Cleaning Down the Rabbit Trail

Heather says:

We’ve all heard the joke about the guy that comes home from work to find the kids half dressed with cereal in their hair, stuff everywhere, dishes all over, and the wife happily sitting on the couch. He just stares at her in disbelief. She doesn’t take her eyes off the tv and says, “You know how you ask what I do all day?”


“Well, today I didn’t do it.”

Ba da bum. I know, it’s not a great joke, but it kind of illustrates today’s point. Be honest, how often do you start in one room on a specific task, only to find yourself several hours later doing something completely different with the first task barely started? It all starts off innocently enough. Well, I’ll just make the bed. Look, there’s a sock, I’ll go put it in the hamper. Oh man, the hamper’s full. I guess I’ll start a load of laundry. Crap, who left this load of laundry in the washing machine, I’ll restart it. Hey! Who left the milk out? I’ll just put that away. What is the sticky stuff on the refrigerator shelf? So the great fridge clean out begins, only for the phone to ring, the dog pukes, or maybe the kids get into a fight. It’s always something and on your way back to the refrigerator, you find someone dumped dry -hopefully- cereal, after you step in it . . Don’t lie, you know how it is.

The worst part though? Have you ever noticed how during a cleaning or organizing job, there is this moment where everything looks like it’s gone to hell in a handbasket? It is, without a doubt, worse than before the job was even started.

When you have a rabbit trail day, all of the started chores only get to the hell in a handbasket stage.

I do this. And I do it far more frequently than I care to admit. Part of it is my personality -squirrel!- part of it is just having young children, and part of it is a lack of self-discipline on my part.

This week, I’m going to try to be more disciplined in what I’m doing. The dirty sock that derails the bed making? It can wait until the bed is made. My rational side knows this, if I can just get a few things done to completion the house will be in better shape.

How do I force myself to focus? A timer helps, 10 or 15 minutes at a time isn’t too unreasonable. The key though is that I have to STAY in the room where I start. Sometimes this means bringing in a trashbag or gathering my cleaning implements before I start.

Are you with me?

Need a place to get started? Click the chore chart post-it right up there. It’ll take you to an explanation and a printable version. I know that when I do the chores to completion my house stays clean. This week, my goal is take my own advice.

How about you?


On a completely unrelated note:

If you are the praying type, could you keep some of our Australian readers in your prayers? If not, just send some good thoughts their way. Some of them have been hit by the flooding. I don’t have any details, I just learned this through an automated response.

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12 thoughts on “Cleaning Down the Rabbit Trail”

  1. That sounds like me almost every day. I get pinged around so much I just give up and sit down. The other part of my equation is having someone who sleeps on the couch during the day, which keeps me from doing all the vacuuming and such that really needs to get done. Maybe I should recruit him to do them before he lays down?

  2. It's nice to be in good company… I was spinning my wheels all day yesterday trying to get caught up after being sick. There is always a long list of things to do and rarely enough time to do them. Such is life. Good enough has to be good enough. And I have to stop caring that my toilets aren't always clean.

  3. Glad it has a name…Rabbit Trail or being a squirrel. I can dismiss my thoughts of being AADD.
    I am 61 and benefit much from your website and the reply's!
    It also seems to make chores more fun somehow…maybe it's just a knowing we're all in this together, no matter what our age and stage in life.
    Not placing blame, mind you, but my mother's words still ring in my ears, "That work will be waiting on you when you get home"…meaning, go play and enjoy yourself…worry about work later.
    Now, I use you to help me make up for lost time neglecting the inevitable 😉 Thanks!….and also, prayers have gone up for your Australian readers, and you for caring.

  4. An old boss of mine used to call these days Pin Ball machine days. I always felt that was appropriate. I, myself, never get up to speed enough to do more than one or two things in a day.

  5. Oh boy did I have one of those days today. I made muffins this morning, then taught daughter how to do the 2nd batch, cleaned son's room before we'd finally open his Leapster he got for Christmas, vacuumed but had to unclog it first, unpacked overnight gear from kids trip to Grandma's last week, roasted 4 chicken breasts, shredded the cooked chicken, made salad sandwiches for lunch then froze the rest. But I didn't do the 1 thing I wanted to get done today.. help my daughter deliver her Girl Scout cookie orders 🙁 I think I did everything just to avoid it. I also started a citrus salad that's still sitting there waiting to be finished & I have chicken broth being made in the slow cooker with the leftover bones… squirel!
    My recent post Pumpkin- Barley- and Sage Soup

  6. I call it a magpie day when I keep getting distracted by shiny things. And yes, it's part of my personality as well. And part of it is the nature of being at home. Things like laundry and dishes are done by machines which can run while you're doing other things. To me it makes sense to interrupt my task, get them started and then go back to what I was doing. But it also seems to suck a lot of time out of my day. In the case of finding the full laundry hamper while making the bed, I've learned to push the hamper out the door to wait until I leave the room.

  7. I have a basket in the doorway of the bedroom. I have to stay in the bedroom until the bed is made and the surfaces and floor are picked up. If things belong outside the bedroom, they go in the basket until I'm done in that room. Wandering from room to room uses up all my energy and attention. I do best if I stay in the same room until I've done what I set out to do.
    My recent post A Letter from Uncle Lewis

    • I try to be really honest. I have little kids. I get frustrated, sometimes my house is a wreck. However, that\’s not the only reality that is my life, so if I only wallow in that, people may assume I\’m pretty miserable. I\’m not.

      It\’s really hard because more than anything I do NOT want people to think that everything is hunky dory at all times around here, because that simply is not the case. However, I am generally a happy person so there is weird balance I have to aim for. I do not want to come across like the glossy magazines or a certain infamous homemaking icon that makes it look like perfection is to worth striving for.

      I don\’t want to strive for perfection, good enough is good enough, but we should also work to be better as people, too. I may not be articulating it as well as I would like, but. . . Brene Brown has been really on my mind lately. If you have a few minutes check out her TedX talk, she\’s really speaking to me and how I want to live my life both offline and here for all of you. That and I really love when she says, \”I don\’t even hang out with those people.\” She\’s my kind of lady.


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