Wash the Damn Dishes
Why doing the dishes is an act of self-compassion.
A few nights ago, I made a delicious curry. I ended up making a little extra as I had lots of vegetables in my fridge that were nearing the end of their shelf life. I spent at least an hour chopping, slicing and stirring. I left it on the heat for an extra half hour just so everything would be even more tender. After all that effort, it only seemed appropriate to eat it all.
Feeling full, I glanced over at the stack of dirty dishes and pans in the sink. I knew that I should wash them so I began to get up. Then I paused.
I’d get round to it tomorrow.
The next morning, the first thing that greeted me when I stumbled into the kitchen was the looming pile of curry stained dishes. I was even less willing to clean them than I was the night before.
For the better part of that day, I avoided doing the dishes. But every time I returned to the kitchen, all I could see was that unsightly stack in my sink. It started to irritate me. That annoyance quietly grew until I realised that I was feeling resentful towards myself for not washing the dishes.
Eventually, they had to be cleaned as I needed them to make my dinner. Still bitter, I proceeded to wash my dishes.
Immediately, any resentment I held towards myself dissolved.
Out of the Ordinary
I am not the most organised person and I am certainly not always the tidiest. Nonetheless, I wash my dishes as soon as I can with near-perfect consistency. It is the one chore that I have made a habit out of doing.
To others, doing the dishes might be just another mundane errand that we do to keep our living spaces in order.
To me, it’s a lot more than that. By washing my dishes straight after eating, I am dictating what the space around my sink looks like; I am claiming control of my environment. Every single time I wash the dishes promptly, I am one step closer to being a more organised person. One step closer to becoming the kind of person I want to be.
Yes, sometimes I have a layer of clothes scattered across my floor and yes, sometimes I’d rather balance my rubbish on top of my overflowing bin instead of emptying it.
But when it comes to washing dishes, 99% of the time I do the right thing.
I have made a habit out of washing the dishes and making sure that my sink remains empty. I get to decide what that aspect of my living space looks like.
What About That 1%?
We shouldn’t forget about it. The incident a few days ago was an important reminder of how I can feel lost when I relinquish control of my environment. I do not feel in control. I feel controlled.
I was punishing myself until I decided to suck it up and wash the dishes. This negative emotion could easily have been avoided if I had done that earlier. I would have had a much better day as a result.
Now I’ve got the dishes down, I can start on my next habit. Maybe I’ll empty my bins before they start overflowing. It doesn’t matter what I choose, as long as I do it consistently.
Washing the dishes is a compassionate act to my future self. In these uncertain times, the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is to make life a little bit easier.
Start small. Start by building one habit that makes your life simpler. And when you slip up, recall how it feels to surrender control of your environment.