A Life-Changing (But Unsexy) New Year’s Resolution

by | Jan 5, 2016
Photo by melodramababs

Photo by melodramababs

I know, I know. You’d really love to lose 25 lbs this year so you’re cutting out sugar and signed up for a half marathon this spring. I admire your ambition, and I do hope it works out for you.

Lofty goals make you feel good, like you’re committing to something that will have a real and lasting impact on your life. And the New Year is as good a time as any to set your eyes on greatness.

But as we’re looking for big, meaningful new goals to kickstart the New Year, it’s easy to forget that sometimes it’s the little, unsexy habits that help you make the most progress.

This week, hundreds of new people have signed up for my program Foodist Kitchen that teaches you how to cook without recipes in 30 days. They’ve made the commitment to cook at home more often this year, with the larger goal of eating more healthy, unprocessed foods in general.

In my experience, being able to cook simple, delicious meals at home is the single most important habit for getting healthy and losing weight, so I whole-heartedly support this goal.

And it’s no accident that one of the first activities of the program is identifying your personal barriers to cooking regularly.

Often the reason we don’t feel like doing something we’ve already committed to is that there is some unconscious block that’s stopping us from taking the next step.

For Foodist Kitchen students, one of the most common revelations that arise from this exercise is that dirty dishes and a messy kitchen are often the reason we don’t want to cook.

Think about that. It isn’t the chopping or the sautéing or the deciding what to make. It’s that there are no clean pans or counter space to work with.

A dirty kitchen turns cooking from one job into two jobs (or three if you don’t want to repeat the cycle). If the dishes had been washed the night before or in the morning, you would eat a healthy meal instead of ordering takeout.

The take away? Finding a way to get the dishes done needs to become a top priority.

Is it sexy? Nope. Is it potentially life-changing because you may finally start cooking regularly? Yep.

Most important: it isn’t that hard.

In Foodist Kitchen we encourage our students to use the tiny bits of down time during the cooking process (e.g. while the veggies are roasting or the soup is simmering) to do small cleaning tasks like rinsing off knives and cutting boards, and putting away extra vegetables or loading the dishwasher. This makes it so the remaining dishes after dinner are minimal and can be easily finished after eating.

But people have found many different creative solutions to the dishes problem. One student fills her sink with soapy water and empties the dish rack as a first step before cooking, so cleaning as she goes is easy. Another finishes the dishes while her coffee is brewing in the morning. Some make it more interesting by listening to podcasts, Netflix or audiobooks.

I’m not trying to trick you into thinking it’s fun to do the dishes, just that it doesn’t have to be so bad. I’m sure you already know that it feels way better to go to bed with a clean kitchen than with a disaster waiting for you in the morning, so why not invest a few minutes to make tomorrow’s dinner easier?

As one student suggests:

Try timing yourself when you load or unload the dishwasher; you’ll be surprised at how quick a job it really is (especially if you are on top of things). What I’ve done is changed my mindset from “I’m too tired and it’s too much work and I don’t want to do it” to “Gee, I can spend all of 7 minutes on this and wake up to a clean kitchen tomorrow.”

Making a habit of getting the kitchen clean before it’s time to cook dinner is the difference between making cooking feel daunting or making it feel doable. A simple task with a huge ROI.

Going to bed with a clean kitchen is our New Year’s resolution in the Rose household. Will you join us?

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31 Responses to “A Life-Changing (But Unsexy) New Year’s Resolution”

  1. JR says:

    Timing the dishes is a great tip. I was shocked when I finally stepped back and paid attention to how long it actually takes. For a couple or maybe even a couple and two kids, literally 5 minutes is about all it is. Certainly no more than 10.

    Knowing that makes a chore like the dishes so much easier to tackle.

    • Beth says:

      What’s interesting, though, is that when you let it all pile up, it can take infinitely longer. There have been weekends that I’ve spent — no joke — a couple of hours catching up on dishes. You don’t take care of it right away, and things that would have rinsed off easily get caked on. You also go slower because if there’s so much in there, you have to be careful that you don’t break a glass or hurt yourself with cutlery. You also have to spend time drying them before you can put more in the rack, which you wouldn’t have to do if you keep up on top of things.

      ..so anyways, JR, maybe this comment is a no brainer to you, but I’m partly typing it out to remind MYSELF why it’s so important to keep up on dishes! It truly does only take 5-10 minutes when I stay up on top of it, the problem is when I don’t!

