This winter, while taking a mini writing break, I wrote a three sentence post about hand washing our dishes. A few people have asked me to write more about that and I agree that this subject deserves more attention than three sentences.
Our family made a conscious decision this year to not use our dishwasher and hand wash our dishes. Why would we do this?
For several reasons. One of them is that I make all our own soap (except for Dr. Bronners liquid castile soap) and pretty much insist on doing so. It's my thing. But I cannot, for the life of me, produce a good handmade dishwasher soap that works really well.
That's one reason. But mostly we are trying to simplify our lives in purposeful and intentional ways and this seemed a good place to start (or continue with).
You know how people seem to run around like crazy these days? Going from one activity to the next. Shopping, school, entertainment, work, recreation. Going, going, going at dizzying speeds. Homeschoolers are just as prone to this as "regular" folk, I'd like to add.
Well if you hang all your laundry to dry, cook meals from scratch and spend time washing dishes together you'll have to necessarily spend a fair amount of time at home. This is what we are choosing. If you read this blog you know we don't spend all our time at home. We also love being in the woods and mountains, farms and other natural places.
I think it's really important for me to say this: I would not have made this choice with toddlers. If I hand washed all our dishes I would of never left the kitchen. I also didn't hang laundry in those days either.
an old photo I found of the kiddos "helping" me do dishes 6 years ago
It is the fact that our whole family participates in these choices that makes them doable for me.
I am not the dishwasher, we all are. I am not the laundress, we all are (or rather four of us are). I am the cook-in-chief but that is slowly evolving to shared responsibility as the kids grow.
So, this is how it works for us:
- We store most of our dishes & cutlery in a cupboard designated "hospitality" and keep handy only what our family needs. There are 5 in our family so that means 5 plates, 5 cups, 5 spoons, 5 forks.... you get the idea. Later this year and into next we will be evaluating that hospitality cupboard to determine what we truly need. I wasn't ready to get rid of most my dishes quite yet.
- While I am cooking I try to wash and dry as much of the prep dishes (bowls, measuring cups, pots, pans, food processor) as possible as I go. Most of these never did go in the dishwasher anyway. So no great change here.
- Right after most meals each person washes and dries their eating dishes.
- After that or instead of that we all tackle the clean up together. We are still training the children to see and do, instead of standing around waiting for direction. We're getting there but if we are all working and focused clean up can be as quick as 15 minutes, right down to a wiped down sink.
- We use my handmade bar of soap and baking soda (for scrubbing) for washing.
Things learned through this process:
- Dishwashers, even energy efficient models as ours is, use a lot of electricity. It is hard to calculate the exact amount we've saved because in the midst of this change we have acquired a new tenant and we pay the full utilities on the house. Our bill goes up if they are energy hogs (this tenant isn't). But even accounting for a different tenant a conservative estimate of our savings is $30/month but more likely it's higher. That's almost $400 a year.
- We might be able to skip on dishes but not dishtowels! With 3 kids drying, 3 times a day I was running out of clean dishtowels - I only had four to start with I think. So this was an additional cost, to buy a few more dishtowels so we'd have dry and clean towels when necessary.
- We allow ourselves to use the dishwasher when hosting groups of people, unless our guests help with dishes - which often they do. Works out to be once a month or so that we run the dishwasher.
Any other questions about hand washing? I'm certainly not the guru but I might have an answer. It's really not that complicated.
I know some of you hand wash your dishes, what are your thoughts?