If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. ~ William Morris

11 April, 2017

Housewifery -~Schedules, Dishwashing as Meditation and Work for the Common Benefit

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A well arranged and well equipped kitchen, New Rochelle, N.Y.
From The Efficient Kitchen by Georgie Boynton Child ~ 1915

This past month it finally happened.  My aged dishwasher that was here when I moved into my aged house, died an undignified death that involved smoke and the smell of burning electronics.

And I did the unthinkable...I chose not to replace it.  Cost was one reason.  The wiring would need to be updated, a plumber called, an electrician and more fees, fees and fees.  So I did what I had done in the past year when my toaster oven died (it was a taco shell related fire, let us never speak of it again...) I waited.  

I (overly) analyzed the purpose this dishwasher played in my life and I realized it was really a glorified and sometimes (smelly) dirty dish retainer and nothing more.  I couldn't be absolutely sure that it saved me any actual time between loading and unloading and rinsing and I knew for certain it didn't always get things clean and it certainly couldn't fit my greasiest, largest pans and cast iron ware that had to be washed by hand anyway.

I cook A LOT.  My son has celiac's disease, so by design, it is safer to eat at home most of the time.  I cook for two children, myself, and now a carnivorous husband.  I chalk up hours in the kitchen.  So with fear and trepidation, I gave it a week and I surprised myself.

Washing the dishes by hand wasn't nearly the horror story, time bandit I imagined it to be, and...my dishes were actually cleaner...and, I actually enjoyed it and found it somewhat calming and meditative.

It took me back to my childhood and standing at the sink next to my grandmother and how she taught me to run my hands over them to make sure they were truly clean.  It reminded me to slow down and be present. It reminded me of Brother Lawrence, in The Practice of the Presence of God who answered those who inquired about his devotion among the menial, monotonous tasks of the kitchen with "We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him..."  and focused on God's presence by doing the dishes as though he were doing them for the Lord.   In short, it turned out to be somewhat of a gift.

In Lippincott's Home Manuals-Housewifery, L. Ray Balderston, 1919 a woman's day was estimated to look as follows, a mere estimate due to change on size of family and availability of help:

Food work 4-6 hours per day with 2-4 additional hours per week
Laundry-washing- ironing 3-5 hours per week
Care of clothing (likely mending and sewing) 4-6 hours per week
House care, cleaning, etc. 1-2 hours per day and 4 additional hours per week
Children and Miscellaneous 2-3 hours per day and 2 additional hours per week
Management, Accounts, Planning 1-3 hours per week

Of those 4 to 6 hours per day, dishwashing was a part of it.  Per most home manuals of the day and particularly The Efficient Kitchen from which the photo above came, there is a specific process.  

Two pans or sinks filled with hot water, one with soap (as hot as you can stand it)
silverware is put in to soak, along with plates and bowls if there is room
glasses get washed first
then dishes, bowls
then silverware
and then pots and pans

At this point any additional things that need soaking go in and then finally the water is poured out and the sink thoroughly cleaned.  Dishes can be put in a rack or if you are lucky dried by a helper along the way with a towel and put away.

"The advantage of this method is that it offers an opportunity to the children to work with their mother, giving them valuable training while they are greatly lightening a rather dreary task.  Where there are no children it cultivates in grown-ups the habit of burden-sharing and comradeship in the daily tasks, thus transforming the whole atmosphere of the home from one of drudgery to happy cooperation and companionship in work for the common benefit."

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