The Uber driver asked me where I was from and what I do for a living.
He thought a moment.
"So you organize people's lives, right? What words of wisdom do you have for me?"
We were almost at the hospital entrance where I was due to visit one of my new twin grandsons in the NICU in Albuquerque.
What would you say? Words of Wisdom? Yikes! The pressure.
I had 15 seconds to sum up over 25 years of learning about the people I work with, what works, what doesn't work, and figuring out where to be quiet and where to teach, help, and hug. (My credo.)
I said, "Keep your kitchen sink clean and empty. Do your dishes right away."
"What? That's it? Really? Why?"
It sounded simplistic, disconnected, or downright silly, but I'd repeat it.
We need grand rituals to mark life passages, like weddings, funerals, new babies, and graduations.
But we also need daily rituals and routines.
They keep us connected to how to spend our precious days. We're taught them by wise people who know their value.
That was in my mind when he asked because when I landed in Albuquerque, the first email I read told that my dear friend, organizer-coach buddy Yvonne Trostli, had just died after a long bout with cancer.
Her business name was Whole Life Organizing, and Yvonne was a master at distilling what is important.
She practiced the quotidian with as much high-quality attention as she did grander activities. She thought deeply about things.
Yvonne and I agreed that the daily rituals of cleaning your sink and environment, and your body and mind are essential to a masterful whole life.
I'll teach my grandsons that if I have the opportunity. It's important.
Tidying up is a form of self-care, as essential as eating and bathing, and there are lots of benefits beyond a kitchen that looks neat.
You've got garbage and critters if you don't wash food particles away from the faucet, sink walls, and drain area. Yummy!
Nothing squashes a creative cooking urge more than a sink clogged with dishes full of cold, greasy water. In the time it takes to run hot water and soap over dirty dishes you could have washed them or filled the dishwasher. Don't believe me? Time it.
Whether it is a romantic partner, housemate, or solo you, leaving cruddy stuff for the next person to deal with is inconsiderate. Consider their plans. Do the dishes. They and your future self will thank you. Or at least not curse you.
Occasionally everyone gets too strapped for time to clean up. But if "I don't have time" is your usual refrain, it's not a reason. It's an excuse. It takes longer to dismantle a mess than it does to clean up while the water is hot and the cheese on the dishes hasn't turned to cement.
It won't embarrass you.
"Oh, excuse the dirty dishes. I got busy." You apologize because you wish the sink were clean and feel guilty it's not. The plumber and the neighbors aren't buying it or don't care; stop apologizing.
It sets an example.
I've worked with many clients who said they were never taught basic life skills, like cleaning, budgeting, or how a flatware organizer makes finding a fork simpler. Life skills are not innate, they are are taught and learned. If you don't know, get someone to model it for you.
This is arguably the most important reason of all. Some of the best ideas arrive when you are showering, driving, brushing your teeth, or washing dishes, especially if you can look out a window. There's a lot wrong with multi-tasking, but you have our permission to gaze out the window while you wash dishes.
Judging and rethinking the Judge.
When I reviewed what I said to the Uber driver, I let myself off the hook for not saying something more profound.
I mentally thanked him for prompting me to think about it.
I thanked Yvonne for the years we spent talking about how to help people have easier lives.
I thanked all the people who have helped me learn unique ways to live a better life, especially those who took the time to learn the myriad of seemingly small medical tasks essential to keeping people healthy, like delicate newborns.
I think about this while washing my hands thoroughly in the clean NICU sink before entering, and that I appreciate the people who keep the sink clean—and Uber drivers that ask good questions.
And thank you, Yvonne. Well done.
Master your sink, master your day, master your life.