This morning when I walked downstairs and looked around, I started to panic. My house looked like a wreck! How could this be? I have worked so hard to eliminate the unnecessary. I have tried to establish rules for everyone to follow about putting things away as soon as they are used. I have assigned places to all the things that belong in the kitchen and family room areas. So, how was I looking around at such a mess?
Thoughts started to swirl inside my head… What if someone drops by? They will never believe that it was clean yesterday! I begin to argue with those thoughts, though. I watched a movie with my husband after the kids were asleep last night. This rarely happens because I usually fall asleep too early. If I had spent the time cleaning the kitchen, I might have missed the opportunity to spend that time with him. Hmmm…. there had to be a balance. I decided to just suck it up and the girls and I got busy cleaning. A funny thing happened, though. It only took twenty minutes to clean. Twenty minutes and it was right back in shape! Clean enough for company. Do you have any idea how exciting this is to me?
You see, although there was stuff everywhere, it all had a place where it belonged. It was simply a matter of putting it there. Some things were downstairs that belonged in the laundry basket upstairs…less than two minutes to gather every one of these items and place them in a pile at the bottom of the stairs. Next, there were several pairs of shoes scattered around the room…30 seconds to gather and put in another pile beside the stairs. A few dirty dishes on the table and beside the couch needed to be moved into the kitchen, then the big kitchen clean-up began. First, I filled one side of the sink with hot, soapy water. Next, I started quickly loading the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. There were more in the sink and on the counters. Where do these things come from? Is our cat preparing midnight snacks and eating off of plates every night while we are sleeping? I might believe that was the case except that we were downstairs watching a movie until after midnight.
Okay, I will admit that my husband and I might have cooked a snack to eat while we watched the movie. And by snack, I might mean that we cooked sausage dogs on an indoor grill pan and didn’t clean up the mess when we finished. Don’t tell my girls though. 😉
Back to the cleaning…any dishes that did not fit into the dishwasher went into the soapy water. Once the dishwasher was fully loaded, I turned it on. Ten minutes into the cleaning at this point. I hand-washed the remaining items while the girls dried them and put them up. Fourteen minutes. I used the soapy water to wipe down the countertops and cooktop while the girls cleared the remaining items off the table and put them away (sunscreen, paper and markers, coasters). I wiped down the table. Seventeen minutes had passed. All that remained was for the girls to grab a few toys from the family room and take the dirty laundry, shoes, and toys upstairs while I swept the floors. Done in less than twenty minutes! Now, don’t get me wrong… the floor still needs to be mopped, the furniture dusted, the baseboards cleaned. What I’m shooting for is presentable, though – not looking like a tornado just came through my downstairs. And, we achieved that in LESS THAN TWENTY MINUTES. I owe this all to having less stuff.
Before I started eliminating the excess, I had pieces from five sets of dishes. A few had been broken along the way, so I kept adding more to replace them without ever getting rid of any. This resulted in my having a towering set of mismatched plates in my cabinet. Putting the dishes away when they were cleaned required great skill and balance. Plates had to be removed from the cabinet and rearranged each time the dishwasher was cleaned out in order to avoid an avalanche if they were not stacked from largest in diameter to smallest. I had three stacks of these. I also had two different types of bowls that resulted in the same problem. They had to be strategically stacked in order to avoid a collapse. I have a good bit of cabinet space in my kitchen, and I felt as if I needed to fill every inch of it. I wish I had counted the number of coffee cups I had accumulated. I love to drink coffee, and we have collected a few coffee cups from places we have visited. In addition to those cups, I had a variety of cups that I had received as gifts throughout the years, the cups that had not broken from three sets of dishware, the twelve cups that were part of my set of china, and the list goes on. For Christmas, my mom gave me a set of black dishes. Twelve dinner plates, twelve bowls, and twelve coffee cups. I decided that I would keep that set and my set of china and get rid of the rest. Putting dishes away became SO much easier. I have two stacks of plates on my lower shelves – the black dinner plates, and the china dessert/salad plates. There is no balancing act because each plate in its stack is identical. And, in case you are wondering, yes…we use the china on a daily basis. My four year old eats breakfast off of the china plate. For years I stored these dishes that I love so much in a china cabinet and only brought them out once or twice a year. I realized a while back how crazy that was. I love these dishes! Why was I saving them?
I kept a few of the special coffee cups in a separate cabinet because when I’m the only one awake, I like to drink my coffee from one of these mugs. If the cabinet gets crowded, though, some will have to go. It is so much easier to put things away when the cabinet is not crowded. If I ever have the need to host a dinner party, I still have more dishes remaining than I have seating.
If you dread having to clean out your dishwasher or put away the dishes after hand-washing them, take a minute and evaluate your dishes. How many do you have? Do you need them all? If not, do you love them all? Try keeping one set of ten to twelve dishes (unless you have a smaller or much larger family) and packing the rest away temporarily. I’m not telling you to get rid of them *yet*. This is just a trial. Give it a month. See how it goes. You might just find that it brings you more peace to wash dishes a little more often but to have an easier time getting them out of and putting them into the cabinets. While you’re at it, evaluate your cookware, too. How many eyes do you have on your cooktop? Do you need more pots than that? What about casserole dishes? How many do you need of the same size? If you run across something you think you might be able to live without, pack it up and put a date on it. If you can make it through a major holiday without needing it, you can probably let it go. If you just feel as if you can’t let it go, at least pack it away so that you don’t have to work around it each time you open the cabinet door.
I have learned that having less gives me more. It gives me more space, obviously. It gives me more time…time that I don’t have to spend cleaning/moving/organizing/looking for/putting away. It gives me more peace…clear spaces make me feel so much more relaxed and calm. It gives me more of a sense of accomplishment…I am learning that the things of life do not define me. Give it a try and see…you just might find that having less can also give you more. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. What does having less mean to you? If you are working on this, what have you eliminated from your kitchen and did you miss it after it was gone? If you plan to give it a try, let me know how it goes!