The Lost Art of Dishwashing

Martha Stewart, FlyLady, Super Mom I ain’t.  However, with limited time and energy, three small children and another one cooking, something has to give when it comes to household tasks.  A few years ago I attended a seminar on the virtues of homemaking.  I confess that a few things mentioned brought about great panic for me.  For example, the presenter talked about how when she was first married she would not only iron her husband’s work clothes, which I have never done (I don’t think I iron anything-not a strong point), but she would iron the bedsheets!!  *Gasp*  Apparently this lasted until someone showed her how to fold sheets so that they would not wrinkle.   I’m still trying to figure out how to fold them so that it doesn’t look like I just rolled them up in a ball.  Not to mention that in order to fold sheets so that they don’t wrinkle, I’d have to fold them as soon as they came out of the dryer or off the line.  Ideal, I suppose, but not always practical with all of the other demands placed upon me.

It can be rather overwhelming to consider what are thought by many a good Catholic/Christian source to be the duties of a loving, devoted wife and mother.  However, I’m always trying to remind myself that love ought to be the driving force behind all that I do.  This part can be so much more difficult for me than actually performing the task at hand.  I find that sometimes I am able to check things off of the massive list of tasks I’ve made, but I am actually internally grumbling about it and even getting angry with my family that I have to do it.  Am I the only one who finds this a struggle-washing every dish and sweeping every crumb with love?

At any rate, I’m getting off topic here.  I got a little serious when I really meant to laugh at my approach to certain household tasks.  Let me tell you, I learned to wash and dry dishes at a young age.  Every night it was my duty, along with my older sister, to wash the dishes.  That’s an overwhelming task when you consider the clean-up for eight people…and it wasn’t just the dinner dishes we were washing.  I was usually on drying duty, and needless to say, I became an expert dish stacker so they could air dry.  My parents were generally not pleased with this strategy, and I’m often reminded of that as I leave my dishes in the strainer to dry.  My close childhood friend recently told me that is one thing she doesn’t do either-dry dishes- and that made me feel a little better.  To quote her: “Why do the one thing God offers to do for me?!  He doesn’t offer to wash the dishes or fold laundry or sweep the floor, but He does offer to dry the dishes!”  Exactly!  Hence the daily mountain on my counter.

I’ve been seeking just about every short cut possible when it comes to running the household.  Sort laundry?  I can’t believe I used to do that!  Now at the end of the day I toss the dirty laundry in the washer and wash it on cold.  I leave a basket next to the washer for the things I’d like to wash separately.  Cleaning the bathroom-I can’t believe that I used to think it all had to be done at once.  That’s a luxury I can only dream about right now.  It usually happens that I don’t clean the entire bathroom at once, but clean what needs it most.  Generally some kind of dramatic something-or-other is happening by the time I’m ready to move on to the second most disgusting thing.

I can’t believe I’m publicly admitting my inability to maintain a clean home! On my lists of weekly tasks used to be: clean the bathroom, wash the floors, vacuum the furniture, dust, scrub the kitchen sink and counters.  Wow!  Now I’m just trying to keep my head above water with the dishes and the laundry! 🙂

I may not have a clean house, but I do work hard.  And, though I have a long way to go, I have learned the value in letting the laundry pile up so that I can play a game with my kids, push them on the swings, or tickle them until they turn blue.

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4 Responses to The Lost Art of Dishwashing

  1. Jenny says:

    Woman, you’ve got your priorities straight! Perfect housekeeping is for women who don’t have small children, and whose older ones can bear the brunt of the tasks. I’ve trained myself not to see messes and dirt until it threatens the peace of the household (like, there’s no more room for dinner on the table!). I’m resigned to the fact that the piano will be perpetually dusty, until I can train a child to dust it for me. Miriam is finally old enough now to be in charge of cleaning bathrooms once a week, as well as sweeping every day — it’s not perfect, but what a help that is! I’m also training the girls to sort and wash their own laundry, so in another year I should be able to hand off that task too. The training takes a while, but it is SOOO worth it!
    Sounds like your guerilla housekeeping style is like mine — before Joseph was born I made a trip to the dollar store and bought a set of cleaning supplies for each bathroom, so I could do a quick swish-and-swipe as needed whenever I was in that particular bathroom (we have 3!). That helped saved my sanity — it’s amazing how much like a domestic goddess you feel if your bathroom sinks are clean! 🙂
    Good luck — you’re in baby boot camp right now, but it does get easier!

  2. Annie says:

    Oh Brenda – I totally know what you mean. Somehow or other I’ve been on top of the laundry lately (and have been so proud of that!) but the reality of the situation in our home right now is that being on top of one thing means being behind somewhere else. I get so frustrated by this. So annoyed by this, that, or the other thing that just doesn’t get accomplished each day. And yet, what I need to remind myself is this: at the end of the day did my little boys feel loved today? Were they properly taken care of? Were their needs met? If I can answer those questions with a strong “yes” then my day was a success. I struggle with this every day and I rarely believe myself when I give myself that little reminder. But it’s true.

    By the way – do you remember me? We lived on the same floor during my senior year. It’s nice to see you again, friend. Congratulations on all of those beautiful babies. What a lovely family you have! xo

  3. Meagan says:

    I heard a great quote the other day. “Cleaning while you have children is like shoveling snow while it’s still snowing.”

    I confess, I iron…a lot, even onesies. That said, if clothes make it from the washer to the drying in 24 hours it’s a miracle, if they make it out of the dryer in 24 hours it’s a second miracle. If my sheets are clean, it’s a luxury. (and a bonus if they are on the bed) Laundry is my weak point and dishes are my nemesis. I love your tactic of stacking and couldn’t agree more. Dish towels are for wiping up spills not for drying dishes. 🙂

  4. Paul says:

    The masses DEMAND more blog posts!!!

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