Turning Forgetfulness into a Mindfulness Practice

Diana Winston reflects on how to turn a bad habit into a mini moment of mindfulness.

 LoloStock/Adobe Stock

My ex-husband used to say I left the kitchen cabinets open all the time. I denied it and ignored him, which might explain why he’s now my ex-husband.  But in recent years, in my new, multigenerational household in which I live with my nine-year-old daughter and my mother (now known as Grandma) —Grandma’s got my number.

“Diana, you left the cabinets open again.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did.”

“Maybe [my daughter] did it.” 



“Okay, maybe not.”

A few months later, after countless reminders, severe annoyance, and half-hearted attempts on my part, Grandma finally forced the issue.

“Can I show you something?”


Grandma whipped out her iPhone. (Of everyone in my house, Grandma is the most tech- savvy. My Waldorf-schooled nine-year-old comes next, and I am at the bottom.) She proceeded to show me about fifteen photos of open kitchen cabinets with a few bathroom cabinet shots thrown in for good measure. All dated in the last few weeks.

The evidence was incontrovertible.

My first thought was, “Jeez—30 years of mindfulness practice and I’m still leaving cabinet doors open.”  After I noticed the embarrassment and settled a bit, it became clear that while some form of my mindfulness practice had failed me, it could also save me.  

I decided to use an open cabinet door as a mindfulness practice.  I noticed an open door, and I paused and sensed my body.

So instead of just hoping I remember to shut it, or shutting it and forgetting about it, I decided to use an open cabinet door as a mindfulness practice.  I noticed an open door, and I paused and sensed my body. Then as I reached to shut it, I felt the sensations of my arm stretching forward, the touch of my hand on the cool wooden door.  I noticed the distinct pleasure of the click of the door closing, and the fact that the dishes were now out of sight. 

With that success behind me, I decided to take cabinets on as a mindfulness practice.  And so began my week of kitchen cabinet door mindfulness boot camp.  

I knew it wouldn’t be easy.  I’d have to remember to even notice the cabinets, remember that the open door meant it was time to take a mindful moment, and remember to mindfully go through the steps I outlined above. This was not easy for the untrained mind, but I knew I was up to the task.  

Or so I thought.

Day 1: I wake up groggy, walk over to the cabinet to grab a mug for tea, turn on the kettle, totally miss that I’ve left the cabinet open. Walk away.

Day 2: Groggy, open cabinet, grab mug, turn on kettle. Pause. Wait, there was something I’m supposed to remember. Huh?

Day 3: Less groggy wake-up, open cabinet. Grab mug, walk away, turn on kettle. Turn back to see wide open cabinet. Ding ding! It’s open. I rush over to the open door, press my hand against it, feeling the coolness and the satisfying snap. I take a breath. I am in the present moment.

Day 4: Sadly, more like Day 1. Utter forgetfulness.

Day 5: Wake up, open cabinet, do not close it. Grab mug. Turn on kettle. Remember to remember. Take three mindful steps to the cabinet. Slowly reach my hand out, press the wood with awareness, snap the door shut, a feeling of accomplishment comes over me.

And so it goes. By the end of the week, I was actually remembering from time to time. A week later I still hadn’t mastered shutting the door once I’d opened it, but I was remembering to go back and shut it a few minutes later. After another week I was mindfully shutting it on the spot.

Then I became a convert. I loved that moment when my hand touched the cool wood of the cabinet. I loved the satisfying click. I loved how neat and un-chaotic my kitchen looked in that moment of closing. I loved that suddenly mindfulness was in my kitchen—in a way that was helping my familial relationships (Grandma was kvelling). And I loved that those door-shutting moments of mindfulness were spreading out more and more throughout the day. I’m generally mindful in daily life, but I would say the kitchen cabinet practice somehow upped the ante.

A few months later it’s become a habit. I still bring mindfulness to shutting doors; I kind of can’t stop. Grandma is happy. The house looks neater. Shutting cabinets has become a part of me. There’s only one problem now: my daughter has started leaving the cabinet doors open…