Sunday, June 01, 2003

Good systems and bad systems.

Our recycling system is working well. When we use a can, we set in near the sink, wash it when doing dishes, then drop it in a box under the sink. Bottles that need washing get the same treatment -- water bottles, for example, don't need washed and go directly into the box.

When the box fills, I take it to the garage, sort the recyclables in it into the appropriate recycling containers -- I have a handled bag hanging from a nail to collect those with deposits, two bins for materials collected at the curb, and another box for aluminum, which I donate to a charity that redeems it and gives the money to diabetes research. These final recycling receptacles are all easy to carry to where their contents leave my control. So all this recycling moves at a steady and easy pace, and is pleasantly out of sight at every step of the way. It's a good system because it lets me recycle easily, gaining some efficiency from batching the materials while keeping them from reaching daunting mountain of labor status.

The dishes system is not working as well. We have all the right tools -- a nice double sink with disposal, a dishwasher, plastic and steel wool scrub pads, plenty of washcloths and dish towels, so we can change them as soon as they are soiled, effective dish soap. The problem is me. I don't like doing dishes. I don't like the feeling of having my hands dirty, and I don't like being exiled to the kitchen in the social hour after dinner, and I swore when I left my last place of employment that I'd never work on my feet again.

Well. I've done some mental diffusion techniques, and the best I've managed to do is soften my reaction to doing dishes from: this is horrible, unfair, nasty, blecherous, disgusting and hateful
to: this is one of those necessary and useful tasks that, while unpleasant, has to be done.

And that's a fair amount of improvement, really. But I still don't want to do them. Especially not right after dinner, when I want to visit, and my feet often already hurt, and I'm tired and don't have the will to push myself to do unpleasant tasks, and I'll have to go to bed feeling dirty.

So, though I know that the best housekeepers keep the dishes done immediately after meals, and the dishes are actually easier to clean when they're fresh, and it's nice to come into a clean kitchen in the morning, I don't do dishes after dinner very often. Clearing off and washing the table and counters and gathering all the dishes by the sink is fine -- that doesn't bother me.

It's better to do the dishes after breakfast. Then I can go take my shower afterwards. My feet don't hurt, my mood is better and everything seems easier. In fact, anything I do in the morning seems easier.

So, I often discover there is some other important task that needs my highest attention and energy level, and so takes the morning work slot away from doing dishes.

So an entire day may pass without doing dishes.

Then, maybe another one.

Then the kitchen gets smelly and cluttered and congested, and I can't do any cooking without washing dishes first. If I'm working on some project, I find myself at the end of the day, needing to wash dishes just so we can have dinner -- that means the time to make dinner is doubled, and the unpleasantness is at least tripled. And so, instead of me making us excellent and healthy food inexpensively, we end up eating less tasty, less healthy, and more expensive convenience foods, or going out at even greater expense.

And so my dislike for doing dishes has reduced our wealth, our health, and forced us to live with ugly clutter in the kitchen.

Really, the dishes system is in total breakdown.

And all because I don't like doing dishes.

And you thought that was just a minor character flaw! Why, it's practically the downfall of domestic civilization!

Until we have better systems, may you all enjoy the tasks you have to do.

Best wishes, Anna Paradox

No comments: