When looking for an apartment last year, I had two dreams: A dishwasher, and a washer and dryer. My years in college without either of these appliances showed me how these little luxuries make life easier. Long story short, apartment after apartment fell through for Mike and me in the weeks leading up to our wedding. One month before our wedding, we found a place in our budget and desired location. The caveats? No washer and dryer. No dishwasher (and I’d later realize no garbage disposal).
It’s not been as bad as I anticipated, and life without a dishwasher is teaching me some good lessons.
Establish a good rhythm. One of my goals for this month is to not have dishes lingering in the sink. Since I work from home, I have an opportunity to clean-up breakfast dishes before I start my work day. However, working from home also means dishes pile up throughout the day as I make lunch, tea, start dinner, etc. If I don’t keep dishes in the sink to a minimum during the day, I find myself overwhelmed by the mess when 6 p.m. rolls around and it’s time to start dinner.
Figure out your “trouble spot” and attack it. I actually don’t mind the act of washing dishes. I do mind drying dishes and putting them away. It’s too easy to just keep adding dishes to the drying rack without returning them to their homes in the kitchen. The problem? Eventually, I’ll have no room to put clean dishes so I can’t wash the dishes in the sink. It’s a vicious, sudsy cycle. Before every meal and bed, I try to make myself put those dishes away.
Know how many dishes (pots, pans, bowls, measuring cups, etc.) a recipe requires. This is something I’ve learned to do this year. There’s nothing worse than making a new recipe, wearing yourself out making the dish, then meeting a sink-full of dishes that you didn’t expect. I’m all about trying new recipes, but I just like to know what I’ll face after the cooking is over.
Use gloves. Nothing makes me feel quite like a 1950s housewife than donning my gloves to wash dishes. To be clear, I don’t use them because have a beautiful manicure I’m attempting to preserve. I use them solely because having my hands in hot, soapy water for prolonged periods multiple times a day takes it toll.
Clean as you go. When I’m cooking a meal, I try to wash dishes while I’m working . Even if I can just wash a measuring cup while the onions saute and soak a pan before dicing the peppers, it adds up in the end.
Make it as fun/productive as possible. Turn on some music. Tape a Scripture verse, poem or song you want to ponder above your sink. Invite your roommate, spouse or child to come in and talk with you (or you can invite them to join in if that’s your style).
Keep disposable plates on hand. There are very good times to use paper plates and cups and plastic cutlery. Hosting a large group of folks for a meal or snacks, going to an event immediately after a meal and simply wanting to be with my husband after a long day of work are all instances when I unashamedly pull out my stash of paper goods. Choosing to use disposable dishes at opportune times gives me the chance to focus on enjoying my company over a meal instead of dreading the work ahead.
Although life without a dishwasher has it’s frustrations, it’s been a really good thing for me in this first year of married life. I am learning sound kitchen management principles and I am daily reminded that modern appliances are luxuries, not necessities. Until the day when I need to purchase a box of Cascade, I’ll turn up the music, don my gloves and wash away.