House cleaning and home maintenance on an athletic blog? Sounds weird, but we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the more time you can save in other less-fun areas of your life, the easier it is to spend more time on your training and athletic goals. We’re big fans of trying to make space—mentally and physically—for your athlete life. And that starts at home.
It’s also worth mentioning that most households unfortunately still have an imbalance of labor: A 2020 study found that women who worked 35 hours a week or more spend around five hours on household work each week, while men who work those same hours spent less than four hours on household work. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s a 22 percent difference and adds up to the difference of five hours of training per month… before even taking into account all of the other pulls on women’s time, like the fact that men spend less time on things like cooking, childcare, or personal grooming.
While I can’t necessarily give ideas on how to fix the patriarchal institutions that have been around for centuries, I can talk about pre-planning, scheduling tasks and having serious conversations with your partner/family. And if you’re a guy reading this, make sure that you’re actually doing your part! (If you are, I salute you. And I’ll add that in our household, I’m the ‘messy one,’ and I’m incredibly lucky Peter is a very equal partner.)
Make a master list. Take 10 to 20 minutes to list out every task you can think of, including the small daily tasks, weekly chores, deep cleans and seasonal maintenance for your home, yard and vehicles. If you want to get fancy, you can also break them down in rough amounts of time each task takes, and who currently does each task. If you’re splitting tasks between you and a significant other, let him or her add to the list as well, since there may be something you’re forgetting about.
Personally, I found this was a huge help when having an argument/conversation about who was spending more time cleaning (answer: we were actually pretty even, despite both of us insisting we were the injured party).
Build home maintenance into your calendar as yearly recurring events. This might be setting three hour chunks at the start of every season to clean gutters, or setting a reminder every four months to get your oil changed.
Simplify. Use this list to start thinking through where you’re wasting time on tasks that don’t bring joy. A micro-example: Perhaps on your seasonal list, decorating for Christmas takes up hours and hours of time. Unless you truly love the time you spend decorating, maybe this year, you could pare down and just put up the tree with lights and a few favorite ornaments, and skip any outdoor decor or around-the-house extras. We get into habits and routines over the years, especially with house stuff, which means that there are usually things that are no longer serving us.
Maybe you’re spending tons of time and money on maintaining a boat or an RV that you rarely use, and could sell it to get some extra cash to get a housecleaner in once a month. Or maybe you simple realize that you don’t need to spend as much time on fancy meal prep as you thought you did, since your family prefers simple meals anyway.
The much larger scale version of simplifying could even include a move to a smaller house or condo! This absolutely isn’t for everyone, but it’s something we think about anytime we’re tempted by the idea of more space and having a yard. We’ve gone so far as to make a list of all home-owner-type things we’d have to do in addition to our regular cleaning chores in our condo, and so far, the condo with the minimal chore list wins over garage space every time. This may change, of course, but it’s certainly worth considering!
Sit down with your family and delegate. This applies to daily and weekly household chores as well as seasonal ones, but setting up a division of labor that leaves no room for “but I thought you were doing it!” is extremely helpful. While this one can take a while, especially with younger kids who will need to learn how to do their own laundry or put it away properly, spending time on these habits early will pay off in time savings later.
Delegate out if possible. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive outside help can be: A monthly housecleaner for a deep dive on your bathroom and kitchen is great, meal prepping services are coming down in price all the time, and there are tons of lawn care experts who can handle some of your outdoor maintenance.
Another delegation is to automate certain things. Whether we’re talking about setting up regular subscription-based orders of cleaning products, toilet paper, kitty litter, et cetera from Amazon or another online subscription service, or buying something like a Roomba to handle most of your vacuuming, there are plenty of ways to automate some of your housework. Automatic toilet bowl cleaner? Done. Obviously we don’t live in a Jetsons-style world (yet) but there’s still plenty we can do to buy back some time.
It’s also worth looking at your list and asking if you’re spending time on maintenance of things that aren’t working properly because they need professional repair. We spent a year messing with fixing or troubleshooting a tricky toilet with a broken flush tab, when getting a new (lower water use!) toilet installed would have saved us hours, as well as money and water waste!
Last, build a workout into maintenance whenever you can. For some people, yard work itself is great for pairing with a long day of endurance to extend your workout. Do your long run, have a quick snack, then go into mowing the lawn. The bonus work will give you added adaptations. For errands like getting your oil changed or tires rotated, you can either do your run or ride while you wait, or you can ride home and then pedal back the next day to pick up your car.