I know what you’re thinking: “Do the dishes? Where’s the adventure in that?”
For some people, admittedly, this week’s adventure would be no more challenging than, say, brushing their teeth every day or remembering to put on clean underwear.
For me, though, it’s huge.
Admittedly, I’m better than I used to be. When I got married, someone kindly gave us dinner service for eight. I didn’t see any need to wash dishes until we were pretty well out of clean plates — and between the dinner plates, the dessert plates, and the assortment of plates we both had left over from college, this didn’t happen often. At that time, I washed dishes at least once a week, occasionally oftener. I’m not proud of this part of my past.
As we grew up a little more and had children, I gradually began to clean the kitchen more frequently. I did the dishes first every three days, then every two days (or so). By the time my second child came along, I was pretty good at getting the kitchen spotless at least once a day. Even then, though, I never liked doing dishes in the evening; I would usually save each day’s dish washing to do in the morning, after coffee and breakfast.
This past year, my husband has really stepped up his dish washing game, and between the two of us, we have finally matured enough that we get the dishes washed and the kitchen clean nearly every night before bed. We’re nearly past the point of letting dirty dishes pile up in the sink for days on end. Nearly.
Even this, though, is hardly in keeping with an old-fashioned way of life. My four grandmas (I count my husband’s grandmothers as my own) are very different women in many, many ways, but they all have this in common: almost without fail, they wash (or washed, in the case of sainted Grandma Mac) their dishes as soon as possible after every single meal.
It may be because they were raised in a time when mice and insects were a much more inevitable part of kitchen life than they are now. Perhaps it’s that women’s self-worth used to be more closely tied to their housekeeping prowess, or that women used to feel a much greater pride of ownership in their kitchens than I do now. It’s possible, as my mother theorized this afternoon, that back when the only running water in a house came into the kitchen sink, it was pretty important to keep that sink clear of filth. Maybe it was simply a function of having lots of mouths to feed and very few dishes to feed them with — every plate and spoon was needed at every meal. Maybe it’s simply because these wise women know how much easier it is to wash dishes when the grime hasn’t had time to get thoroughly caked on.
Whatever the reasons behind it, regular dish washing seems to be an important facet of old-fashioned living (or, as my grandmas call it, “living”), so — for the first time in my adult life — I’m going to make an earnest effort to follow their example and make regular dish-washing a regular part of my own daily life.
So, here is our adventure for this week, in all its soapy glory: Do your dishes immediately after every single meal for a week. (Dishwashers are okay — so long as, within a short time after the end of a meal, all the dishes are out of sight and the counters wiped.)
Going into an adventurous week like this, I’m extraordinarily thankful for a husband who doesn’t mind helping out in the kitchen. Every woman should be so blessed.