“I didn’t make this mess. So why do I have to clean it up?”
For years, I heard these words of protest from my kids when it was their turn to clean up the kitchen.
Sometimes, I responded with a snarky comeback about all my years of selfless diaper-changing. Other times, I cleaned up the kitchen myself.
Honestly, whenever I took care of the kitchen on my own, I caught myself thinking the exact same thing:
I didn’t make this mess. So why do I have to clean it up?
The problem with cleaning the kitchen
Our protests reveal our belief that whoever makes the kitchen mess should be the one to clean it up.
As with so many time-honored cliches, this seems so logical.
Like, “You break it; you fix it.”
And, “You make your bed; you lie in it.”
“You mess it, you clean it.”
It just felt right.
But it caused all sorts of overwhelmingly negative feelings, such as annoyance, frustration, irritation, and resentment. (Just for starters.)
A different way of thinking
A few years ago, I realized there are valid exceptions to the “you mess it, you clean it” rule.
1. Sometimes, the person who makes the kitchen mess has done so to bless the family, or perhaps a houseful of guests, with a delicious meal. Since they’ve done all the work of fixing the food, it’s only fair for others to pitch in and help with the clean-up.
2. Other times, the kitchen stays messy while a cleaning-related process is happening, such as running the dishwasher or waiting for pots and pans in the drainer to air dry.
3. Often, it’s impossible to figure out “who made this mess.” When we try, we end up in petty arguments:
– “No, that’s not my knife. I put my knife in the dishwasher already!”
– “Those aren’t my crumbs. I know how to use a sponge!”
– “The stain in the sink is green. I never fix green food.”
Our solution to cut the complaining
Instead of wasting our time and energy fretting about “who made this mess?” we started asking ourselves one simple question when entering the kitchen:
“How can I move the kitchen to its next stage?”
Together, we came up with a list of kitchen stages and necessary actions:
The sink is full of dishes. Put them in the dishwasher.
The dishwasher is full. Run it.
The dishwasher is clean. Empty it.
The dishes in the drainer are dry. Put them away.
The counters are crumby. Wipe them down.
This one simple change in focus produced surprising results.
1. We’ve quit worrying about “Who made the mess?” and accepted the fact kitchens get messy.
2. We’ve all taken ownership of the kitchen. And its messes and clean-up.
3. We’ve become more considerate. We realize when we each do our small part, the “next stage” requires far less work.
Making it work for you
Your kitchen stages may well be different than ours. And if you have younger children, you’ll want to break the various stages and actions into micro-steps. Perhaps even make a stages flow chart and wipe-off checklist to put on the fridge.
Consider printing and posting 1 Corinthians 12:14-27 as a reminder that while we are unique individuals, God calls us to work together as one.
One Small Win: However you choose to do it, intentionally change the protest “I didn’t make this mess!” to the question “How can I move the kitchen to its next stage?”
You’ll say, “Good-bye” to overwhelming negativity.
And “Hello” to cooperation in the kitchen.
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.”
Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (24), also opposite personalities.
Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? Take the self-quiz and discover the surprising strengths of a tender heart.
“Not everyone’s feedback is equal.”
We all need feedback to progress in many areas of our lives. But some types of feedback are better than others. Knowing what feedback to use and which to let go will save you from being overwhelmed by feedback.
You may have desired reassurance about something and ended up with a complete critique of your work.
The truth is, many people have no business speaking into our lives. They haven’t earned the right to give feedback.
Kathi and Overwhelmed co-author, Cheri Gregory discuss the various types of feedback and how to deal with each. They also provide a graphic feedback filter to help you determine what kind of feedback you desire and/or receive.
“We all pay an Overwhelmed tax,” Kathi tells me.
To myself, I think: Well, maybe you do, but I’m sure I don’t.
Aloud, I say: “How interesting!”
Kathi gives an illustration of adding a service to her cell phone during a trip and then forgetting to cancel it. This resulted in paying months of unnecessary extra charges.
Again, I think to myself: Well, maybe you do that kind of thing, but I’m sure I don’t.
Overwhelmed Tax: The Dental Work Payment
Later in the week, I visit my dentist who kindly but honestly informs me since I’ve waited so long to see him, what could have been a filling now needs to be a crown … possibly a root canal.
