Ten Minutes A Day…

I wonder if this mother allowed herself 10 minutes to dig AND enjoy her baby.

I wonder if this mother allowed herself 10 minutes to dig AND enjoy her baby, or if that counts as 20 minutes.  And what about the dog?









Multitasking--divided into ten minute chores--could be much more effective... right?

Multitasking–divided into ten-minute chores–would be even more effective… right?

I was in elementary school when a magazine article featured a ten-minute plan to organize women’s responsibilities and, therefore, improve their lives. As I recall, this was the basic plan: each day, if a busy woman set a timer for 10 minutes and focused on just one specific room, at the end of each week her home would be pleasantly presentable and organized.

For one week Mom and her neighbor friend tried it: the first day was to clean the bathroom; the second day was the living room, the third and fourth days were for the kitchen; the fifth day was a closet (one closet per week). They decided the last two days—weekends—could be when the parents and children cleaned their own bedrooms and then added ten more minutes to vacuum the carpets. Ten minutes a day, sixty minutes a week, and voila! it would all be done.

To some degree, my mother already quickly straightened rooms before she went to work or after she came home, and I remember that she and her friend laughed at some of the things that wore them out (and the corners they cut) during their experiment. They quit the ten-minute plan after a week, although I do remember my mom continued to sometimes set a timer for us to complete certain chores. This made it a game; the faster we finished the work, the sooner we could go outside and play.

Before Dad’s Alzheimer’s and Mom’s dementia moved them out of their home and into an assisted living apartment, my mother had her own style: clean whatever was dirty, comfort whoever was hurt, fix what was broken, take joy in sunrises, draw strength from quiet times in her garden, laugh with her family and hug them, and sing as she worked. Although this took longer than ten minutes a day, I don’t remember her complaining.

Even after all these years, I still occasionally set a timer for ten minutes and give myself only that time to focus and get something done. It’s often for an undesirable or nagging chore, but when the timer goes off I’m surprised that the chore is finished, and I feel oh-so-much-better.

Wednesday, February 17th, is Random Acts of Kindness Day. If we each mentally set a timer for ten minutes and do just one kind thing for someone else, imagine what a good day that could be.

tulips in vase

This Valentine's Day, I wish you love, tulips, and deli chocolate cupcakes with fancy pink icing.  Enjoy.  (You have ten minutes to eat your cupcakes and get back to work, so get busy!)  ;)

This Valentine’s Day, I wish you love, tulips, and deli chocolate cupcakes with fancy pink icing. Enjoy. (You have ten minutes to eat your cupcakes and get back to work, so focus and get busy!) 😉



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, friends, gardening, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Special days in February, spending time with kids

54 responses to “Ten Minutes A Day…

  1. Your mother’s way of living was remarkable, we should all live like that. Doing random acts of kindness makes me happy. Sometimes it is just a smile. Marilyn, thank you for this wonderful post.

    • You’re welcome, Gerlinde. I’m so glad you liked it; every time I remember the funny, fast picking-up 10minute exercises, I smile. But I also occasionally give myself 10 minutes to spruce up a room, not really clean, and it does improve things. 😉

  2. The truth is, women are innate multi-taskers! Sometimes I try to do that and fall flat on my face. I have tried work off a schedule, set myself 60 minutes to read the blogs I like, but it gets stretched like a balloon, 60 minutes to read a book and I keep turning the pages till daybreak, 60 minutes to write a post but end up tapping the keyboard for less than 6 seconds…

  3. I knew it had gone too far when I realised I was on three phone calls at once.
    Two on my desk phones and one on the mobile. My secretary came in and just started to laugh.
    I took ten minutes to think about it.
    Then the phone rang…
    Happy Valentines Day to you.

  4. juliabarrett

    I agree with the comment above. Women are natural multi-taskers. Never been a problem for me. However, I do remember reading about that housecleaning technique. Never works. At least not in my home. Here a clean room is immediately messy, unless no one is living in it. Therefore I don’t care. I figure there’s time enough for my house to be clean after I’m dead.

    • I’ll second that, Julia!
      But I do sometimes go on a ten-minute run, hanging up things and straightening pillow and books, putting coffee cups in the dish washer, etc. It does “help” the general appearance–on some days it at least makes a trail–but it’s not especially effective.

      • juliabarrett

        I pick up every single day. Cleaning is reserved for every other Wednesday. Top to botton.

      • I’m smiling at that, Julia. If every other Wednesday was top-to-bottom cleaning at our house, by Friday the house would be back to “normal”–especially now that puppy Scout is here!–so for awhile 10-min. cleanups of puppy accidents is a feasible plan. 😉

  5. Julia’s comment above and your mother’s inclination to clean whatever is dirty is my mantra too. During my years of college teaching I had a maid to clean; now I am too frugal for that because I am home all day. Besides, a clean house is much lower on my priority list than it used to be.

