Finding Your "Kitchen Sink"

No, I don't mean doing an archeological dig to unearth your kitchen sink, though if it is filled with dirty dishes, by all means deal with those first!

Dinner dishes piled in sink, awaiting the attention of Peter, the evening dishwasher.

Housecleaning is not my natural forte. So, over the years I've turned to others for help. Internet cleaning guru, Marla Cilley, AKA the FlyLady is among those from whom I've learned some tricks of the trade. Working in short segments (15 minutes) with a timer has been a boon in keeping me focused on one task and preventing me from running after the inevitable other things that also need to be done. I find the zone system fairly useful, at least when it works out with what's going on in my life. And strangest of all, the FlyLady system turned me into a shoe convert, as I found that when I put on lace-up (running) shoes first thing in the morning, it helps put my brain in gear to work hard. However, one part of the FlyLady system has baffled me from the start.

Just what is her obsession with her kitchen sink, anyway? If you are familiar with the FL system, the first "BabyStep" is to scrub your kitchen sink. Apparently Mrs. Cilley found this little job to be life transforming, so she tells those who follow her plan to begin here, no matter what! (If you have dirty dishes in the sink and no dishwasher, she recommends putting them in a tub under the sink until you can get to them!)

My kitchen sink after Peter has finished his evening chore. Phew! I have a child assigned to do dishes for every meal, except on Sundays when I give them the day off. I've had children helping with the dishes for over 18 years now.

Well, I enjoy a clean sink, too, but somehow beginning here every day just didn't make sense to me.

Recently I was reading (yet another) cleaning book, The House That Cleans Itself. Author Mindy Clark has an interesting take on the kitchen sink thing. She maintains that every woman has her own "Home Base Zone" which is the place that bothers you most when it is untidy. For the FlyLady, this is obviously her kitchen sink. Mrs. Clark continues that when your Home Base Zone is clean, you can feel a sense of peacefulness even if the rest of the house is in dire need of attention.

This idea resonated with me. For me, my HBZ is my kitchen, and more specifically, my kitchen counters. When the counters are uncluttered and crumb-free, my kitchen looks clean to me, even if the floor desperately needs to be mopped. My girls figured this out before I did. Years ago the oldest girls  would delight in cleaning the house when I was gone. The first room we walk into from our garage is the kitchen, and they loved to hear the happy exclamation when I saw the clean kitchen, which of course if made evident first and foremost by clear and clean counter tops. My younger girls have taken over this delightful habit, and they also love to tidy everything when I'm gone, but most especially the kitchen.

So here's how this Home Base Zone idea works:

1. Figure out what your Home Base Zone is. What part of your house makes you happiest when it is clean? Or what part stresses you when it is a mess? It could be your bed, the guest bathroom, your kitchen floor, the front porch, the toilets, or even your kitchen sink!

2.  Purge and clean that zone.
Clear everything off/out of that area, clean thoroughly, and then think about each item before putting it back.
For me, this meant that I needed to evaluate all the things I keep on my counters. I only want things I use every day left out. So the antique bread box  and knife block were allowed to stay as were the toaster and canisters with staples. My can opener and Bosch mixer were relegated to under counter cabinet space. The biggest change I made was to purge cookbooks. They'd long ago overflowed my cookbook cabinet, and I kept the ones I used most frequently on a counter, rather neatly I thought. Ha! But after throwing and giving away more than a dozen titles which I don't really use, I had room for all of them back where they belong. I still have tons of lose recipes waiting to be filed in binders, thus the messy folder in the middle shelf. But overall, its an improvement, and I can close the door on the whole thing.

Cookbook cabinet  opened so you can see the good, the bad, and the ugly (pink folder).

3.   Commit to maintaining your Home Base Zone. 
Don't let your hard work go to waste! Spend a little bit of regular time keeping up that area that gives you a sense of restfulness. Before I go to bed, I usually spend a couple of minutes in my kitchen, returning stray items and spraying down the counter. Jon comes in late at night and sweeps the floors, so when I come down in the morning to make breakfast, a tidy room greets me, which helps get things going on a good start.

And that's it! I've found the philosophy of The House That Cleans Itself refreshing. This summer I'm hoping to have time to work through Mrs. Clark's suggestions room by room. But for now, this little HBZ idea is enough to give me a little bit of refreshment.   

P.S. Oh, one other thing I've learned about kitchen sinks from this book. Think of the sink as the last dish to be washed, and you can leave it in pretty good shape each time you do the dishes.


SarahD said…
Our kitchen sink is not particularly clean at this moment, and I'm O.K. with that. :) And no shoes for this lady! I tried that suggestion for about two hours one morning before I was so cranky I couldn't think straight. I have always been a barefoot girl, though, even as a child outside on gravel driveways. But I have found many of the other Fly Lady ideas very helpful. Another great place to get help in the housekeeping department is That website was a real blessing to me about seven years ago when I realized that my graduate degree in music wasn't much of a help to my career as a homemaker!

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