.

So, okay…

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.

One-Hand Handyman

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! 

—>How to Keep a House<—

My favorite part of this whole site is the book reviews. 





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11 thoughts on “The 30-Day Sustainable Domesticity Challenge: Tidying Up Games (Day 23)

  1. This is an interesting approach to cleaning and tidying up… making a game out of something at least adjusts the routine a bit and gives the chore a new element to make it a tad more exciting. One of the ways I incorporate this into my routine is by using my non-dominant hand to accomplish a task… it seems to make it just a little more interesting that way!

  2. Tidy games!!! I got frustrated with the one arm game and pretty fast. My favorite tidy thing to do is loud music and no one home. I can be silly, dancing around, and actually get rooms clean. I have a playlist just for it. That is my motivation to clean. Oh, and after I clean a room I get to light a candle or two in that room. Then I look bac and what a clean, smell good room.
    The reason I want to be alone mainly is that people, sitting around while I am cleaning, makes me agitated. Oh, and there is the embarrassment of how I am dancing, singing and acting silly. Games are fun and I bet there are others that have something that will motivate them to do something and I hope they leave a comment. It is all fun

  3. Very interesting topic. Anything to make cleaning more enjoyable, I am in. My current way is loud music and no one home. I will just be dancing and singing loud. So not having someone there just sitting while I am cleaning is key. I cannot stand that. I like to do it alone. I tried that one arm game and got frustrated quickly. lol. Keep them coming girl. You are doing great


  4. Man, tidying up and cleaning is going to take on a whole new meaning. OK, so I’m a househusband and have been for the last ten years. Cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and tidying up have been my specialities. I’m majorly into OCD, no point denying it, I embrace it. Let’s face it, when it comes to being meticulous, who better than someone with OCD. Those shirt creases are sharp and the dishwasher, well, that’s stacked like ‘Jenga’

    I subconsciously do the ‘timer’ one but I will be trying it with a stopwatch. I’m up at 5.30 and my aim is to have all the chores done by the time everyone is just dragging their sorry selves out of bed. That includes walking the dogs. One addition to your list, which you may find satisfying, if not entertaining, is multi-tasking. In short, I try and do multiple things whilst doing other things. If I’m taking a pile of clothes up stairs, when I’m there I might clean the bathroom sink area, on my way back down Ill pick up those bits of litter that have somehow not managed to get in the bin. Walk through the kitchen and add stray items to the dishwasher, wipe down the side while I’m at it.

    Do the above a few times a day and before you know it, the house is looking ten times better. Chores are chores but they don’t have to be boring, they can be fun and when you’re having fun then you accomplish so much more.

  5. Oh you made me laugh! I’m pretty sure cleaning is never going to be the same! Never thought about using a timer to speed my pace. And so these silly games to help clean could be fun. Me, I like to dance around while dusting. Put on some good old Rock ‘n Roll and bamm. No more dust!

    Thanks for some fun insight. Love it. Linda

  6. I don’t think that tidying up will have ever been this easy. With games for today, I’m sure to enjoy my tidying up. I have been following your tips and they have been very good for me because I enjoy cleaning to an extent. Interestingly, you have brought up games  and nothing gets better. I think using the beat the timer will be really good for me but I’m not sure I’ll want to do that with a hand behind my back because I might not beat the timer. Lol. I’ll definitely try this out. Thanks for making the boring stuff competitive now and fun too.

  7. What a great idea. Simply turn mundane and boring tasks into games for yourself. Who would have thought? I am quite a competitive person so I quite like the idea of racing against myself to see if I can beat my previous time. I also liked your idea of the ninja style cleaner, and if you can keep your guests guessing how the place is staying so tidy then why not?

    The only one that wouldn’t work for me is trying to do everything with one arm. I like to get things done quickly so this would not suit me. 

  8. Wow, you have turned something that is so hideously mundane and monotonous into something really great.  It will certainly make housework a lot more fun.

    I definitely want to be the Ninja!  Super cool moves, quick and thorough cleaning – I am smiling already.

    Thank you for brightening up my day.  You really have fabulous tips!

  9. Hello Wendy, I agree with you when it comes to getting tired from cleaning up. Some times I feel like running away form my house for a couple to days when I see the pile of work i have to do in the house. Of all the things I do in the house, I dislike cleaning the dishes and I don’t know why its been like that since I was a girl.
    However from the approach you have given as to tidying up like taking it as a game, the one hand stuff and all, I really feel its really cool and I’ll love to give it a try. But not with my kids in the house, they will make me feel miserable with thier laughter while I work. Thank for these wonderful tips.

  10. This is rather an interesting post with the potential of fun to a lot of people. I on the other hand, does not like house chores in the least.  I once told my sister that I believe the person who invented domestic chores should be given a jail sentence; and I still hold that belief to this day.

    I like though, the idea of beating your record; guess its because i’m competitive by nature.  I agree that time flies when you are having fun, so the next time I planned on doing some cleaning up I’ll definitely put some of your recommendations to work.

    Thanks for this fun post as I could not help laughing and imagining clearing the dishwasher in record time.   I have to admit it made my day.  All the best.

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