Here we go.
One of those posts.
The back story:
Almost every time I post something on Facebook about running my dishwasher, or about how irritatingly important it is to empty it, or about how finally grasping the routine of running it each and every night was the game changer for my kitchen, someone bemoans the fact that she does not own a dishwasher.
I get it, y’all.
A gut reaction to a post mentioning a dishwasher being frustration that you don’t have a dishwasher is something I understand.
I’ve lived with and without dishwashers. When I didn’t have one, I was the QUEEN of believing that if I only did have one, my kitchen would be clean. I could have argued you to the floor on this subject. The sheer logic!
Yet, once I had one, my kitchen wasn’t clean. In fact, it was worse.
And I was MORE frustrated.
If you think it’s frustrating to have a messy kitchen because you don’t have a dishwasher, just know it’s sixty-seven times more frustrating to have a messy kitchen when you do have one.
It’s not about the dishwasher. It’s about the routine.
Really. It’s about washing the dishes each and every day (at whatever time makes the most sense in your home) and putting them away.
With the routine in place, a dishwasher does help. I’m not saying it doesn’t. I have a bit of an obsession with mine. But the key thing to understand is that without a routine, a dishwasher doesn’t help like you think it would.
A dishwasher doesn’t keep your kitchen clean. You do. A routine is how you do it. A dishwasher is a tool.
Whew. This is one preachy post so far, huh?
Now to the point. We spend a week at a time at my parents’ lakehouse. It’s nothing fancy, but we love it. We are incredibly grateful to have a place to go (for free!) where the kids can ride bikes, go exploring, play basketball for hours at a time, etc. Oh, and there’s a golfcart. Golfcarts make life fun.
But there is no dishwasher.
Every time we go, I think about writing this post. This time, I’m actually writing it.
Things That Are Still True About Keeping a Kitchen Clean Even Without a Dishwasher
1. Dirty dishes defy mathematical logic.
One day’s worth of dirty dishes can be washed in X amount of time.
Two day’s worth of dirty dishes require 4X time.
Three day’s worth of dirty dishes require >7X that time.
Please don’t analyze my algebraicish equations. Just get the point. The time required to clean the kitchen daily is SO MUCH LESS than if you let it go for even one extra day.
One day’s worth of dishes can generally go smoothly through the process. One day’s worth is usually ONE dishwasher load for our family, or can mean (if washed in the proper order) one dishpan of hot, soapy water.
Two days’ worth of dirty dishes means there are still dirty dishes on the counter when the dishwasher is full. Or the dishwater gets cold and disgusting before you’re anywhere near done and has to be changed multiple times.
More dirty dishes means more moving around, more adjusting, higher-and-significantly-more-precarious piles that threaten to come crashing down.
Two days’ worth of dirty dishes is significantly more visually overwhelming. This increases the risk T.P.A.D. (Time Passage Awareness Disorder) will kick in and turn it into three (or four or five) days’ worth of dirty dishes.
2. There are sixty things I’d rather do at any given moment than clean the kitchen.
Not a lot of explanation needed. Just know that after the first week of a new dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen goes back to being the dreaded chore it always was.
3. Putting dishes away is as important as washing them.
I’ve said many times that emptying the dishwasher is (much to my chagrin) as important as running it. When I empty it first thing in the morning, there’s room to put dirty dishes in it throughout the day, which means that night, I only have to add dinner dishes and start it.
When I’m living without a dishwasher, it’s equally important to empty the dishdrainer, even if “the dishdrainer” is only a towel spread out on the counter. The dish drainer/towel/super-absorbent-dish-drying-mat-thingy (<-affiliate link) is a space designated for clean dishes to dry. When it’s empty, it’s psychologically easier to start washing the dishes because there’s nothing that has to be done FIRST.
“Before I can do this, I have to do that” is one of the most self-pitying, sigh-inducing, logical-excuse-producing phrases in my Slob Repertoire.
Another crazy thing happens when the drying spot is available. Washing one dish “real quick” actually enters my brain as something worth doing. A mostly-clear space triggers the desire to keep it mostly clear. Just like an empty sink (because the dirty dishes are already in the dishwasher) triggers the desire to take the extra 2 seconds required to open the dishwasher and place a dirty dish in it instead of dropping it in the sink.
4. One day’s worth of dishes requires less energy (and elbow grease).
After years of
arguing bantering about this issue with my husband, I finally won the pre-wash war when I started this blog. Running the dishwasher nightly meant food didn’t harden/petrify onto the dishes and would usually come off in one wash.
It’s the same with handwashing. Doing dishes every night means food doesn’t get the chance to become one with the pan. Even things that need soaking can soak while the other dishes are being washed.
5. Removing the decision is key for my personality type.
As a chronic over-analyzer, I am a master at coming up with logical reasons why it makes more sense to wait until “later” to do the dishes. I’ve had to remove decisions/create non-negotiable tasks. Removing the nightly decision about whether I should do dishes removes stress. And keeps my kitchen clean.
I tried to have the same-old-same-old conversations with myself last week. I tried to reason that a few dishes weren’t worth my time.
I can’t let myself make those decisions. I just can’t. It HAS to be a routine. Wishing I had a dishwasher doesn’t get the dishes done. I have to do them.
Bonus Reason: The best kind of inspiration is the kind that passes out hope a little at a time, over and over again.
Life is easier when your kitchen is clean. I’ve always known this, but I still have to be reminded. Waking up to a clean kitchen means making breakfast/sack lunches is easy.
I can just do it. Without having to FIRST clean up (or at least shove to the side) yesterday’s mess.
This inspires me to keep going.
Doing the dishes even though we had sandwiches for dinner and there really aren’t that many lets me experience the pleasant surprise that it wasn’t as bad or miserable or time-consuming as I feared. As I always fear.
Every time, I’m surprised. Every time, I get a bubble of joy over how easy it was to clean my kitchen. Those moments of joy help me do the right thing the next time.
I’m not saying you don’t need a dishwasher. I love mine. It makes my life easier. I consider it a worthy investment. But it’s not magic. Routines are where the magic is. If you have read 28 Days to Hope for Your Home, you know the instructions say to “do the dishes” not to “run your dishwasher” because it’s a fact. Doing the dishes (however you have to do them in your unique home) daily is THE KEY to getting an out-of-control home under control.
(28 Days to Hope for Your Home is part of my book: How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind.)
I’m not complaining about the people who complain about not having a dishwasher. We’re all at various points in this deslobification journey.
My reaction is not that of a Housekeeping Expert: Seriously, people! You have to do the dishes whether you have a dishwasher or not! Duh!!
It’s more like a Slobs Anonymous leader who nods knowingly because she’s been there and knows this person is going to have to come to terms with this reality on his/her own.
If you have a larger or smaller family, your dishwashing times might be different. Maybe you need to wash every other day or three times a day. The point is having a routine that actually works. For you. In your home.
I have a podcast on this subject, with other tips for developing your kitchen routine. Listen to it while you do the dishes.
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