The Important Life Lesson I Learned From My Dirty Kitchen

Two years ago, I was facing the daunting task of cleaning my kitchen. What’s the big deal, you say? You’ve probably cleaned your kitchen before, right? Hopefully you have anyway… It’s not incredibly fun, but it’s doable. However, at that time, I had just moved into a new apartment and found that not only had the former tenant not cleaned when he left, but he was unbelievably disgusting.

Now, I can freely admit I’m a bit of a clean freak (my first ever job was as a housekeeper, so I tend to see dirt that others don’t). Let me tell you though, no one would have disagreed that this kitchen was completely gross. Every inch of every surface was covered in a layer of stubborn yellowish stickiness that was resistant to standard, everyday cleaning products and the simple swipe of a paper towel. It was like a mutant drug-resistant virus. I even started to have nightmares that I was in a really bad horror film called Invasion of the Cockroaches!

I initially thought it was a lost cause. I thought there was no way it could be cleaned and that I would have to board up the kitchen like an abandoned house and eat out for the rest of my life. Reality soon set in though, and I realized I had to live with (and use) this kitchen. I didn’t have the option of giving up on this task. My mission, as I chose to accept it, was to clean the grimiest kitchen known to man (or at least that I’d ever seen).

As I began to clean though, I quickly became overwhelmed (and exhausted, and sore). I had to scrub the same spot over and over to get through the grime. It took all of my strength, so I had to take frequent breaks. My arms quickly became so sore that I could barely move them. Not even my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser pads could cut through this hardened grime (if you’ve ever used them, you know how amazing they are… so I was shocked when I tried to use them on the grime and the pads instantly started crumbling apart).

After the first day, I felt so defeated and didn’t know what to do. The kitchen was so gross that I didn’t want to bring food into it until it was clean, but I realized that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Since there was nothing else I could do, I made a plan. 

I broke my kitchen into pieces (metaphorically, not actually), and each day I told myself “today I will clean this shelf”, and “tomorrow I will clean the shelf below it”, and so on, and so on. In the end, it took me a month to fully clean the kitchen, but I DID IT! Each day I just focused on the little section I was completing that day and told myself not to think about all the rest I still had to complete. It wasn’t easy. I frequently needed to remind myself to stay focused on the smaller goals. However, the more I trained my mind that way, the easier it became. 

This advice isn’t revolutionary. We’ve all heard it before, right - “Slow and steady wins the race”. It might be a cliché, but I’ve learned from my experiences more than once that it’s true, especially as I worked toward paying off my credit card debt. If I allowed myself to just constantly think of how much money I owed and how long it would take me to pay it off, it would have been way too overwhelming. And sometimes it did feel like too much, but then I just refocused my mind. As I accomplished the smaller goals I set for myself, I was slowly getting closer and closer to the big goal without thinking about it.

Rather than “slow and steady wins the race”, I would prefer to rephrase it as “slow and steady we reach our goal”. A race implies that there’s only one winner, but if each of us applies this method toward a goal of getting out of debt then we can all win after slow and steady progress.

Have you applied this method toward your goal of getting out of debt? Has it worked, or is it working for you? Please leave a comment below.