What we do just before bed can have a big impact on the quality of our sleep, so it's important to wind down the day with activities that encourage a peaceful state. For me, the kitchen is always the last room I visit before heading to bed because it's my favorite place to immerse myself in what I like to call "quiet tending."
Quiet tending, which I also sometimes refer to as "purposeful puttering," is taking care of small tidying-up or cleaning tasks around my kitchen. Nothing too ambitious or physical, like scrubbing the kitchen floor or organizing spices, quiet tending is more about finding the simple things that need taking care of that add up to a soothing sense of order. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Tackle tiny cleaning tasks.
Folding a stack of dish towels, brushing stray crumbs off of the counter, or putting away the clean dishes from the drying rack or dishwasher all qualify as purposeful kitchen puttering. I also like to give my kitchen floor a quick sweep before bed, just to catch any stray crumbs from dinner, and to wipe down the sink, giving any stray cups or glasses a quick wash. Waking up to a clean kitchen is a great way to begin a new day — a fresh start all around.
2. Get a jump on breakfast.
Setting up for the morning's coffee or tea is another example of quiet tending. A friend mentioned kneading bread that she then puts in the refrigerator to rise overnight. She finds the quiet rhythm of kneading helps to center her, and she's rewarded in the morning with ready-to-bake bread. Other people I know find prepping overnight oats or muesli a perfect end-of-the-day task. Tomorrow's breakfast sorted!
3. Prep future lunches and dinners.
If it doesn't create too much of a mess, making the following day's lunch or getting some advance prep done for dinner can help calm us down some. Being one step ahead of tomorrow's chores is always a bit of a relief. But be careful not to create too much activity and energy with overly complicated tasks that require bright lights and a lot of cleanup.
4. Take on a small project.
In my book, Finding Yourself in the Kitchen, the last chapter describes how I used to make a small batch of yogurt every night before bed. I talk about how soothing it was to stand at the stove, gently stirring the milk. Although this is no longer practical for me on a daily basis, I occasionally indulge in a quiet moment of yogurt-making before bed just because I find it so restful.
5. Embrace the quiet.
It sometimes helps to listen to some quiet music or a gently read novel as background distraction, but truthfully silence is often the best. How often are our lives ever silent these days? Quiet kitchen tending is a rare chance to be with your thoughts and to allow the events of the day to settle.
Heading off to bed knowing that your house is in order and ready for the following day is a small but important step towards a more restful night. By turning it into an evening ritual, you can signal to your mind and body that whatever has kept you wound up and sprinting through your day will have to wait until morning. It's time now for sleep.
Do you have any kitchen rituals that you do before bed to help you calm down and get ready for sleep?