“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.
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.
Is there not anything worse than when you are frantically searching for the plastic container lid to give to your company as a parting ‘thank you’ from the feast you just enjoyed, as they are ready to leave – only to be missing the correct fitting lid? Am I the only one that can’t seem to find the right lids when I need them the most? I mean really, why do we keep Tupperware, Ziploc or even Cool-Whip Containers when we cannot even find their correlating lids? Or better yet, you have tons of lids and no containers- because if push came to shove, you could put the food in a container and then put plastic wrap on top (and of course secure it with a rubber band because the wrap really does not stick even though it claims to). How come I can’t ever have enough containers? Well, I decided one day to go on a hunt to figure out this mystery and here is what I found.
We need containers! Containers are awesome and they are useful on so many levels. We put all kinds of things in them and don’t even realize we are doing it! When I went looking I found two in my master bathroom. One had a sponge in it and was used to hold the sponge (and its contents) while cleaning, and the other was holding hair bands, elastics and headbands. I then went into my kid’s bath thinking I’d find similar things, I found another two containers. One had homemade bath soap (which smelled pretty nice!) and the other had teeny tiny plastic pieces much resembling Barbie doll shoes or Polly Pocket type toys in it. I then went to my fridge, and oh boy….. I found my problem. Way too many left overs- experiments actually, and so I needed to clean the fridge out! So there you have it. We loooovvveee our plastic! Here are some basic things you can do to be sure you keep the ‘good stuff’ and recycle the rest.
This Week’s Maintenance Challenge:
Go through your cabinet that contains your plastic ware. Gut it. Sort out the stuff that is good, bad or ugly. Recycle any of it that is cracked, stained, missing the lid (permanently) or you are not sure where the lid is now.
Take the big pieces for lots of food, storing big items or used for a purpose like freezing or marinating and nest them on the bottom.
Take your medium sized ones that you use frequently for leftovers and nest them in the middle.
Take the smallest ones and nest them on the top.
Put all of the lids (that match the container) near it so it can be found easier.
Recycle any that have no mates or are just ugly.
Vow to repeat this process in another three months.
It really can be quite simple to do this process when it is on your radar. Make a point to stay on top of it before it is out of control. (Now I know you are thinking this would be great if it weren’t your toddler’s favorite place to play. Which IS understandable, but while you are at it, teach that precocious little primate that important concept of clean up time by sharpening his or her mathematical and spatial reasoning by showing them how to sort, nest and store away those ‘fun toys’. It’s never too early for that!
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Paula Tobey is founder of PheMOMenal Life Ministries a community for women to go get encouraged and equipped to be the best mom’s they can be to their children by living a healthy balanced life and by becoming all that God created them to be. For more information go check out her website here www.PheMOMenalLife.com
Today’s Project is to spend a little more time in the kitchen. Here are some things that you might want to get ahead on:
Creating your meal plan for the rest of the month
Planning out your Christmas Dinner and your shopping list
Shopping for your non-perishables
Making the list of what you need to buy at the last minute so it’s fresh
Pulling out your serving platters, roasting pans, cake stands, etc. or anything else that you need
Pulling together your baking list
Let me know in the comments what you are doing for this Project and I’ll be giving away another copy of THE WHAT’S FOR DINNER SOLUTION. Tell me by Friday what you did to get ahead kitchen-wise, and you could be a winner!
This week I am going to help you make dinner, save time, save money, get organized and make dinner time meaningful and full of purpose once again. We are going to focus on how all of us, regardless of how busy you are can make great tasting, healthy meals for your family. Like all projects we start at the beginning. For the What’s For Dinner Solution we start by finding out what you have to work with and getting it all organized.
See what you have
Do you know what is in your pantry? Have you checked the back of the freezer lately? And what about that one drawer in the fridge you never open? Do you even know what spices wait for you in the cabinet?
Not all of us are culinary experts who easily plan menus. Make appropriate shopping lists and can whip up a gourmet meal for our family every night. Life is busy and hectic. We juggle managing a house, a career, husband’s career kids, games, play dates, doctor appointments, baseball practice and the list goes on and on. Not to mention we are not programmed to wake up and decide what we are going to prepare for dinner. If we do the thought is fleeting and before we know it 5 pm has arrived, the natives are restless and there is no plan.
So what do you do know?
First off you need to know what you have on hand.
Take the time to clean out and organize your recipes, pantry, cabinets, fridge and freezer.
Let’s start with the recipes.
Get them organized. If you have recipes cards or a folder with papers shoved inside buy some notebook dividers. Label them appropriately: Appetizers, salad, side dishes, main course: meats, pasta, desserts, breads, breakfast etc…
As you are organizing your recipes sort through them; will you make that again? Did the family like that dish? Does it fit within my diet plan (diabetes, allergy, healthy, no sugar etc.) There is no sense in keeping recipes that will not be used. It is just more clutter.
Now for the Pantry
Clean out expired products.
Sort by food likeness: baking products, canned goods, cereal, crackers and so on.
Same steps from the pantry apply, like foods together. Condiments on one shelf, milk, creamers and juice on another. Use the produce drawers for the produce and deli drawer for your meats and cheeses.
If you do not already start today and write the date on all foods you place in your freezer.
Make a list of what you have on your freezer so you can plan your meals accordingly. Stop buying food you already have.
All of the above will help you see what you have, how much you have and make your menu & list making easier. Not to mention you and the family will be able to quickly grab a great snack when needed.
Now it is your turn. Tell me in the comments below what you do to stay organized so you know what is on hand to eat. Any organizing tip you want tos hare with the other readers are great too.