I start to throw myself a pity party.
This is so unfair. I work so hard. I’m so busy. I don’t have time to …
Kathi’s words interrupt my thoughts: “We all pay an Overwhelmed Tax.”
And I wonder: Do I pay an Overwhelmed Tax, after all?
Overwhelmed Tax: The Plane Ticket Fee
A few weeks later, I add an item to my to-do list:
“Book a return flight for Annemarie.”
I check the price online: thanks to a special deal, it’s under $100.
“Book a return flight for Annemarie” stays on my to-do list.
Finally, I put, “Book a return flight for Annemarie” on my calendar.
When I go online, I find that the ticket price has doubled.
I start to kick myself for being so …
… so what? Lazy? Hardly. I’ve been busy. And sick.
Kathi’s words return: “We all pay an Overwhelmed Tax.”
And instead of wallowing in denial, persecution, or punishment, I accept the truth:
Today, I’m paying a hefty Overwhelmed Tax to Southwest Airlines.
Overwhelmed Tax: The Acute Pneumonia Fallout
It’s one week before Christmas, and I’ve been sick for nine weeks straight.
Two months ago, I determined to soldier through my many commitments. But the worse my cough became, the more I had to cancel.
I finally do what I should have done long ago: take myself to Urgent Care. I emerge with a diagnosis of pneumonia, a prescription for antibiotics, and doctor’s orders to rest.
By Christmas Eve, my symptoms are almost gone, and my strength is returning.
On the way home, I begin to tally up the Overwhelmed Tax I’m paying because I failed to seek medical care early on.
• A bunch of time-sensitive projects are way behind schedule.
• My family has had a grouchy, lethargic wife and mom for way too long.
• I have neither rested well or worked well nor played well for two long months.
All because I was too overwhelmed—by busyness, by annoyance, and even by pride—to make the choice to see a doctor sooner.
Minimizing the Overwhelmed Tax Damage
I now agree with Kathi: We all pay an Overwhelmed Tax.
(And if you’re tempted to tell yourself, “Well, maybe you do, but I’m sure I don’t,” think again!)
One Small Win: Here are three effective ways we can minimize the Overwhelmed Taxes we pay:
1. Audit the Overwhelmed Tax you pay. Start keeping track of the various ways you pay Overwhelmed Tax. Money isn’t the only kind of cost—often, it’s the least of our expenses! An Overwhelmed Tax can be exacted on your time, your energy, your space, your relationships, and your integrity.
2. Avoid paying Overwhelmed Tax when possible. Take the ten minutes to book the plane ticket while the price is low. Hire help: it feels so much more satisfying to pay others for their skills than to pay an Overwhelmed Tax (which feels like failure.)
3. Accept that we all pay an Overwhelmed Tax. When you can’t avoid an Overwhelmed Tax, give yourself grace. Learn what you can move on. The steepest Overwhelmed Tax on earth is failure to forgive—it’s far too high a price to pay for anything.
Which one simple step will you take today?
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.” Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and the upcoming Overwhelmed. Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities. Cheri blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.
It’s a new day, ripe with promise and potential … until I walk into the kitchen. Dishes in the sink, counters dotted with dirty dishes and crumbs, and a cluttered table converge to sing a taunting chorus, “You can’t even keep the kitchen clean, how can you accomplish anything today!”
The strains of their tune causes my motivation to plunge to the depths where my only response is to use the messy kitchen as my excuse for another unproductive day.
Organizing the kitchen without being overwhelmed
The overwhelm knocks me off of my game and renders my to-do list unattainable.
I can’t prep dinner until I unload and load the dishwasher, wipe the counters, and find the recipe. Do I even have thyme in the spice cupboard for the soup? I go to the narrow pull-out cupboard of spices and decide then and there that it is time to win a battle.
I remove unalphabetized spices from the cupboard, meanwhile telling the voices in my head to be quiet; I know I don’t have time for this! But I need a win! The thought strikes me that squelching the noisy refrain from the clutter does not require a weekend of organizing and cleaning. I can win this battle one decision at a time, in just 15 minute increments at a time.