      • Mary says:

        Beth, it sounds like you were putting glassware and knives in a sink of soapy water with everything else. Please, folks, don’t do that. You can slice your hands up pretty badly that way, and some hand injuries can leave you with life-long limitations. (Tendons and ligaments don’t always heal well.) If you want/need to leave dishes soaking, I suggest that you go ahead and wash the sharp/dangerous stuff right after your meal, and then leave the other items to soak.

      • JR says:

        Beth…I used to let the wash pile up. Along came my wife. Used to drive me crazy when my she would do a bunch of small loads. But I learned that the small loads were just 5 minutes of folding out of the dryer. Something I could easily take care of right after getting out of the shower each morning. Easy peezy.

      • Beth says:

        Mary, don’t worry, I’m not actually doing that! First of all, we have a single sink, and usually there isn’t even room to fill it up with soapy water (even though that’s clearly the best method). I followed a Martha Stewart tip to have a plastic dish tub next to think, and if the knives aren’t immediately washed, they are usually placed on the counter by the sink in a very visible place next to the tub. And you should see how cautious I am with the blender! 😀

        And JR, I think the biggest pain for us is the aforementioned single sink. Some day we will live the life with a dishwasher!

  2. dave says:

    yeah, i actually look forward to doing the dishes before making dinner. like JR said, it only takes 5 to 10 minutes and it gets me in the kitchen pondering even before i touch anything to start making something for dinner.
    i say make doing the dishes the warm up.

  3. Hey hey hey! My husband is a big fan of yours and was so happy to point me to this article. He’s right! It’s fantastic and very organizer-friendly.
    This is exact-a-ly what I am getting at in my resolution get organized series– the unsexy part of a resolution–doing the small parts.
    I’ll be adding a link to this article.
    Happy new year! and good luck with the clean-kitchen-every-night endeavor. You will be so happy. I promise.
    <3 Nonnahs

  4. Lainey says:

    A domestic Goddess I am not but I’m surprised to learn that people commonly go to bed without washing dishes/cleaning the kitchen. I’d be sick to come down in the morning and face the dishes congealed with yesterday’s scraps. Most of all I like to clean completely so that the room (and the downstairs) doesn’t smell of dinner. I hate, hate, HATE doing the dishes/kitchen (espec as have no dishwasher) but there isn’t really an alternative that isn’t kinda gross.

    • JR says:

      We’ve had parties that continue long into the night. With some of them, I am so dog tired at the end, I contemplate going to bed and dealing with the mess in the morning. The one time I did that, I realized how horrific it was to come out to the mess the next morning. Seemed like it had multiplied.

      Contrast that against coming out to a clean kitchen the next morning. Much better way to start the day.

  5. Maggy says:

    Coming downstairs to a clean kitchen makes such a difference, especially if you work and just have time to grab coffee/yogurt/bran before you head out of the door.
    I lost 28lb last year and the things that really made a difference were:
    Keeping my running shoes where I can see them
    Smaller plates and bowls
    Keeping the kitchen scales out on the counter so I remember to weigh out portions
    Sounds so simple but these things really helped. Good luck to everyone trying to change things this year.

  6. Jessica says:

    This is so true! This made me realize this is also one of the reasons that I cook for the whole week on Sundays; I like cooking my meals but it’s so much less stressful and burdensome when I come home at 8pm on weekdays to not have to cook OR clean a bunch of dishes.

  7. Jenn says:

    I prepare dinner almost every day; it is rare for us to dine out or order food. And I have to say that it takes me FOREVER to do the dishes. I do have a dishwasher but many items I use to prepare/cook food take up too much room in the dishwasher or do not get properly cleaned in the machine, so I end up hand-washing dishes…a lot. I consider it part of the price that’s paid for eating better, and more economically, than if we were dining/taking out often. I do try to listen to music or podcasts as I clean the dishes and kitchen, and that helps a little, but sometimes I wish I were spending more time with my daughter rather than engaging in culinary tasks or cleanup. It’s just the reality of home cooking…there are always trade-offs.

    • Beth says:

      Jenn, I feel your pain.. without a dishwasher, I obviously do a lot of hand-washing, too. I was kind of surprised when I’ve reached out on various social media just to friends to find some random tips on having fewer dishes. I have started purchasing pre-cut veggies (saves on time, cleaning a cutting board, AND crying, in the case of onions).. found recipes that use one dish/pot.. and in a recent case, I was making “egg cups” in a muffin pan and was finding it took longer to clean the pan than make the cups! But then a friend suggested a magical pan that I can practically wipe out with paper towel. I was surprised that there are some things that could be improved throughout the process, but you are still correct that it’s just the reality of home-cooking. Even cutting down dish-washing time from an hour to 30 minutes is still 30 minutes!

