So, you’re making spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner. There will be some garlic bread on the side, maybe a tossed salad, and something lemony for dessert. Maybe a glass of chilled sparking grape juice or some wine, depending on your taste.
A friend is coming over for dinner at 7pm, so you know when dinner should be ready. You’re not too worried about everything being perfect because this person is close to you, but you do want to generally be prepared and be able to relax and enjoy his or her company.
If you’re like me, for a quick weeknight dinner you’re not going all out, so most of the ingredients will be already prepared. The sauce is from a jar, the spaghetti is from a box. The garlic bread and lemon cheesecake are both from the frozen food aisle, so they will not take long to prepare. The garlic bread needs about 10 minutes to warm up and crisp, but the lemon cheesecake needs to thaw for 4-5 hours. Which item do you take out of the freezer first? The cheesecake. In fact, you’d probably take it out in the morning and put it in the refrigerator to thaw slowly while you’re at work or taking care of other household chores.
When you get home at 5pm, you put the wine or juice in the refrigerator to chill and pull the mail off of the kitchen table so there is room to eat. Around 6:30, you chop up some extra veggies for the pre-packaged tossed salad while browning some ground beef in a pan and warming the oven. Around 6:45, you put the garlic bread on a cookie sheet in the oven to toast, and also warm up some pre-made spaghetti sauce in a small pot. When the meat is fully browned, you drain it, mix it into the sauce, turn off the oven so the garlic bread doesn’t over-cook, and then pull out a couple of plates and glasses and the utensils necessary to eat.
At 7:05, the doorbell rings, your friend arrives, you greet him or her at the door and then go back into the kitchen to pull out the bread and take the wine or juice out of the refrigerator. While your friend pours the drinks, you also take the tossed salad out, give it another mix with the tongs for good measure, and maybe sprinkle some grated cheese on top.
Dinner is served!
Getting your house in order is not too much different. It takes some time to get used to the rythmn of the process (trust me … I’m STILL working on that!) but once you learn the “recipe” by heart, it just requires being smart about timing and following through.
For instance, on Saturday Daniel and I went out to enjoy some bagels and coffee in the late morning; while we were out we stopped by David’s Bridal to pick up a bridesmaid dress I ordered to wear in a good friend’s wedding. We stayed out until after dinnertime, and though we enjoyed a leisurely browse of a T.J. Max HomeGood’s store and Barnes & Nobles, we also made sure on the way back we ate a restaurant near home that was also near Kroger’s, our local grocery store. We then did our minimal grocery shopping before coming back home (note: take it from us that shopping AFTER eating is always the best way to go if you don’t want to come home with a bunch of things you don’t need.) We brought the groceries in, and then I walked our dog while Daniel took out the garbage. When I came in, I unloaded the groceries and Daniel made sure the trash can was ready for its next load. Then I put a load of laundry in the wash so it could be in the works while I typed out a blog post in advance, picked up a few errant items to take with me upstairs, and he sat down for some planning for his business. I joined him later for some television and a little bit of Internet browsing, followed by some laundry folding. It all flowed from one thing to the next, and was almost effortless. Teamwork really DOES make the dream work.
It was while I was mulling how smoothly the day went (somehow our “just relax” day turned into an errand-running machine and we didn’t even notice!) that I realized, wow, it all happens like when I worked at a tea room and made sure the kitchen went smoothly, or when I make dinner at home. It takes some preparation and thought and consistency to pull it off, but the bottom line is timing.