I don’t wash my dishes every day.
This horrifies a one or two of my acquaintances. Oh, they might accept it if I at least loaded the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, awaiting a full load to run it. But I live alone, and it sometimes takes me nearly a week to complete a full load in the dishwasher, especially when I’m in sandwich-a-day-mode. Besides, I actually enjoy washing dishes—I find it peaceful and meditative. So I carefully scrape and lightly rinse my used dinnerware and stack it neatly in the sink, until, after two or perhaps three days, I have a sinkful. Then I wash them.
I guess there is something less offensive about having dirty dishes hidden out of sight in a closed dishwasher, for, as I say, some of my acquaintances find this practice appalling. But then, I am just as revolted to think of the mounds of bacteria growing and odors accumulating on a full week’s worth of dirty dishes piling up slowly in the dishwasher.
Nevertheless, I have sympathy for my friends’ reaction, since I myself once had a male acquaintance who strewed his dirty dishes, unrinsed and unscraped, carelessly across every countertop in the kitchen until he finally got around to washing them—and by “finally”, I mean after 8 or 10 days. The kitchen looked like the garbage can had exploded onto the dish cabinets. There was nowhere to prepare food, either, since every horizontal surface was covered in dirty pots, pans, plates, and silverware, crusted with drying food and smelling like a landfill. And, yes, sometimes ants and worse insects discovered the unrinsed tableware and began to picnic on his leavings. Needless to say, I never ate at his home!
Of course, this same man claimed that he could thoroughly clean his two-bedroom apartment weekly in just 20 minutes. It would have taken me that long just to scrape and rinse the dishes, but I didn’t argue the point. It was, after all, his home, not mine, and I didn’t expect him to follow my personal rules on housekeeping—even if I did cringe and gag once when reaching for the toilet paper roll in his bathroom and seeing the porcelain holder covered in a paste of grey dust and god-knows-what.
But this makes me puzzle, then, as to why my own acquaintances feel it appropriate to criticize my personal dish-washing rules—especially as, if I know that guests are expected, I get all the dirty dishes washed and my well-kept home into a state even more immaculate than it usually is. The only people who have ever encountered my sink half-filled with rinsed dishes awaiting washing are those who dropped by unexpectedly. What business might it be of theirs, I wonder, how I manage this household chore, and why ever do they feel such a need to debate it?
And therein lies the real conundrum: that we expect others to do things our way. Because, after all, our way is the right way, the correct way, the appropriate way. It would be a perfect world if everyone just did things as we do them: thought as we think; believe as we believed. (Possibly this explains the fact that there exist hundreds of “one true way” approaches to spirituality.)
Considering the dishwashing conundrum, I’ve decided that it might truly be a more perfect world if we criticized less and accepted more; if we shrugged and said, “Well, that’s not the way I do it, but if it works for you….” If we picked our battles and insisted upon being heard only when speaking about a genuinely serious matter—and, if, even then, we realized that so long as no other human being or helpless animal was being harmed by another’s decision, we should make our peace with that.
The Dishwashing Analogy might be a poor one…but it works for me.