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Washing Dishes Doesn't Have To Be A Drag With These Tips

Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
By Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Image by Leah Flores / Stocksy
April 10, 2020

Days spent whipping up pantry pastas, transforming canned tomatoes into works of edible art, and tending to sourdough starters can leave us with full bellies and even fuller sinks. If you, too, are getting a little more creative in the kitchen (while still supporting your local restaurant scene) during quarantine, here are some ideas for making the resulting dishwashing a little bit less of a drag:

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1. Add a smell-good element.

Before you start washing, add five drops of the essential oil of your choosing (I'm partial to lemon and eucalyptus) to the base of your sink. As you wash, the hot water will release their scent and make the whole experience more pleasant on the nose.

If you have a garbage disposal, you can also drop a lemon wedge or peel down it once you're done cleaning to mask any lingering odors (though if you have a disposal that's prone to clogging, you might want to just use lemon juice instead).

Keep these smell-good ingredients within sight of your sink so you remember to use them every time you have a load of dishes to do.

2. Make it meditative.

According to author Peter Miller, dirty dishes are less of an annoying chore than a gateway to mindful transcendence. In his new and suddenly very timely book, How To Wash the Dishes, Miller writes, "Curiously, by the time I have finished the dishwashing, I always feel better than when I started. It can be a kind of digestive, to both the food served and the emotions of the day."

When approached in this way, a sink full of dishes isn't such a bad thing after all. See if you can make your next dishwashing an opportunity to clear the mind and get lost in the repetitive movement of scrubbing, rinsing, and drying. Top it off with a moment of gratitude for your health, your kitchen, and the meal you just wrapped up.

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3. Use it as a time to listen to someone or something you enjoy.

When a plate meditation just doesn't seem appealing, take the opposite route and invite some outside conversation into your dishwashing. Make it a time to catch up with friends on the phone, ask about a roommate or family member's day, or pop on that podcast (may we suggest the mbg podcast) or audiobook you've been excited to get to.

According to the psychology of habit formation, when you pair a new habit with an existing routine, it becomes more manageable. So if you're having trouble motivating yourself to wash up, tying it in with an activity you already enjoy doing every day could help.

4. Treat yourself on the other side.

In difficult times, there's more joy to be found in the little things. After the last dish has been dried, grab your hand cream and take a moment to appreciate its refreshing scent or the nourishing feeling on your skin. Or pop on a favorite song, one you associate with easier times, and get transported in your memory. Eat a no-bake almond butter bar as you plan tomorrow's food menu. Do anything that feels good and rewarding, and get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor

Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 articles on mbg, her work has appeared on Bloomberg News, Marie Claire, Bustle, and Forbes. She has covered everything from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping to a group of doctors prescribing binaural beats for anxiety. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.