Working in professional kitchens and spending countless hours washing dishes that never seemed to stop was how I got over the hump of not wanting washing dishes. After a while it becomes a form of meditation or a craft for which we can hone our skill and efficiency. Now it is just a habit whenever I have an extra couple minutes to stay ahead of the kitchen mess and not even let the sink get full of dishes.
To spare you the time of applying to work as a dishwasher in a local restaurant (though if you’re inspired and have the time, please go for it!), I will offer some quick tips on how to be a better dishwasher and therefore a better cook.
Be mindful and keep it simple
The easiest way to make dishwashing more efficient is to not make as big a mess to begin with. Keep your meals simple and use only as many dishes as you need. Live with the end in mind and every time you pull something out of a cabinet to use, be aware that you will at some point need to clean it. Practice making one-pot or one-pan meals and using fewer ingredients.
It is also really key to be aware of your emotional and mental state during the act of washing dishes. Are you experiencing anger or frustration at having to clean up? Is your mind drifting off to “important” things that need to get done instead of washing dishes? When you wash the dishes, be with the dishes and see the cleanup portion of the cooking process as a necessary and beautiful part. Treat it as meditation and stay present-minded by trying to be as efficient and effective as possible.
Organize the kitchen
The great thing about small kitchens is that even at their messiest, they are still pretty quick to clean completely. The less stuff you have, the less potential mess there can be. Do you really need thirty mugs and fifty plates? When you run out of clean dishes you can just wash the dirty ones instead of delaying the inevitable and hoping someone else will do it. Having less leaves more opportunities to be creative with how you use your things. There’s really not much at stake here, just let it go.
Wash as you go
This is a standard tip you might have heard before, but I want to encourage you to actually do it. This starts by cleaning the kitchen before you even get started. If you start with an empty sink and clean counters, not only will there be a smaller mess later, but you will be more motivated to maintain the cleanliness. This works on other people too. For instance, if you have a guest with a dirty dish and they see a clean and empty sink, they are much more likely to wash that dish than if they see a sink full of dirty dishes. In psychology, this is called the broken window effect, and we can use it in the kitchen.
Just wash the dishes
There will be moments where you really don’t want to clean up. It is so easy to just leave a dirty kitchen as something to deal with tomorrow. It as these moments it is most crucial to stay focused and strong. When we do what is right even though it is hard, we are making the world a better place and making a dent in the karma that countless generations of humans have left us. It may seem strange to apply this to dishwashing, but remember that how you do anything is how you do everything. If you habitually opt for toxic convenience food because your kitchen is a mess, I wouldn’t be surprised if this reflects other aspects of your life.
The good news is that if you do feel like your life is so cluttered and overwhelming that it doesn’t let you take care of yourself, the solution is simple: just wash the dishes. Literally washing dishes is practice for when you have to overcome the same obstacles on a bigger scale in your life. You can get to more cooking and creation when you have a cleaner kitchen with less clutter. Practice staying on top of the mess and cleaning as you go to not let it get to the point where it becomes overwhelming. And when the dishes do end up piling high sometimes as they inevitably will, just stay calm, sink into a meditative state and just wash the dishes one at a time.