Avoid Burnout Working from Home: Screw the Dishes


Today’s big idea is that you have to get over this idea that your house needs to be tidy. Specifically, that you become OK with letting dishes sit in the sink. For so many reasons. Including this important one: there are so many of them! With more people home all day, eating all meals at home, the dishes are just relentless. They are like the ocean. Just when you think you’ve stemmed the tide, here comes another wave.

You’re reading the transcript of an episode of the How to Be a Better Person podcast. If you’d rather listen, click the play button below.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Dirty dishes are so relentless. In fact, that if you feel like you need to stay on top of them, you won’t get any work done. And you won’t get any rest. 

Plus, keeping the house reasonably clean all day can be a major distraction from doing the work that’s important but maybe scares you a little. And so you think, well I’ll do that just after I do these dishes–or fold the laundry, or what have you. The next thing, you know it’s 11 o’clock and you haven’t gotten started on work yet. And now you’re stressed and feeling bad about yourself and that is NOT conducive to getting good work done. 

My most important point today is, your self-worth is not tied to how tidy your kitchen is

I like Marie Kondo as much as the next person. But if you’re tidying up all the livelong day, you’re not going to be changing your life. You’re just going to be tidying. 

Please let this in when I say, you are not a bad person if you have dirty dishes lying around. 

To lighten your load, prevent burnout, and save time and energy for the doing the work that’s going to make you feel truly accomplished, here’s my rule that I suggest you adopt: Do the dishes only once a day. That means you’re going to have to let them accumulate. So be it. 

I tidy up the kitchen in the mornings, but so I don’t let it eat up my whole morning

I only do it as long as it takes to make a cup of tea. So, while the water is heating up and then while the tea is steeping. It’s probably about 8 minutes total. When the tea is ready, I’m outta there. And then I don’t think about dishes until I’m making dinner, when I put any that have accumulated during the day. The piles and piles of them, let’s be honest–into the sink so that I have counter space for cooking.

Then my husband does the dishes after dinner. Anything he doesn’t wash, like a pot that needs soaking or dishes that won’t fit in the dishwasher, I take care of the next morning while the tea steeps. That means unless you walk in my house in the few minutes between when my tea is ready and the first person eats breakfast, my kitchen is messy. So be it. Honestly, this is why I chose a farmhouse style sink, because it is wide and deep and when it’s filled with dishes you can’t necessarily see them. So next time you get a say in what your kitchen sink looks like, remember that hot tip–go wide, and go deep. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment for today is to take a step back and try to contain your dish doing to one or at most two particular times during the day, and to put some sort of boundary around that time so that you don’t spend so much time on it that you then feel stressed about the work you weren’t doing during that time. If things feel messy and gross because of it, perhaps someone else in your household will be inspired to do some of it. 

And if dishes are something that you fight about with your partner a lot

Check out my blog post how I stopped hating your husband and you can too. I wrote it in 2013 and continues to be my biggest source of traffic, by far. It’s about how I changed the way I felt about the dishes and my relationship with my husband improved as a result. Just google how I stopped hating my husband and you can too. You need the ‘and you can too’. to have it show up right up top. And you will see it. 

Come back tomorrow when I’m sharing a work from home tip that’s good for your mental health, physical health, and creativity. 


Want to be a better person, but don’t know where to start?

My new daily podcast, How to Be a Better Person, is here to help by sharing one simple thing you can do in the next 24 hours to rise. My mission? To help you live your best life.

Subscribe on iTunes Get podcast news