And so I record a victory over the spice cupboard! Now I open the spice drawer and I smile. I smile that I can find what I want. I smile at the homemade spice labels that I commissioned my daughter to make. Such a simple accomplishment but it’s huge for my mindset!
I just needed a win. The next day I silence the noise in the cupboard that houses the varying bottles of olive oil. Another win. I will continue to build on this and soon the kitchen will motivate me instead of overwhelm me.
As I bask in my two wins I realize that once the kitchen is a motivator instead of a killjoy I can apply this to other areas of my home and life. Some momentum in the kitchen will spill over to the rest of my responsibilities and perhaps soon I will feel able to tackle the things that I want to do instead of being overwhelmed by all the things I need to do.
One Small Win: For me, the way out from under overwhelmed is to claim one win and allow that to carry me forward. Who knew that one of the kindest things I’ve ever done for myself was to clean out the spice cupboard?
You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.
Clutter’s #1 priority is to keep us feeling overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed comes in many forms. Kathi and Overwhelmed co-author, Cheri Gregory, discuss how easy it is to be overwhelmed with clutter. They go through three of the top things clutter tells you!
- Clutter Keeps You In The Past – You hang on to things the crowd out the present.
- Clutter Keeps You Stuck in the Future – You buy things to be something. Because someday you might need it you hang on to all the clutter. You can’t live in the present when you have so much stuff and you are stuck in the future.
- Clutter Decides You Have Not Earned A Future – Because you have failed with various endeavors in the past, you won’t be good at something in the future. So yu are stuck in your current situation. Clutter says you don’t deserve to move forward.
Listen in and learn how decluttering will free you from the overwhelm.
Want more tips on being Clutter Free?
Check out Kathi’s blog posts and episodes of the Clutter Free Podcast by clicking here.
I was sick when I was pregnant and not just a little bit. Doctors diagnosed me with hyperemesis, which I loosely translate into “throwing your guts up day and night.”
When I got pregnant the second time, people assured me every pregnancy is different. And they were right. The second time was worse.
I sank into despair
For a woman who had led a largely sheltered and happy life, the sickness and helplessness overwhelmed me. Even though I knew the suffering would end with a blessing, my baby boys, I drifted from discouragement to despair. And then I sank. I also followed a harmful pattern that made everything worse. For the first time since I had fallen madly in love with Jesus, I didn’t pray. I didn’t read my Bible. Instead, I withdrew from God.
Just a month after my second son was born, I developed a close friendship with a woman named Linda whose sons were the same age as mine. We were both sick during our second pregnancy, but her nausea had a different source. It was caused by the chemo she was receiving for a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer.
Faced with a terminal illness, a new baby, and a grieving family, my friend didn’t react to overwhelmed by pushing God away. She drew close to Him.
In her truly overwhelming circumstances, she administered David’s remedy given in Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (NIV, emphasis added)
What my friend taught me about seeking God
Instead of withdrawing from God like I did, Linda’s secret was that she withdrew each day with God. Linda brought all her emotions to God and let Him help her. She didn’t try to fake cheerfulness in His presence or avoid Him completely. Instead, she trusted Him with her feelings and found Him to be her refuge.
If you’ve made my mistake and developed a pattern of withdrawing from God instead drawing close, I have an action step for us to take. Let’s set a reminder on our phone or a write a note on our calendar each day at a specific time that says, “Pour out your heart to Him.” When our daily time arrives, let’s take the next five minutes to bring our honest feelings to God and ask Him to help us with them.
Creating a new pattern of withdrawing to Jesus in overwhelmed times instead of hiding from Him means we access His power, strength and peace to face the day. We’ll not only build deeper trust in God, but just like my friend Linda, we’ll strengthen and inspire others.
One Small Win: In the past, have I responded to overwhelmed by withdrawing from God or with Him? What steps can I take to either change or strengthen that pattern?
Amy Carroll is a speaker and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s the author of Breaking Up with Perfect as well as the director and coach of Next Step Speaker Services. Amy and her husband live in lovely Holly Springs, NC with a bossy miniature dachshund. You can find her on any given day texting her two sons at college, typing at her computer, reading a book, or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner. Share life with Amy at www.amycarroll.org and on Facebook.