I do not do any house cleaning.

I make more than average dollars at my job – enough to pay for cleaners (although we do not have cleaners for another zillion reasons). I gain satisfaction (and sometimes anger management if I am being honest) from cleaning. But when given a choice on a weekend to read or clean, go to the pool or clean, nap or clean, ride my bike or clean, write or clean, etc., cleaning usually comes out on the short end of the wishbone.

Caveat – kitchen clean up is different. We have talked about this before – Bixby cooks, I clean. I do not consider this cleaning, per se. It is really more the end of dinner.

But alas, once a year I come out of cleaning retirement for one specific task. Cleaning the blinds.

I don’t know why that is my task, but it is. Sure I could hire it out, but I don’t. And yes, it should probably be done more often than annually (especially as an asthmatic with a dog). But alas, this is the season. Me cleaning the blinds annually is Sustainably Productive (SusPro).

Setting the Stage

This literally takes me all day. We have 26 windows in our house and most of them are 6 foot tall. This is 36 slats per window for a total of just under 1,000 slats.

Each slat is wiped individually.

Plus wiping the window sill and above the window, plus changing the water every 3 windows (dumping water in the outdoor plants to save Mother Earth), plus moving furniture and standing the whole time and standing is hard on my knees, hips, and back.

Have I complained enough yet?

What I mean to do here is to say it takes some trickery strategy to get myself to have bucket in hand.

Enter habit change strategy.

Habit Change Strategy

James Clear teaches his 2nd Law “Make It Attractive” in his book Atomic Habits. To get the blinds done, I need not only a big fat carrot, but I need that carrot to be dipped in the most delicious ranch dressing in the world. Here are some of the strategies I used.

  • Pairing. I do not buy books very often – definitely not audiobooks since I cannot share them when I am done. But I needed a little extra something to get through my cleaning chore. I decided I would buy an audiobook to pair with my unfun chore.

Once I made the decision to buy an audiobook, I was a little stumped as to what to buy from the 500+ books on my TBR. Then one of my book mentors, Laura Tremaine, posted a podcast about what she THOUGHT was going to happen in one of the buzziest books of the summer. Done and done.

Listening to Who Is Maud Dixon made the day much more enjoyable. I also was motivated to keep going because I wanted to hear what Laura thought the twist would be.

  • Partner. Often getting started on an unfun task can be a deal breaker. I recruited a partner for this step of habit change. Over breakfast on the big day, I enlisted Bixby in my efforts to get over my inertia. I knew he had some house cleaning to do (his usually weekend list – see previous, I do none) so I asked if we could hit the ground running on our individual cleaning chores. This felt like we were tackling a project together – us vs. Dirt, if you will.

Bonus was that he got me set up with my audiobook as well. It is nice when your housekeeper is also tech support. Setting up the tech is often a barrier to moving forward.

  • Powerful Rewards. By the end of the 6 hours of slats, I was wiped (get it – wiped, like the slats? Tired? Wiped?). I did not just want a reward, I wanted a powerful reward. By this time I wanted carrot cake, not just a carrot. Proverbial carrot cake to return to the point I was making. Real carrot cake is gross.

My original plan was a reward of ice cream sandwich at the pool while reading another book, but I took too long on the blinds and did not have time. So my reward took shape the next day. I had no shoulds all day. Sure, I did get some “chores” done, but it was all based on my wants and timeline. All day I bounced around from knitting to reading a magazine to pulling weeds to lunch prep for the week to reading at the pool.

The key to powerful rewards is that they take the shape of what is important to you in that moment. This is what separates rewards from powerful rewards. Puttering around would not have been a reward on cleaning day – I was too tired. Plus I did not have but a couple hours left in the day. But puttering around the whole next day was a true delight.

Your Turn

Do you have a chore or habit that you are trying to get some traction on? Maybe pairing, partner or powerful rewards would help you! Try it and let me know.