Batching & Automation Challenge, Day 5: Household Chores

[Introduction to the Challenge] [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4]

There’s a fine line between batching your household chores and being viewed as a dirty, lazy slob.  You don’t want to repeat tasks too often, but at the same time, things get a little too dirty if you don’t do them often enough.  The household chores I have in mind specifically include:

  • Laundry
  • General cleaning (vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, etc.)
  • Washing dishes

I’m struggling to figure out exactly what the optimal increments of time are between each repetition of the above tasks.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:


I’m not terribly concerned with laundry piling up as long as it’s confined to a basket of some sort, or hidden away in a closet.  The limiting factor here is the quantity of clothes you have available, as I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to rewear dirty clothes.  Historically, I’ve done my laundry once per week, usually on a Saturday or Sunday.  I’m starting to find, however, that I can go two weeks, but probably not three, between each batch of laundry.

Because my apartment complex has a laundry room that contains several washers and dryers, I can do two loads of laundry at the same time, thereby cutting my time spent on laundry in half.  If I had more clothes, I would absolutely try to stretch this to three weeks.  If one load of laundry per week takes about 40 minutes of my time (20 minutes of moving things to and from the washer and dryer, 20 minutes of folding clothes and putting them away), I would guess that doing two loads at once probably takes me 50 minutes.  The washer and dryer time is close to the same, and I think folding laundry and putting it away is something that takes me awhile to start, but picks up speed as I go (so a 2nd load only is only an additional 10 minutes).

By the way – when I used to do one load of laundry, I would never separate colors from whites.  Now, I probably can.

General Cleaning

When I clean my apartment is more a function of how much free time I have – it’s not based on any sort of schedule.  During this time of year where I have little to no free time, the cleanliness of my apartment suffers.  Therefore, I don’t think there is any sort of measurable time savings by batching here (for me).  Granted, you can always wait longer to clean, and you will always save time.  If you clean once per week, try cleaning every once every 10-14 days.  You’ll probably find that you’re spending less time cleaning over the course of a year, and the cleanliness of your apartment or house probably won’t suffer as much as you think.  If cleaning your house takes you an hour and you do it once per week, you can easily save 52 hours per year by stretching it to once every two weeks.

Washing Dishes

This is something I already batch, but it deserves mention.  If you have a dish washing machine, don’t run it until the machine is full.  If you do your dishes by hand, wait until the sink is relatively full.  A full sink looks dirty, but as long as you don’t let it pile too high, I don’t think it’s all that bad.  I’m sure my girlfriend is strongly disagreeing with me if she’s reading this.  Washing dishes is an easy activity to batch.  Again, this is something I’ve done for a long time, so I won’t accumulate any time savings here.

Time Savings

It looks like laundry is where I’ll find my only measurable time savings.

  • Estimated time spent doing laundry once per week: 40 minutes/week (160 minutes per month)
  • Estimated time spent doing laundry once per two weeks: 50 minutes per two weeks (100 minutes per month)
  • Monthly time savings: About 1 hour

I think batching household chores in general will save you much more than one hour per month, but that time savings is very difficult to measure given the many variables involved.  

If you have any more suggestions for batching or automating your household chores, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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6 Responses to “Batching & Automation Challenge, Day 5: Household Chores”

  1. Nothing comes to my mind to add to the batching of the cleaning stuff. But there is one thing about cleaning your surroundings that really saves a lot of time and energy.

    It’s choosing everyday one bit of your space – like a drawer, or a shelf and emptying it of everything and then sorting the stuff into Trash, Giveaway, Repair and RightStuff:

    Trash – no comment :)

    GiveAway – stuff that you don’t need but is in working condition. You never use it.

    Repair – You used it a lot, and would use it again but it’s broken. It is repairable though.

    RightStuff – You need it, and it’s working.

    Batch the GiveAway and Repair into separate boxes and deal with them once a month or sth.

