Non-Soul Sucking Ways to Clean the Kitchen

All I wanted is to find was to find a way to a non-soul sucking way to clean the kitchen.

I had a vision for how a “good” parent and partner keeps her kitchen. Where this comes from and why I subscribe to it is a story for a whole other post. But here is what I know – having a ritual of “closing down” the kitchen with clean surfaces and a dishwasher running untangles knots in my belly.

My vision is for counters wiped down, things in their place, hand washed dishes air drying on their mat, and the dishwasher running so my family has clean plates to eat off of and no one is eating their food off a Tupperware lid.

A good parent and partner must live here.
Source: Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

This vision rarely manifests to reality. I am tired after working for 12 hours and my couch has this weird force field that makes it difficult for me to escape. Plus we are in the middle of binging Big Bang Theory and there are about 7 million episodes.

I feel shame when I sink into the couch on my 3rd episode while the meatloaf grease congeals in the pan and the mail lays unopened on the counter.

This is not productive nor sustainable.

Can you relate?

Let’s solve this story problem together.

Step 1 – Ask the Questions

Creating a life you don’t need to escape starts with asking the Sustainable Productivity questions.

Is this Productive: Am I getting the result I want?

No. Tomorrow Susan is annoyed when Last Night Susan could not at least run the dishwasher to have clean coffee cups for the morning. I know my environmental surroundings contribute directly to a Sustainably Productive life and not cleaning up  is not helping me create the life I want.

Is this Sustainable: Can I continue this lifelong if I want?

No. I don’t want to feel weighed down by inertia on the couch and glued to the TV. Guilt, shame, shoulds and embarrassment are not feelings I want to keep around lifelong.

Time for an adjustment.

Step 2 – Make an Adjustment

Clean the kitchen before sitting down for TV. Boom done.

But it is not that easy. Sometimes a recipe seems to take every dang dish in our cabinets. Sometimes the shenanigans of the day leave me not able to even chuck the cloth napkins in the hamper.

To make an adjustment that is Sustainably Productive, we need to start small. What is a one small thing that can be repeated each night after dinner to signal the kitchen is “clean and closed”? Here are some suggestions:

  • Load and start the dishwasher. Some models have delayed start allowing for those teenagers in your house having second dinner to add their dishes. If the cycle starts at 3:00 am you can still have clean mugs come morning.
  • Wash and put away the pots and pans.
  • Set up the coffee pot to be ready to start or set the timer if your model has one.
  • Chuck any papers in the box designated for this.
  • Clear surfaces of dog leashes/treats, backpacks, books, and other random crap that accumulates.
  • Corral shoes left in the kitchen, sending them back to their proper homes.

This is a list of adjustments to make, non-soul sucking ways to clean the kitchen. The intention is not to do all of it all the time. When I am fired up and motivated, I make checklists to do ALL of these things EVERY night. Then night comes and I can’t do it all so I do none. Guilt, shame, shoulds and embarrassment.

The adjustment is to pick one. Maybe it’s the shoes. Maybe you need to start smaller – it is your shoes. Every night this week put away your shoes. That’s it. If you do anything else, great. But putting away your shoes is how we are defining success.

Then at the end of the week, see how you did.

Step 3 – Evaluate Your Progress

After a week, check in to see how it went. Maybe putting away your shoes gave you momentum to drop the papers in the box, which lead to firing up the dishwasher between episodes. Great!

If you feel dialed into this new non-soul sucking ways to clean the kitchen, stay this course. If you still feel negative feelings about it, start back over at step 1 and identify what is the biggest pain point. Make the adjustment. Evaluate progress.

Your Turn

Let me know where you want to apply the Sustainable Productivity questions in your life. Together we can brainstorm ways to break it down and create a life you don’t need to escape.

By |2021-03-28T15:48:11-04:00March 30th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|2 Comments

Ways to Improve Physical and Mental Health

Spring forward and the vernal equinox sure help me improve mental and physical health! It’s that time of year when we start to come out of hibernation. I have a bit more energy to tackle, well – anything. If you have been around here for a minute, you know how much I love books and gardening. These are a couple of my favorite hobbies. I want to share with you why they also improve mental and physical health in hopes you will be inspired to add a hobby to your life. 

Benefits of Books

While self-improvement and memoir are in my top favorites to read, fiction is what is my favorite for escape, relaxation and general enjoyment. Research proves this is not just in my head. Reading fiction can

  • Reduce stress by 68% – demonstrated by lowered heart rate and muscle tension
  • Enhance “Theory of Mind” which is the ability to understand other’s mental states and show increased empathy. 
  • Increase your life span. According to Social Science and Medicine, those who read 3.5 hours per week had a 17|% lower risk of dying in the next 12 years. Reading MORE than 3.5 hours per week lower their risk by 23%. 

Source: Dr Caroline Leaf

Benefits of Gardening

Gardening can be equally healthy – both mentally and physically. You don’t have to have an elaborate or expansive property, even a simple container garden on the balcony of an apartment can bring you benefits. 

Benefits of Hobbies in General

While books and gardening might not be your jam, I cannot encourage you enough to find your jam. Hobbies give you a respite from the grind. You are more than the sum of your work hours. Whether that work is something that gets a W2 or not you need a hobby. 

