Is Doing Dishes Overwhelming Your Day? Hand-Wash More! …(What!?)

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About a year ago, a friend of mine had her third baby in as many years.

No sooner was the little guy born than her husband’s job underwent a significant change. He was suddenly required to travel and be away from home all week, every week.

Two major stressors collided.

I asked her how she was doing a few months in to this new life. She referenced my blog and explained, “I’m surviving through living simply, just like you say.”

I wanted to hear more.

“Well,” she went on, “For example I put three plates on the counter. Every time we use them, I wash and replace them to their spot. We don’t touch the other plates. My girls (ages 1 and 2), each have one cup. That’s it. We take care of those cups because I got rid of all the others.”

“It’s made life easier,” she finished. “We’re actually making it.”

How interesting that what we may imagine to be more work actually became part of a successful coping strategy for a mom in a hard spot?

I’ve found much the same thing.

I love my dishwasher, but as an unfortunate result of always having one, I failed for many years thing outside that box and consider the best way to run my home.

Many times I stood before an overloaded dishwasher, or run out of a utensil before the cycle’s been run, and felt a bit helpless. It sounds silly, but this system had been the only one I’d ever really known. It’s where I felt comfortable –rinse the dishes, load them in, run the cycle, unload and repeat. That’s just what I did.

Hand-washing sounded like downright hard work!

So when my system began failing me, I didn’t like my other options. I resisted them as long as I could.

I began running the dishwasher, like the one when you have a peek at these guys, frequently to keep up. Rinse, load, run, repeat.

However, somewhere along the way, I set up a dish drainer and bought a new soap-dispensing scrubber. Somewhere along the way I had the dawning realization to hand-wash our cups, sippy cups and kid plates. Somewhere in there I began to think outside of my 21st-century helplessness and consider other options for my dishes.

And you know what? My life got overall easier!

  • I wasn’t running the dishwasher at odd times of day. I was able to establish a clear daily routine –run it at night, unload it in the morning.
  • The things I frequently “ran out of” were now always clean and ready for me.
  • I wasn’t loading and unloading the thing all the time. That’s work too!
  • My “dishwasher dishes” actually fit nicely and came out more clean. I discovered this dishwasher because Appliance Hunter recommended it.

You’d think all that hand-washing would be a burden, but it wasn’t. In fact, it felt like less work than ever, and my personal satisfaction provided extra motivation.

Could this be a solution for you as well?

Here are some examples of how I use hand-washing:

How I hand-wash dishes to make life easier


About a year ago we made the decision to invest in Tervis glasses and get rid of all our mismatched odds and ends. Tervis are nice because they’re durable plastic, insulated, quality, and still look decent. They met all our needs in one glass.
(Yay minimalism!)


But, being plastic, I knew they would keep better if hand-washed. So, I committed to doing that, and we bought them! The amazing thing was, this relieved a burden rather than creating one. Suddenly my whole top rack filled up in proportion to my bottom rack and we always have the glasses we need. Only eight sit in our cupboard, and that’s plenty!

Breakfast bowls

In my home we eat breakfast in shifts. At this point in life (with all preschool-aged kids), everyone sleeps as late as they want. When each one wakes up, they’re given a bowl of oatmeal of cereal. First me, then Matthew, then Clara.

As crazy as this may sound, we all share one bowl and spoon! I wash it after each use and refill it for the next eater. So by the end of breakfast, instead of a pile of dishes I have two!

Kids cups

Over months and years, we’ve lost all our sippy cups save for one. And we’re down to only two small kids cups.

Because we have so few, I can’t let them sit around in a dishwasher all day. By hand-washing them, we always have what we need without keeping a bunch of odd cups around.

Pots, pans, knives, and odd items

These are all things my husband taught be to hand-wash when we got married. And truly, this is a good way of doing things. You don’t have to keep as many of each item around, they stay nicer longer, and they don’t stress the dishwasher space.


As you can see, this philosophy creates more opportunity for minimalism. When you hand-wash, you ultimately don’t need as many of things.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive to some. If that’s you, I challenge you to try it.

If you’re not sure where to start, my simple setup includes a refillable dishwand and a basic drying rack! If your rack wont’ fit in your sink, these dish drying mats are also nice.


If you feel hand-washing will save your sanity as it has mine, I recommend making the small investment to get a good system going. The first two items I recommended will cost about $10 and are tailored to washing a dish here and there rather than a big lot all at once.

Read about other ways I’m learning to stay on top of my home here:

Do you have an effective dish-washing system? If so, how do you do it?


Do you ever wonder how some women make running a home look so natural?

I certainly have!

However, after many years of watching my friends who do this well, and after much trial and error, I’ve boiled it all down to 3 essential daily habits. With these 3 habits in place, a home can function pretty well! Without them, it will be perpetual catchup.

While I used to feel like a failure as a homemaker, I know feel a sense of success and satisfaction.

