You can probably just chalk it up to a life habit that I never gave opportunity… but I have always washed my dishes in a dishwasher. In fact, nearly every day of my life I have used a dishwasher. Go figure. My parents used one. My grandparents used one. It’s been in every home I have lived in…. and when it wasn’t available (broken or kitchen remodelings), it was a source of great stress. Dishwashers get loaded, started, and emptied. End of story. Or so I thought.
Recently, I have begun washing dishes by hand immediately following every meal. Months ago, I read a famous zen story titled, “Wash Your Bowl” (via Leo Babauta) and have considered its meaning ever since. And so I decided to give the mindful practice of “washing my bowl” a literal shot in my life. I began washing every dish following every meal. And since then, I have almost completely stopped using the dishwasher.
I love it. Here are the practical benefits that I have seen in my life:
- Less Physical Clutter. How often were dirty plates, bowls, and glassware left on my kitchen counter following a meal just waiting to be loaded in the dishwasher? Far more often than I would like to admit, that’s for sure. Each time, physical clutter was left on my kitchen counter, table, and sink.
- Less Mental Clutter. An unfinished project clutters the mind… always. Even when we were not in the kitchen, the pending responsibility of needing to clean the dishes was always hanging over our evening events. And we were specifically reminded every time we walked into (or even past) our kitchen.
- Seamlessly Transition Between Activities. Once the mind clutter of dirty dishes has been removed, we are freed to move from activity to activity, event to event, and room to room. We are allowed to be fully engaged in the present… however we choose to spend our evenings. There is no need to return to the past and finish the duties of our meal.
- Dishes are Always Clean. Ever need that one mixing bowl, pot, or cooking utensil, only to find out that it’s still dirty sitting in the dishwasher? Yeah, me too. Washing dishes after every meal means the dishes and cooking utensils are always clean and in their drawer.
- Dishes get Cleaner. Perhaps, the age of my built-in dishwasher has something to do with it, but I always hated pulling a bowl or plate out of the dishwasher that didn’t quite get all the way clean. And now I never do. Dishes are cleaned fully, everytime.
- It Takes Less Time. It came as a surprise, but I truly believe that washing our dishes after every meal has taken less time than loading/running/unloading the dishwasher. After most meals, it takes only 2-3 minutes to handwash each item. Cups are a snap. And most plates are a breeze to clean immediately following a meal.
- Example for My Kids. My kids see parents who finish what they start, aren’t afraid to put in a little effort, and leave a room cleaner than they found it. And those are life disciplines that I hope they embrace every day of their lives as they get older.
- It Brings Personal Satisfaction. There is a level of satisfaction in life that accompanies working with our hands and accomplishing a task without the need for mechanical intervention. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against machines. In many ways, they allow us to accomplish and create more than we could without them. I’m just saying there is a simple satisfaction in reminding ourselves that we can still live joyfully without them.
To accomplish the task of washing dishes immediately after every meal, I use three items: a dish wand, a sink rack, and a towel. I wash, dry, and put away. And with every practice in life, I own it – not the other way around. When we entertain or have a large meal that uses a number of cooking pots and pans, we still use the dishwasher.
It’s been a practical step of living intentionally. It’s been a process of choosing to question my life assumptions and live mindfully in all facets. And in that way, maybe it’s more than I just never gave it an opportunity… maybe it’s more honest to say that I never chose to live intentionally and mindfully.