  • Stay at home moms need time to give to themselves just as generously as they give to all of their people ALL DAY (and sometimes night) LONG.
  • CEOs need to take off the high heels and put up their feet to just be, not to solve all the problems. 
  • And where are my teachers? Sheesh, you are the CEO, mothers, tech support, and educators that the rest of us can’t even pretend to keep up with. 

It is more important to find some kind of hobby that to find the perfect hobby. No matter what you try, the simple pursuit of a hobby is what will reduce your need to escape your life. 

Extra Credit

Hobbies are just as important as laughter. If you want bonus points towards creating a life you don’t need to escape, check out this “No’s of Hobbies” podcast episode. 

By |2021-03-21T12:11:15-04:00March 23rd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Compromise That Actually Works

Although I am an adult who understands life is not fair, I am desperate for compromise that actually works. In general I feel the way Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm, “A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied.”

I often field questions about how Sustainable Productivity can work in real life. I will bring you examples from real life – mine and my clients – in order to show how you can use the 3-step Sustainable Productivity model to create a life you don’t need to escape. I started wondering if I could find compromise that actually worked by using Sustainable Productivity in relationships.

The Background

When Bixby and I first started sharing a toothpaste tube, we had 2 adults, 2 kids, 4 Labs and 2 cats sharing 1100 square feet of house. We adapted the best we could – except for Bluesy, the cat. He moved out and adopted the neighbors after all 4 dogs had him cornered in the living room one day. To be fair, Bluesy generally started it.

But the rest of us did the best with what we had. The kids decided to sleep in one room and have the other as a playroom. Bixby and I purged mercilessly to bring two full households into one. This was Sustainable Productivity at its best – decide where the pain points are and make small, sustainable changes over time.

The Pain Point

Until one day when Bixby lost it. Over the toothpaste tube. He decided this was not something that could continue lifelong.

You see, in every couple, there is one who squeezes the toothpaste from the bottom and one who squeezes from the middle. There is a hilarious Instagram thread where my favorite couple Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach battle this issue.

My name is Susan S., and I am a middle squeezer.

Admitting my problem was truly only the first step.

I tried to change to squeeze from the bottom. It was not sustainable – I would forget or be tired at night and not care. I would be petty and grumpy and squeeze from the middle on purpose.

He tried to change and ignore my egregious behavior. It was not productive. You can only stuff your feelings down so many times before there is a blow up.

The Adjustment

They say marriages break up over dumb things. That seemed like a drastic adjustment to make for a toothpaste tube problem, but we could not continue with this pebble in the shoe of our marriage. The pain point was the tube. If we could make an adjustment about the tube, we would solve the problem before it grew into a bigger issue like, “You never listen to me” or “You know what bothers me and do it on purpose.”

So we bought a 2nd tube. Bixby kept his neat, tidy squeezed-from-the-bottom tube in his gross, messy drawer. I kept my blurt-from-the-middle tube in my Marie Kondo-eque box organized drawer.

Evaluate Progress

And we lived happily ever after. After meeting on Match.com 14 years ago and being quarantined together for 12 months, we are still each other’s weirdos.

By |2021-03-13T15:36:07-05:00March 16th, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

3 Steps to Nail Your Goals

A couple months into the new year and if you are like most of us, it is becoming harder to nail your goals. One of the goals I set for myself in 2021 is to do 90 minutes of yoga each week. When I sat down to look at my progress at the end of January, I had not hit that once. Each week I did 60 minutes. Zero weeks I did 90 minutes.

It was time to make some adjustments.

Step One: Define what isn’t working

First define what was not working. What is the pain point that prevents you from meeting your goal. For example, what was keeping me from doing that 3rd day of yoga?

Inertia. That’s it. I identified my January pattern. Yoga on Monday and Tuesday, then wander off for the rest of the week, never coming back to that third day.

Once you identify what isn’t working, you can identify potential adjustments to course correct in order to nail your goals.

Step Two: Make adjustments

When considering what adjustments to make, I encourage you to make Sustainably Productive adjustments. Here is what that means:

  1. Make it Productive. The adjustment has to address the pain point – it has to have potential to solve the problem. There are so many demands on your time, if you are going to take the time to make an adjustment, it has to work for you. Otherwise, it is wasted time. You may not know for sure it will work, but it have to have the potential to work. For example, in order to hit 90 minutes of yoga per week, I could do 90 minutes of yoga on Monday morning. Boom, done – on with the week. This is not productive for me because the reason I am doing yoga in the first place is to reduce pain by increasing my flexibility and strength. Skipping 6 days of yoga does not help keep this tin man moving! Not productive.
  2. Make it Sustainable. The adjustment has to be something you could continue. If the adjustment is going to add more stress or lead to burnout, it is not sustainable. Don’t take it on. Back to the potential adjustment of 90 minutes all in 1 day. This is not sustainable with my schedule. I don’t want to reduce my sleep in order to jam a long yoga session in. I don’t want to lose my writing time or be late to my day job either. Not sustainable.