  8. Kerstin says:

    This is one of the “rules” I’ve introduced at home last year: the kitchen needs to be cleaned at night because I hate walking into a dirty one in the morning. Starting the day with a clean kitchen makes all the difference to how the rest of the day goes. Instead of resolution or goals I chose a word this year to guide my intentions and action: flow. Flow in my days, my environment (kitchen!), my relationships, my weight loss journey, my business. Flow is not about being perfect or things being easy but about having the tools, systems and skills to navigate my life with ease and confidence. And what I’m learning is that it is exactly these kind of unsexy tasks that can either block or encourage flow. Thanks for another great post and happy new year, Darya!

    • Michelle says:

      I like that, Kerstin. Thanks for sharing that.

    • SuzyQ says:

      Kerstin – This is a very sensible approach, and it carries over to every aspect of your life. I think we could all benefit from staying mindful of our “flow meters” and thinking in terms of what is blocking or encouraging our flow at any given time. Good concept!

  9. Betsy Marshall says:

    and then there are the days 3 guys take over the kitchen to cook lunch for 200 friends the next day; cleanup will take more than 7 minutes…pretty sure. table, counters, pots, utensils, floor…

    but it’s a great excuse to get things put back together my way (“hey, you boys worked hard, now go play!”)

  10. Dora says:

    Thank you, great article! I love this idea 🙂

  11. Dade Dyana says:

    Darya – I’ve never thought to actually time putting away the dishes. It always seems like it takes a few minutes when you actually do it, but when you’re thinking about it, it feels like it will take hours. Are there other tips like this in the Foodist Kitchen?

    • Darya Rose says:

      Yep! The whole point of the program is to make the entire process easier/less daunting.

      • Jane Muldoon says:

        I actually enjoy washing my dishes early in the morning, I have a window looking out on the woods and see early morning, deer, Fox rabbit, chipmunks, squirrel. It’s my commune with nature every day. I wash my dishes early, let them drain, out them all away so my counter is clear for the next meal. I own a dishwasher but I enjoy the show (view).

  12. Carly says:

    I love the tip about filling the sink with soapy water before you start cooking! I have always been a messy cook, but I have to have a clean kitchen before I get started. Doing dishes as I go along is the best way for me to not dread the after-dinner clean up. No matter how much I resist, I do it because coming down to a clean kitchen the next morning is an absolute MUST! The only exception is wine glasses. They tend to get broken if I attempt to wash them the night of a dinner party;)

  13. John Fawkes says:

    Wow Darya, this is brilliant. I’d never thought of keeping the kitchen clean as a keystone habit, but it totally is- looking back, my old roommates and I were always more reluctant to cook when the kitchen was dirty. I don’t have a kitchen where I’m at now (traveling) but will definitely start doing this once I’m in a position to cook again.

  14. Melanie says:

    My issue isn’t dishes- I have made peace with them (mostly) – thanks dishwasher that I refuse to ever ever live without again. Mine is WTF will I make today?!? I plan meals and buy ingredients and then I’m faced with my husband and son hating everything I planned to make. And then we just get takeout instead of fighting over why we would have to eat Spanish chicken or fajitas or whatever fresh hell I may suggest.

    • pam says:

      Just a suggestion…tell them they eat what you cook or they don’t eat. Food costs way too much…especially eating out. If they don’t like what you have decided on for dinner then they can plan and cook the meals. If it’s your job to feed them, then they can happily hold their noses and swallow it!

    • Craig says:

      Melanie how do you go about involving the fam in the meal plan?

  15. Kat says:

    Hi Darya and others,
    This WAS my new years habit-resolution! And I’m still sucking at it. I do fine at putting away dishes in the morning with making food, but I’ve had a hard time reminding myself at night starting the habit of doing them. I have also tried washing after every meal (I don’t have a dishwasher, unfortunately), and that seems like it makes the most sense, as it is definitely the quickest, but after cooking I never seem to have any sort of “trigger”. I have started reading The Power of Habit and its been helpful in lots of ways but I can’t seem to make sense of it with the dishes. Do you have any tips for starting a dishes habit? And which way makes the most sense to you, nightly or after every meal?

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