The Unexpected Benefits of Doing Dishes

Woman by the kitchen sinkA friend of mine shared that her dishwasher had broken down, and it would be some time before a new one could be bought. She sighed over the thought of one more thing to do in her already busy schedule, but she knew her family could pitch in, and it wouldn’t be that long before they could save for a new one.

Now my friend has four boys who are always running in different directions, but when the boys started doing dishes in pairs, she noticed something change. As one washed and the other dried, they talked to each other. She overheard real conversations and playful teasing not the bickering or disinterest that usually filled their time. What was happening? Was washing dishes magic? Possibly.

Agatha Christie once said, “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

What is it about doing dishes or other basic home-keeping tasks that grounds us and recharges us, even opens our minds to creativity? Is it the warm water, the repetitive nature of the task, the chance to let our minds wander wherever they want? I’m not sure, but there is something to it.

Okay, my virtual ears are buzzing. Some of you are thinking but I hate doing dishes, or scrubbing my floors, or hanging out my laundry. (I’m with you on the last one. There is no substitute for a dryer in winter!)

So, take a leap with me. For 15 minutes, give yourself over to some simple household task. You could

  • wipe your kitchen counters
  • clean your bathroom mirror and sink
  • sweep your front porch
  • or maybe even do your dishes.

As you do this task, let yourself be present in the moment. Let your mind relax and enjoy the sense of accomplishment when you finish.  You might be surprised at the good things that come from this little break in your day.

* Thanks to Lynn Blackburn’s blog Out of the Boat for the Agatha Christie quote. You can check out Lynn’s other great quotes for writer’s at Out of the Boat Writer’s Quotes.

Simplicity Tip of the Day: Take pleasure in your home. Straighten a bookshelf. Dust a corner. Put a cuddly blanket on the back of your couch. Do one thing today to bring you pleasure where you live.

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12 Responses to The Unexpected Benefits of Doing Dishes

  1. vondaskelton says:

    As much as I hate to admit it, you’re right. I remember as a child that all us cousins had to clean up the kitchen after big family dinners. It is still a time we talk about fondly. And yes, even though I don’t enjoy doing dishes and am thankful for my dishwasher, I have to admit to a certain introspection while doing it.

    Something to think about!

  2. Cathy Baker says:

    Did my hubby compensate you for this post? Seriously, housework is the last thing I ever want to do but between your challenge and Agatha’s quote (thank you Lynn!), I’m searching for my Meyer’s Honeysuckle soap and a few dirty dishes.

    I always enjoy seeing your blog notices in my inbox. 🙂 Thanks CC!

  3. Ironing is one of my joys. I love seeing the results of a blouse become strong and crisp with this mindless task. However, I must keep a note pad nearby because creative ideas seem to be pressed out of my subconscious mind as I iron. Even with buying many “no-iron” items, I still plug in my old friend when my brow is wrinkled with an unsolved problem. There is always some item that could use a pressing.

    Thanks for the reminder that the simple old jobs are still worth doing.

    Teach on!

  4. timethief says:

    Well said. I choose not to have a dishwasher. I choose not to think of housework as drudgery. That shift in attitude makes a world of difference to my enjoyment of the simple things in life. Provided we are mindful about what we are doing, anything can be a meditation, including washing dishes and scrubbing toilets.

    • You’re right. It’s all about the attitude. When I do laundry, I’m still grateful for having a washing machine in my house. I remember my college days when I had to trudge across an apartment complex. Washing clothes in a dry house on a rainy day–pure joy! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Ray Colon says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    I’ve always found doing dishes by hand to be relaxing. My mind wanders as I perform that simple task and the writing ideas flow. My wife and daughters think that that’s crazy talk, so I gave in to the pressure and bought a new dishwasher weeks after the old one died. But I never use it.

    When doing other chores like mowing the lawn, laundry, or vacuuming, I pop in the ear-buds and listen to music, but not when I do dishes. I like the sound of the running water and I also enjoy the feeling of the chore being completed, rather than having to return later to empty the dishwasher.

    As Carolyn mentioned, ironing is another good chore to do when you want to get lost in your thoughts.

    • I get writing ideas while I’m doing dishes, too. My story notebook is crinkled from water droplets and soap spots. It’s funny you say you “gave in to the pressure and bought a new dishwasher.” My grandmother did the same thing with a dryer. She liked hanging her clothes on a laundry line, but she lived in New Jersey and my grandfather didn’t like her going out in the cold all winter. She let him buy her a dryer, but she filled it with cookies. Whenever I went to visit, her dryer was stuffed with Oreos, Nutter Butters, and Keebler Fudge treats!

  6. Love this post, Cynthia! I don’t have good memories of doing the dishes with my brother aren’t good ones, but spending time together does cause people to talk to each other. And that’s always a good thing.

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