Tuesday, May 21, 2024
For men, women, and teens

How to Balance Housework with a Busy Life

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Written by Vera C. Last updated on .

Finding time to get the housework done can be a huge challenge, and this is true whether you are single or married, with or without kids. The secret is to make it a balancing act recognizing that cleaning and housework are a necessary, but not important, part of life. After all, who do you suppose would ever think “if only I’d spent more time cleaning!” when they reflect back on their life?

Here we’ll find out about three different ways to balance your housework; pick the one which works best for you depending on your lifestyle and personality.

Option 1: “Time’s Up!”

This option has you pre-allocating a set amount of time each week to your cleaning and housework… when the time is up, you’re done for the week. This balancing method acknowledges that you never have time to get all your housework done, so this forces you to concentrate on the most pressing tasks. You can distribute the weekly time as you wish and this can be done on the fly.

If you run out of time and the bathroom hasn’t been cleaned, for example, then the bathroom simply moves onto next week’s cleaning list, where you’ll hopefully prioritize it as the first task for that week. It’s as easy as that! This was the method I eventually settled on when I was newly married to keep the expanding repertoire of housework under control.

Option 2: “The Cleaning Routine”

This option has you completing a set list of housework tasks each week. The advantage of a cleaning routine is that your home is almost always presentable, so it’s fantastic if you like to entertain. You can get all of the enjoyment of having guests without any of the resentment that can come from having to clean up first. However, the disadvantage is that this method can take more time overall.

You can do the routine bit by bit over the week, or all in one session; whatever works for you. This was the method I settled on when I had two young children; it meant that I could keep a (relatively!) clean house and have people over without depriving my kids of my attention immediately beforehand with last-minute cleaning.

Option 3: “As Needed”

This option involves cleaning things on an as-needed basis. While its biggest advantage is flexibility, cleaning as-needed has the significant disadvantage that you may either wind up doing too much cleaning (e.g. if everything becomes dirty at the same time, leaving you too little leisure time that week) – or too little cleaning (e.g. if you let things slide).

This method may be well suited to those who have a big variation in week-to-week work and social activities to take advantage of the flexibility this method provides. However it is not recommended for parents of young children, because you may wind up needing to do a big block of cleaning at one time this way (e.g. before guests arrive).

Sanity-saving tips

  • Don’t schedule housework for weekends or whatever day you are off work. Yes, this will mean doing your housework one or two evenings after work when you’re tired… but at least it allows your leisure days to be truly leisure days.
  • Use faster methods for unpleasant tasks such as bathroom cleaning
  • Don’t be a perfectionist. It’s more important that the task be done even if it’s not perfect. Believe me, you will get plenty more opportunities for scrubbing that shower again in the future!
  • Be realistic: if you’re ill, wait until you are better to clean. If that means missing a week of cleaning, so be it. And don’t even think about keeping a clean house if you have a newborn baby who isn’t yet sleeping through the night!

If it’s a struggle no matter what…

If your home winds up messier than you would like, designate a ‘neat area’ which everyone has to keep clean and uncluttered (e.g. a side table in the living room). It won’t solve the entire problem, but it gives you a visible oasis of cleanliness at all times until you can work on other areas.


Attaching too much virtue to housework can be counterproductive. Too much time spent on housework means too little time available for more significant areas of life. Pick one of these three approaches to help balance your housework successfully with a busy life.

Beware that if you let it, housework can expand to fill all of your valuable spare time – so the answer is simple: don’t let it!

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