    There is so much to see in those warm-hued pictures pictures of mother and child. I strikes me that the child is enjoying time with her mommy and learning a solid work ethic too.

    Thank you for the tulips and cupcakes, very lo-cal viewed on a blog post. Another top-tier post – thank you!

    • When we both were teaching full time and also coaching (and staying active with our daughter’s activities) we had a cleaning lady who came each Wednesday, and that certainly helped. But like you, we’re too frugal to do that now that we’re retired. My favorite cleaning motto is a framed picture of a Victorian House, Marian, and in calligraphy across the picture is this reminder: “A Clean House Is A Sign of A Misspent Life.” 😉

  6. I think your Random Acts of Kindness Day sounds a wonderful idea though I’m not sure ten minutes is enough to do much more than give someone a hug. Mind you, perhaps the ten minutes is for their sake so they can limit my company.
    xxx Sending Gigantic Hugs xxx

    • Oh, I think a hug would be a lovely random act of kindness, David. Especially if it’s for someone who isn’t receiving many hugs. Or you could just take Reuben with you and have him smile and act cute for a few minutes, and that would make someone very happy. ❤

  7. I like the idea of Random Acts of kindness but I’m not sure I could sort out a room in 10 minutes. Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all these years…😆

    • Oh, I think serious sorting and cleaning in ten minutes was always out of the question, Jenny. This was more of a quick swipe and a promise, I think. And actually, even in a bathroom, in just ten minutes my mom could make a very big difference. 😉 But overall, she found it to be too gimmicky, I think, but it was a fun try.

  8. That is so funny, limiting cleaning to ten minutes a day. I can see why it only lasted a week. Having worked outside the home most of my life I cleaned and tidied when ever I had a few moments but did a major clean on the weekend. My husband vacuumed and I cleaned the bathrooms. It took us about an hour together, then we went for a coffee. Now we are retired and don’t have a schedule. We clean when it is dirty or someone is coming over. We should be doing random acts of kindness everyday.

    • You have a great system, Darlene. Jim vacuums all the carpets, and I clean the bathroom now, too, and together we do whatever has to be done. The 10 min. pick-up attempt only works when we get a call that someone is coming over, and we can quickly make things look better while a pot of coffee perks. And I agree, Darlene, that random acts of kindness shouldn’t need a special day, but be a part of every day. ❤

      • I have a funny story about a ten minute pick up. A come from a family of neat freaks. When I was young, a couple of elderly great aunts called to say they would be over for a visit in about ten minutes. We quickly tidied up, tossing may things in a closet and closing the door. This was their first visit to my house. As they looked around, one great aunt said, “How big are the closets here?” and, to my horror, opened the closet we had shoved everything in! It was embarrassing at the time but very funny now!

  9. When my kids were little we had a ten minute room clean up once a week or so. I set the timer on the microwave and they put things away until it it beeped. I think this is a great way to focus for a short period of time. It worked well for us. 🙂
    I love random acts of kindness. Thank you for the reminder!
    Blessings, Joanne

    • And think how much fun it will be when baby Penelope is a toddler and wants to “help”–you can set the timer and make a happy game of it–you will have such a good time, Joanne. And now you have another opportunity for a random act os kindness…to offer to hold and cuddle little Penelope while her mama naps! 😉

  10. I am laughing at the thought of trying to complete a cleaning task in 10 minutes. Maybe it would help me stay focused if I attempted it, but at the same time I am wondering how in the world women were able to clean an entire room in 10 minutes. I think I have try this at least once. Enjoy your tulips, Marylin! I have my pink and white tulips and will be photographing them this afternoon. Happy Valentine’s Day! XO

    • And Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too, Robyn. ❤
      I'm guessing that running around to clean up a room in 10 minutes would probably be more realistic than trying to do one of your wonderful photo sessions in 10 minutes. Some things just can't be hurried.

  11. I used to clean the house obsessively on the weekend. Now that writing has consumes my time, I typically do 15 minutes sprints of cleaning, so I’m not glued to the chair. Your mother…so wise. Happy Valentine’s Day, Marylin!

    • Oh, I like that Jill: 15 min. sprints of cleaning! Yes! Especially when I’m writing and spending a lot of time at the computer, that would be a good break, a good time to move and stretch. I’ll try it! 🙂

  12. Though I feel like I work as hard at cleaning (on some days), I don’t get as far as I used to. I am moving slower and wearing out sooner! This week I had some biopsies and stuff, haven’t felt good. Hubby helped this morning and though two cleaning made place nicer, it is not the spring cleaning I used to do!!! Happy Valentine’s Weekend to you in Colorado!

