Why I Stopped Using a Dishwasher

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Image: Photonoumi

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

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  2. says

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  3. IrocE says

    Thank you! I’m happy I came across this article in my journey on the internet to find motivation. I’m going to try this…after I clean the house.

  4. says

    Thanks for the added insight. Personal satisfaction is key, not to mention time. I’ll be applying these factors more into my daily habits. Thanks again!

    • says

      The past few years our dishwasher was getting too old to do it’s job and I was shopping for a great sale on a new dishwasher when one day it occurred to me what a pain it was for me to have a dishwasher. I had to own more dishes because with just two of us it took about 5 days to fill the dishwasher. The mixing bowls and pots took up too much room so I did those by hand anyway. So those were in my sink dirty a whole lot. Too many times my sink had dishes in it because I needed to unload the dishwasher to put more in. One day I said no to a new dishwasher and hired someone to remove the old one. My husband made a couple of shelves in the open cabinet and we put the microwave oven and the dish pan and drainer on those shelves. Now my kitchen is more clean more often than not.

      • Theresa says

        With just two of us in the house, now, I find using the dishwasher to be frustrating and sometimes ludicrous. We always use all the cereal bowls and spoons before the thing is ready to run. I’m forever opening the dishwasher to get something out and washing it by hand.
        When we had four kids at home, it was a different story. It was full after every evening meal. Now, that isn’t the case and I find this idea of hand washing to be very appealing.

  5. Dacia Reid says

    My friend’s dishwasher broke and it was a terrible thing for her family until she started asking one of her teenagers each night to dry the dishes while she washed. She talked with them about their day and began to enjoy this one on one time so much she decided to never get it fixed. Having a broken dishwasher allowed her to get to know her children a bit better.

  6. Martin Helstein says

    Different strokes for different folks, per usual. Arguments have been made for and against the dishwasher. It certainly isn’t the device the clothes washer is in terms of what it can do, but these days they are quieter, more energy efficient and think they have a brain. Mine works pretty good at cleaning and takes forever to think things through. Try selling your house without one if you are thinking about eliminating it. Like everything else there are trades to be made on both sides.

  7. Ursula says

    Here’s my problems with dishwashers: They are very hard on dishes! Maybe it’s the extremely hot heat that dries them, but after a while all the clear glasses are cloudy and ugly. I’ve read that washing them in TSP occasionally fixes this, but that’s an extra step in dish maintenance. I have a few dish pieces that are old (40s and 50s), and they have maintained their good look, and it’s possibly because they haven’t been through countless dishwasher cycles.

  8. Howie says

    We have never owned a dishwasher, nor will we. After large meals with family & friends, we pause and take the 30 minutes to wash the large pans by hand. It is something our friends have come to expect. We are a couple in our late 30s, with two children, but entertain frequently.

  9. says

    I don’t own a dishwasher but I do know that doing dishes by hand wastes lots of water. I would also rather spend time with my family rather than standing in front of the sink scrubbing place settings for 6 people in addition to cookware.

  10. Carla says

    You don’t waste water by washing dishes. You have an option to use a basin while washing dishes and rinsing it. By this way, the water is not running to the sink.

    This blog is so true. I rarely see Filipino households own a dishwasher because we do it by our hands. :) Nice blog Sir.

  11. Elizabeth says

    I’m glad I came across this article because I have been debating whether to replace my old, very rarely used dishwasher with a new one. I plan on doing a full kitchen remodel in my small kitchen. I have been told by a realtor that my house will be hard to sell without one, but I figure when I do sell my home, the plumbing is there and a dishwasher can be installed for a potential new owner. when or if I ever sell it, I’ll install one. Until then, I’m dishwasher-free.

  12. says

    This is very tempting…especially since now that I have minimized our dishes, I often find myself having to wash a plate or two or some silverware by hand to use for the next meal..why not do it all? ;)

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. How to Clean Up After Dinner | November 25, 2010
  2. Wash your dishes | we live simply | November 29, 2010

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