The adjustment I chose to make was to leverage that idea of inertia. A body in motion will stay in motion, etc. etc. In February I decided to do yoga on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings.

How did that work out, you ask? Let’s move to step 3 – evaluate progress.

Step Three: Evaluate progress

Result? 100%. I hit 90 minutes all 4 weeks.

Using the Sustainable You Habit Tracker, I was able to look at each week and see progress. The last week of the month, I REALLY did not want to do yoga on Wednesday morning. But I saw all of those other weeks tallied up and knew if I skipped that day, it would ruin the streak. Classic peer pressure. But Sustainably Productive peer pressure – 30 minute a day for 3 days in a row is doable and it is working for me.

How can you use these steps to help you nail your goals?

By |2021-03-06T09:19:35-05:00March 9th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Spring clean your body

This seems like a really dumb time to talk about how to spring clean your body. As I sit here writing this in Feb 2021, we are only 5 days out from one ice storm and in the middle of another. We are wedged tightly in the middle of winter.

Crepe myrtle branches covered in ice.

But it won’t always be like this. Spring will come – I promise. And with it comes droves of headlines about getting “Beach Body Ready” and “Spring Clean Your Body!”

While you can reduce the amount of these messages that come at you (the Media Lesson in the Environmental Surroundings Course can help you with this), you won’t get rid of them all. You cannot control how the messages come at you, but you can control how you accept them and incorporate them into your life.

Let me show you how.

Identify What Isn’t Working

Being bombarded with message to “Spring Clean Your Body!” gives off a vibe that what you have needs an overhaul. I would like to suggest that maybe throwing out everything about the person you are is not a Sustainably Productive way to change your habits or think about your Health and Fitness. By identifying what isn’t working you can start to make small, gradual changes that help you create a life you don’t want to escape.

Identify what isn’t working: Maybe you are exhausted all day. That dragging fatigue leaves you less motivated to exercise or cook healthy meals. Which leads to poor food choices, which leads to poor sleep… leaving you exhausted the next day. Vicious cycle.

The root of what isn’t working in this scenario is sleep – the foundation of all healthy habits. If you ever find yourself unsure where to start, I recommend addressing sleep habits first.

Step 1: Identify what isn’t working. Answer: Sleep

Once you identify what isn’t working you can move on to make adjustments.

Make an Adjustment

An adjustment can come in many forms, but I want to offer 2 different buckets that adjustments might fall into.

  • Something you do.

Experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep for adults, but if you are sitting at a solid 5 hours nightly, lying in bed for 9 hours is not a Sustainably Productive adjustment to make. Start small. Make the action step something that is productive for you – it has to work for you, not just be something the experts tell you that you SHOULD. I also encourage you to make it sustainable – it has to be something you can keep doing. It is ok it you don’t get to the “should.” Just make it something you can repeat.

Here is an example. If you got 5 hours of sleep last night, go to bed 15 minutes earlier tonight. That’s it. Even if you lay awake for that 15 minutes. Then do it again tomorrow night. And the night after.

There is another type of adjustment you can make besides an action step.

  • Something you think about what you do.

A mind shift, reconsideration, or full on paradigm shift. Stop thinking about sleep as being the last thing in your day. This is just leaving you in a cold sweaty pool of panic, “HOW CAN THE DAY BE OVER, MY LIST IS NOT DONE!” No one sleeps well in a sweaty pool of panic. What if you shifted your thinking about sleep to be the start of the new day? Instead of sleep being a futile exercise in restoring the damage a stressful day caused, you start to think about it as building up reserves for the next day?

Step 2: Make an adjustment.

Evaluate Progress

After a few days – a week at most – check in with yourself to see how this adjustment is serving you. This is a simple 3-step process.

  1. Put it on the calendar. It may seem dumb to have a 5 minute appointment to ask yourself if thinking about sleep differently is helping you avoid a cold sweaty pool of panic. But life gets busy and time flies by. I know so many moms that kept a calendar of the baby’s poop schedule. I daresay your sleep habits are as important as poop.
  2. Answer the check in questions. Download the worksheet to answer the questions to decide if an adjustment is working for you.
  3. Make adjustments. If what you did worked, do a little more of it – back up your bedtime 15 more minutes for next week. If your adjustment did not work, ask why. Maybe you forgot to consider sleep as the start of the day and monkey mind kept you up again. Perhaps a reminder on your phone would help. At 9:00 pm (or whenever you want to start your evening routine), a reminder pops up: Today is over, you did your best. It is time to start tomorrow with the sleep I am about to have. Maybe you have the mindset, but it is so hot in your room you cannot sleep. Now your adjustment becomes action, not mindset. Adjust the temp by 1 degree every few nights until you find what works.

Step 3: Evaluate your progress.

Repeat As Needed

This process is a never ending loop. Today’s “Spring Clean Your Body” challenge might be sleep, but if you keep applying the Sustainable Productivity process and tools to it you eventually will create sleep habits that work for you. At that point you will ask the question, “What isn’t working,” and another answer will come up.

If you are getting another answer besides sleep today, let me know what it is. Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

By |2021-02-21T09:09:41-05:00March 2nd, 2021|Health & Fitness|0 Comments

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