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"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Works For Me: I AM the Dishwasher

As I've mentioned before (have I mentioned this before? if not .... it's going to come up a lot), my husband and I purchased a century-old house and are slowly making structural and cosmetic changes.  Not the least of these has been a completely brand-new kitchen: new walls, new ceiling, new beam, and beautiful custom cabinetry and counters.

The one thing missing from this brand new paradise of expansive Corian and glazed cherry cabinetry is a dishwasher.  And startlingly so, according to the majority of visitors to my humble home.

My father-in-law, with raised eyebrow, dutifully designed the kitchen sans device.  He insisted on putting in a bank of drawers the WIDTH of one, just in case "the next owners want to install one" (or, as he probably thinks more likely, I come to my senses at a later date).

My mother exclaimed: "That's the first thing your father and I bought when we got married!  A dishwasher!" And countless others have sung the praises of their own devices--claiming the inability to imagine a life without.

So here's the thing: I am not going to try to convince you to tear out your dishwasher.  I just feel like explaining my reasons for omitting one.

1. There are four people living in my home.  For the most part, that means I only need 4 dishes for each meal.  It COULD mean a possible 12 (bread plate, bowl, dinner plate, plus glasses, but using that many dishes for one meal is a rarity).  I ALWAYS have enough dishes.  I don't have to pull a dirty one out of the dishwasher to wash it just because someone had an extra sandwich at 3pm.  I also don't have giant stacks of plates in my cabinets.  I prefer extra space to extra dishes.

2. I enjoy washing the dishes.  Hot, soapy water, a job well done.

3. I have two children who, when they are tall enough, will take turns washing dishes, to give me a break.

4. I never have to wonder if what I need is clean.  My favorite knife.  Or mug.  Or spatula.  Or apple corer.  Or soup pot.

5. I have never forgotten to run the thing, empty the thing, put soap in the thing. I never accidentally dump a handful of dirty spoons into a clean silverware basket.

6. No repair issues.

7. There are quite a few things I use on a daily basis that wouldn't go into the dishwasher, even if I had one.  Cast iron skillet, Cutco knives, over-sized bowls, popcicle holders, giant cutting board, dutch oven, stoneware baking pan, virtually all of my storage containers (some are probably dishwasher-safe, but with all the PBA stuff, I don't know how much I believe that).

8.  I have 18 cubic feet more storage space than you do.  Right there, beside the sink, where I do all the prep work.

9. You cannot convince me that the dishwasher actually saves time.  I defy you to load and unload the dishwasher any faster than I wash and put away the dishes (allowing for air drying, or if you'd like, we can race and I will dry them as well).  My dishes are ready again long before yours.

I will concede: I am probably using more water than you are.  The dish drainer sitting by the sink is not particularly beautiful.

I will also admit that the key to making a dishwasher-less life work is that I do my dishes RIGHT AWAY.  I have a washtub of hot, soapy water sitting in wait while I prepare dinner, and the majority of cookware is washed before we sit down to eat, dry by the time we're done, and back into the cabinets before I wash the scant plates and serving dishes we just used.  Nothing gets crusty or smelly.

I get the impression that most people, when imagining themselves in a dishwasher-less home, see a giant, teetering stack of spaghetti-and-ranch-laden-from-three-days-ago plates, a la Hoarders.  And to that I can only say: user error.  Don't blame the dishes, blame the procrastinator. Don't do that to yourself, and it won't be overwhelming drudgery.  It'll be a few dishes.  No big deal.

Hey - it works for me.


  1. If I had to wash everything by hand, I'd kill myself. Or worse, I would NOT actually kill myself, I would just WANT to, desperately, every single night.

  2. I have to give you credit, but I just couldn't fathom life like that. I hand wash most of my pots, baking sheets, and my Shun knife daily and that drives me crazy, plus I hate to see them on the counter as they air dry.

  3. There are only two of us in the house and I have to admit....we sometimes (and only sometimes) use the dishwasher! After reading this I think I will feel guilty next time I load the dishwasher...

  4. I actually hand-washed my breakfast dishes this morning. It felt pretty good. I do have some dishes that I loaded in the dishwasher yesterday that I think I might remove and wash by hand as well. It also made me think about putting lotion on my hands, which I always need to do. I have to agree that it didn't take me any longer to wash and dry the dishes than it does to wash the dishes and load them in the dishwasher for "sanitizing" which is what I normally do. Only this time, I won't have to unload the dishwasher afterwards.

  5. We did leave a space in our kitchen remodel for maybe adding a dishwasher later... and it makes a great spot to tuck the step stool away :)