In the fall of 2010, a few months after I had Caitlyn, I decided I needed to get my housekeeping act together.
One of the biggest sore points in our home was the dishes. Starting with breakfast, I let them pile up in the sink and countertops and by the time I’d start to prepare dinner, I’d have to shuffle things around to find a spot drain pasta or chop veggies.
Surveying the kitchen after the kids were asleep was enough to make me faint of heart. Sometimes I’d even talk myself into leaving the mess until the following morning. I can tell you from experience, waking up to a dirty kitchen is incredibly discouraging.
Scott is a very helpful dish doer and I had leaned on him heavily to come to my rescue in years past, but with his increasingly busy schedule he just wasn’t around enough to move the needle much.
At the time I was trying to step up my housekeeping game, I read several books by Don Aslett. He’s so practical and encouraging, I highly recommend anything he’s written on the topic.
A certain word in one of this books made me stop cold. He said leaving dirty dishes in the sink was just…
Yep, “procrustination” pretty much describes what I had been doing.
The oatmeal dishes that would have taken two minutes with warm water and a washcloth to take care of right after breakfast took ten or fifteen by the time I got around to doing them after dinner.
I was leaving them laying around “soaking” but really that was an excuse to put them off. Soaking is great but can be done on the few dishes that need it while you’re tackling the ones that don’t.
Leaving dishes in the sink all day brought with it some additional undesirable consequences:
- Clutter attracts clutter. As soon as there are a few dirty dishes in the sink, it’s a siren call to other dishes. “Come join us, crusty lunch plate. You’re among friends.”
- It’s less efficient to do dishes (or fix additional food) with a sinkful to work around.
- I had a whole day of looking at a dirty sink instead of enjoying a clean sink! Don Aslett emphasizes this a lot in his books. If you buckle down and clean something, you get more time ENJOYING it.
I had tried and failed to just will myself to tackle the dishes in a timely manner in the past, but seeing in black and white how my postponing the inevitable was really doing myself (and my family) a disservice did wonders.
No more procrustination!
Now putting a dirty oatmeal bowl in the sink is a decision, not a habit. I remind myself that I’m just procrustinating and that I’ll be better off washing the dish. Hopefully in time, washing it immediately becomes the habit and spares me from the decision.
Confession: My sink is still not always sparkling, but I am *much* more likely to wash dishes immediately than to just drop them in the sink. I’ve even started washing dishes as I dirty them making dinner so that on a good night, I have a clean kitchen to enjoy while we eat.
What if the worst should happen?
If I fail and/or the day gets so crazy that my sink overfloweth after dinner… I tell myself I’ll work hard on it for just 15 minutes. I set a timer and get to work and 9 times out of 10, it’s either spotless when the timer beeps or I’m in the zone by then and motivated to put in the extra time to finish the job.
This change of attitude has had a ripple effect on other areas of our home as well, and I love that Mackenzie pitches in and help me clean up the kitchen after every meal. I used to think she was anxious to get on to the “next thing” but as it turns out, she was just anxious to be with me and it was I who fled the messy kitchen.
One last parting tip: If I can help it, I keep the baby or toddler strapped into the high chair as long as possible. At the minimum, I clean up all of her own mess before I turn her loose. If I get her down too early, I run the risk of some mischief occurring in some far off corner of the house while I’m busy at the sink… or almost as bad, she’ll linger and track any unwiped mess *everywhere*. I think it also teaches her patience and just maybe she’ll start associating the fact that the more mess she makes… the more time she sits while I wipe it out of her hair, off the wall, off the highchair, off the tray, off the floor, and out of her bib. 🙂