The One Kitchen Chore You Should Do First Thing in the Morning

dishwasher
Photo Credit: Sofie Delauw

February 25, 2021

Lisa Freedman

Make your bed first thing in the morning. We’ve all heard this advice before and there’s plenty of good reasons why. Various studies have found that people who make their beds are more productive, happier, and even sleep better. But we have another suggestion: Empty your dishwasher (and/or dish rack) first thing in the morning. And we recommend it for many of the same reasons that experts advise making your bed. 

Why You Should Empty Your Dishwasher First Thing in the Morning

For starters, crossing this one little thing off your to-do list helps you feel a sense of accomplishment. “For many people, starting the day with a clean, organized kitchen is a do-able win,” says Lisa Zaslow of Gotham Organizers in New York City. Zaslow actually doesn’t believe in a lot of rules (people have to find what works for them, she says) and surprisingly does not make her bed, but she does start the day by putting away her dishes. “Creating easy wins for ourselves — doing a quick chore that makes us feel good — is a great way to start the day powerfully.”

One good habit helps lead to other good habits, too. So if you’re productive once very early on, you’re likely to keep it going. An empty dish rack also means less visual clutter, which helps to cure the mental clutter.

And, if your dishwasher and dish rack don’t have anything in them, it means that dirty dishes have a place to go as you use them. Coffee mugs and bowls can easily be put in the dishwasher, and skillets can be washed and set aside to dry. No more piles of dishes, which can end up being daunting if they get too big! 

If you’re convinced, but unsure how to adopt this new habit, here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Pair it with something that’s already in your routine.

“It’s easier to start a new habit if you piggy-back it onto something you already do,” she says. This is known as habit stacking. “I deal with the dishes while waiting for my coffee to brew. I’m already standing in the kitchen, and there’s not much else I’m alert enough to tackle before I’ve had my coffee!”

Not a coffee drinker? Try putting the dishes away while you wait for your English muffin to toast. Or pair the chore with your morning workout session. (For example, go for a run, put the dishes away, and then stretch). Or do it while the kids eat breakfast. You get the idea!

2. Do what you can to make it fun.

If something is Fun (yes, with a capital f), you’ll be more likely to want to do it. Zaslow suggests playing some music, listening to a podcast, or promising yourself a reward when it’s done. Treat yourself to a relaxing mug of tea or enjoy some social media time. 

BJ Fogg, PhD, a Behavior Scientist at Stanford University, says it’s really important to celebrate when we perform a habit. Even in a tiny way—a little “yay me!” can do the trick. “This motivates us to keep at it,” Zaslow explains.

3. Do it for a week.

There’s conflicting information out there about how long it takes to form a habit. Zaslow suggests emptying the dishwasher and dish rack in the morning for a week, not for official habit formation but just as a trial run: “Try it for seven days as an experiment and see how it goes. Maybe the morning isn’t the best time for you and it works better to ensure the dishes are handled before you go to bed.”

On the other hand, you might want to make it a regular thing.