I am a serial procrastinator when it comes to mundane daily tasks – be it sitting down to start work in the morning or having a shower at the end of the day. I would literally rather be doing anything else than the task at hand.
That’s where the ‘last-things-first’ method of cleaning a home piqued my interest. The approach involves using cleaning chores to procrastinate other daily tasks, helping me to stay productive while appeasing the itch to put off replying to emails or cooking dinner just a little longer.
Here is why this proactive procrastination method can be so useful to keep a tidy home – and how it could prevent you from cleaning when overwhelmed too.
The last-things-first method
More often than not, you will find cleaning tips suggesting that you leave cleaning and tidying your home until the end of the day, and while this is certainly something I do with my night-time closing shift, it certainly doesn't cover every area of my home such as the bathroom or home office – I am usually way too tired to tackle these spots between logging off for the day and going to bed.
By then, I just want to sit on the couch and enjoy some TV or a hobby, not spend all of my downtime doing chores.
The 'last-things-first' method instead focuses on cleaning and tidying areas around your home before you start your tasks for the day. For example, instead of sitting and scrolling through my phone for 20 minutes before going in the shower, I tried flipping the routine to try cleaning the bathroom a little before showering instead.
Not only did it get the dirtier tasks out of the way before I washed the grime off of myself, but it also made my shower a little more relaxing as I knew I could finish up and get straight into my comfy clothes to relax, rather than start on chores.
I also tried clearing out the top drawer of my office desk to delay starting work one morning and found that the rest of my workday flowed a lot more smoothly. I wasn't as distracted by clutter, and I wasn’t tempted to procrastinate further by decluttering my space when I was supposed to be taking just a short break – an act that regularly disrupts my workflow when my mind wanders.
This productive procrastination approach certainly helped me put off my tedious essential daily tasks a little longer while simultaneously getting tasks I usually avoid entirely due to fatigue knocked out of the park from the start.
One place I found this approach didn't work was in the kitchen. I had put off making dinner a little by cleaning my kitchen sink down and washing all the dishes. While tackling this first was helpful in making more workspace, I still had a pile of dishes and a grubby sink after cooking, so it felt a little redundant.
This method certainly feels like an approach where you have to pick your battles and decide when procrastinating a task is actually worth it, and when you should just get it all over with.
Overall, however, my house started to look and feel a lot cleaner as smaller tasks completed more regularly added up and allowed me to stretch out the time between deep cleans.
Getting the chores out of the way first also meant I wasn't tempted to skip them completely, leading to me becoming overwhelmed later in the week when my house is dirty and I have to sacrifice my chore-less weekend to restore order in my home.
What is the best way to stay consistent with cleaning?
One of the best ways to stay consistent with cleaning your home is to remove all barriers that are making cleaning more difficult. If you are too tired at the end of the day to clean your home, start your day by tackling a few cleaning chores instead.
Store your cleaning products close to where you need them so you can wipe down a bathroom sink or disinfect your desk quickly whenever you have a few moments to spare. You don't have to have an exact formula to clean your home, just maintain little and often.
Why would I rather clean and put off other tasks?
If you have some daunting or draining tasks coming up in your schedule, you may find yourself more drawn towards cleaning and doing chores instead. Although it may seem strange, it is a common human reaction to avoiding stress. Cleaning and decluttering are great ways to help restore order and de-stress, so it is natural to put off more daunting tasks with something a little more therapeutic.
This is normal so long as it doesn't become obsessive and prevents you from getting anything else done at all.
A great way to make the 'last-things-first' method work for you is to be smart about how you organize your cleaning supplies. Try to store things close to where you need them – such as a microfiber cloth in your office desk to wipe down your screen and keyboard before you start work for the day, or keep a mirror cleaning in your bathroom vanity to shine the surface before doing your makeup. Removing barriers to cleaning is a great way to keep your cleaning bursts short and effective.
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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