I hate dishwashers.
Maybe I hate dishwashers because I grew up without one and spent eighteen years hearing my parents claim we had a dishwasher. Several dishwashers. Ourselves.
As a teenager, I never found the humor in the joke. I couldn’t help but resentfully picture a photograph of my two-year-old ghost (damp towel in hand and pacifier in mouth) standing on a chair by the kitchen sink and wiping away breakfast. In my family, we learned our lessons young: you make a mess, you clean it up. (Well, I learned my lessons young. I can’t find any pictures of my sister doing dishes. I’ve scoured the archives.)
During my junior year at Calvin, when I moved into an apartment with a dishwasher, my roommates gave me the run-down:
- Some dishes can’t fit in the dishwasher; if you fit big pots and pans in there, they seriously limit your space.
- Some dishes aren’t dishwasher safe, but “we stick them in there anyway.”
- Some dishes are not dishwasher safe, and we mean it.
- Some dishes can only spa on the top rack.
I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t remember all of the rules. Every time I loaded the dishwasher, I felt like I was gambling—will my roommate’s plastic spatula melt if I place it right…here?
And then I discovered a dishwasher perk of my own: dishwashers rinse the dishes, soap the dishes, and (kind of) dry the dishes. But do the dishwashers always get the dishes clean? No. You open the dishwasher, and what do you see? Peanut butter. Peanut butter everywhere. Peanut butter plastered on knives like concrete. And the worst part is that there’s now peanut butter stuck to plates, glasses, and bowls that never had peanut butter on them before.
And you have to unload these peanut butter dishes and wash them by hand. Because you can’t reprimand a dishwasher like you can a two-year-old.
My parents still live in the same house, and they still don’t have a dishwasher, and (here’s something every twenty-three-year old college graduate loves to admit) I moved back into this house when I graduated.
And I’ve been washing my dishes by hand ever since.
But I don’t mind it. Much.
Actually, I kind of enjoy it.
I spent this past weekend with a group of middle schoolers and high schoolers from my church in Benton Harbor. A big group means lots of food, and lots of food means lots of dishes.
Our host for the weekend told us that doing the dishes clears the mind, and I did recently come across an article from TIME about research proving that, when someone is focused on the task and mindfully wiping a dish clean (the way Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid would teach you how to wash dishes), washing dishes is a good stress reliever.
And I find this to be true.
So often my mind races about circumstances I seem to have little control over that it’s nice to be able to fix something so easily. At the end of the day, it’s nice to be able to bow my head and dip my hands in soapy water and rinse away the dirt. My mind feels more at ease because that pile of dishes is now clean and put away, but also because it seems that, through the process of washing the dishes, my mind forgave itself for any mistakes I made that day—any cruel words, any selfish actions, any thoughtlessness.
It’s a good reminder that, while I might not have control over the dirt of life, there’s still water to wash it away. That even the worst of messes can be cleaned up. And sometimes forgotten.
Sure, it’s a chore.
But so is unloading a dishwasher.
Cassie Westrate (’14) graduated with a double major in writing and international development studies. She currently lives in West Michigan, where she works as a writer, hangs out with her pet bird, and fights crime by night. Just kidding about the crime.