Wednesday, November 07, 2007

i don't believe in dirty dishes


This entry smacks of the particular sort of enthusiasm usually relegated to recent religious converts. Consider this something of my housework equivalent of handing out beads in the airport. So don't look too carefully for holes in this epiphany of mine because I can't guarantee how long I'll be wearing the orange robe, okay? It's pretty big news around here right now, though. I admit that this is so recent I don't even have a whole week behind me. It's quite simple, really: the less I believe in dirty dishes, the less I see them around. I cook a lot, I bake plenty, the children and I are home more than not and we eat. Dishes do get dirty. They just don't stay that way anymore. Except for a brief five month spell ten years ago, when I was newly married and not yet anybody's mother, I have always had a dishwasher. My 1958 kitchen is pretty darn near orginal - no dishwasher. We talk about putting one in. When we were still in the buying process, I assumed it would be a necessary, immediate renovation. For the first few weeks we were here, everything kitchen related was a drag - a nagging, joyless drag. I couldn't stay on top of my dirty dishes, I grumbled about my non-working sprayer and my lack of a dishwasher and my stained and pitted enamel sink. The more I grumbled, the less I wanted to step into the kitchen at all. This was becoming a problem. Moving and home repairs and life in general being as they are, I knew that any funds we might have earmarked for a dishwasher had been abdicated by higher priorities and it all seemed so hopeless. Something had to change. And I don't know what it was. The collective voice of a million grandmothers past. The withering spirit of my own secret inner kick ass homemaker. Who knows where it came from, but a switch flipped and I totally get something now I didn't before: A dirty dish is just a clean dish with low self-esteem. I don't have dirty dishes. I have clean dishes that get dirty when we use them but go right back to being clean again. It's like walking down the hallway and noticing a crooked piece of art, no matter how it got crooked, you straighten it out on your way past. It turns out that there's a whole lot of wisdom to the "clean as you go" addage. This is a little mindblowing to me. Oh, sure I've always had to wash up a few dishes by hand. But it was occassional. Even the loading and unloading of previous dishwashers has been a tiresome chore, something to dread and avoid. When I fill up a sink with hot soapy water straight away, it's no trouble to swish a just-used dish through and rinse it and dry it and put it away in less time than I ever spent dealing with dishes before. I fixed my handheld sprayer so it's operational now (if still a a little drippy) and threw out my dish drainer. What? No dish drainer? Not only do dishes get washed faster when the kitchen starts from clean and there's a sinkful of soapy water waiting, but when I set a few dishes on a towel, I put them away immediately, without leaving them to languish in the drainer half a day. And then I take the damp cloth and wipe off the counters and sink. The whole scenario is so effortless and simple, it's like my dishes are washing themselves!! I have still been thinking about adding a dishwasher, because it seems like the right thing, the modern thing, to do. I walked into the kitchen last night to rinse out my bedtime tea teacup and the light over the sink was on and the whole space was bright and shiny and clean and it hit me that maybe I don't want a dishwasher after all. Maybe I don't want to be beholden to a machine's cycles. I went to bed knowing that every dish in the house was clean and put away. In times past, I'd always wake up to a dishwasher full, dishes needing to be rehomed, just one extra step. I'm not sure it's for me. And that's why this compares, however wryly, to some semblence of an apronclad spiritual awakening. It feels personal, special. When my kitchen is clean, it's no trouble to quickly whip up a surprise batch of brownies when the rest of the family heads down to play in the basement. When my kitchen is clean, I like being in it. Fresh paint on the walls, clean dishes in cupboards, something good in the oven. I believe I could get used to this.


triple p said...

Yay! It works;)

Lisa said...

That is a wonderful accomplishment. I hate washing dishes, so I'm thrilled to have my dishwasher, but you are so right about having to live by its cycles. Sometimes I find myself thinking that I can't get the kitchen completely clean because I can't fit all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher at once. But does it occur to me to handwash? Of course not, because I am so tied to the dishwasher as a matter of habit.

My stepmom says that she loves to handwash dishes and she wouldn't know what to do with a dishwasher. Here's the catch: she uses disposable dishes and utensils if there are more than two people eating and she doesn't cook a whole lot. I probably wouldn't mind doing dishes if I had that small amount either!

I envy your clean kitchen and dishes, because I haven't found it in me to get it really clean for a good while.

leaky said...

Oh, that orange! That sink! I want to move in!!

Angelina said...

I am deeply envious of your almost original 1958 kitchen. My house is the exact same vintage as yours but the couple who built the house redid the kitchen in the 1980's and made it smaller and took out ALL of the original cabinets and EVERYTHING. Plus they wallpapered it in the kind of print you find on rolls of paper towels, same colors too.

So to paint in there requires removing the wall paper first. And we'll still be left with the tiniest 80's kitchen ever.

As to doing dishes...I need to take this post with me to the kitchen and reread it as though it were the beads you mentioned and get religious with my dishes.

sj said...

you're making me think flylady again.

deb said...

flylady would give you a big smooch! also, I have to tell you, we have been over a week with no microwave and it has not been the hardship I thought it would be.

are you tired of me posting comments? maybe my family will get home soon and you can get rid of me!

april. said...

of course i know who you are, deb. even if i knew others, you'd be deb #1.

i don't ever get tired of comments.

deb #1 said...

deb #1! That makes me happy, thank you!