How I life coached myself to do the dishes
It is one thing to be tidy, it is another to keep up on chores.
Most of my adult life I got chores done, usually leaving them all for a Saturday or the hour before someone was coming over.
Then I had kids and chores became a dreaded and relentless demand on my life.
As my kids have gotten older and I’m out of the demanding baby stage, I am seeing how important chores are. I lived a lot of the toddler years with a ‘dishes can wait’ mentality. Now I’ve been in a place where if I get up off the couch to go to the kitchen and do dishes, the only tears that happen are my own. I don’t have the neediness of toddlers and babies to keep me from getting chores done.
And it is a funny relationship I have with chores, as a mom.
On one hand, I don’t want them to dictate my daily agenda. I want to spend my time enjoying my friends and family and not cleaning the pantry.
On the other hand, getting them done makes me feel productive, and makes me feel calm and in control of my space instead of my space being in control of me.
BECOMING A CHORE-DOER
Over the past couple of years, I had been searching Pinterest for all the tips on how to keep a clean house. My scientific study of Pinterest tips just kept narrowing it down to ‘do the work’ ‘put things right into their home instead of putting it off’. My (Type Nine) preference to procrastinate and do mindless tasks instead of the important tasks were at odds with these conclusions.
But, after spending time decluttering my house of all the excess, I felt this responsibility to really step up and get in control of my home. I didn’t just want to Jedi mind trick myself into doing more dishes, I wanted to manage my home better and have the results of a clear space to do life in. I wanted to take ownership and pride and control of my space.
So this past year, I decided to tackle my aversion to dishes.
That procrastinated task that seems to keep my kitchen counters hostage yet needs to be done at least three times a day.
I have hated dishes since I was a teenager. It was a chore I would skirt and barter my way out of. I feel like 20 years later I was still doing that, but the only person I was skirting and bartering with was myself.
STEP ONE: paying attention to what is happening
My first step to trying to shift my hatred of dishes was to use my life coaching on myself and get into limiting mindsets that are hurdles for me.
Why do I hate dishes?
Cause they’re stupid.
But, when I start to move beyond this, my answers were ridiculous: It takes so long, all the little dishes need to go into all their little spots, the tupperware is always wet, I have to cram my body into that hole between the counter and open dishwasher lid. Then I have to load it.
This question right here made me feel like a child to answer and kinda shook off the drama I built up around dishes.
So my next question was,
Why do I avoid them?
Yup, now we hit a chord. In motherhood, I found myself avoiding dishes almost as a statement, a protest to ALL THE THINGS I HAD TO DO!
Yup, I had played the martyr card and had the dishes to prove it. But since my kids were becoming older, I knew I had this desire to shift from grudge to gratitude.
I knew I also avoided dishes because:
I was having troubles prioritizing my day,
I was underestimating how a clean kitchen made me feel more peaceful,
I thought they took too long and I wanted to do other things instead.
Why does doing the dishes matter to me?
As I’ve been doing more and more work on living my life on purpose, I realize that I can’t just give myself some tasks and goals to do without it all serving a bigger purpose. I am not motivated by chores, but I am motivated by my vision for what I want my home to feel like and be for my family and myself.
Getting the dishes done matter to me because my space matters to me.
Now I had kind of paid attention to the story I was believing about dishes, to the reasons I wasn’t motivated and I was ready to try some strategy.
STEP TWO: Some strategies to take action
Use the minimum baseline
My first strategy was to give myself a minimum baseline. Starting somewhere so small, I couldn’t say no.
So I would go into the kitchen and say ‘I’ll put away two dishes’, once I started I just finished because I was already up and doing it anyway.
You can hear more about Minimum Baseline on the Podcast Episode 3
Time the task
The next thing I tried was to time myself. I had this assumption that dishes took like 15 minutes. I think I just picked this number out of thin air because it felt just long enough to warrant procrastination.
When I timed myself, I had the dishes unloaded and loaded in 4 minutes. 4 freaking minutes!!
I was dreading dishes because of an assumption I made, it wasn’t true and it was holding me back.
Prioritize the time
I started to use this strategy in other places in my life. How long to fold a basket of laundry? How to long to clean out a cupboard? How long to sweep the floors?
These things really didn’t take long. Most chores take less than ten minutes, I spend far more than that scrolling little squares of other peoples’ lives on my phone when I could show up for myself in my own home.
Just getting real with myself about how I’m spending my minutes helps me get up and get chores done.
This one will sound weird, but part of me has really bought into this version of motherhood that means we are frazzled and drowning in chores.
There seems to be two camps of mothering. One is the cofffee-to-wine mom with the laundry mountain and the backlog of school papers yet to be signed and returned. The other is the Pinterest mom colour-coding her pantry and dressing her family in matching outfits.
It felt like it had to be one or the other – society tells us that we are one or the other – but, no, I think most of us moms are in the middle. We appreciate a clean house and attempt organization but we also forget to order school photos, tell them to search the basement for their clean clothes, or send our kids to school with eggo waffles when the groceries run out.
I want to be a mom who has a clean kitchen without being slot into the ‘got her life together Pinterest mom’ because I will not play into having that stereotype decide how I show up in my motherhood.
Moms are moms and we are all figuring this out, some are doing dishes and some are making photo albums. I thought there was an ‘us and them’ but have learned motherhood is a universal experience of nurturing small humans while trying to mother yourself and maybe the laundry gets folded today.
Finally: Enjoy it!
Finally, I’ve learned that chores are something I was conditioned to believe are less than and worthy of grumbling.
And you can roll your eyes so hard at me, but I’ll say, I look for ways to enjoy them because I’m doing them anyway – and it is my life, I want to enjoy it.
I try to make chores more fun with some good music or put on a podcast and that can be a better experience. But yes, I also see them as exactly what they are: a chore, a task that requires continual doing and isn’t all that fun. I won’t always feel like doing it (as with most all other chores and hard work in my life) but I do it anyway and then feel smug and satisfied with my results. I’m like the grinch looking at his new Santa suit when I look at my laundry on the line, or a clear counter, or that week my bedroom dresser was cleared off. I might even Instagram it cause I’m proud of me.
I know, a whole blog post about the mindset of doing dishes may make me seem like I have been childish or lazy. Maybe I have been both. I think what is true for me is that homemaking is an art that I never learned or appreciated until I realized it was a thing and a thing I was doing poorly.
This post isn’t just about putting my adult pants on and doing dishes – this is about training that part of me that needed discipline and routine and expectations for HERSELF and not for anyone else. I wanted to be a homemaker and had to learn it later in life.
So this was my journey to be someone who does dishes, who is making a home. Of course, I took it to deeper places because the logic of ‘just do dishes’ wasn’t deep enough motivation for me to change my ways.
If you want some more motivation on chores then check out my 15 practical tips on getting things done.
And if you are like ‘yeah, but….’ or ‘I want to be a chore doer but feel stuck…..’ then get yourself a coach to help you pay attention to the mindsets and strategy that will help you get this outcome. If you think I’m the coach for you then consider one to one sessions, or take advantage of the affordable monthly group coaching program, The Life on Purpose Academy.