Once again, research has affirmed a something I figured out a long time ago. The latest? Washing dishes by hand is a form of meditation.
I’ve known this for years. I’ve always secretly rather liked washing dishes. Well, except for hot summer days when sweat drips off my forehead into the water and I’m tempted to do some research of my own into the anti-bacterial potential of dish soap in ice water. Mostly, though, dishwashing is one of those repetitive tasks that keeps your hands busy while it leaves your mind free to wander off wherever it wishes to go. I get almost as many great creative ideas at the kitchen sink as I do in the shower. Maybe it’s the water.
The research (does specify that, for the best anxiety-reducing benefits, dishes should be washed mindfully. “People in the study focused on the smell of the soap, the feel and shape of the dishes to help them enter a mindful state.”
I don’t spend much time smelling my soap, and feeling the dishes is mostly a matter of making sure I hang onto the slippery little critters so I don’t drop my favorite cup and smash it to smithereens in the bottom of the sink. You could probably describe my method as more mindless than mindful.
Still, there are some things about washing dishes that do put me into a state of mindfulness.
I mind when people don’t rinse their cereal bowls, and I have to attack stubborn fragments of bran flakes with an abrasive pot scrubber or scrape off bits of oatmeal with my fingernails. I’m pretty sure the adhesives used to install flooring were developed this way.
I mind when people, trying to be helpful, dump sharp knives into the sink to lurk dangerously among the harmless silverware. I just hate getting blood in my dishwater. (And why, by the way, do we still call it “silverware,” when 99.73% of the time the utensils we use are stainless steel, and most of us wouldn’t know how to use silver polish even if we had the slightest clue where to find it in the store?)
I mind when people stack plates without scraping them, so bits of uneaten food get squished in between and stick to the bottom of the upper plate. I resent having remnants of scrambled eggs or scraps of green beans float off into the dishwater and swim through my fingers like yucky little sponges or eely miniature sea monsters.
I mind when someone (naming no names, but I know who I am) lets the dishes pile up until there are too many to fit into the drainer and the dishwasher. Yes, I do use the dishwasher—it’s the perfect place to put clean dishes to drip dry. But there is a limit to how much creative stacking even an expert can do in order to avoid having to dry so much as a single plate.
Because, illogical as it may seem, while I’m fine with washing dishes, I detest drying them. I know; it makes no sense to me, either. Dish drying ought to be every bit as soothing and meditative as dish washing.
But if anyone comes up with research showing this to be the case, I don’t want to know about it.