  13. I hope your medical tests all are good, Claudia, and you can relax and have a lovely Valentine’s Day. I have to confess that I’ve never been a Spring Cleaner; I’m more like my mom and just clean as I go, when it needs it.
    Colorado has sunshine and warm breezes today and tomorrow, and we’re all enjoying it after the big snows we had last week. Of course next week will bring a burst of more winter, but hopefully not as much.

  14. Nancy Parker Brummett

    I like the concept! Will have to give it a try…especially with procrastinated tasks.

  15. And the ones I’ve put off for a r-e-a-l-l-y long time need a 10-minute jump start, Nancy. After the first 10 min., I usually have a rhythm started and keep going. Usually. 😉 But if I don’t, at least I’m 10 minutes further along than before. Happy Valentin’s Day!

  16. Marylin … I recall that 10-minute-a-day advice. Thanks for the chuckle. I am willing to take up your challenge, though, on eating the cupcakes in that time frame. 😉

    I also will try to do something nice on Feb. 17th for Random Acts of Kindness Day. Happy Valentine’s Day to you. ❤

    • Just for kicks today, Judy, I gave myself 10 min. for each of three chores. The first one, to clear off the dining room table, was a breeze. The second one, to do a second spot clean on three of puppy Scout’s previous “accident” sites, was good, too, but I was so tired of racing the clock by then that I put away the timer. But I tried! 🙂
      Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too, Judy! ❤

  17. The timer trick really does work. I use it when it’s time to declutter and when I write. It has helped my organizing clients in the past too. Thanks for the lovely dessert too, Marylin. Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤️

    • Yea! a success story, Tracy! When you set the time to write, though, it’s for more than 10 minutes, isn’t it? 😉 But I did try 10 min. chores today (see the reply to Judy’s comment); now I think I will try it again–occasionally–just to jump start me. It really does get me started!
      I’m glad you like the dessert! (No calories.) ❤

  18. Jim

    Wow, ten whole minutes per room! That would barely make a dent in any room in our house, and that’s how we like it. 🙂 I like Mary’s method better. Most moms are multi-tasking champions.

    I use a different model for the ten-minute task. It goes back to the days when I was a student and had lots of homework. The temptation was to play first and then do homework when time was running out and I HAD to do it. Instead of playing first, I told myself to start my homework and work for ten minutes. If I was bored and unfocused after ten minutes, I allowed myself to leave my work and go have fun and do my homework whenever. Fact is, I almost never left my work unfinished once I got started. Then it felt so good to have the task done already while I had fun later. Works for any task you don’t wanna do, even cleaning a messy room! Happy Valentine’s Day. Love you.

    • As always, honey, you write the most wonderful comments. Thank you.
      Helen sent me an email tonight that you’ll enjoy. She said she’s going to do the 10 min. room plan. She’ll begin cleaning a room, and then when the timer goes off, she’ll have Chuck finish it. 🙂
      But with Scout, the 10 min. chore really did work when we were first potty training her. 10 min. for each “accident” about covered it.
      But I am going to try one 10 min. jump start on things like the desk in the computer room, hoping that as soon as I get started I won’t want to stop.
      Love you lots ❤ and lots ❤ sweetie.

  19. Molly

    It is funny how we all have different opinions of egg timers and 10 minutes! When I was little, you used to set the egg timer and that swans the time that I had to have quiet time in my room. Well as I got a little bit older (maybe 4)
    the amount of time that I was in my room kept felt longer and longer. I remember one day sneaking down the hallway, and there you were twisting the timer to put more time on it! You got busted – red handed!!!

    • Now that you’re a mom yourself, Molly, feel free to use this charming trick to either give yourself just a few more minutes of peace and quiet, or to give your children a few more minutes of peace and quiet that will cause them to nod off and take a nap.
      You’re welcome, darling daughter! Always glad to help. 😉
      LOL, Mom ❤

  20. What a lovely post, and your mother sounds like she was a wonderful woman: “my mother had her own style: clean whatever was dirty, comfort whoever was hurt, fix what was broken, take joy in sunrises, draw strength from quiet times in her garden, laugh with her family and hug them, and sing as she worked. Although this took longer than ten minutes a day, I don’t remember her complaining.”

    I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day. We have plenty of chocolate here, and I’m going to enjoy some with Downton Abbey very soon. Ten minutes is not long enough. 😉

  21. My mom was down-to-earth yet amazingly creative, calm and kind, Merril. Even now, with advanced dementia, she remains pleasant and kind, which makes me even more in awe of her personality.
    Ten minutes is definitely not long enough to enjoy chocolates and Downton Abbey. Take all the time you need! 😉

  22. Your mother’s plan sounds like something I would have tried and just as quickly abandoned. Right now at the office I struggle with a supervisor’s suggestion that I create and keep an “editorial calendar” for the website I curate, which takes time, versus just getting things done. Right now the “just getting things done” method is winning. As long as things do get done!!

