I may have mentioned before that we're close friends with the family that lives across the street from Anthony's mom. Anthony has known the Gonzalezes for roughly 25 years, and over the years we've spent a ton of time over at their house. The parents, Olga & Carlos, are older than us but not as old as our parents, which makes them extra fun. Their kids are close to our age, too, so we always have a good time over there. Plus, there's always a ton of food and it's always incredibly delicious!
When I visit their house, I'm always struck by what a meticulous housekeeper Olga is. Her house is staggeringly clean, no matter when we drop by - even unannounced! Recently, my friend Emily (who happens to be Olga's daughter-in-law) revealed her secret: Olga refuses to go to sleep at night until the house is immaculate. She will stay up after guests leave, even until 3 or 4 in the morning, cleaning up. (Their parties often last into the wee hours!) My mind still boggles at this revelation. When I had parties (pre-Katie), I was way too tired to clean up the same night!
But anyway, Olga has inspired me. For years I've been battling the kitchen clutter monster. I was totally guilty of letting stuff "soak" in the sink for days on end. My sink frequently housed some pretty gross dishes. "Eww, what is that?" was a commonly asked question. And then, the ants. You remember my post about our daily invasion of ants. I finally had my "Aha!" moment, and it was a combination of Olga's spotless kitchen, my disgusting morning ant-killing ritual, and the following advice from my mentor.
We've all heard that it takes 21-28 days to form a new habit. I've tried forming new habits before, but they've seldom stuck. I think I finally figured out what was wrong. My mentor explained that our brains form an identity that includes our personal habits, and when that identity is threatened, our brains rebel. That's why it is so hard to break an old habit - your brain says "Hey! Eating junk food is who you are!" or "Being a smoker is who you are!" or in my case, "Having a messy kitchen is who you are!" Your brain recognizes the old habit and pressures you to keep doing it. It takes 21-28 days for your brain to recognize a new pattern and quit pressuring you to stay in the old one. The "aha" part is that I used to put a time limit on my new habit. I thought since it takes 28 days, I just had to get through 28 days and then my new habit would be formed. I was forming the habit "This is who I am for 28 days" instead of "This is who I am."
So now, every night (and indeed, throughout the day) I remind myself that I am The Woman with the Spotless Kitchen. I'm not cleaning the kitchen for 28 days. I'm forming a new identity. I know this probably just sounds like semantics, but it's working! I'm on day 18 (I had to check the calendar, I'm not actually counting) and my kitchen looks amazing! Actually, there are a couple of Katie's bowls in the sink and I am itching to go and put them in the dishwasher. Why? Because I'm The Woman with the Spotless Kitchen and bowls in the sink bother me! LOL!! (Seriously, this is such a 180 from before, I just have to laugh!)
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? ;)