I’d love to share these 3 simple (secret) daily habits with you. If you focus your energy into establishing them, I believe you will achieve the same breakthrough in your homemaking that I did.

Can I share my secrets with you?

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  1. Rebecca says:

    I’ve only had a dishwasher for 2 years of my entire adult life. I’m happy that my sink looks out a window but truly, I’d much rather do them by hand. It skips the step of loading and unloading the dishwasher!

  2. Catherine says:

    You are so right! Our dishwasher is not working well and we have been washing everything by hand lately. As part of necessity I have tried to limit how many cups everyone has each day. Another bonus is that the kids can help with the hand dish washing more. When they would fill the dishwasher, not everything would be rinsed enough and a lot would finish the cycle still dirty. Less is More!

  3. Lauren says:

    My dishwasher stopped working on Saturday evening. I noticed a lot of water still at the bottom and that the dishes had been swishing around in the dirty rinse water so they weren’t clean and I had to hand wash everything! My husband works out of state so my dad came to check on the situation and he thinks the pump isn’t working as well as it should, but he needs to pull it out to find out for sure. In the meantime, I’ve had to wash by hand, and first, I’ll admit that I’m glad this waited until the kids started back to school because I don’t have as many dishes to wash, but still. After reading this, however, I think I might have to consider washing stuff after we dirty something. That’s how we grew up when my sisters and I didn’t have a dishwasher. The dishwasher is currently acting as a big drying rack. LOL.

    • Oh no!! So glad you have your dad around to help you! My dad would totally do that. 🙂 Hope it gets fixed for you soon, but hand washing can work too. I’ve never had to do it exclusively though… that could be rough.

  4. Rachel says:

    I always thought I was crazy for feeling this way! My husband and I started off in several homes that had no dishwasher and although I wished for one I got used to doing them by hand.

    Only recently did we start having one available and I find I’m doing them by hand anyway. Not only is it faster but unintentionally I was doing the same thing your friend did! My dishes would be drying and by the time I needed a new dish I would opt to grab one of the dishes I cleaned instead of a new one from the cupboard. Now I usually circulate the same 3-4 dishes!

    It really is easier that way.

    • That is so cool! I respect people who hand-wash all their dishes, because I’ve never done that! It seems like such a good-work-ethic, rewarding type of discipline. Thanks for sharing Rachel!

  5. Michelle says:

    I seriously was thinking about this last night! I was drying and putting away a spoon that had not been used for a long time and thought, It wasn’t used b/c I’m washing all my dishes and not using the dishwasher. (dishwasher left by previous owners is not in useable condition) And then thinking as I’m reading your post your totally right I’m not running out of dishes because I’m keeping up with them after meals! (well trying to anyways)

    My old method of dishes was to run the dishwasher at night and then in the morning unload as my kiddos ate breakfast and once they got a little older that was one of their chores. But yes, found myself running out of things too! And now I wash everything and my daughter drys. I will say growing up my siblings and I had to take turns doing dishes. My parents to this day still don’t have a DW. I remember out of that chore, time spent with one another and great conversations. I still enjoy doing dishes at my parents home, and the great conversations we still have 🙂

    At this point the DW is still on the list of things to be replaced, but new priorities seem to arise each week. (like a lawn mover that needs to be fixed or closets that need to be finished) So maybe some day or maybe not….:)

    • Michelle says:

      P.S. I think the picture on the main blog page for this post is beautiful! Simple, joy shining through 🙂

    • I’m so glad you’re seeing benefit in the midst of what could be considered a trial. I’ve had a dishwasher my whole life, so hand-washing has seemed like the end of the world. It makes a lot of sense though, and it’s actually not that hard. I love that memory of conversations with your siblings. I truly long for that for my kids, so that’s good to hear.

      And thanks for the compliment! 🙂 That was the awkwardness of having my husband take my photo while washing dishes coming out…

  6. Margaret Bardsley says:

    I stopped using my dishwasher at the end of last year. Mainly due to budget cuts – washing up liquid is cheaper than Dishwasher tablets / salt and I stopped the breakdown maintenance payments. Handwashing is more convenient, doesn’t take any longer than unloading the machine, one less appliance in the kitchen, and I pray while I wash-up.

  7. Courtney says:

    Just last night I was contemplating this as I was rinsing the dishes and my husband was placing them in the dishwasher. Why not hand wash them, and he could be drying and putting them away? It would save water and additional steps. I think I’m going to start doing this and see what the outcome is.

    On another note, I recently came across your blog and am enjoying reading your posts. I find myself constantly flipping between trying to simplify my life and then moving to the other spectrum of complicating it through more stuff. Its a bad cycle I’m trying to get off of.

    • Such a great point Courtney! Most dishes are clean by the time we put them in the dishwasher, but we’re creatures of habit (at least I am!) so we complete the process as planned anyway. Let me know what happens! Thank you so much for stopping by to read and be a part of the community here. I’m so glad to have you and hope you find that simplicity!

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