It’s the task that matters: catching up and assessing
I have only gotten a bit of work done on my writing/editing project for the month. I started to work on a post to report on my goals for the year when I realized that I’ve changed a couple of them significantly, or maybe a better way to put it is to say I’ve made completely new resolutions during the course of our unpacking that have taken precedence? Anyway, I feel a need to process a bit more about my goals, our joint goals, and so forth. As they saying goes, I don’t really know what I think about something until I write it out, so that’s what the rest of this post will be. Click to read the rest:
I started to write up an abstract philosophical post about priorities and replacing bad habits with good ones, but that got weird and meta. So, let’s talk dishes–dirty and otherwise.
We had developed a bunch of bad habits about dishes and the dishwasher at the old place. These habits all grew out of a perfectly reasonable idea: it’s more efficient in terms of time, water, and electricity to only run the dishwasher when it is full. The problem is that the reasonable idea (coupled with ordinary human laziness) kicked off a series of overlapping vicious circles.
On day one of the circle, while I’m getting ready for work I will notice that there are a few dirty dishes in the sink from last night’s dinner. It would not constitute a full load, so not worth running the machine with them, right? And if I’m not going to run the machine now, it isn’t necessary to load the dirty dishes into it. Particularly since the dishwasher is full of clean dishes right now, which would have to be put away before any dirty dishes could go in, and since I’m not going to run it now, there isn’t any point in unloading the clean dishes. So, nothing is done with the dishes. Day two, there are more dirty dishes waiting, but it doesn’t look like enough to fully fill the machine, so again, no putting away of clean dishes and no loading.
So by day three or four, I finally unload the dishwasher and put all the dirty dishes (that have been getting in the way of other things) into the machine. Except that there are now too many dirty dishes to fit in. But I try, anyway, unpacking and repacking for awhile to squeeze in as many dishes as I can. Which means I run the machine using one of the extra-long pot-scrubber cycles because it’s so full, right? And I still have some that won’t fit. But I resolve that when this load is done I will unload it right away and put the excess it, right? And when I do unload the machine next, because it was over-packed, a number of dishes aren’t really clean. Usually enough that when I load the machine with the excess dishes from before and the ones that didn’t come clean, it’s a full load. So I run it right away… but this takes us back to day one of the original cycle.
There were variants. Such as the times I open the dishwasher which I think is full of clean dishes and discover that it is actually completely empty and I could have been putting dirty dishes in for days. Or it turns out to be about half full of dirty dishes… and don’t comment to tell me that we need one of those doohickeys that you flip when you run the machine so you know they’re clean. We’ve tried every method, from relying on the CLEAN light on the machine to external markers and we still mess up.
Part of the problem was that we simple owned way more dishes, and pots & pans, and silverware than we actually need. We have two complete sets of china, for instance. Then the collection of pots and pans that begans as collections we each owned way back when we first moved in together, and that have been supplemented and sometimes replaced with a number of purchases in the two decades since. We could go a long time piling up dirty dishes before running out of things. We’ve reduced that a bit by giving away the massive collection of mismatched pots and buying a smaller set of new stainless steel pots & pans. With this smaller set we can’t let things pile up as long.
We also own a massive set of stainless steel “silverware” that is 24 place settings. I was having trouble fitting them all into the organizer I bought to fit in the drawer of the new kitchen (which is slightly different size than the drawers in the old place). I realized I could put about a third of them in a bin that I stuck way back in the back of the pantry (next to the box with my grandma’s fancy silver silverware). Things fit better in the drawer, and again, we have fewer readily available so letting things piles up too long isn’t so easy.
But the big change was my decision to abandon the original reasonable-sounding idea that we should only run the dishwasher when it is optimally/maximally loaded. The reason I say the idea only sounds reasonable is because, in practice, we wasted a lot of time with the bad habits. I ran the dishwasher more often, I was almost always running it at the longest, most water- and energy-consuming cycles, and spent a lot more time with the packing, repacking, and re-washing.
So, the new rule is that when I notice dishes in the sink, I stop right then and open the dishwasher. If there are clean dishes inside, I put them away. If there are a couple of dirty dishes, I put the new ones in. As soon as the dishwasher is at least a third full, I put soap in and run it. I’m almost always selecting the LIGHT cycle, consequently. Also, because I’m running it before it fully fills up, it isn’t anywhere near as involved a task to unload and put the clean dishes away. Right?
Now, when I write out (or say aloud to another person) the way we were doing dishes before, it is immediately apparent that there were lots of flaws in our thinking. Which gets to a fun bit of human nature: we do a much better job solving problems if we actually say them aloud or otherwise fully articulate the situation. I knew I was unhappy each time I fell into the vicious cycle, but I always put it down to admonishing myself in an abstract way for not doing a better job, rather than analyzing exactly what the thought processes were that keep resetting the cycle.
This represents just one of the new habits that we’ve decided to try to adopt since moving to the new place. We’re also trying to get into a habit of always carrying out the recycle or the trash as soon as we notice the bins are full, rather than saying, “I’ll carry that out after I get dinner on the stove.” Because as soon as we put it off, we forget about it. I could go into a bit of a gripe about the inadequate number of garbage and recycle collection bins at the old place and some related issues, which is part of the reason we would put off carrying things out. The new place has gigantic dumpsters for both garbage and recycle, rather than a few medium-sized bins that would have barely been adequate for a single-family home, let alone a four-unit apartment building. And since we have better counter space, more cabinets, and a separate pantry at the new place, we’re also trying to get into a habit of keeping the table clean.
And this doesn’t even get into all the old appliances and other weird things that we should have either gotten rid of or upgraded years ago instead of muddling along with because, well, it mostly still works. If you remember to always do X, Y, and Z while using it, and never doing A or B. That’s another way that packrat mentality will waste time and effort that you don’t even notice.
Anyway, I’m going to classify a bunch of these new habits/norms/whatever-you-call-them as subsets of the goal I stated at the beginning of the year to do a better job of taking care of us. Because avoiding aggravating ourselves or each other and wasting less time are other ways to take care, right?