The Morning After

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So, how has the past week been? Are you finding Hope for your Home? Did you fall off the wagon? GO DO YOUR DISHES! We’ll wait.

Confession: I am struggling. We had a birthday party over the weekend, and I did some desperate slam-bam cleaning of the whole house. Huge progress but not perfection. More than one night saw me drop into bed with dishes undone.

But! All is not lost! Mondays mean new beginnings every single week. I marched with determination into my kitchen after putting the kids to bed last night. I looked around, told myself it could be worse, that it has definitely been worse, but my determination deflated anyway. So, I tried an old trick of setting the timer for fifteen minutes and told myself I could quit afterward.

It’s amazing what fifteen minutes can do! It reminded me of a post I originally published on my old blog, Communicate Creativity, way back in 2010 when my oldest was in kindergarten, and nearly all dish-washing duty fell on my shoulders. (Sorry, that blog is gone now except for parts of it on the Wayback Machine.)

Originally Published September of 2010:

I struggle to keep my house somewhat clean, and I know I can’t be the only one who struggles with the same challenge out there in the whole wide world. So, in an effort to be totally honest and hopefully encouraging to someone, I’m going to invite you into my kitchen and dining room the Monday after a birthday party weekend.

We woke up Monday morning without a clean cereal bowl to eat out of . . .

Kitchen After a Party

Or a place to set those cereal bowls to fuel up for the day. Doesn’t the dog look pitiful?

Dining Room After a Party

Now, there have been plenty of times as a hopeless-feeling clutterbug that I would have washed only what was absolutely necessary, shoved a few things out of the way, and told the rest, “Tend you later!” Later would never come, and dinner time would arrive with me still having a kitchen too messy to actually cook in.

That did not happen this time because I know the power of fifteen minutes.

*Note: Oftentimes, when I tell myself that I only have to “give it fifteen” I feel like giving more once the timer releases me. I stuck with the fifteen minutes though for the most part for the purpose of this post.*

*Second Note: This is all done without the use of a dishwasher. I have a dishwasher, but I rarely use it. It makes things too easy for me to put stuff off until I have a catastrophe in my kitchen. I also have many non-dishwasher safe dishes.*

So, I gave fifteen minutes to the kitchen. I didn’t finish everything or even close to everything, but I cleaned more than we were about to dirty. Progress! I started with emptying the trash, and getting rid of those pizza boxes. I also pulled out a previously assembled frozen meal for that night’s dinner so I wouldn’t have to stress about it later. My daughter put away the dinosaur floor puzzle that I used to decorate the kitchen island for the party.

Kitchen Improving

With enough dishes to eat breakfast with and a little extra clean, I turned to the dining room so we would have a place to eat. Fifteen minutes later, I found my table! (Again.)

Functional Dining Room Table

After the fifteen minutes I just pushed in the table leaves and turned the table back to where I want it, and we ate breakfast.

Back to the kitchen! Clearing the table had added a few more dishes, including the cookie sheet the cake had sat on for the party and painting supplies that needed cleaned up before being put away. Plus, we had eaten breakfast. So I had to clean our cereal bowls and high chair tray before tackling the mess that was already there. I still made progress.

Wow! The Mess is a Kitchen!

We ate leftovers for lunch. (Read: No extra pots or pans to wash.) I gave the kitchen another fifteen minutes. At this point it was becoming increasingly difficult to not just finish the job. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I wanted to reach it. For you, my Dear Readers, I held off.

Somehow I managed to miss taking a picture after my after-lunch fifteen minute session.

While dinner cooked, I leisurely dried and put away clean dishes that had been piling up all day. I also played with my kids, cut out coupons, and puttered around in general with my distracted self. (Fifteen minute timers give focus!)

Fifteen minutes after dinner, and I’m practically done with dishes!

Almost Clean Kitchen

I didn’t want to, but I kept reminding myself that I was doing it for you, and I left those last items overnight.

After breakfast on Tuesday, I finished the dishes!

Smiling Kitchen

A clean kitchen is the way to start your dayAfter lunch, because I only had a few plates, silverware, and the high chair tray to clean, I was able to wipe down all the counters and sweep part of the floor before my timer beeped and released me.

There are those of you that are going to read this and think, “Ugh! I never let my kitchen get that bad!” More power to you! This post isn’t for you.

This post is for you. You know who you are. You look around your home and beat yourself up because you can’t keep up. You look in the mirror and realize you haven’t brushed your teeth today, and you can’t remember when you last combed your hair. I’ve been there. Life throws too many punches sometimes.

Get up. Go spend five minutes on you. You have time for that. Brush your teeth. Fix your hair. Wash your face. Put on some bright red lipstick if it makes you feel good. Take thirty seconds to decide what needs attention in your home the most and go give that area fifteen minutes. You have time for that. More than likely, the kitchen begs for attention. Kitchens are often the heart of the home. So if you can’t decide in thirty seconds what to tackle, go to the kitchen. Just do it! Then holler, “Nike!” loud enough that your crazy neighbors will think you’re crazy. Nike means victory, and you have won at something.

When things get bad at my house, and my old friend the “To-Do” List threatens to be a year long, I start with a new piece of paper, and take thirty seconds to write down three things. Three and no more. I have to cross something off before I allow myself to write down another. Don’t write something that will take hours like, “Clean Kitchen.” Use the power of fifteen minutes and write, “Kitchen 15.” You have time for that.

You, My Friend, are beautiful. You are intelligent. You are strong. You are capable.

Yell it with me now, “Nike!”

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Wow, I want to go back and hug that mother of three that used to be me. Now, with five kids, I must admit, I still struggle with some of the same things, but other things are SO MUCH BETTER. I really am changing these habits with long-term effects.

Confession: I totally use the dishwasher now. I’ve eliminated many plastic stuff that can’t hold up. Plus my 7 and 9 year olds take turns with kitchen duty after each meal. So, my kitchen rarely reaches such a disaster status that I cannot find the kitchen to cook.

How about you? I truly hope you’re finding Hope for Your Home. My first fifteen minute session last night didn’t finish my dishes, but I gave myself a little writing break and then set the timer again. The second fifteen minutes finished the dishes, wiped down stove and counters, and grabbed a head-start on this week’s new habit. Woohooo!

Hugs! Now go do your dishes.

  • Paula

    Thank you for enceriging me! I now have a happy kitchen. It will smile at me in the morning.

  • Rebecca

    Wooohooo! You deserve that smile. 🙂