Purposeful Distraction

Do you have tasks you hate to do or that bore the bejeebers out of you? Things like filing papers, organizing photos on the computer, and paying bills all come to mind.

I’m sure you’ve read recommendations on how to deal with such jobs, such as “Set the timer for fifteen minutes and work as fast as you can until the timer bings.”

At a recent family gathering, I learned that the method I use for dealing with boring housecleaning, which I thought was just another one of my odd quirks, is actually one of those guilty secrets that women have and don’t tell each other about until it comes out in some unrelated conversation.

We had been talking about how we’ve become so used to having full control of when and how we watch our favorite television programs. Whether you use a DVR or wait until the program series comes out on Netflix, we seem to have grown accustomed to watching shows when we have time and skipping all the commercials.

When we actually watch live television, the commercial factor is kind of a big shock. We keep hitting the fast forward button on the remote control to skip the commercial or try to hit the hold button so we can go let the dog out-in-out-in-out-in and become frustrated when we realize we can’t control live TV!

Okay, so that whole conversation sounds pretty boring, but the real shocker came when I discovered that I am not the only person who plays the Housecleaning by Television Game to help get through a task that, to put it bluntly, sucks.

Here’s how the game works:

  • You gather all your cleaning supplies together, including the vacuum.
  • You find a television show that you enjoy but that doesn’t completely hold your attention – something you’ve seen before or that is utterly predictable, like “Law and Order”. If your house is like mine, it will take more than a single, one-hour program to play the game. However, do not let yourself get caught up in channel surfing.
  • While the show is playing, you pick up and dust in the room where the television is located or anywhere that you can still sort of see the TV. If there is a lot of dialogue, you can also just listen to the program from another room and if dramatic music comes on or there is a loud crash, you can run back to where you can see what’s happening.
  • When a commercial comes on, the race begins. This is the time to vacuum, clean toilets and wash floors. The point of the game is to see how much you can get done before the program starts back up. Isn’t this exciting?! Don’t you feel the competitive thrill of this?!
  • If you run out of cleaning that can be done in the TV viewing area, when the program comes back on, you can slip in some bill paying, photo organizing, or work on your grocery list. Just don’t let these secondary tasks distract you from your true purpose – to clean the house.
  • If I’m beginning to tire during the game and I don’t think I can make it to the finish line, I entice myself to keep going by promising my inner rebel that she can have a beer or glass of wine after the cleaning is done. 

I believe that part of the effectiveness of the Housecleaning by Television Game (perhaps I should trademark this…) is it’s a lot like the interval training that many of the Olympic athletes do to get in shape. There are bursts of intense cleaning that get your heart pumping, followed by periods of less strenuous dusting or standing to catch an especially riveting dialogue or scene.

You can even dress up as one of the characters in the show to truly feel a part of the whole experience.

I know. It’s all a mind game, and it can make house cleaning take longer if you don’t abide by the rules and allow yourself to do more TV watching than cleaning. But I feel so smart when I find ways to trick myself like this!

But better than all of that is that I was able to once again exclaim, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”  as I discover more and more all the ways that people share the experience of life.

Similar Posts


  1. OMG! I do exactly the same thing!

    Thursday night is my cleaning night. Every other night of the week, I’m too pooped after work to do anything. But come Thursday night, I’m a dynamo during the commercial breaks. Then on Friday when I come home from work — ALAS! There’s a clean house (and if I’m lucky, no one else is in it!)

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Come back soon; I’ll be visiting you often.

  2. Susan – Yes and she makes an external appearance every once in awhile.

    Sandy – Thanks for stopping by! I need to switch days so I’m not wasting precious weekend time cleaning, but the pooped factor is a tough one.

    Ladyfi – If you don’t like TV (which I don’t) this works all the better. It’s simply a mind game to pretend I’m not actually cleaning house but goofing off watching the boob tube.

  3. Oh yes, the commercials!! I hate commercials. I am always running around getting stuff done during them. It is quite hilarious actually!! But it is a very good use of time!!

  4. Great idea, and yes, I do it too…my cleaning night is Thursday, though I have never felt the thrill of competition that you seem to be enjoying : )

  5. Well, now. We’re going to have to find an alternative game for someone like me, who’s thrown out the tv!

    I do have a little game I play every morning and every evening. I call it the game of 25s. I start somewhere – perhaps in the kitchen – and do 25 things. Then, I move on to the next room, and the next, until I’ve done 25 things in every room.

    Now, here’s the trick. EVERYTHING counts. If I put a glass in the dishwasher, that’s “one”. If I pick up a rubber band off the floor, that’s “two”. If I scrub out the sink, that’s “three”. A handful of silverware going into the dishwasher can score as one, but only if you pick it all up at once.

    Now, some rooms, like the dining room, often only have 15 or 20 things to be done. So, I carry over the extra. When I’m finished with all the rooms, I start over and use up my “credits”.

    The wonderful thing is that if I do it every morning and night, I really stay ahead of things. And it never takes more than 20 minutes or a half hour. Aren’t we crazy, the way we deal with the “must-dos” of life?

Comments are closed.