Knock off cleaning tasks in the time it takes to reheat your food

Amazon: Panasonic NN-SN651B 1.2 Cubic Feet 1200-Watt Inverter MicrowaveSometimes the business of blogging dovetails perfectly with the business of life. My advertising partner, Federated Media, contacted me about participating in a Pine-Sol-sponsored conversation about household tips. Just that morning I stumbled onto this tip and was planning to write it up. I love it when that happens. — Asha

I stumbled onto a productivity-slash-cleaning tip while I was making my morning oatmeal:

Accomplish quick cleaning tasks in the time it takes the microwave to cook or reheat your food.

Typically, you cook or reheat something in the microwave for five minutes or less. Rather than stare at the timer as it counts down the seconds (surely I’m not the only one who does this?), use the built-in time limit as a challenge to knock off a quick cleaning or decluttering job.

Some ideas for tasks you could complete in a minute or two:

  • De-crumb your cutlery drawer.
  • Wipe down a single refrigerator shelf.
  • Consolidate all the pens and pencils into a single drawer.
  • Grab a bag and empty all of the wastebaskets in your house.
  • Shred the junk mail covering your desk. 
  • Decide on tomorrow night’s dinner. 

During the four minutes while my oatmeal cooked, I emptied the dishwasher, decluttered the countertops, and took out the recycling. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in small bits of time.

Just think: in the time it takes to cook breakfast or reheat your coffee for the umpteenth time, your house will be tidier, and you’ll get the satisfaction of completing a job.

Got a life-improvement tip to share? Visit the Mom Tips section of Pine-Sol’s newly-redesigned website to submit your own.

This post is sponsored by Pine-Sol® Cleaners. The Powerful Scent of Clean, with Everything You Need, and Nothing You Don’t.


  1. says

    I try to get the dishes unloaded while I’m waiting for my morning tea to brew. It’s a relatively easy chore, but whenever I manage it, I feel just a little ahead of the game for the rest of the day.

  2. Beth says

    Um, well, this seems like a no-brainer. Who has time to just space out while something is heating or cooking?

  3. says

    Beth: *sheepishly raises hand* It’s not that I have time to space out exactly, because I don’t. But I often disregard small snatches of time as too small to be useful. The “hack” in this for me is that I used the built-in time constraint to try to accomplish something specific, challenging myself and making it a little more fun.

  4. says

    Now that I think about it a bit more, it’s actually quite meaningful to me. How often do we say “we don’t have time to [x]” — with [x] being clean up the house or exercise, or whatever? Opening yourself to breaking those tasks down can be the difference between doing them and not. Four minutes of cleaning made a huge difference to my kitchen, but I only realized that when the timer went off. That awareness motivates me to devote similar time “pockets” to my long-term goals, not just treat them as throwaways.

  5. says

    I think there’s a fundamental difference between people who are naturally neat and people who are naturally messy, and this speaks to the messy people while being baffling to the neat people. I know if I set a timer for myself I’ll work until it dings, but if I don’t I’ll wander aimlessly from room to room getting overwhelmed by the mess and not being able to start. This helps point out other pockets of time people may be missing in their day.

  6. says

    I like to race my toaster. I can usually get my dishwasher empied before enjoying breakfast. But not always. That’s what makes it my toaster a worthy challenger.

  7. says

    Okay, this helps me feel so much better! I wander around my house when things get too cluttered, and often end up making myself coffee to escape (not, duh, cleaning up). Thank you Leah and Agirlandaboy! And Kerry, I’m now eyeing my toaster.

  8. Maisha says

    I’ve been doing this for years! I also take advantage of slow-loading webpages (and boot-ups), a pot of water boiling, and waiting for the shower water to get hot (to clean the sink, for example).

    Another thing I do to trick myself into doing chores is to put on really bouncy sing-along-able music LOUD and dance around while I clean the whole kitchen, put away the laundry, whatever.

  9. yvonne says

    Its got to do with personality type. I get so bored by such trivia that I never set myself such tasks if i can avoid them. The degree of stimulation that a time constraint puts on the task gives me the necessary stimulation in order to do things I hate and actually enjoy them. I used the same technique to make my university study more productive all those years ago, but avoiding being a domestic goddess was the rational for my university study and subsequent career in the 1st place. Just don’t breed…

  10. says

    Well, our over-the-stove microwave broke several months ago and we decided to see how long we could go without it and have decided to not replace it (we now use it to store school lunch containers!). However, I apply this same tactic to when my stovetop espresso is brewing. It’s the perfect time to clear the sink and counter of dishes (into the dishwasher, wash as many as possible), clear the breakfast bar of junk mail and other crap, and sweep the kitchen/dining room floor. :-)

  11. says

    I do this all the time. Push the microwave button, put 3 dishes in the dishwasher, ding! Food not hot enough, start it again, a few cups in the dishwasher, ding! Just changing a long, annoying task into tiny 5 minute tasks is enough to make this messy person into a somewhat neat person.

  12. says

    Graden av stimulans som en tidsbegränsning sätter på uppgiften ger mig den nödvändiga stimulans för att göra saker jag hatar och faktiskt njuta av dem.

  13. Jennifer G says

    I love the idea of getting things done while waiting for other things to be done, but I am a terrible, TERRIBLE multi-tasker. If I move on to something else while, say, my oatmeal is cooking, then next thing I know, I have created more work for myself because I don’t see said oatmeal boiling over inside the microwave. I *can* usually unload the dishwasher while the coffee is brewing without any major mishaps, so I try to do that on days that it won’t wake the rest of the house.