Sometimes, I don’t have my shit together.

I’m scrambling to get the kids ready for school, to brush teeth, comb hair, iron clothes, make sure everyone has a water bottle and a dollar and their homework and a pep talk to enforce positive behaviors. It’s doable, if everything is where it’s supposed to be, but it never is. If I have to pack lunches, there’s no telling where the pink sandwich container is, and in moving around the contents of the refrigerator to find a juice box, I’m going to knock something over, which will either spill or land on my foot, breaking my pinky toe. Then I’ll say a bad word, which Sparklepants will repeat as soon as she gets to school.

These are the mornings that I collapse at the kitchen table as soon as they’re out the door, look around me at the morning’s fallout, the soggy cereal sitting in bowls of lukewarm milk, the open loaf of bread, the hairbrush on the sofa, the outfit-rejects strewn across the floor, and I have to drink another cup of coffee before I have it in me to process all the carnage.

Last week, I had a morning like that. It was so bad that I knew that I would certainly not survive a repeat performance. So, I took action. I identified the source of most of the weekday morning stress (the kitchen), and proceeded to beat it into submission and Accomplish All The Things. Yes, the world around me might be in flames, but with God as my witness, I would have this one area of my life under control.

Accomplishing All The Things meant that I was going to need another 2-4 cups of coffee. It also meant that I was going to need to make a list. Luckily, lists and coffee are two of my very favorite things.

The project took the better part of the morning, but when I was finished, I was happy. I wasn’t just happy with the results, or with how much easier it was to find things the next morning, but with how at peace the whole process made me feel.

I wasn’t just cleaning, I was rearranging my environment to fit my needs. I was empowering myself to take control over the inanimate objects that so frequently get in my way, both literally and figuratively.

I was purging the unnecessary, the unusable, the toxic, the broken, and the unhealthy, and filling in the spaces left behind with crap that I actually need there.

In the past week, since reaching Kitchen Nirvana, I’ve spread the gospel to a few trusted souls, who immediately patted my hand and mentally checked out of our friendship. Does cleaning suck? ABSOLUTELY! But once it’s done, you’ll feel SO much better.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Step 1: Make Your List (You only need to do this so that you have the satisfaction of crossing things off of it. Write “Make a List” at the top. Then cross it off. Isn’t this fun??)
  • Step 2: Choose Your Tunes (This is going to vary greatly from person to person. I like show tunes interspersed with classic punk and 90s hip hop. It doesn’t matter what you’re listening to, as long as it’s loud and keeps you from hearing your own breathing.)
  • Step 3: Throw Shit Away (This is the hardest step. Do it quickly. Don’t think twice. If you haven’t used it in six months, throw that shit away. You don’t need it. If you ever need it again, go borrow someone else’s. You don’t have room in your life for self-doubt. Will you ever use that waffle iron? No. No, you will not. It’s taking up space and making your feel guilty every time you see it and realize with an icy kick to the gut that you just didn’t grow up to be the kind of person who makes waffles. Own it. Move on with your life. Be the kind of person who doesn’t make waffles, but who has room in her cabinets for something she will use, like a margarita maker. Some people call those blenders. I understand you can also make milkshakes with them. )
  • Step 4: Scrub Shit With a Toothbrush (This is the most cathartic step. Go get your husband’s toothbrush. Fill a small basin with warm water, a little dish soap, and some baking soda. Then go over every little crevice with it until you’re sweating a little and your arm hurts, but your refrigerator’s gaskets have never been so beautiful. What? Did you used to have problems? Maybe. But now you’ve turned all those problems into SPARKLING CLEAN REFRIGERATOR GASKETS. Now go buy your husband a new toothbrush. Or don’t. I don’t know the guy. Use your best judgement.)
  • Step 5: Bask in the Glory (This is my favorite step. After you’ve done a Big Cleaning, and you’re gross and tired and all that’s in your head is Salt -N- Pepa’s “Shoop” and a slight buzzing, lean back and look at what you’ve done. You’ve turned this disgusting area of your home into a gleaming showpiece. Take a deep breath. You’re a Warrior Goddess.)

So that was my big revelation last week. And honestly, mornings this week have gone much more smoothly. I have found that since I don’t have to spend so much time tracking down clean clothes and ironing them, I have time to actually give the children real hugs, using both arms, instead of just kissing the tops of their noggins on their way out the door. Since I don’t have to spend so much time searching for sandwich containers and thermos lids, I actually have time to have real conversations with them before their school days start. It’s a much, much better way to start the day.

If I were to start a cult (a thought that crosses my mind from time to time), the motto stitched into the backs of our matching track suits would be “Clean up your junk, Cleanse your soul”. We would be the disciples of Martha Stewart and Mr. Clean. Our communion would be strong, black coffee.

Having read this, you might assume that my house is actually clean most of the time.

That’s not true.

It’s not true because other people live in this house with me, and so the filth never actually disappears; it just gets moved around. My soul, though, is still pretty good.