Yes, this is exactly as bad as it looks.
I think a lot about how to make cooking easier (i.e. my cooking guide), especially for those of us who cook for just ourselves. I want it to be a no-brainer to choose to cook a meal at home rather than resort to processed foods or takeout.
And yet, this is what ends up happening in my kitchen. Total disasters where every single dish, spoon, pot, and cutting board is dirty.
Right now and for the past week or so, my kitchen has been one horrible mess after another with small glimmers of hope scattered throughout. I work on it and run the dishwasher and clean a pot and then it all gets dirty again after the next meal.
In fact, it’s been worse than these pictures show, I just didn’t have the courage to reveal the awfulness until now.
Neatness and order in my home aren’t particular strong suits of mine to begin with. And really the problem in the kitchen is that the fun of cooking is in the making and eating, not the cleaning up.
In households where there is a division of labor, I can imagine a delightful system being established where one person cooks and another person cleans up. (Maybe that is what is happening in 2+ person homes?)
While I generally love living by myself and revel in the freedom to do whatever I want (and to eat caesar salad for breakfast if I choose), cleaning up in the kitchen is not one of the high points.
I read a tip once that the key to a clean kitchen was to never leave the sink dirty. To literally scrub it clean after every use.
I managed to do that for about two days, during which I felt super about my cleaning skills.
Alas, patterns this deep don’t change just because I read a really good tip.
You know what also doesn’t usually work? Incentives.
I’ve been rereading Nudge this week and the research shows that we don’t respond nearly as well to incentives as we think. Staying in our old habits (a form of inertia) are far easier than reaching for the dangling carrot.
On the other hand, there’s evidence that if we’ve been successful at changing a habit in the past (even in a completely different area of our life), the method of change will likely work if applied to some other habit.
Having successful transitioned my diet from mostly processed foods and gotten to a place where eating whole foods is the default (after 30 years of truly terrible eating habits), I can think of two things that have really made a difference in changing this pattern.
Thing One: I can bring attention to the thing I want to change, but not actually force myself to do anything differently.
I intensely resist deprivation, incentives, and “shoulds”. I don’t mind thinking about the change I want to make though. I can sort of objectively say, “I’d like my kitchen to be clean so I can cook more easily” without feeling guilty about it not being better already. Not sure of the whys and hows, but I’ve noticed that just thinking about the change makes it easier for me to do Thing Two.
Thing Two: I can find one very tiny thing to change and focus on that piece of the bigger goal.
It’s not so scary for me to say that I want to focus on making sure my cutting boards get cleaned right after use. That’s just one little detail that will make my cooking life so much easier, regardless of the state of the rest of my kitchen. And then if I manage to get into that habit, I can take on another thing etc. It’s also easier for me to get back on track if I forget or lose focus. It’s just a cutting board, after all!
So, the point of all of this?
Yikes! You’re seeing the unedited, behind-the-scenes underbelly of The Food Advocate kitchen! I can’t believe I’m showing you this version before writing the post I’ve been wanting to write for a long time about ways to hack your kitchen for extra space, ease of use, and general efficiency.
On the other hand, I’m really interested right now in the idea of looking at this pattern and seeing if I can change it. Ultimately, I know a clean kitchen makes it way easier for me to make eating choices that I want.
How about you? Do you suffer from bouts of Dirty Kitchen? How do you manage the cleaning-up bits of cooking?