I’ve never worked in food service, and that is probably a good thing. I have a terrible short term memory. I’m always amazed when I ask a waiter for something as he passes by–“Excuse me, could I have some ketchup?”–and then, a few minutes later, he miraculously brings it to me! The wait staff of the world are truly an amazing bunch.
Besides their incredible short-term memories, good waiters possess another excellent skill: constantly doing a little of this and a little of that to keep the restaurant humming. You never see a good waiter walk by without something in her hands–a plate for another table, dirty dishes that need to go to the kitchen, the aforementioned bottle of ketchup. Good waiters understand the importance of making every trip to the kitchen count.
If you’d like to adopt a minimalist home, I recommend you become a good waiter in your own home. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that you wait on your family hand and foot or that you constantly bustle about, never sitting down. But I have learned that one of the keys to keeping a tidy home is to do what good waiters do: clean-up a little here, a little there. Thus cleaning up never becomes a big job.
Imagine if the wait staff waited until the end of the dinner rush to clear plates or wipe down the tables! The restaurant would be an absolute mess and no one would want to eat there. When we wait weeks to do laundry or until we can no longer see the floor to clean up, this is exactly what we are doing. And then the laundry or the cleaning becomes a much bigger job than it needs to be.
I’ve learned a little bit about the power of being a good waiter in my own home. Here are a few tips you might find helpful:
Always carry trash in from your car. Unless you are going on a long trip, there is no need to keep trash in your car at all. When you get out of the car, just grab any trash that collected during the time you were in it: a few granola bar wrappers from your kids, a takeaway coffee cup, maybe an ATM receipt. These are small items you can quickly dump in a trash can as you walk in your house. I know some people who keep a trash can in the garage just for this purpose. Teach your kids to do this, too. My kids know that the car floor is NOT the place for trash and they usually (with reminders, of course!) carry all their trash from the car when they exit.
Utilize your steps and landings. If you live in a multi-level home like I do, it’s very easy to let your stairs become dumping grounds. I often put items at the foot of the stairs to be taken up or at the top of the stairs to be taken down. However, a good waiter will take a few things up or down each time they use the stairs. Don’t just let those items sit there. Grab anything that needs to go up as you go up. I know some people buy pretty baskets just for the purpose of holding these up/down items. I have mixed feelings about that. The problem with pretty baskets is that they are so pretty you might be tempted to just leave your stuff in them until the baskets overflow. Personally, I just set my stuff out in the open so that I have to look at it, which encourages me to grab it as I pass by.
Declutter your fridge daily. There is no reason to let moldy leftovers linger in the back of the fridge, growing who-knows-what kind of bacteria. I guarantee that you are accessing your fridge every day so this is the perfect place to practice being a good waiter. As you put food away after dinner, toss one old bottle of salad dressing no one ever uses. As you get out milk in the morning, wipe down one sticky shelf with a rag. Pretty soon your fridge will start looking spic and span!
Clean your bathroom in spurts. I can’t remember the last time I cleaned an entire bathroom at once. I just clean a little here and there as needed. If I’m brushing my teeth and notice the sink looks grungy, I’ll grab some spray and a paper towel and wipe it down. (Hint: keep some all-purpose spray and paper towels in your bathroom to make this easy!) It takes less than a minute, and my bathrooms always look relatively clean.
Make every step count. As you pass through any room of your house, be a good waiter and take a moment to pick up some things that don’t belong and move them where they need to go. You don’t have to clean up the whole room at once; you could just grab a few stray socks off the floor and drop them in the hamper as you pass by. Ignore the other items on the floor for now. Just get those socks. When you pass by again, you can pick up something else.
Picking up a little here and a little there will very quickly make a HUGE difference in your home. I hope this post has encouraged you to channel your inner waiter. Now, if only I could figure out a way to earn some tips…
Rose Lounsbury is one of Dayton, Ohio’s top professional organizers and a sought-after public speaker. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less LLC, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. Rose is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and has been featured on Good Day Columbus. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, you can contact her at [email protected] or visit her online at OrganizeWithLess.com.