“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.
Friends, I want to introduce you to one of my interns, Paula Tobey. She is an intern, but that’s so misleading, since she has a full-on grown up ministry of her own. (See her links at the bottom of this article.)
“How do I get my child to clean up his room?” is one of the most common questions I get when discussing Clutter Free or my organizing book The Get Yourself Organized Project.
If you want a non-nagging way to help your kids clean up – read on…How to Get Your Kids to Clean Up Their Rooms
How to Get Your Kids to Clean Up Their Rooms
Do you struggle with kids who don’t seem to understand how to throw dirty clothes in a hamper that lies only feet beyond the spot they took off their stinky socks? Do you also battle with not enough time to get your house cleaned (which, let’s be honest, includes picking up your children’s rooms too, making dinner, and feeding all the pets)?
Could you benefit from a few tips that not only will help save you time, but effort in not picking up so much after others? Well, I have some great news for you, my friend, there IS a way!
I read an article a mom wrote into a parenting magazine discussing how she got her eleven year old son to help clean their house for his upcoming birthday party. She found a system that encouraged him to get the job done. Usually it was always a fight to get him to help clean. Maybe you can identify with this. He would never help, complained, and ultimately made the job harder. But this time, she decided to do something different and used a system someone taught her.
In her words, “I told him we were going to spend 15 minutes at a time in each room, and when the timer went off, we would switch rooms. I also told him that every 4th 15 minute segment, we could do whatever we wanted (Video games for him). I let him pick which room to do next, and told him that if he did this with me, he could pick anywhere to go for lunch.”
Her next part really moved me: “From 8am-11am, he worked his little heart out for 45 minutes out of every hour with me. He even brought tears to my eyes when he reminded me that I needed to come back to the room we were working on as I had gotten distracted in the kitchen for a minute. We had such a pleasant day and a nice lunch at his favorite restaurant.”
How valuable was this one tip to her? She says it “saved the relationship that I have with my son. It is his eleventh birthday today, and I have never felt closer to him!” This mom realized that cleaning up her son’s room was the goal but building their relationship in the process was the bigger win!
Using our time wisely seems to be a big challenge with parents and their children. Often we are so rushed to get things done that we don’t take the time to properly plan out what it is we are going to do. Then when it does not go as well as we thought it would, (and let’s be real- often life with kids does not go according to plan J ) we can feel defeated. There are many tools available to parents to help them manage their time and their children’s time. If you invest time planning before asking your child to help with something, it will pay off in many ways.
What my experience has taught me is sharpening my tools requires change. We need to change and grow to be better moms and dads for our kids, because that’s what they need. And if that means investing in ourselves to help change our family’s legacy, isn’t that a worthy investment?
Paula Tobey is a Parenting Coach for families needing extra support getting their families healthier in a Physical, Emotional, Educational, Financial or Spiritual way. She works with family’s one on one and in groups to help them become stronger, happier and healthier. Her website is www.PheMOMenalLife.com and she can also be found at www.ParentingSpecialChildren.com.
Do you sometimes feel like the woman in the story did? Wouldn’t it be great if you had a tangible resource and system to help get your home cleaned up that in turn, saves you time by teaching the system to your kids? Well, the “Get Yourself Organized Project” may be just one of those tools to help you do that. In this book you will get easy and effective ways to restore peace to your everyday life by adding simple and manageable long-term solutions for organizing any room in your home (and keeping it that way). It also has a realistic way to de-stress a busy schedule and has strategies for efficient shopping, meal preparation, cleaning, and more.
Click here for more information about the book.