An Experiment in Hand-Washing Dishes

Once upon a time, no one owned a dishwasher. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Dishwashers arrived around 1850, a big hand-cranked machine. (If you ask me, I’d rather wash dishes by hand than turn a heavy lever on a machine.)

In 1887, a newer model arrived.

In 1929, the first electric dishwasher was invented in Europe, by someone we are forever grateful to.

Fast-forward, and by the1950s, more dishwashers were being sold, but only to those who could afford one.

In the 1970s, dishwashers were commonplace.

I was one of the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on how you look at it) girls who grew up in a home that didn’t own a dishwasher until she moved out. (I had been the dishwasher up until that time.)

Lately, I’ve had this urge to try hand-washing again, just like I did when I was younger. Only now, it would be a choice, not a chore.

I’ve been reading blogs about others who have given up their dishwashers. Part of the simple life movement. I figured if others did it, so could I. I was the simple hippie, after all.

Plus, when I picture washing dishes, I envision the elegant 1950’s woman, apron tied loose around her flowing skirt, hair swept back, humming as she does the family’s dishes. I know, I’m a romanticizer, and not always realistic. (I think I watched too many episodes of “Father Knows Best.”) I know that about myself, and yet, I had to try this experiment anyway.

For one month, I would only hand-wash dishes, no dishwasher allowed.

Here’s what happened:

Day one: I pulled the dishes out of my nearly full dishwasher, filled my sink with hot, bubbly water, and, without a pair of rubber gloves to save my nails and skin, began.

Immediately, I noticed three things:

Washing cookie racks and sieves are no fun.

My back got tired very fast.

I hate prune-y hands.

But there were good points as well:

My drinking glasses were sparkly.

My silverware was brighter.

The tea stains came out of my cups.

And the best part, I felt I emotionally relaxed. There’s something therapeutic about standing over a sink of dishes.

Twenty-eight minutes later, I was done. Everything washed, dried, put away, and sink and counter cleaned. (Apparently, I’m a messy dishwasher.)

Here are the after-effects:

I felt like I’d completed a job.

I felt satisfied, like I’d just meditated.

My hands were dry. If I were to keep doing this, I’d either need a set of gloves, or a really good hand cream. But I didn’t need to worry about either, because as soon as my husband got wind of what I was doing, he put the kibosh on my experiment.

“You did this once,” he said. “A couple years ago, at Thanksgiving. Our dishwasher was broken. You’d already been washing dishes for about two weeks when the holidays came. It took days for us to get caught up. And in our house, you can never stay caught up.”

“But I had to do the dishes then. This time I want to. It’s an experiment.”

“No. You’ve done this before. Remember how much time you spent washing dishes? You have better things to do with your time.”

I remembered. And I knew he was right. (Dang! I hate admitting that.)

I knew he was right because as soon as he walked away, I dirtied more dishes. The problem in our house is this, we are always cooking, making everything from nut butters and milk, to cookies and bread. Our kitchen is a constant stream of activity, with an endless abundance of dishes to wash.

I sighed. My experiment lasted exactly one hour. Well, an hour and one month, if you count the time I unintentionally experimented when the dishwasher broke.

In any case, I learned a few things during my very short experiment:

I use too many dishes. I tend to take a glass out of the cabinet each time I want a drink, instead of reusing the same glass.

I use too many pans. Instead of reusing the same pan, I tend to stir-fry different foods in different pans.

This experiment made me aware of how many dishes I use, and how many I need.

I love my dishwasher. I really do. It’s great to hand-wash if you have the time, or don’t have umpteen dishes in your sink all day. But for some people (like me), a dishwasher makes sense. It makes life simple.

I may still hand-wash dishes on occasion, and pretend I’m an elegant 1950’s woman. But for the most part, a dishwasher will always be in my life.

What about you? Do you hand-wash your dishes? Would you?

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Enjoy the Now

Sometimes a day trip is all that’s needed to remind me what life is about.

Sunday morning, the sun rose high in the sky, grass glittered like tiny wet diamonds, little buds burst from trees, and daffodils spread their yellow cheer. My husband and I packed a lunch and set out on our first day trip of the year. No plan. No calendar. No list. No reminders of what needed to be done.

It was a badly needed day away, one that hadn’t been planned. Sad to say, that’s how my life usually is – one plan followed by another. I plan everything – vacations, meals, career ambitions, errands, home improvements – my calendar is a list of goals for this year, and even years beyond. It’s safe to say my life often feels like one big planning session.

I like plans, the anticipation, the wonderment, thinking about the next big adventure. I love dreaming about what’s to come. But sometimes when I plan, I forget to enjoy where I am.

The road trip reminded me.

Grass bowed as we sped the rural highway. Tall evergreens stood majestic against a background of a snow-capped mountain. My husband and I spoke of many things, enjoyed the scenery, the parks, the life around us. Nothing existed but the moment we were in. I had forgotten what that was like.

It is true, plans need to be made. We’d never go on vacations if we didn’t think ahead. Careers would fail. Family would get neglected. But sometimes, it seems as if we are so busy thinking of the future, we forget about the life in front of us.

Believe me, I’m as guilty as anyone. I plan next week’s meals while eating dinner, think about vacations while watching a documentary. I’m half here, half someplace else. Distracted, always looking forward.

The road trip reminded me what I knew all along. That to truly enjoy life, we must stop and enjoy the moment.

It got me wondering, what if we didn’t wait for a road trip? What if we stopped every day to enjoy the now? What would happen?

The world wouldn’t end, I guarantee it. But maybe it would change.

We could make our own little worlds calmer, quieter, full of what really matters. I want my life to feel that way.

So, as silly as it sounds, I’m making a plan to not plan. My calendar now contains three little words, “Enjoy the now.” It is my reminder to take time each day to remember where I am. Because in this crazy-busy society, sometimes we need to plan for the quiet.

It won’t be easy. I’m always thinking ahead. Most of us are. But I don’t want the road trip to be the only reminder that life is right here in front of me. Right now.

Life is in front of you, too. In the friend on the phone, the spouse next to you, the child in your arms. It’s in your dishes, your work-out routine, and the meal you prepare.

I encourage you, stop constantly thinking ahead. Enjoy where you are at.

Enjoy the Now

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Benefits of Simplicity

About a year ago, I was asked to write a post on a friend’s site, detailing the benefits I had received from living a life of simplicity. I excited, and a little nervous. After all, what if I hadn’t really received any benefits? What if this life I claimed to be living were a lie?

In the process of writing the post, I discovered more than I could have imagined. Apparently, there was something to this life and this thing called simplicity.

I recently went back to that same post, just to see if I still felt the same way today as I had nearly a year ago. Turns out, I wouldn’t change that post at all. I’ve been blessed by a simpler life, a less with less stuff, a life with more living.

You can read my past article here on www.nicolemackey.com

Are you living a life of simplicity? What benefits have you seen?

Or maybe a simpler life is what you long for. What benefits do you hope for?

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