Yep - mealtime routines! I am the world's worst at dashing into the kitchen just before mealtime, whip something up, and leave everything to clean up till after the meal. I used to not even clean up afterwards, so we're making some progress here! Actually, when I was diagnosed with diabetes about 6 years ago, Wes put the kids to work, and I have rarely had to do the dishes since then, although occasionally I will help out to make sure things get done well. Here lately, as the kids are getting older, they are spending time away from home more often, which leaves me with the dishes more often. I'm finding that I don't mind doing the dishes now that I have somewhat of a routine for mealtimes.
Since joining FlyLady 6 years ago, I've gotten better at keeping the kitchen neater while I cook. Now I start out by fixing only one portion of the meal at one time. For instance, if I'm making biscuits, I will get them ready to go in the oven, then I'll put away the flour, salt, baking powder, shortening, and milk. I rinse the bowl and set it on the counter to go in the dishwasher (I'll explain my dishwasher situation in a minute). After I get the meal going, I run a sink of hot, sudsy water to wash pots and pans in and to dip a dishcloth in to wipe counters as I go. So as I finish each task, I clean it up. Peel potatoes - throw peels away, wipe up that white starchy stuff off the counter. Make white sauce - wash the pan as soon as the white sauce is done. Empty a can - throw it away. Empty a box - throw it away. Throwing things away as I emptied them came slowly to me. I remember one day several years ago when Wes walked into the kitchen and began throwing away all the little cans, boxes, pouches, and wrappers laying on the counter. He said, "If you'll throw these things away as you go, that's half the mess taken care of!" Why had I never realized that? So now I throw, throw, throw as I go.
So let's see . . . my mealtime routine looks something like this:
Start water for tea
Start main dish or dish that takes longest to cook
Call meal helper to set table and make the tea
Clean up each mess as I go
Run dishwater to wash pots and pans
Wipe counters as I go
Wash pots and pans as I empty food into serving dishes
Meal helper pours tea into glasses and places them on table
Go to stairs and yell up, "Time to eat!" and listen for everyone to come down
Most meals, my kitchen counters are cleared when we sit down to eat. Sometimes they aren't, but it's nothing like it used to be even then!
I always remember a story about my Granny and cleaning up the kitchen. She always put it off till the next morning if she had company. She wanted to enjoy whoever was at her house, so she would leave the dishes till the next day, when she had plenty of time to do them. On July 19, 1981, she had some of the family over that day for Sunday dinner. She told them to just leave the dishes; she'd get them later. A little after midnight, she got a call from her son-in-law - my father. He was in Nashville, where my mother had undergone a kidney transplant the week before. Mama had gone into cardiac arrest, and Daddy's brother was coming to pick Granny up and then go to my other Grandma's house to pick me up, then we would all fly together to Nashville. My Granny called her niece, who lived next door, and together they cleaned up all that mess from the day before, while Granny faced the imminent death of her only daughter. She determined that day that she would never leave her dishes again, for any reason. As far as I know, she never did leave them again as long as she was able to live alone. I don't want to face an emergency in the middle of the night having to clean up my kitchen before I can leave. I'm so thankful to have learned, finally, to get much of my work taken care of with routines, so that I'm free for whatever comes up. Being a pastor's wife, you never know when someone will need you or come over. Everything is not perfectly done all the time - I haven't arrived at all, and I still stash and dash sometimes. Just ask my family. But hopefully I'll never have to learn the way Granny did.
Oh, yeah . . . the dishwasher! It's in my dining room! LOL When these townhouses were built (I'm thinking late '60's or so), dishwashers were not a standard item in houses, so this kitchen was not built with room for a dishwasher. When the management decided to put dishwashers in, there was wasted space in the L-shape where the bar cabinets and sink base meet, so that's where they put the dishwasher. It opens out into the dining area. So when we wash dishes, usually one person will rinse the dishes and stack them on the counter, and another person will load them into the dishwasher. When it's one person, they rinse and stack, then go around the bar and put them all in. It works! It's odd, but it works. And I'm so glad to have a dishwasher!