15 Minutes To Sanity: How I Balance Housework And Writing

When my house is dirty, I go bonkers.  This is my workspace.  This is my play place.  How am I supposed to write about assassins, angels, demons, and sarcastic vampires when there’s a spider web in the corner? A train set in the dryer?  Toast crumbs ground into the carpet?

I’ve learned to intertwine cleaning and writing.  They go hand in hand like pretty little lovers, and this serves to make my day more enjoyable.  I’m a huge fan of a timer, something that I learned from www.Flylady.com.  Before I sit down to write, however briefly, I set the timer for 15 minutes.  During that 15 minutes, I clean like a demon.  I can load the dishes and wipe down the counters in 15 minutes.  I can quickly vacuum the house.  (Living in a delightful shoebox certainly has its advantages!)  Then I can sit down to write with a clear conscience.  Chores before play, and writing is the most exquisite of play.

When I get stuck somewhere in my chapter, I start the timer again.  I clean for 15 minutes while I think about where the story is going.  I find that I think better while moving around than I do while sitting and staring into the universe, and I get the added bonus of getting things done.  It’s amazing what you can do in 15 minutes.  I can switch and fold the laundry.  Pay bills.  I can make my home pleasant again, which makes me happy.  This happiness directly helps me write.

18 Comments on “15 Minutes To Sanity: How I Balance Housework And Writing”

  1. What a fabulous idea!! Thanks for the link, I can’t wait to use it, M! I definitely need some new ideas to keep my house and writing and working thing in order, this might just be the trick!

    Sending you very well wishes!

    Happy writing and cleaning!

  2. Wait…I thought you titled this 15 Minutes to Sanity. You’re saying cleaning will allow me to regain my sanity? I’m skeptical, somehow, but I guess I’m willing to give it a shot.

    And what is this “balance” you speak of…?


  3. I don’t set the timer but several times during the day I close my laptop and go do some housework. I was dishes by hand and it gives me time to think, plot and plan. These little increments get the house tidied and keep me from getting cobwebs in my brain from just staring at the computer screen. It is a great way to combine the necessities with my passion.

    IBTW, I live in a shoebox too. I can so relate. Less than 800 sq. feet so it can be easy to manage if I put my mind to it.



  4. Liked your blog entry and your layout. I just broke down and started my own blog this year. I’d already had my writing site up for awhile and figured it was time to stop procrastinating. I also write horror and fantasy as well.

    I am also a writer who is at home 24/7. I have a crazy pet zoo of 3 lizards, 3 cats, 3 hermit crabs, and one turtle that keeps busy along with my house and my writing. I understand your need to time manage!

    Look forward to reading more of your blog.

    You can check mine out here:



  5. Hi, Kara! I love Flylady, but she can be super overwhelming at times! I take what works for me (the timer thing, and a daily Zone) and leave the rest. She’s much too organized for me, but some of her ideas are golden. 😀

    Oh, come on, Simon. You tie a bandanna around your head and sing drinking songs while you dust. I’m on to you.

    Elizabeth: Exactly! And cleaning is instant gratification. You can see the difference right away. Sometimes I need that, especially when I’m slogging through a difficult part of a novel, or whatever the case may be. I need that boost of “Hey, look, I was productive!”

    Ardee-ann: Yay for shoeboxes! There are four of us (plus the turtle) in 1000 feet. I can clean the whole thing top to bottom in a day, if I want to. But a little bit of clutter makes the entire place go to pot in a hurry. 😛

    Welcome, Nora! It’s a pleasure to have you stop by. You’ll see me haunting your blog soon. 🙂

    Ha, Natalie. I bet your house has fangs and attacks innocent passerby whenever they venture too close. And that’s just awesome.

    It’s helpful, Alison! I also make my husband do the 15 minute thing with me before we go to bed. He can clean a lot faster than I can. I tend to go for the minute details (shall I sort the mail this very moment?) while he tackles the big stuff.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting, everybody! 😀

  6. Oh, Flylady. Her 30 day baby steps makes me feel like I’m in recovery, and I stay falling off the wagon lol. But you’re right about how housework can get your mind moving when you’re distracted. You’ve been favorited!

  7. Pingback: 15 Minutes To Sanity: How I Balance Housework And Writing (via A Broken Laptop) | Shay is out of catchy titles!

  8. This is funny, because only last week I came up with the idea of a daily “Ten-Minute Tidy” — for exactly the same reasons as you!

    Though I haven’t actually done any Ten-Minute Tidies yet, so the house is not any cleaner…

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  10. Thank you, Regina! Flylady can be a bit overwhelming if you tackle all of it at once, but some of her advice is priceless. I first learned about her maybe seven years ago. I should be a much better cleaner by now. 😛

    Shannon: YES! Although I had to turn off the daily mailers because they drove me crazy. The zones and the timer thing totally make my life so much better! WOO!

    Susan: It alleviates the guilt of taking time out for writing (because I’m cleaning) and helps me write better (because I’m moving). It’s all about time consolidation, yeah? 😀

    Wendy: Brilliant! You can do a lot more than expected in ten or fifteen minutes! Although I have to admit that since I’m pregnant, I’m sometimes working in five minute increments. We do what we can do, yeah? 🙂

  11. The flylady is my friend…even though I tend to flutter more than fly. 🙂

    I’ve been a fan for a few years, but don’t receive the email reminders anymore. I wasn’t getting my laundry done like she suggests, so all those reminders just made my pile of guilt even higher!

    When I use her method, it really does work. 15 minutes here…15 minutes there…and there…and over yonder… 🙂

    (I’m a huge fan b/c she is from one of my fave small towns in the NC mountains, too!)

  12. Ohhh – I’m gonna try the timer. As I type this, I can see 2 piles of unfolded laundry, a dishwasher needing to be emptied, and general did-a-bomb-go-off-in-here messiness. We need to listen to the muse, but in timed chunks – love it!

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