Monday, September 15, 2008

A Clean Kitchen: Building One Habit to Make Me Feel Good About My Home

At the beginning of this summer I began to contemplate what my life with four children (ages 5 to newborn), a house, a husband, and a home school would look like. Let me tell you, I felt overwhelmed quick!

Then I realized a few things. First, I possess the knowledge of how to do the tasks required to manage my home and family. Second, I never established the habits necessarily to apply my knowledge. And third, my life and home are only going to spiral completely out of control if I don't make some changes.

So I set out this summer to create habits in me and my children that I should have built throughout the last decade. I started out slow; I've tried different systems in the past and they never lasted (Flylady, anyone?). I determined this time would be different.

As I thought about managing my home, family and school, I considered what ONE HABIT could I create to make me feel good about my home?

That was easy. Go to bed every night with a clean kitchen. By clean I mean, dishes all washed (I am the dishwasher) and drying in the drainer; with table, counters and stove top wiped down. This may seem elementary to you but for me it's been a difficult habit to establish.

I committed to create the habit (something done automatically with little or no thought) to have a clean kitchen when I go to bed. Here are FOUR STEPS I followed, though not consciously at the time:
  1. IMMEDIATELY wash the dishes after supper. Later or “soaking” only results in procrastinating until tomorrow.
  2. KEEP AT THE TASK UNTIL IT IS COMPLETE. If the drainer fills up and there are still dirty dishes I must dry the dishes and wash some more!
  3. RETRAIN MY THINKING. Instead of: “I'm so tired.” “I hate washing dishes.” Think: “One more dish. I can do one more dish.” “The kitchen will look nice when I'm done.” “I'll be glad I did this in the morning.”
  4. FIND WAYS TO BUILD IN SUCCESS FOR MY FLEDGLING HABIT. In this instance, find ways to reduce the number of dirty dishes. For me that meant using cheap-o paper plates for every meal. Once a month I bought 300 paper plates for about $5 at Wal-Mart. Cooking on the grill helped eliminate dirty pots and pans.
Have I built my habit? It's been slow going but gradually, more mornings than not, I awoke to a clean kitchen. I discovered that the more I saw a clean kitchen the more I wanted to keep it clean. Which meant after two or three weeks of washing dishes after supper I started making sure they were washed after breakfast; and then lunch; and now I've included afternoon snack dishes.

Do I WANT to wash the dishes? NO!! But, I'm training myself to think “I can get those lunch dishes done in about 3 minutes and then it's over.” Much better than dreading it for hours during the afternoon. Notice that after months in this process I'm still changing my thought patterns. That means it's not a habit, yet; but it's getting close.

With the aid of this one habit the future, as well as the present, no longer feels as overwhelming to me. Which is why I'm sharing my journey in habit building with you. I want you to experience the same kind of satisfaction and pleasure in your home that I'm experiencing. Will you join me on this journey of habit building?

What ONE HABIT can you create to make you feel good about your home? What does that habit look like? How can you apply the four steps to build that ONE HABIT into your life?


mer@lifeat7000feet said...

Yay for you! Don't you love waking up to a clean kitchen?

One book that I found extremely helpful and refer to often is Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Denise Schoefield (I think I spelled her name wrong). It helped me get some good systems in place and realize that when my home is in order, there is time to do the things I enjoy.

I'm not perfect, and neither is my home, but I do feel like I'm on top of things more often than not.

**Your accomplishment is even more amazing when I re-read this and realized that you ARE the dishwasher!

Alicia said...

Stephanie, this is fantastic! I'm so proud of you, and it will help if I would do this very thing with my kitchen. I'll be thinking of my ONE HABIT.

Marc and Charity said...

I just heard about Flylady recently and have looked her up online. I like some of her tips, but don't use them all. I am pretty orgnaized anyway, it's just me..but I do make sure the kitchen and living room are tidy before going to bed. I actually have a dishwasher in this house, so of course it makes it easier and we've worked out a system that Marc loads up the dinner dishes which is super helpful! Anyway, I'm gald that you have changed your habits! it's not easy. I need to work on my attitude of doing other chores around the house b/c I hate doing bathrooms and ironing!!!

Anonymous said...

I so enjoy reading your blog! I often throw a pity party about the buildup of housework and such around here...and then I think of you! You have double the children and lots more work than I do (I have a dishwasher, and I don't homeschool-yet) So, thank you for posting your challenge to build a new habit! I have the kitchen issue pretty under control, so I am starting with the laundry. Right now, I do lots of it at once, and end up piling 8+ loads of clean clothing on the couch...where they remain for 4+ days. I loathe folding and putting away clothes. So, I am going to try to apply your 4 steps to this chore and see if I can improve my attitude and function in this area! Having posted it here, perhaps I'll feel it necessary to follow through with some changes! Thanks for the challenge!

Anonymous said...

These are great tips for so many things in life. Thanks for sharing how they've worked for you!

Kat said...

That is a great habit to build. Having a clean kitchen is great! That is definitely something that makes me feel good about my home. I am trying to make a habit of keeping each room of the house mostly tidy; maybe not perfectly clean, but at least presentable. It makes me feel good to be able to have somebody over the house without worrying about messes that may be lurking about. That will be my habit to work on ;)
Thanks Stephanie!

Lara Suzanne Ormiston said...

I've been getting flylady's emails for a couple of years now. I go up and down on them, but the best things I've learned from her are:
a) Do 15 minutes at a time
b) Do one load of laundry a day (I actually get it put away now!)
c) Declutter
d) And yes, shine my sink before I go to bed. I am go up and down on this too, but it makes a big difference when I do it!

lifelaughterchaos said...

something that would make me feel happier...being able to get my hiney moving in the morning before 10am. that would help me immensely!!!

Amy said...

Great post and congratulations! I have been thinking about a new habit--but haven't come up with anything specific yet. BUT, you got me thinking! :)

Maria Mundy, 22 said...

Making the bed as soon as Eddie and I get out of it. I'm working on it, but man it's tough. It's probably the chore I dread the most!!! :-)

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