I’ve spent the majority of my morning working in my living room—my Bible open, worship music playing in the background, treasured books scattered around me, my laptop, notepads, several colored pens and highlighters, hot coffee within my reach—all things that make my heart happy and at peace. Except that it hasn’t been.
For three and a half hours I repeatedly and anxiously glanced over at my kitchen sink—overflowing (literally) with dishes. The dishwasher was filled to capacity as well, but fortunately with clean dishes since I had finally managed to run it last night after days of it lying dormant. This has been one of those weeks that the clutter has grown exponentially.
CLUTTER BEGETS CLUTTER
But I couldn’t blame the clutter itself. Much like sin—clutter that’s left unattended will always grow. Clutter begets clutter and I had left it unattended to for days. I don’t normally neglect my kitchen like this. My kitchen is usually quite clean, but somehow this week I had gotten way off track and the resulting pile-up was just more than I wanted to tackle.
This morning, as I was finishing making breakfast before school, my 6-year-old daughter said, “Mommy, we don’t have any forks.”
“That’s ok…just use a spoon. It’ll make eating eggs a fun game!” I answered her, impressed with my creative ‘solution’.
“But, we don’t have any clean spoons either.”
So…there you have it, friends. In my laziness this week, I had managed to strip my children of the ability to eat with clean utensils.
GOD IS NOT A GOD OF DISORDER
While I fished plastic forks out of the pantry I couldn’t help but be reminded of 1 Corinthians 14:33 ‘For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.’ Paul is writing to the church at Corinth about the importance of order within worship. It occurred to me at that moment that our lives are meant to be an expression of worship—and God desires for us to have order and peace in our lives so that we can worship more freely.
So what does any of that have to do with dirty dishes? It turns out—a whole lot.
Several years ago I read a book by Emily Barnes called More Hours in My Day. In that book she encourages readers to time the daily tasks that they don’t enjoy in order to get a perspective on how long it really takes to get unenjoyable, yet necessary, tasks finished and out of the way.
We all have tasks that we dislike—tasks that tempt us to laziness and discontentment, but when left unattended threaten to steal our peace. Dishes, making the bed, and emptying the dishwasher rank very high on my list, as well as folding and putting my daughter’s clothes away. The loads for small children have 3 times as many clothes!
After several hours of feeling less than peaceful while trying to devote myself to writing and working, I got up to refill my coffee—and in the process I found myself staring anxiously at my overflowing sink. I knew something needed to be done now or my heart was not going to settle.
That moment marked the start of a showdown of sorts.
I looked at the sink.
I looked at the clock.
I looked back at the sink.
And it was on!
5 MINUTES AND 23 SECONDS
That was all the time it took to empty my filled-to-capacity dishwasher, and all the time it took for my heart to settle back into a place of rest. I suddenly felt far more equipped to handle the dishes in the sink as well, most of which were at least rinsed and ready to be loaded in the dishwasher. My total kitchen makeover, including wiping down the counters, lasted all of 14 minutes and 17 seconds.
Fourteen minutes to return to peace. Fourteen minutes until the head noise that kept telling me I was failing at homemaking was replaced by the quiet hum of the dishwasher that proved otherwise. Fourteen minutes to feel like I had served my husband and my children. Fourteen minutes until my soul could freely focus on the work and writing God had called me to today—without the distraction of the chaos surrounding me.
What tasks threaten to steal your peace and joy? Consider timing them. It’s so much easier to get something done and behind you when you learn the measurable fraction of time you are exchanging for the resulting peace. It’s such a small price to pay in exchange for such a huge reward—and it will change your perspective on unenjoyable tasks tremendously.
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Amazing how time flies when there are many tasks to complete! I usually give myself time in the morning to take care of household cleaning, laundry, etc. Monday is washing sheets day. Too many activities on my schedule can make me grouchy and overwhelmed. Timing each activity is a great idea. Thanks for the idea. Peace and calm are always great. Time to share moments with God makes me feel comforted and I start my day with Him and His Word.
I love the idea of having a structured plan for regular chores—like Monday being clean sheet day. Routines definitely make it easier to stay underwhelmed rather than overwhelmed!
Such a great mindset change, Sandi! Thank you! Perspective makes all the difference sometimes doesn’t it?
It certainly does! It’s amazing how different a chore looks when you realize that it will only take 2 minutes, or 10 minutes, or 15. Somehow it makes it much more manageable and it gives a completely different perspective on trading the time for the peace that comes with completion.
I can relate so much, once I finally get what chores I have, done! I feel at peace also. It’s a sense of relief.
It’s a huge sense of relief and it just frees your mind up for things of much greater importance.
This speaks to me on a spiritual (no pun intended?) level. Yesterday the chaos and clutter of my bedroom and closet drove me to spend almost a solid hour organizing and cleaning everything before I could sit down to do my writing. It is true that clutter begets clutter and I think a cluttered living space mimics a cluttered headspace. It’s something I struggle with and get easily overwhelmed by.
I completely agree! A cluttered living space does mimic a cluttered headspace—at least for me! I find it very difficult to focus on anything worthwhile when my surroundings are out of control. The trade-off of time (especially once you have an accurate perspective of the actual time it will take) for peace is so worth it!
Great reminder, Sandi. I too often allow more worthy things to be thwarted by the minutia that has becomes an insurmountable obstacle in my spirit, simply because I put off doing it. I established a household protocol—out of shear necessity and not without considerable effort—of never going to bed with the kitchen undone. The whole family jumps in prior to ‘evening time’ and we work together to bang out the dishes, wipe counters, sweep and take out the trash. Everyone has learned that kick-back time begins as soon as we conquer it (which never takes more than 10 min., tops) I call it a gift we give ourselves: one waiting for us each morning when we wake. It’s the material equivalent to the “new mercies” that rise with the dawn. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to enjoy coffee in a clean kitchen every morning. It’s like grace in a cup! ~ Tabitha
Oh man, this is so good! And so true for so many of us, although we each feel like we are the only ones who struggle with this! Why spend hours dreading a chore and even entire days feeling less than and not good enough, when you could actually get some things done in just minutes! (And why have I never realized this before?!) Thank you so much!
I love the tip of timing things! I’m with ya on avoiding dirty dishes!
Hi, this speaks to me. At this moment I have more dishes in my sink than usual. It has been hard for me to follow through with daily tasks lately. Sometimes I find it actually helps to take a small break and then go back to the chores. I’ve been on the computer about an hour, so now maybe I can get to my dishes!