Monday, August 13, 2012

The Swiss Cheese Approach to household jobs

I know I'm not alone here at KATcapers in having the Groundhog Day experience when it comes to household jobs.

You know the ones...where you think "how many times am I going to tidy these exact same toys/counters/bedrooms....fill in the blank!  Worse still, it's not just the cleaning to be done but the actual organizing of mountains of "stuff" that surrounds us in our house. 

Some days the amount of re-doing that I should be doing is insurmountable.  I walk around the house and feel completely overwhelmed by the immensity of simply staying on top of things.

This is particularly the case at the moment as I'm hamstrung by an aching and tender left arm which is taking its own sweet time to repair itself.

So when I returned home this morning after dropping off the oldest and middle KATs at school I decided that I would take the Swiss Cheese approach to my housekeeping.

Have you ever been taught the concept of Swiss Cheese time management???

We all know what Swiss Cheese looks like...lots of holes

I learnt this concept of time management early in my career with IBM when I was a business admin specialist (a nicer word for clerical person).  Thankfully I moved on to sales after a few years and left the admin to some other poor unsuspecting young girl (or boy).  The concept is portable though as there's always something to procrastinate about in life.

According to Dr Google, the technique was introduced by a famous time-management specialist, Alan Lakein, in his book "How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life".

We can all be guilty of postponing 'complex or unpleasant tasks' the collecive noun for anything housework related as far as I'm concerned. 

The bigger the job (or the more annoying the task of sorting it out the more this concept applies.

According to Lakein, the Swiss cheese method helps to make your global and even monumental tasks transparent and easy to complete.  Sounds good doesn't it!

According to Lakein, “the underlying assumption of the Swiss cheese approach is that it is indeed possible to get something started in five minutes or less. And once you’ve started, you’ve given yourself the opportunity to keep going…Swiss cheese is supposed to lead to involvement.”

How to use the Swiss cheese technique in real life? Just do not postpone your important tasks for better times and try to do a small part of the task even if you have 5-10 minutes of free time. Returning to the task again and again during the day, week or month, you will notice that the task is moving along. Some day you will make enough holes in your task like in Swiss cheese and you will easily 'eat' your task like a tasty cheese.

So I endeavoured to "attack" one of the holes I've been dealing with kitchen!  Despite a renovation that has made it a much more pleasant space, it still lacks a bit in the storage department.  Hence, I have become the queen of the glass jar for stuff that won't fit in the pantry and my unending supply of baskets has been useful for storing all mannner of things from tea-towels to plastic snack bags as well as kitchen utensils.

Nonetheless, there were elements that have been driving me up the wall. 

After giving the kitchen a top to bottom clean (yes this did take more than 5-10 minutes!!!) I rearranged some of the 'stuff" and I am quite pleased with the resulting orderliness (at least until the KATs get at it!).

Lest you think I'm a smug self-absorbed wanker, here's some shots of the rest of the Swiss Cheese that have still to be addressed:)

Saint Mike's business/tax paperwork sitting underneath that nice and neat set of shelves in the 1st shot!!!!  Note the useful positioning of the tissue box on top....paperwork and tears go hand in hand!

Laundry that is clean but yet to be folded!

The back room of our house...wardrobe purchased on eBay that I am yet to paint, bags hanging and assorted pictures/shelves and other crapola that needs to "go" somewhere!!!!

So, have you adopted any useful approaches to time-management that rival the famous (or not so) Swiss Cheese Approach?


  1. I had no idea there was actually a formal name for this type of managment! I realised reading your post that I infact thrive on this kind of strategy and I often refer to it as working in five minute increments or the FMI approach. I tackle most household jobs in five minute bursts....and then i even use it for other bits like reading (for please even!), blogging, responding to emails, cooking etc....thanks for sharing...this has been a great post! xx

  2. I love this Libby, that's about my span of concentration for doing stuff I don't like to do. I am going to pass this very useful information on.

  3. this seems a bit better than my list approach at the moment. I tend to spend more time re-writing the lists ( that include the drudgery of the basics like cook dinner ) than actually doing them. ( ok i do end up cooking dinner but its not a love job at the moment)
    Swiss Cheese it is then !!

  4. You've inspired me to tackle some jobs I've left for a year or two. Will see how the Swiss Cheese approach works. In the meantime I'm very impressed with your tidy glass jar cupboard.

  5. You've inspired me to tackle some jobs I've left for a year or two. Will see how the Swiss Cheese approach works. In the meantime I'm very impressed with your tidy glass jar cupboard.


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