A 20-Minute Cleaning Playlist

Banish dust to the sounds of Outkast, Mitski and more.

Outkast onstage in 2014: fresh, clean, etc.Chad Batka for The New York Times

Over the weekend, I got my first cordless vacuum — a truly game-changing invention — and embarked upon an epic cleaning spree of my entire apartment. Free from the tangle of a cord or tether of an electrical outlet, I crept from room to room, hunting down anything that could be sucked up in this gleaming hand-held machine, feeling a lot like a Ghostbuster wielding a Proton Blaster. Dustin’, for once, made me feel good.

I do not usually enjoy cleaning, so I often need some sort of trick or extra motivator to push me to do it: a fun new appliance, an upcoming gathering, an unending sneezing fit that reminds me it’s been way too long since I dusted. Or — I think you see where I’m going with this — a cleaning playlist.

Today’s playlist is short by design: just six songs, clocking in at a little over 20 minutes. Most of us don’t always have the time to do a thorough deep cleaning of our living space — hey, I’ve got a newsletter to put out twice a week! — but we probably have a few increments of 20 spare minutes to squeeze in a little tidying up to stay ahead of mess and its accompanying anxiety.

Last year, in a post on the website Apartment Therapy, Marlen Komar wrote about a similar rule she’d created for herself to ensure she didn’t spend her entire weekends cleaning: A few times throughout the week, she sets a timer for 20 minutes and cleans as much as she can for that duration. No more, no less. You know what’s even better than a 20-minute timer, though? A 20-minute playlist.

A good cleaning playlist should be light, buoyant and — if you really want to have some fun with it — thematically focused on the task at hand. Eminem’s “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”? Technically on topic, yes, but in my opinion way too intense to soundtrack the actual cleanin’ out of one’s closet. I prefer the cool, weightless sheen of Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” or the helpfully instructive groove of Parquet Courts’ “Dust”: “Dust is everywhere/Sweep!”

May this playlist inspire you to do just that. And if you play it so much that you get sick of it, that probably means that your space is spotless. Reward yourself by crafting a 20-minute cleaning playlist of your own.

Listen along on Spotify as you read.

“It comes through the window, it comes through the floor,” the members of the New York rock band Parquet Courts intone on this ode to those menacing, omnipresent particles of ick, from the 2016 album “Human Performance.” The tune is so upbeat, though, that it plays like a call to action against dust. Warning: This song may cause you to dance with your broom. (Listen on YouTube)

Time spent cleaning — or listening to the great, quintessentially jangly English band the Cleaners From Venus — is never time spent in vain. Bonus points for the title of the fantastic 1982 album on which “Time in Vain” appears: “Midnight Cleaners.” (Listen on YouTube)

And here’s another pristinely titled, jangly post-punk group that took off in the early ’80s: New Zealand’s own the Clean. The pogo-ing beat, revving propulsion and catchy chorus melody of the 1983 single “Thumbs Off” prove, once again, that cleanliness is next to tunefulness. (Listen on YouTube)

With its clomping, shoes-in-the-washing-machine percussion, this infectious 2018 Mitski single is the perfect soundtrack to unloading the laundry or — if you are a long-suffering New Yorker like me — sweatily lugging a sack of dirty clothes to the laundromat, silently cursing your decision to reside in an otherwise lovely city in which “in-unit washer/dryer” is considered a luxury amenity. Why?! (Listen on YouTube)

By the end of this playlist, no one will be referring to your home as “Stankonia.” (Listen on YouTube)

This sleek, serene closing number from Taylor Swift’s “1989” provides an opportunity to step back and appreciate what you’ve accomplished — and to give yourself permission to move on with your day. Vacuums down! I think you are finally clean. (Listen on YouTube)

YKK on your zipper,


Listen on Spotify. We update this playlist with each new newsletter.

“A 20-Minute Cleaning Playlist” track list
Track 1: Parquet Courts, “Dust”
Track 2: The Cleaners From Venus, “Time in Vain”
Track 3: The Clean, “Thumbs Off”
Track 4: Mitski, “Washing Machine Heart”
Track 5: Outkast, “So Fresh, So Clean”
Track 6: Taylor Swift, “Clean”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the albums that the Chicago-based songwriter and poet Jamila Woods has released — and I’ve even included a few of her songs in previous Amplifiers — so it was such a treat to get to profile her ahead of her forthcoming third album, “Water Made Us.” A lot of artists go into turbo-promotional mode before dropping a new album, but it was refreshing to find that Woods was spending six weeks right before her album’s release on a writing retreat in Italy. (Also: I am jealous.) If you’re looking for an introduction to Woods’ personal, poetic take on R&B, I’d highly recommend the first single from “Water Made Us,” “Tiny Garden.”

Source: Music -


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