Updated: May 25, 2022
It doesn't matter how disorderly the rest of your house is. You start at the kitchen sink, turn it into a shrine of beauty and love, and protect it every day. Shine it each night, so it smiles at you in the morning. The patterns we set here then start spreading to other areas of your home, all by themselves. A powerful, light kitchen sink changes your relationship to mealtimes, and then everything starts working better: the garden, the neigbourhood, and the rest of the universe. Thats how culture works.
Here are the design principles I've adapted from Permaculture, to create a system that goes with, not against, your nature. None of us are born with a desire to wash dishes, but cultivate this desire, and anything is possible. All my declutter projects start here, and it works.
The sink is a powerful place, a place of alchemy. Its where the outside world of food and other people are is turned into the inner world of your body, where your spirit resides, and your friends. Im not keen on relationships where all we do is talk. I feel replaceable. I feel more secure in relationships were we create together, and share pleasures together. Getting the sink in order is such an easy way to amplify this magic.
Here are three powerful patterns for making life work, being stars, in your humble kitchen sink.
1. Reduce useless diversity - Make families of objects
Useless diversity creates confusion and lack of love. Remove clashing consumer packaging, and mis-matched cleaning cloths. Then you have the extra brain-space to increase the useful diversity in your life, things such as the fresh vegetables in your meals, the good microbes in your gut, and the interesting people at your table.
- Source things in the colors you actually love. You are not a rubish bin, accepting anything that comes you way. Maybe you are someone who loves natural colors and materials, so get a jute scrubbing brush, hemp cloths. Maybe rainbow colors light you up, so get a stack of pretty colored cloths, and maybe hang a crystal prism in the sunbeams, to send rainbows swimming around your kitchen. I teach my students what I call the Postcard Method, a powerful way to name the essence of your natural style, by using a camera to find and show pre-existing combinations of things in your home that make each other look beautiful. Then their job is simply to expand these areas of harmony, and shrink the areas of unloveliness.
- Group round things together with their families, long things together with their families. Don't they look happy together! Make familes of things that will go in the fridge, or back in the pantry. Line straight things up at right angles to each other. Make beautiful mess-scapes as you cook. It takes away scariness. Placing things purposefully is a micro-mediation. It gives you a breath between actions, and lets you enjoy mindful, complete movements. I sometimes feel I'm being dominated by my inner Hurry Hurry Monster, being pulled along like a slave to my poor habits, no micro-achivements, with chaos in my wake. Mess-scapes make me a creator of temporary artworks, all day long.
- Lining things up to show you are finished with them for now. This supports your mind in focusing on the one-and-only current task. There is even a word for it: knolling, named after the angular furniture of Florence Knoll. Maybe you or your loved one are already natural knollers. If not, and you invest a day or two in making it second nature, the rest of your life will have a new flow. 'Always be Knolling'.
Making 'families' helps reduce the mental stress that gets us frightened of cooking and its aftermath. It keeps us out of the downward spirals of reluctant, no-love cooking.
2. Protect Creative Void
Creative Void is the fifth and most powerful element in Japanese cosmology. Without empty space, things don't combine to make new creations. Its so hard to motivate yourself to wash the dishes if yesterday's dishes are stagnating in the rack, waiting to be put away.
Subtract the drainer. It seems impossible, but 90% of my students stay rack-free. Wash, dry and put away dishes all in one go. The drainer can go under the sink, hanging on a hook on the wall. It takes 3 seconds to bring it out.
- Declare that dirty dishes no longer sit in the sink. The sink is an intersection, not a parking lot. Dirty dishes are either on the table, in your hand, in the dishwasher, or temporarity stacked in a 'harmonious dirty dishscape' beside the sink. Round things, long things, metal things, all in quiet, patient, manageable families.
- Employ Guardflowers. Even a tiny glass with one flower lets people know, this is not a dumping ground, its a sacred space. The human psychology finds it difficult to defile beauty. To leave a peanut butter knife and smeared plate beside a shining sink graced with flowers is actually more difficult than just washing the darn thing. Mess also likes to attract a family to itsself. You only have to design to discourage the first dirty dish, and then its effortless.
3. Zones - Keep it current, like a flowing stream
Zones will blow your mind and keep you up till 2am, with hope in your heart. Once you realize where you Zones lie, you cant unsee them, and there will be a pull to put things back in their right Zone. Its the #1 most loved design concept in my workshops.
The idea is that things you rarely use should be stored in Zones far from where you spend time, and things you want to be reminded to use are placed right in your high-value zone of attention, Zone One. Zone One places include your work desk, back of the toilet door (good for memorizing poems), and kitchen bench. They are places your eye naturally goes to, or that things like keys get placed on without thinking. Zone One gets diluted and loses it's power when its cluttered with low-use things. So take away the block of blunt knives, and lay the optimal ones out on the bench, sharp and ready to be used. Place the bulky toaster in a cupboard, in Zone Two, and spend 10 seconds a day bringing it out, if you really want to eat more bread. Or donate the toaster. Really! Fry your bread in a buttery pan, European style, and luxuriate cooking in a spacious bench.
2022 Event Update
Zen Your Space Series at Shizuka Ryokan, Traditional Japanese Guesthouse
Naturally Orderly: Japan-inspired Declutter & Re-set, to transform your home life
Fall in love with a uniquely Japanese, nature-based approach to decluttering your home and life. Join Cecilia Macaulay for one or all of her culture-changing full-day workshops. You will learn to ‘Reduce useless diversity, increase useful diversity’, and so much more. Expect fun, a traditional Japanese lunch, and a transformation in your home the very next day.
11am to 3:30pm on the following Sundays: March 27th 2022, 5th June 2022, 4th September 2022, 11th December 2022 and 22nd January 2023