    • Don’t tell your supervisor about this 10 min. plan, Melodie, or the next “suggestion” might be to do at least two 10 min. of work each day on the editorial calendar, one before work and one at the end of each day. 😦
      You’re right, just getting things done is winning!

  23. Helen Armstrong

    The 10 minute per room clean-up would never work for me. But I know how to clean for 10 minutes, and then have Chuck finish the job.

    Having a whole house clean simultaneously is almost impossible. This may take place when guests are coming, but I would still be cleaning up until the doorbell rings.

    My love to you, dear friend.

    • This is an amazing and funny and real response, Helen, and my mother would love it: spend ten minutes on each room, and then let the husbands finish the cleaning! Now THAT would make a wonderful sidebar for an article about efficient time management in a women’s magazine! Love and hugs to you, my dear friend, and thanks for the laughs.

  24. I love this idea Marylin, as I have housework so far down on my priority list as I sit here writing and try not to think of all the chores I should be doing. A lot can be done in 10 minutes, and then, when that timer goes off, that’s it! I can just picture your dear Mom and her friend putting the theory to the test and then laughing about it afterwards. Her life philosophy was by far the better one 🙂 Thank you dear friend for the beautiful tulips and cupcakes…you’ve brought colour and sugar to my day, and what can be better than that? In return, I send you a big hug ❤

    • I kind of remember that I opened the walk-in hall closet after the end of their 10-min. trials, and “someone” had filled a couple of boxes with things and hurriedly stacked the boxes in the closet. 🙂 But I have to admit that if you’ve got a lot to pick up and put away and only 10 minutes to do it, well, boxes in the closet is one way to do it! 😉
      Oh, Sherri, they were the women who were supposedly oppressed by being “housewives” and moms, but I don’t remember my mom and her friends complaining. They all worked at least part time outside of the home, raised good kids, made a difference, and teamed up to laugh and have a good time, too. Except for being across the ocean, you’re one of those friends for me, to commiserate with writing woes and hurdles along the way, but to laugh with as well. Enjoy those tulips and no-calorie, sugar free pictures of cupcakes, dear Sherri, but remember you only have 10-minutes! ❤

      • Haha…boxes in closets come in very handy that’s for sure! They lived their lives in honourable, hard working and conscientous ways and yes, they certainly did know how to have fun along the way 🙂 I think of my grandmother especially at times like these…and as it turns out, hoping to get a post out about her later in the week! Oh, but dear Marylin, I’m so touched by your message of friendship. I feel just the same way about you…thank you so much ❤ The tulips still look beautiful and now I've set my timer to gobble down those calorie-free cupcakes, one after the other. Ready? Here goes.. 😀

      • I still occasionally set a timer for 10 minutes and see what I can get done if nothing else is in the way, Sherri. But I avoid filling boxes and just hiding them…I would forget to go back and put away the contents! 😉

  25. I don’t think I’d get a lot done in 10 minutes, but maybe my house is too untidy! I think the slower approach of doing what needs to be done, enjoying the sunrises and spending time with family was definitely the better approach 🙂

  26. It certainly worked for my mom, Andrea. And I’ve found that any day I can take my time in my little garden and flower beds, it’s much more important than what I could get done inside, cleaning in 10-minute or even 2-hour segments. 😉 We have to pace ourselves, right?

  27. Happy Act of Kindness Day to you, Marylin! I could picture my coffee-drinking mother and her tea-drinking buddy collaborating on such a plan over their weekday morning visits. They probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer than a week either, but it would give them additional fodder to giggle over (although as a kid, the word “giggle” didn’t come to mind when I overheard their “silliness”) for another week of weekday mornings. You often bring me back home with your tales, Marylin – and leave me with a smile on my face!

    • Come to think of it, Shel, “giggle” isn’t a word I would have used to describe the laughter and table-slapping she and her friends shared. I’m glad you enjoyed their 10-minute trial. Since writing this post, I’ve tried it several times. Not for cleaning rooms, but for “hey, I’ll spend 10 minutes on this and at least get it started.” It’s not a perfect plan, but it has gotten me to tie up some loose ends.

  28. Goodness me I think I’d need ten hours to clean my house!

    • Just between us, Marie, my house is the same. 😉 But for what we call “a lick and a promise,” 10 minutes of quickly tossing things in closets sure can make a difference in an emergency!

  29. …and I am giving myself 10 minutes to sneak in some blog reading 🙂

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