Yes, it involves some yelling and swearing but as author Rachel Hoffman explains, her movement and subsequent new book Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess (Macmillan, 2017) is also about motivation, support, accountability and getting real about our modern-day lives. The fact is, very few homes now operate with an adult at home a lot of the time, meaning we all work and do stuff and are ridiculously busy. We don’t always have time to change the bed sheets regularly (eek), clear the kitchen bench of all that mysterious paperwork (where does it even come from?) or make organic gelato (to the eye-roll of hipsters everywhere). The book? She says it’s about doing what you can when you can, five, 10 or 20 minutes at a time. Then back to normal life. Here’s a quick extract:
Introducing the 20/10:
So how do you avoid marathon cleaning but still end up with a clean house? By breaking your tasks down into manageable chunks of time, which we call 20/10s. A 20/10 is 20 minutes of cleaning, followed by a 10-minute break. The break is not optional. Breaks are important for a number of reasons, mainly to show that you can stop when you need or want to, and also because they interrupt the part of your thought pro cess that wants to turn a cleaning session into a marathon. So while you might still take several hours to accomplish a task or project, you’re breaking it up into workable chunks that allow you to do other, more enjoyable things in between so you don’t get lost in and overwhelmed by your task.
20/10s are the heart of the Unf*ck Your Habitat system. Every house hold task can be broken down into 20/10s. How many you need to do is determined by the size of the task; a large project may require many of them, broken up over several days’ worth of work. One of the good things about 20/10s is that you can decide how many you want to do at any given time. Had a long day at work and really don’t feel like having to spend a lot of time maintaining your house? One or two 20/10s will keep things neater without driving you completely over the edge. Have a room that needs a total overhaul and have a few days to devote to it? You can do as many 20/10s in a row as you need in order to complete your task.
Twenty minutes is not a long time. It requires a minimum time investment on your part, but I can almost guarantee you’ll be surprised with how much you can accomplish in such a short chunk of time. It’s also much easier to convince yourself to get started when you know that there’s an end in sight, and that it’s not very far away. Marathon cleaning sessions, while satisfying, are exhausting and make you never want to clean ever again. Twenty minutes at a time, once or a few times a day, is a sustainable way of keeping your habitat unf*cked. You can incorporate 2- minutes a day into the rest of your life without feeling like you’re spending all of your limited and precious free time cleaning your damn house.
When you look at your entire messy, disorganised house, it’s intimidating as hell. Cleaning up seems like an impossible undertaking, and the thought of getting started can be paralysing because there’s rarely an end in sight. By only working in twenty- minute increments, you train yourself to stop looking at the big picture and to break down what you have to do into small, manageable tasks. Reorganizing your thinking in this way is helpful because you don’t see a huge, overwhelming challenge that would take days or weeks to accomplish; instead, you see a series of smaller chunks of time that each has a definite beginning and a definite end and can realistically be completed without making you feel like you’re devoting every waking moment to cleaning. A great thing about 20/10s is that you can mess around with them until you find the timing that works best for you. If 20/10s don’t feel quite right to you, maybe a 45/15 is more your speed. People with mobility or energy limitations who can’t do 20 minutes at a time may find that a 5/15 works without being more than they can handle. Keep playing around with it until you find whatever work/break interval works for you. I’ll refer to 20/10s throughout this book, but feel free to substitute whatever your preferred variation is.
Remember, flexible and adaptable for your life; that’s our goal.
It’s also likely that most tasks will take far less time than you may have thought. Often we’ll put off doing something around the house because of how long we’re assuming it’ll take. Sometimes you’ll find that something you’ve been dreading and avoiding can be completed in just one or two 20/10s. Even major projects rarely end up requiring the time investment that we assume.
Let’s give that flat surface from before just one 20/10, starting now. When you’re done with that, take a picture. This is your first “after” shot. Congratulations!
Extract from Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman, RRP$19.99, Macmillan Australia, out now.