Diagnosing Bad Habits

When I lived in NYC I developed a terrific habit of keeping my kitchen immaculate. The constant threat of vermin motivated me to make sure every dish was washed and every surface cleaned before going to bed.

I haven’t lived in NYC for over 10 years, but I maintained my standards for years after moving to other cities. Over time, without the vermin threat, I started to let things slide. I routinely went to bed leaving the sink piled high with dishes to greet me in the morning. In fact, I seemed to always have dirty dishes in the kitchen. It really started to bother me. I knew I was capable of keeping a clean kitchen, so what was causing the slippage?

Over the next several weeks I observed my dishwashing habits and how I felt about it. In time I realized the problem was not the dirty dishes. The real problem was not emptying the dish drainer regularly. Consequently when I wanted to wash dishes, the dish drainer would be full making a simple task into an onerous two-step process. And since I was usually tired, it was easy for me to convince myself to do it when I had more energy. Inevitably, I always woke up to a sink full of dirty dishes to be washed before going to work, which was unpleasant and costing me valuable time in the morning.

Other factors that were working against me:

  1. I create an obscene amount of dirty dishes.
  2. I stack things terribly in the dish drainer. I can’t be bothered to wash things a certain way for stacking purposes.
  3. I hate emptying the dish drainer. Totally irrational, but it’s one of my least favorite tasks.

Armed with this information, I created a strategy to achieve my goal: waking up to a clean sink. Now I wake up to a clean sink about 80-90% of the time. The trick for me was diagnosing the right habit to change. The bottleneck was not from the large volume of dirty dishes. It was a direct result of not emptying the dish drainer routinely. Once I figured out how to keep the dish drainer empty, everything else fell into place.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment when I share my habit transformation methods.

6 comments for “Diagnosing Bad Habits

  1. jamew2965
    25 August 2015 at 08:12


    You are awesome. I have never known anyone to analyze why they are not leaving dishes in the sink. That’s so cool, and you make me want to think about things I do. So that I can then do them better and not fall into what I call the lazy trap.



  2. Franca
    25 August 2015 at 08:49

    EXCELLENT! I’ve been ranting to my husband about this exact same thing for years. I just need him to empty the dish rack and dishwasher regularly. Then I’m happy to wash all the dishes all the time. Why is putting away clean dishes so distasteful?

    • Anonymous
      25 August 2015 at 08:49


    • The Deletist
      29 August 2015 at 15:52

      I really have no idea why putting away clean dishes is so distasteful, but it’s one of my most dreaded tasks. I know, it’s totally silly and irrational.

  3. Anonymous
    25 August 2015 at 09:58

    I agree with your finding and strategy. Thanks for a helpful tip.

  4. victoria pierscinski
    5 September 2015 at 15:50

    Loved this idea and will use it in my office. Don’t like a mess in there!

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