A few months ago I came across a sign which declared “Kitchen Rules” and I simply couldn’t resist. It was as if I’d written them myself, so I bought the sign and boldly posted it on the kitchen wall for all to see. Over the next few days I got a few comments from the crew, things like, “New kitchen rules? What’s this all about?”

Fast forward to one Friday night recently. By some minor miracle the entire clan had other plans for dinner except my husband and me. We had a quiet dinner and I cleaned up. I really cleaned up and eventually, everything was put away and wiped down and I walked away feeling very pleased about the lovely, clean kitchen that would be awaiting me in the morning. With six or more people in-house, getting it to this state was something of a luxury.

Only moments later, I heard Mr 18 call out, “Is there anything left for dinner?” He and his friend had come back from rock climbing and they were hungry! No surprise that they were hungry, the surprise was that they hadn’t already had dinner. “There’s leftover rice you can turn into fried rice with some veggies and bacon.” I responded and left them to it, knowing they were very capable of making a meal.

When I came to the kitchen the next morning, I found a stack of dirty dishes in the sink with rice dried on them! On a normal day I may have overlooked it, but that morning I was expecting a clean kitchen! The culprits were already out for an early morning bike ride so I grappled with the decision of whether to leave the mess for them to clean up or not, when it struck me…the Kitchen Rules…they had contravened rule number 2 which clearly states, “If you dirty it, clean it!”

“You can’t enforce a limit that hasn’t been set.”

The expectation had been set, so I choose to enforce it and issued my first ever Kitchen Infringement! It was so gratifying and turned out to be a lot of fun too! Everyone that was home that morning wondered whatever I was up to, especially when I said I was writing a fine for the dirty dishes in the sink.

Some options around the fine helped to keep it lighthearted and I identified a preferred choice for the two boys involved to take their mothers out for a coffee, which I knew we’d all enjoy together. Once it was finished and posted on Mr 18’s bedroom door, we waited for him to come home. Within moments of returning he had several people ask, “Have you looked at your door?” Everyone was curious to see what would happen.

The response? At first he wasn’t too sure, but there was definitely a sheepish grin and let me say, the notice is still proudly posted on his door which tells me it obviously wasn’t too bad! We mothers are still awaiting our coffee date, but there are still 2 weeks before I need worry about issuing a reminder notice. 🙂

Tempting isn’t it? Are you already planning the first infringement notice for your kitchen? If you do choose to try this strategy at home, please consider these simple guidelines before proceeding:

Keep it humorous

Issue your notice with some fun in mind and your message will come across loud and clear.

Remain objective

Stick to the facts and be fair. Don’t bring out past grievances or say things like, “You always leave the dishes in the sink” or “You never clean up after yourself.”  Pre set expectations so they can be reinforced.

Ensure the fine is logical and measurable

Make the fine easy to pay and relevant to the infringement; this is really an exercise in saying, “I value your cooperation.”

Remember to notice when they do the right thing too 

Saying, “I really appreciated your help tonight” will go a long way to encouraging more cooperation.

Since issuing the first Kitchen Infringement in our house it feels like there has been more effort from everyone to keep the kitchen clean. We all had a good laugh, I was able to vent  a frustration in a harmless way and everyone was reminded that, “If you dirty it, you need to clean it!”

Can you share a lighthearted tactic you’ve used to let off some steam and/or encourage more cooperation at home? We’d love to hear from you.

Warm regards,