I have done the unthinkable

Do you watch the house hunting shows on HGTV? I like the international version because who among us hasn’t imagined purchasing a pied-a-terre next to an Amsterdam canal or making over a ruined convent in the Savoy? I’m always fascinated by the Americans who insist on all the features they’ve decided are absolutely necessary because they’ve always lived with them–his and hers sinks (gross), enormous refrigerators (but why?), granite countertops (don’t get me started), and dishwashers.

We have been married for 26 years, and I’m convinced we’ve been happy because we don’t share a bathroom. I mean, we use the same bathroom, just not at the same time. We never have to watch each other shave or pluck or floss things, and this is very good. A little mystery never hurt any relationship. We’ve never had dual sinks, and if we bought a house with them, I’d be ripping them out before the ink was dry on the deed of sale. As far as refrigerators go, I’m shopping for something just about 4.5 cubic feet. I loathe those hulking monstrosities in the kitchen, taking up huge amounts of space and gobbling up electricity. Lots of things that people store in there don’t actually need refrigeration: tomatoes, apples, lemons. I’ve slowly been streamlining our fridge so that we’re not using all of it. It’s a test to see how much space we REALLY need, and it’s much less than you might think.

We don’t actually have countertops–just two work surfaces from a restaurant supply and those are both stainless. Impervious to heat, tough, and easy to clean. Granite might be pretty, but I’ve never understood why there is an absolute CULT around it. (And let’s be honest: while some is attractive, some of it is also violently ugly.)

But the one feature people seem most smitten with that I have never understood is the dishwasher. I LOATHE unloading it. You have to clean the dishes to a certain standard or the dishwasher doesn’t work. It’s noisy. It can leak. Whatever you want is guaranteed to be sitting in there, dirty, mocking you, so you have to wash it by hand anyway.

Mercifully, ours broke last month, and I pointed out to husband that having it repaired would be more expensive than buying a new one. And I don’t want a new one. Our fledgling has flown the nest, so it’s just the two of us which means few dirty dishes–this also means that when we did load the dishwasher, the dishes sat. For days. Ick. I also reminded him that the last time we were in London, we rented an apartment, and it was BLISS. We washed up the few dishes after each meal and the kitchen was always tidy. It took about thirty seconds to soap them up and rinse them off–FAR less than rinsing, stacking, running the machine, and unloading. So he agreed and we pulled the dishwasher out.

An honest person would point out that this was actually done by my parents while husband and I were on vacation, so consider this a disclaimer. The dishwasher was pulled out, the water line capped. We replaced it with a small freestanding cupboard with a stainless top that holds the dish drainer, electric kettle, and toaster. Everything is compact and hugely efficient. I’ve been washing dishes as I go throughout the day, and each batch takes about half a minute. After dinner, husband and I wash them together which takes maybe five minutes and gives us a chance to work together. What amazes me is how much simpler and easier everything is WITHOUT the big appliance that was supposed to save me so much time and work. The kitchen is always neat, and the sink is always empty. I bought a tangerine-scented dish soap that smells good enough to eat, and I’ve picked up some glittery sponges and a pair of hot pink rubber glove with fancy floral cuffs just to make it more enjoyable.

In addition to being quick and tidy, this new set-up is also conducive to daydreaming–a splendid thing for a novelist. Wasn’t it Agatha Christie who said she used to go off and do the dishes if she hit a wall when she was writing? The solution invariably revealed itself when she had her hands in the hot water and bubbles. In all, this has been an excellent reminder to me that simpler is so often BETTER. Now I’m looking darkly at the dryer…

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