    Put trash (except rubbish) into a separate box and throw it away after a week (sometimes after a two or three days you find you can use it for sth or give it to someone who can use it – natural thing after “coming in contact” with a thing you forgot you had.

    It all takes around 15 minutes a day. What it gives you is hard to notice at first, but gradually the space around you is getting more productive – when your eyes wander around (as it often happens), instead of finding things that displease you (trash, broken or unused stuff) you see only things that you use, that give you back stories of activity that fill you with a new energy to get into grips with whatever you were doing and got tired of a little so that your eyes started to wander in the first place…

    So you loose less time and energy, and concentrate on doing things.



  2. This is some really great advice – I may write a new post about it as a follow-up to this post. Thanks so much!


  3. The most difficult part of it comes when you find a “Someday” – a thing you keep because someday you can use, or you think you would like to use someday.

    It is precisely this hairy point that makes this exercise so useful. What I propose is to write down – in a dedicated place – like a special notepad or on a file in your computer – the thing and the someday something you think of using it at.

    This adds some time, and that’s why i said 15 minutes – you can easily sort one drawer in like a 5 minutes when you have boxes ready, but this pondering and writing takes some time. I have a separate closet where I put the Somedays to.

    What I do is I shot a quick photo of those Somedays, then upload them to a folder in my computer and in a program dedicated to shuffling through the photos (came with the camera) I add comments to them – then when I look through this stuff I don’t have to get through physical stuff at all – it is in a bag with a date written on it, so the closet is quite organized – if I find an object in the folder, then I know it is in the closet in a bag with a date of making the photo written on it.

    Then once a month (or when the closet fills up – quite fast at the beginning of this routine) – I go through the Somedays and decide finally whether I will follow up or the stuff goes to Giweaways.

    Now that is where most of my energy is coming back to me – I definitely decide (the source of the word comes from latin “to cut away”) whether or not I will follow the thing – if i will follow I call it a project, I make a separate box or place for stuff needed for the project and make a plan (with a solid date of attaining it), do something immediately toward doing it and add to my everyday plans a position called “a project” – to do everyday something that brings me closer to attaining it.

    This is the hardest part of it, but also the most fruitful. As you make order in your surroundings you find that your life gets more orderly and meaningful.

    The photo folder makes it easy and quick to sort it – you don’t get overwhelmed with the physical stuff but instead have it neat and clean as a photo, an idea.

    In four months of making and using the system I got rid of half of my stuff, and made two projects happen. That was like a breath of fresh air in my life. What amazed me I also lost a lot of my overweight – it’s like getting rid of the external superfluous stuff allowed me to get rid of my internal body superfluous stuff. Truly “As above so below”.

    And if you skip one day, don’t make it a tragedy but gety back to normal routine next day – no “I’ll do more to make up for the time I didn’t do it” – one day is not a problem if you keep the break to one day.


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  5. Really awesome read. Really..


  6. 1) Different size families have different needs. If we go 1 day w/o doing laundry, we start getting into a bind. Once a week translates into 5-7 loads all at once. We’re seriously looking at installing a washer so we can keep up w it all. When we had a schedule of washing, I’d put clothes in the washer in the morning, transfer to dryer when I got home, & put away after dinner. Folding and ironing are wastes of time. If it needs that level of attention, take it to the dry cleaners. Some fabrics like cotton are much more wash n wear than polyester.
    2) Cleaning the house is a lot of work if it’s batched for later. Instead, develop a “continual cleaning” habit. Take the time NOW to clean up spills, rinse dishes, & run the dishwasher DAILY. Clean up while cooking. This is the practice in restaurants because it works, spreads it out, keeps the dirt contained, easier to deal w, & never let’s it get too dirty. A consistent level of general clean can always be improved but won’t be terrible if you have to skip a day. If you miss your scheduled batch, you’re screwed. Instead of batching, hire a once / week maid to do the time-consuming tasks that don’t need to be done daily like vacuuming, bathrooms, etc. Special tools & special skills taking special time: call special people.
    Tesla falcon recently posted… Our Future Family RV


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