Power of a Picture to Persuade

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Last week something pretty insane happened.

I began cleaning my kitchen as I cook.

It’s insane because I am a tornado in the kitchen. Hubby will get the whole thing sparkling clean before we go to bed at night, and by the time he comes home (after I’ve cooked two meals and am in the middle of the third), the poor guy’s effort has been all undone.

Yes, I can see how that would be frustrating for him. I can see exactly why, even when I’m in the middle of cooking and still using the measuring cups around me, he sometimes swipes my cooking utensils and throws them into the sink, just for the sake of making more of the counter top visible.

Cleaning house is not my strength, and yet the constant state of disorganization frazzles me almost as much as it frazzles my poor husband. So when a blog I subscribe to mentioned the e-book One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler, which only costs $5 and would give me amazing tips like “Eat your frog first,” let’s just say it’s the first time I’ve bought an e-book without hesitating.

The author’s recommendation is to choose where you want to start, and after reading through a dozen or more of the projects, I knew “Clean your kitchen as you cook” was the winner for me. I read it while nursing the baby upstairs for his nap and then came down and announced my intentions to Hubby, expecting him to be thrilled.

“What?!” he choked. “I’ve been begging you to do that for nine years.”

Poor guy.

But it made me think about persuasion. How had these couple of pages in an e-book succeeded where the man I love had not?

Sadly, Hubby’s main point didn’t work well enough for me. Yes, crusty, dried-up food takes five times as long to clean off as it would before the food cakes. But I figured I didn’t have time to deal with it while cooking. Cooking is not a leisurely activity around here. It’s a stressful effort, accentuated by cries of “Mom! I’m hungry!” So I always dealt with tossing dishes in the sink once the food was in the oven, etc.

That’s where the e-book spoke my language by showing me how cleaning as I cook would actually simplify my life. And it did that by using an image that gave me an instant association: what a professional kitchen looks like. The author of the project says she learned to clean as she cooks in her first day of cooking school.

That was when it started to click for me. Oh! Of course! A professional cook would quickly wash and put away a cutting board before moving on to the next step. I could picture that, and then could visualize myself doing the same.

And thanks to that effective analogy, everything else clicked into place for me.

I could see how important that would be in a professional kitchen, how they need the cutting board and other kitchen tools to be always ready for the next thing. How many meals have been delayed at our house when I discovered that the needed bowl/knife/measuring cup/chopper/blender/etc I needed was buried in the sink?

I could see how washing those things immediately and putting them away would also save me time trying to push things aside to create enough counter space.

I could see how other tips like having a bowl for scraps next to me while chopping veggies would mean my veggie chopping wouldn’t create a mess.

I could suddenly picture myself cleaning as I cook, and that allowed me to begin doing it.

It’s ironic that in the e-book the “Clean as you cook” project doesn’t come with a photo (other than the author’s portrait). What I mean here is simply the pictures created with words. When someone is trying to persuade us to change, I think that helping us visualize that change is essential to the transformation. We need the right details, like the “garbage bowl” and the analogy of the professional kitchen, to catch the enthusiasm of the idea and adopt it in our lives. And we need to see how the change will actually overcome the obstacles we thought prohibited it in the first place — like not having time to clean while cooking.

Yes, it might take me several weeks to fully master this first project and conquer my tornado habits, but visualizing the change has already made a huge difference.

Are you as visually dependent as I am? What does it take to persuade you to start a new project or transform a habit?

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4 responses »

  1. I read your post yesterday, but kids and life dragged me away from the computer before I could comment. But that gave me time to think about what you said and how similar we are in our dinner mess making. :)

    I have to have my kitchen clean before I cook dinner. The only problem is that after I’m done cooking it’s messy again, and then I don’t feel like cleaning it up AGAIN. So, I tend to postpone cleaning it until the next meal. Yeah, bad cycle.

    I never thought about a professional kitchen before. You are so right about that image being powerful. Last night as I cooked I remembered this post and cleaned while I cooked. So much better! And not as hard as I thought it would be. Now I just need to keep picturing it. :)

    Thanks for the great post and powerful visual. You rock.

    • I know how that goes! I’m sorry to say it’s happened many times that I’ve read your posts and wanted to comment but never came back to it. :( So you are awesome to remember later!

      I’m so glad the professional kitchen clicked for you the way it did for me. And I agree: it didn’t end up being as hard as I thought either! Good luck to both of us as we master it! :D

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