(This post is another one from the archives, since I am getting to know my new baby girl and settling into life with THREE! kids… the info is still perfectly relevant! Enjoy. )
One of the quaint quirks of the Shoebox is that it has no electronic dishwasher. That’s right. We’ve lived for over three! years now without a dish washing machine. In fact, they’re such a novelty to Red that when we go to friends’ houses they can hardly keep him out of their dishwasher. The same for me, I guess. I randomly find myself loading and unloading friends’ dishwashers just because they have one. It hasn’t been that bad though. We’ve learned a thing or two over the past couple years of hand washing all our kitchen wares. Here are my tips for living without a dishwasher.
Use the least amount of dishes possible.
Rule Number One: if you can avoid dirtying a dish, then avoid it. The fewer dishes you soil, the fewer you have to wash. Most breakfasts, Caveman and I eat our eggs off the same plate, Lady and The Tramp-style. It’s romantic. Most of the time we use two forks. But in a pinch, he eats his eggs on top of his toast and I get to use the fork. (Wow, that sounds just plain lazy.) And maybe it is, but I’m telling you, when it boils down to how much time you spend at the sink later in the day, not using a fork starts to look pretty good.
When cooking or baking, I reuse the same bowl or utensil a few times. I don’t wash measuring cups every time that only sift dry ingredients. If I’m making muffins, I’ll measure the milk, sour cream, and beat the eggs all at individual times, but use the same measuring bowl. All the ingredients go to the same place in the end! Don’t call the cross-contamination police on me, though. It’s all within reason. Nothing that touches raw meat ever gets reused. And we don’t have any known allergies in the house, so I don’t have to worry about traces of wheat getting anywhere it shouldn’t be. Also, I do a lot more hand-chopping and hand mixing because the food processor and mixer bowl take up prime real estate on the drying counter. It may take a bit more prep time, but the cutting board and a knife occupy much less room in the sink and on the counter later, so it’s a payoff.
Learn to prep well.
The actual process of washing goes so much quicker if you take the time to prepare the dishes to be washed. Scrape all food bits into the trash right after a meal. (Unless you compost. If you do, you’re way cooler than me!) Soak everything immediately. Rice will wipe off that pan easily if you soak it directly after removing the food instead of waiting until the rice has cemented on the sides. Stack the dirty dishes efficiently in the sink so your plates are stacked and all the silverware is soaking in one cup. It might sound crazy to sort your soiled kitchen wares, but I promise it quickens the actual washing process. If you take the time to rinse and sort and stack dirty dishes on one side of the sink, then your counter will be clear for pouring a glass of milk or cutting fruit for a snack.
I’ve heard about people storing bins in the cabinet beneath their sink to hide dirty dishes until you’re ready to wash. The idea sounds great. You know I’m all for more counter space, but I have not personally experimented with this space-saving idea. Mostly because my beneath-the-sink cabinet is a terrifying dark hole of spiders and cleaning supplies and God alone knows what else. Also because I’m afraid I’d forget about the dirty dishes under there… and that’s a scary thought!
Stack clean dishes on the counter as efficiently as possible. It’s almost an art. Lay the silverware flat first. Angle the cookware, plates and bowls over the silverware, and balance light items such as Tupperware on the top. It’s like playing Jenga!
Conquer in little battles.
Unless you have someone nearby to dry and put away the dishes you wash, you’re going to have to lay them out to dry. And unless you have an industrial-sized countertop, that means you can only wash as many dishes as you have the counter space for. So the moral is this: don’t let them build up. Do the breakfast dishes after breakfast. Clean up and scrub those dishes directly after a meal if you have the time.
Include the children.
When I can’t get a moment alone to wash dishes, I just include the kids. Actually now that I think about it, they always “help.” You just try to wash the dishes in this house without either one of our boys beside you. Lately, we will give either Red or Wolf Pup a sponge with some bubbles on it, and they do the prewash. Their proficiency level is quite astounding, really. Budding dishwasherists, our sons.
No, seriously. Dish washing doesn’t have to be a chore if you find ways to trick your mind into looking at it differently. For example, I generally don’t mind the 10-30 minutes I spend washing dishes in the evening because it is kind of my down time. I pray. I process. (We introverts are into that sort of thing). I look forward to the clean counters. So put on some music. Dance around a little. Sing into a soapy spatula. Whatever works. Caveman usually plops his Microsoft Surface in the cabinet and watches a TV episode.
Do you hand wash your dishes? Give us your tips for staying sane amidst the washing, washing, washing!