It is an objective fact that I am terrible at doing dishes. Not in the sense of actually doing them — I will put on the yellow gloves, grab a soapy sponge, and go to town rather than leave them sitting in the sink. But the truth is that I often half-ass the process. I will forget to wash a whole side of a plate, or not check to make sure I’ve thoroughly scrubbed the bottom of a bowl. I also may not notice when a mug still has an obvious coffee ring around the rim.
This is a strange idiosyncrasy, given the amount of attention I pay to minutiae around the rest of the apartment. I have lived in my 100-year-old railroad for nearly five years now; a few months ago, my partner (an all-star dish-doer, thank my lucky stars) moved in, too. We split up the household chores in a way that feels equitable and also maps to our skill sets.
But there are some home to-dos that can’t be divided. One that belongs to me (and probably always will) is something I think of as the daily reset. It goes a little like this: I hop out of bed early in the morning, usually because I’m headed out the door to the gym. But first I get the coffee going, and then, room by room, I tidy up the whole place.
Typically, that involves picking up pajama pants that wound up on the floor in the middle of the night and hanging them on the hooks in our bedroom reserved for things that need to be put away. Items on the chair — you know, that chair, the one that always becomes a magnet for all the stuff that has yet to find a permanent home in the closet — get straightened, if not sorted to their final destination.
After that, I collect half-full water glasses on the bedside and dining tables, and our desk, and put them next to the sink. (How do we wind up with so many of those? The world may never know. But the standing water ends up getting dumped into our kitchen plant pots.)
Then I refold the couch blankets, smooth the cushions, fix the back pillows, and organize whatever was left on the coffee table the night before. For us, that usually means stacking backlog New Yorkers and newspapers, lining up television remotes, and returning the ottoman to its rightful position. I next go into our office and do the same thing: stack papers and mail, style the surfaces, arrange the rolling chair just so, and tweak whatever other little stuff needs to be knocked out.
By the time that’s all done, my guy is up. We typically make the bed together. (No doubt he has noticed that after we’re done, I fix the bed skirt and snap the duvet one more time for good measure, and to kill off the remaining wrinkles. I’m sure we both know that’s annoying but he is sweet enough not to say it.) He usually deals with the dishes while I shower, and maybe takes a trash bag or recycling down while I do one last sweep of the place — closing drawers that aren’t quite shut, smoothing the shower curtain and bath mat, putting away makeup cases and whatever else got pulled out while we were both getting ready — before walking out the door.
That might sound like a lot — though maybe it just sounds incredibly mundane or neurotic — but my daily reset really only takes about 10 minutes, tops. Partly that’s because our apartment isn’t huge. But the other reason is that, since this is a process I go through every single day, things never really get that disordered. I’m just resetting 12 hours of time spent in our space, instead of longer stretches — and, for me, that makes all the difference.
I derive serious joy from walking in the front door at the end of a long day and having our home look, not like a picture perfect magazine photo, but like a hotel suite where housekeeping has come in and out but not moved any of our things.
“I derive serious joy from walking in the front door at the end of a long day and having our home look, not like a picture perfect magazine photo, but like a hotel suite where housekeeping has come in and out but not moved any of our things.”
The point isn’t for the place to be perfectly clean; it’s just meant to make it feel presentable to anyone who might walk in the door — especially me. I want to enter my home and feel like there’s nothing I need to do before I start relaxing.
I perform a similar reset ritual at my office before I leave at night: piling papers, rolling up earbuds, putting extra supplies in the drawer, clearing my bookshelf, and generally just making things pretty. It has the same effect as it does at home: When I get to my desk in the morning, I’m happy to have made it there, and I can get down to the business of what I want to accomplish in that space.
I’m more productive — and to be honest, more pleasant to be around — when things look nice. There is so much to do, always. It is nice to have that part, however superficial, out of the way. So my 10-minute daily reset? It’s something I never plan to do without.
By: Elizabeth Kiefer